The Railway Inn, Abergavenny
The Railway Inn, Brecon Road
This may seem an odd place to find a Railway Inn, because Abergavenny station is on the far side of town. The explanation for the name lies in an ambitious rail project, hatched in 1859 by Crawshay Bailey and other ironmasters, to connect Abergavenny to Merthyr Tydfil across the Heads of the Valleys. Major engineering was involved, and the mighty London & North Western Railway took over in 1861 to gain a foothold in an industrial area dominated by the Great Western Railway and local companies.
The LNWR’s main station in Abergavenny was known as Brecon Road. The surgery up the slope opposite the Railway Inn occupies the former station building. The nearby engine sheds were once home to almost 100 locomotives. The Railway Inn had a special early-morning licence to supply railway workers with alcohol after they finished night work at 6am.
The railway climbed eastwards for another 1.6km to join the Newport-Hereford line (still used today). In the other direction it descended to cross the river Usk on a seven-span steel bridge before the long climb through the Clydach Gorge. Rail historian DSM Barrie suggested Brecon Road station was the only one in Britain where heavy trains needed an assisting loco in both directions, as the gradients were so steep.
From 1888 to 1898, miners from the Valleys used to walk from Brecon Road station to Abergavenny Castle, celebrating their right to have the first Monday of every month off work. These Mondays were known as “Mabon days”, after the bardic name of miners’ leader William Abraham. In 1888 he skilfully deployed a highly moralised image of the miners to win them a monthly day’s holiday. This was abolished after the miners’ strike of 1898. By then it had been tainted by drunkenness and violent behaviour. Immediately after the strike, the South Wales Miners' Federation was formed and Mabon became its president.
A plaque at Abergavenny Market Hall lists 16 local LNWR employees who were killed in the First World War.
Brecon Road station closed in 1958. The goods yard and track eastwards were used until 1971. Today you can cycle or walk along the old railway west from Llanfoist.
With thanks to Gill Wakley, of Abergavenny Local History Society
Postcode: NP7 5UG
Other RAILWAY HiPoints in this region:
Abergavenny rail station - features original 1850s building with low section of platform adjacent
Pant station, Merthyr - above a tunnel of the former railway from Abergavenny to Merthyr