ABERSYCHAN IRONWORKS 1827 1884 By Brian Foster Introduction In the Eastern Valley of Monmouthshire, midway between Abersychan and Talywain, lies the 'Bob a Day' road, and on the side of this road, at a point where it bears sharply uphill to the right, is the Big Arch, completed in 1879, over which once ran the London and North West railway line from Pontypool to Blaenavon. Passing under this archway one arrives at what can best be described as an area of desolation, where straggling sheep and piles of rubbish do little to enhance a scene consisting largely of flattened coal waste and derelict buildings. It was not always like this, for, strange as it may seem, here once stood the furnaces and forges of Abersychan Ironworks, which dominated the landscape and the lives of many of the local population for more than half a century. Erected between 1825 and 1827, and in operation from 1827 to 1884, the works were finally closed and stood idle until the site was largely cleared in 1891. Throughout a chequered and often troubled history Abersychan Ironworks occasionally provided riches for the shareholders, but for the vast majority of employees the rewards were more often than not hard work and hard times. This study will hopefully provide an insight into those turbulent years. 1825 -1827 Erecting the Ironworks During the 1820s much of the land in the neighbourhood of Abersychan was owned by the Manor of Wentsland and Bryngwyn, and when the London based British Iron Company took out a sixty year lease on a sizeable portion of it with a view to building an ironworks, both the Lords and Ladies of the Manor and the directors of the British Iron Company hoped ultimately to make a substantial profit. In reality the excessive demands laid down by the Manor under the terms of the lease were such that the British Iron Company were unable to return a profit on their investment until 1838, which was eleven years after the commencement of production. The land in the vicinity of the proposed new ironworks quickly became known as the British, and anyone walking there nowadays, particularly in winter, soon realises that some of the ground is extremely boggy. It was far worse when construction work began in 1825, and there were clearly serious problems to be overcome if the ironworks were to be completed in a cost effective manner. It should also be noted that the necessary construction work included not only the erection of blast furnaces, forges, rolling mills, offices, feeder ponds, tramroads and workers' housing, but also the opening up of coal and ironstone levels and limestone quarries, all of which were required to provide raw materials for the ironmaking process. An