Former Tyla Cartshed, Gilwern Hill

We recently carried out a survey on a small stone outbuilding adjacent to Lilac Cottage on Gilwern Hill. You can view the 3D photogrammetric model here and download the full building record here ‘213 Lilac Cottage Stable Building Survey Report’.
The outbuilding is recorded by the RCAHMW (NPRN270200) as Tyla Cottage Stable. Although the partial archway in NE facing elevation would suggest that it was in fact a much larger cart shed, with later phases reducing the size of the building and the infilling of the arch. They note anecdotal evidence to suggest that Lilac Cottage is said to have been the former Quarryman’s Arms public house (NPRN270203). The Ordnance Survey 1st Edition map (1888) records the cottages here as ‘Tyla’, perhaps referring to a hamlet name for the quarry workers houses.
Ordnance Survey 1st Edition historic map (1888)
The Tyla settlement is named for the limestone quarry to the south and west. The Tyla quarries were the first limestone quarries opened up for the fledgling ironworks at Blaenavon after 1787. The limestone was used as a flux to stick slag together in the furnaces as well as mortar to build. The Hanburys of Pontypool had been extracting ore from the mountains around Blaenavon since Tudor times using scouring methods on the mountain top, and this was continued by the Blaenavon partners after 1787 to feed the ironworks. In 1787 Thomas Hill and Benjamin Pratt from Stourbridge successfully negotiated a 21 year lease of some 12,000 acres, formally leased by the Hanburys, from Lord Abergavenny. They were then joined by Thomas Hopkins, a Welshman who had managed forges at Rugeley, Staffordshire. Together they constructed three purpose-built furnaces and cast houses and were producing pig iron by 1790, some 3,600 tons by 1792. By 1806 furnaces 5 and 6 had been built and then later Hill’s Tramroad and Garnddyrys Forge were operational by 1817.
Garnddyrys Forge and Hill’s Tramroad in the early 19th century. Reconstruction by Michael Blackmore.
The additional furnaces at Blaenavon and the growing lime trade on the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal created further demand for limestone. With large limekilns built on the canal at Llangattock, Gilwern, Llanfoist and Goytre. Tyla quarry had been opened up after 1787 and initially limestone was hauled by horse on tracks over the mountains to Blaenavon. By around 1800 a tramroad had been constructed from the quarry to Pen-ffordd-goch (Keepers Pond) and down to the ironworks at Blaenavon. This route was abandoned when Hill’s Tramroad and the Pwll Du Tunnel (and quarries) was operation in around 1817.
The Reverend William Coxe during his Historical Tour of Monmouthshire (1801) marvelled at a new ‘rail road’ being built from the Tyla Quarries and his description is a useful insight to industrial activity at Tyla:
In the vicinity of Blaenavon we observed the process of making a rail road, so called because it is formed by a kind of frame with iron rails, or bars, laid length ways, and fastened or cramped by means of cross bars. The ground being excavated, about fix feet in breadth, and two in depth, is strewed over with broken pieces of stone, and the frame laid down, it is composed of rails, sleepers, or cross bars, and under sleepers. The rail is a bar of cast iron, four feet in length, three inches thick, and one and a half broad; its extremities are respectively concave and convex, or in other words are morticed and tenanted into each other, and fastened at the ends by two wooden pegs to a cross bar called the sleeper. This sleeper was originally of iron, but experience having shewn that iron was liable to snap or bend, it is now made of wood, which is considerably cheaper, and requires less repair. Under each extremity of the sleeper is a square piece of wood, called the under sleeper, to which it Is attached by a peg. The frame being thus laid down and filled with stones, gravel, and earth, the iron rails form a ridge above the surface, over which the wheels of the cars glide by means of iron grooved rims three inches and a half broad.”

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