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Please take care on the roads. Parts of the walk involve steep
climbs, and may not be suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs. Walk to the St. John’s Ambulance Hall (1).
The area to the left of this (now the car park) was the former fire station
(1921), from here, look left, towards the A4046.
The area opposite the road junction was the site of the opening
ceremony of the 1958 National Eisteddfod. Cross the road, and turn right
past the children’s play area to a set of gates (2).
This was the site of the Drill Ground Pits – the remains of rail
track which served the pits are still visible on the ground. Take the next turning to your left into Holland Street built
at the turn of the century to replace Forge Rows (early/mid 19th century
The remains of a colliery shaft can be seen in the rear garden
of 4, Armoury Terrace (on your right). Walk on, and look down the first
turning on your left. The large building (now a postal sorting office)
was the Labour Exchange (3) during the 1930’s
Depression. The area at the foot of the hill was the site of the Forge
School (1836). Continue along Holland Street; note the decorative tiling
in the doorways of some of the houses. At the end of the road turn left down the slope and to your left
is on of the oldest houses in Ebbw Vale. This was part of Penuel Square
which included the first Penuel Chapel (1825), where the Literary and
Scientific Institute was established in 1848.
Walk up to the Air Training Cadets hut and take the path to its
side, following the right of way through the new housing estate. On the
banking below, you may be able to see some railing which mark the boundary
of Penuel cemetery. Follow the path as it slopes upwards until you reach a seat.
From this point, look below you at Ebbw Vale Galvanising and Tinplate
Works (a reminder of the thriving steelmaking industry in the Town(4).
To the south lies Festival Park, the site of Garden Festival Wales (1992).
Walk up the path behind you into Church Street. Notice the large
wall on the opposite side of the road, this was completed on November
6th 1931. Try and find the date stone. Glance skywards as you walk, and
you cannot fail to notice the spire of Christchurch. Opened in December
1861 at a cost of £60,000 this fine red stone building has justly
been called “The Cathedral of the Hills”. Much of the money was provided by Abraham Darby 4th of the Ebbw
Vale Company, who was the great-grandson of Ab. Darby 1st (the pioneering
Ironmaster from Coalbrookedale, Shrops). It is said that the heads carved
at the sides of the Church doors were made in Darby’s likeness.
The area opposite the Church was home to the Central Hall (later
renamed the Palace), one of many theatres/picture houses which served
the people of Ebbw Vale. Many famous names played in the town, including
Charlie Chaplin, who wrote about Ebbw Vale in his autobiography.
Cross the road and continue along Church Street to The Literary
and Scientific Institute (5), moved from
Penuel Square to this site in 1853. To the right of the entrance is a
water fountain dated 1886. This was originally situated in Armoury Terrace
and was the Town’s last public water spout (spring). At on time,
spouts were the only source of fresh water and were, therefore, places
where groups congregated to gossip.
They were also the breeding ground
for many diseases. Penuel (6) (opposite)
was built in 1865 to replace the earlier chapel at Penuel Square. Next
to this is a building bearing the date mark “1900”; this originally
housed the town’s post office.
Take the first turning to your left, up a steep hill to Ebbw
Vale Hospital (7). Originally the site of
two houses, one belonging to William Adams (Works manager, and key player
in the foundation of the National Museum in Cardiff) and the other to
Mr Laxton (the works surgeon). They were converted into a Cottage Hospital
with the aid of workingmen’s funds. From here, you have a fine view
of Mynydd Carn Y Cefn – the keen eyed walker may notice a small
peak near its highest point, this is the Bronze Age Cairn (burial Mound)
from which it gets its name.
Walk down the hill at the far side of the
Hospital, and turn sharp right, down a lane which leads you into Eureka
Place. As you go, you may notice the small square holes in the garden
walls through which coal was delivered in the days before central heating.
Take the road to the right of the garage. Walk to the Workingman’s
Hall (built 1870, now a bingo hall). This was originally a club and theatre
and later a cinema.
Continue past the car park to your left, and look down into the
town centre. You may wish to take a detour into the town, but to continue
with the walk, go on to the main road junction. The large church to your
right is All Saints Catholic Church , (1925). Follow the pavement as it
curves to the left around George Parry Court (named after a chemist at
Ebbw Vale Works) and look towards West End Chapel (1908).
