Site of Woodside brickworks, Pontnewydd
The land south west of the canal here was pock-marked with claypits in the first half of the 20th century, as the area was a centre of brickmaking.
Before industrialisation, an extensive woodland there was known as Church Wood – its northern end was close to Holy Trinity Church and its parsonage. The 1846 tithe map shows that the part of the wood belonged to ironmaster Reginald James Blewitt (1799-1878), one of the richest men in the area. His iron foundry, south of Church Wood, was later owned by GKN and became the site of Springvale Industrial Estate.
His grandfather was once Sheriff of London. Reginald inherited Llantarnam Abbey from his father. He established the Monmouthshire Merlin newspaper in 1829. He was Liberal MP for Monmouthshire Boroughs from 1847 to 1852. The Monmouthshire Canal boosted his industrial interests in the Pontnewydd area by providing efficient bulk transport of goods. He was a treasurer of the canal company in the 1830s.
The area east of Church Wood (both sides of the canal) was called Woodside. The Woodside brick and tile works was west of the canal. It was disused by 1899. The upper photo, courtesy of Lawrence Skuse, shows a Woodside brick.
That brickworks was succeeded by another, on the east bank, which was operational by the First World War and owned by the Standard Brick Company. Clay was brought in on a short tramway from a pit on the west bank, via a bridge over the canal. The brickworks closed c.1925. Its location is highlighted in the 1947 aerial photo of the wood and canal, shown here courtesy of the Welsh Government. Older local residents were still referring to the site as “brickyard field” in the 2020s.
Canal records from c.1901 tell us a WH Roberts was transporting bricks from this vicinity. One consignment of over eight tons of bricks travelled c.27km (c.18 miles) up the canal, for which he paid the canal company 6s 1d (six shillings and one pence). The tariff depended on weight and distance. He paid 2s 6d for a load of bricks weighing over 10 tons to be carried c.5.5km (c.3.5 miles).
Industrial and urban development reduced Church Wood but sections remain, mainly between Maendy Way and Woodside Way.
During the First World War, Woodside House (today the Peterson Funeral Home) took in a group of Belgian refugee children, who were often seen being walked around Pontnewydd in a “crocodile” line, all dressed identically.
With thanks to the archive of the Monmouthshire, Brecon and Abergavenny Canals Trust, and to Lawrence Skuse and the Welsh Government
Postcode: NP44 3DG View Location Map