Clos Pen-y-cae, Ebbw Vale

This street name connects to the origins of Ebbw Vale/Glynebwy as an ironworks town. The neighbouring Heol Cae Ffwrnais is named after the blast furnaces built here in the late 18th century. The long retaining wall behind the houses is where iron ore and coal were tipped into the furnaces.

Aerial photo of Ebbw Vale ironworks site in 1948The 1948 aerial photo, courtesy of the Welsh Government, shows the scale of the retaining wall (centre), with the General Offices of the later steelworks (bottom left) and managers’ residence Ebbw Vale House (centre left).

In the 18th century the valley (glyn or cwm) of the river Ebwy is said to have been known as Cwm Pen-y-cae. The name may have referred originally to the area around Pen-y-cae Farm, on a slope c.1.5km north east of here.

The town developed on the sites of Pen-y-cae and another house, Tyn-y-llwyn, which was further down the valley and later the site of the steelworks. Pen-y-cae was recorded as Pen y Cae in 1728, Tyre pen y cae 1789 and Penycae 1839.

The town was alternatively known as Pen-y-cae and Ebbw Vale until c.1836. Apparently the iron company’s directors continued to refer to their works as Pen-y-cae ironworks.

The valley was recorded as Glynebboth in 1314. Local ironworking was noted c.1590. The English translation Ebbw Vale began to appear after Edward Kendall opened his ironworks in 1780. In 1789 Walter Watkins, Jeremiah Homfray and Charles Cracroft took a lease of Tir Pen-y-cae and Hendre, together with coal and iron-ore pits.

The ironworks was recorded as Ebwy Vale Furnace c.1790 and Ebbw Vale Works in 1817. It passed through various owners before the Ebbw Vale Iron & Coal Company’s formation in 1864.

By the late 19th century, the sprawling ironworks site east of the river included coal levels (east and south of the ironworks), limekilns, coke ovens (where impurities were removed from the coal) and many railway sidings and tramway tracks. The tramway crossed the valley on the Newtown causeway.

Labourers and their families, many of them Irish, lived on the site: at Furnace Row (where Close Pen-y-cae is now), Limekiln Row, Crooked Row and Brickyard Row. In 1908 a Crooked Row resident died of typhus, which a doctor attributed to overcrowding and filth; only a wooden partition separated the victim’s bed from the rest of the bedroom, where a married couple and their three or four children slept. The company had already committed to demolishing Crooked Row, once the tenants (then living rent-free) had found new homes.

Postcode: NP23 6AW    View Location Map