Now cross the
main road, and walk into the street directly opposite you (Mount Pleasant
Road), go on until you reach Mount Pleasant Chapel (1885) and then turn
right down Bridge Street, known locally as Norton’s Hill in honour
of the shop which stood at the top of the hill for many years. Continue
through the underpass and past the Health Clinic to Libanus Road. Look
right to the Memorial Garden . The statue of the Unknown Soldier was unveiled
in 1924 and was moved here from Market Street in 1950.
You now have a choice of routes….
ROUTE A – LONGER WALK
For the more strenuous walk, turn left, past the ramp to the
Clinic, then left again around the Health Centre car park. Follow the
pavement as it skirts the Civic Centre. You will notice two brick mosaics
and information panels to your left. These commemorate the Gantre Pits
which formerly occupied the site. From the Council Offices, cross the road to the D.S.S. building,
follow the path as it turns right, around the contour of the building,
until you reach a main road. Cross here, and walk towards a sunken garden
containing a circle of monoliths – this is the Gorsedd Circle (8)
built to commemorate the National Eisteddfod of 1958, it was re-sited
here in 1996).
Take the path which bears right and then down the hill.
At the bottom, proceed to the junction with Beaufort Road. The green verge
to your right is a graveyard (9)dating from
1808. The rows of trees are believed to mark the location of known burial
plots. It is said that the adjacent brook was used for baptisms.
Turn left and walk on until you come to an obelisk. This marks
the site of Nebo Baptist Chapel, built in 1826. The monument commemorates
Rev. John Emlyn Jones, minister from 1853-61, who wrote the renowned Welsh
poem “The Poor Man’s Grave”. Walk past Queen’s
Villas to Glan-yr-Afon School (10) (1897),
this was formerly the County Grammar School. Proceed to the roundabout.
This was the point where the G.W.R. terminated – it was never extended
despite plans to link it to Beaufort Ironworks this is now the site of
a housing complex built in 1994/1995. Take the road to the left of the Badminton Club (Cwm Hir), follow
this up hill, until it levels out and then take the path above the road
to your left, which follows the route of the Beaufort tramroad (circa
1794) (11). At the end of the path you will
notice Barham Chapel (12) (1875). In front
of you is the Rhyd-y-Blew; a former coaching inn (13),
it also served as a base for the first Friendly Society in the town (1810),
a forerunner of the trade unions.
The Rhyd was also the place where the
Duke of Beaufort would meet his companions before going on a grouse shoot.
Walk into the pub’s car park and look back to Barham: the field
to the right marks the site of a Toll Gate. Walk around the rear of the
pub, and bear right, into Needhams Row, and past Little Rhyd Farm –
once the scene of a brutal murder! To your right you will see Carmel Chapel (14),
originally erected in 1821, the current building dates from 1865. Turn
right at the junction and cross the road at the zebra crossing. In front
of you stands Saint David’s Church (15)
(1892). From here, turn left and walk over the bridge, the ironwork of
which was made in Tredegar in 1907.
Follow the road up Beaufort Rise,
until you see a Post Office on your left. Take the turning to your right,
and bear left into Waun Goch District – the name translates as red
field and refers to the time when ironstone was stacked here. This area was developed to provide housing for workers at Beaufort
Ironworks (the first in the town – established in 1779). The streets
grew up around a criss-cross of tram roads, hence their strange configuration. From here, bear down the hill and onto the footpath known as
the Pitch. You will hear the sound of running water in the foliage to
your right. This stream was channelled to feed the water wheel at the
Beaufort Works(16). Within these grounds
stood Plas Gwaun Ebbw (later known as Beaufort House), the local residence
of Edward Kendall, Ironmaster of the works. Continue to the foot of the
path. The furnaces were set into the banking to your left, however, the
ground level would have been much lower at that time.
Turn right, and
cross the road towards the river. If you look at the stone archway which
takes the river under the road, you can see the remains of tramrails,
this gives you an idea of the ground level in the 1780’s. Now walk through Beaufort Terrace, (home to the Company shop),
until you reach the O.A.P. Hall. At the roundabout, take the second exit
on your left, into Newchurch Road. Follow the road as it curves, and then
glance up the first road to your left – the large recently restored
stone house was built by the ironmaster Crawshay Bailey for one of his
Walk on until you reach a turning to your left signposted Newchurch,
and take the right fork up to the remains of St. John’s Church (1843).
This too was paid for by Crawshay Bailey, however, it was not well used,
and within 50 years of its construction became unsafe, and was eventually
demolished. This area is said to be haunted by the ghost of a poor young
woman whose suitor tricked her into an illegal marriage and left her pregnant
while he married into a rich seafaring family. Some time later both she
and baby were found drowned in the river in the valley below. It is not
known whether she committed suicide, or if she was murdered to ensure
she kept her silence…in a twist of fate, the scoundrel’s new
bride drowned at sea.
Back on the main road, walk on until you reach the King’s
Arms (17), one of the oldest pubs in the
town. Cross the road here and take the steep path to your left down to
Pontygof School (1881), which was governed by the Aberysruth Parish School
Board. Next to the school is Ebenezer Chapel (27) (18823 – rebuilt
in 1850). From here, walk to the bend in the road. On the right is the
Bridgend Pub, and beyond that you can see the main gates of Eugene Cross
Park, home of Ebbw Vale Rugby Club. Follow the road to the left, past a small row of houses and on
to a large house set in its own grounds – this was the station master’s
home. Now take the path under the modern footbridge……
ROUTE B – SHORTER WALK
Those wishing to take the shorter walk should now cross the main
road in front of the war memorials and walk to the spectators gates of
Eugene Cross Park – named in honour of Sir Eugene Cross, J.P. and
lifelong benefactor of the Town’s Welfare Committee. Turn right,
into Steelworks Road and walk under the modern footbridge….
ROUTE B REJOINS ROUTE A HERE
You cannot fail to notice the impressive stone bridge before
you (18). This links the town centre and
Newtown. A number of arches run through it; the first, built in 1790 over
the river, a second cut was made in 1813 to cater for the tramway, whilst
in 1861 a stone roadway arch was constructed. Continue under the bridge and straight on until you can see a
huge wall set into the hillside to your left. This is the Forty Five yard
(19), a monument to the industry which shaped
the Town. There were blast furnaces on this site smelting iron continuously
from 1790 until 1920. For many years, the site was known as Pen y Cae
works, because the land was leased from John Miles the owner of Pen y
Cae farm which stood on the mountain above.
The principal blowing engine (which provided the blast) was built
in 1865 and was the largest in the world. The yard gets its name from
the engines with 45” cylinders which were installed in 1879 at the
north end of the site. Walk ahead until you can see an impressive red brick building
with a clock tower (20). Known as the General
Offices (now part of British Steel, Ebbw Vale) the building was constructed
upon the site of the Company Shop and earlier offices. The foundation
stone was laid in May 1914, and it was completed circa 1920. The Clock
mechanism came from Victoria Village (long demolished, but presently being
redeveloped as part of Festival Park).
Retrace your steps, until you reach a zebra crossing. Cross here
and look at the group of buildings before you. To your left is R.T.B.’s
club (21) named after Richard Thomas and
Baldwin who took over the Ebbw Vale works in the 1930’s. The older
part of the club was at one time used as an ironmaster’s residence,
and during the First World War served as a military hospital. Moving clockwise,
the next building is the Lever Hall (22),
built in 1955 it was home to R.T.B.’s pantomimes and many other
occasions besides – it is still well used for local functions. The
last building (23) is the Croft (1924), its
uses have included a colliery manager’s residence and an Estates
Walk on past the bus shelter to the junction, cross carefully
and take the path which climbs up the banking to your left. At the top,
take the turning to your left before the archway) in to the Crescent.
Follow the roadway as it curves. At the end of the Crescent, you will
notice a small courtyard to your right. This is Queen’s Square (24)
which incorporates Bon y Dderwen, a 17th century farmhouse (reputed to
be the oldest building in Ebbw Vale).
At the junction, turn right. The building to your left is the
Rookery – this was the local voluntary hospital, and later became
a maternity home. Follow the road uphill. At the top, cross the main road.
Walk straight ahead, through the disabled car park and into the pedestrianised
town centre. Turn left and continue to walk until you reach the indoor
market – here, turn left again and walk on, to the entrance to the