Report of the Cwmbyr excavations for 2017

Report of the Cwmbyr excavations for 2017

A team of three met on site at Cwmbyr on April 8th 2017 in glorious sunshine.

The first operation was to continue clearing the Buddle water wheel pit. This was proved to have no north wall only a rough collection of shale blocks and rubbish. We cleared the pit in a northerly direction and proved that very little of any interest remained. So the excavation was abandoned.

To the east, slightly above the wheel pit a line of earthenware pipes were located last year and the line was followed. They proved to be linked into the Buddles forming a channel buried in the ground to remove water from the two Buddle circles. Further excavation during 2017 has failed to find much more than one broken pipe. As during forestry operations a machine was used to rip through this area, little was found or expected to exist. Again, the excavation was abandoned.We then moved to look at the office block to the east and placed above the forest road. We commenced by opening a trench from the doorway into the building. After clearing about half a metre of rubble from the collapse of the building, a level of buff clay and crushed fines was disclosed. While far from level, this area was free of shale rubble with some items of ironwork. Several bright red bricks have been found, either in this floor level or broken upon it. It suggests that the original floor was of red bricks. This has still to be confirmed.

The north wall has a stub wall projecting into the room, suggesting a fireplace. Excavation in this area has found that this wall is a continuation of the east wall of the range of buildings, while the building being excavated is wider than the rest of the range. Further excavation to the west along the north wall has located the base and part of the brickwork of a bread oven. On a shale slab base a floor of dark red brick has been placed. On this base stands a wall of vertically placed dark red bricks forming a semi circle against the north wall. Evidence of burning and colour marks show the location of the south wall of the oven. The construction of a bread oven against the north wall strongly suggests that this single storey room of 7.3 metres long by 6.4 metres wide was used as a dwelling. We have yet to find a fireplace, which was probably next to the oven.In the south east corner of the building lying in the buff clay floor is a tapered iron tube with a slight bend in the tube. This item also has a thickened collar at the opposite end to the taper. Within the tube is a deposit of black soot and dark brown material. This item has been identified as a Tuyere from a Blacksmith’s hearth. Towards the south west corner of the building a collection of metalwork has been found. Within these items a possible short section of guard rail can be seen. Also two pieces of perforated zinc plate were found. These would have been used to size the lead and waste from the crushing mill. Found loose on the buff floor was a fine example of a drawbar complete with hook from one of the trams used in the mine. The large amount of ironwork found in this building, points to the use of the structure to hold items salvaged during the clearing of some areas of the mine after closure.

Evidence from a study of the next building to the south suggests that the building under excavation was constructed between two separate free standing structures, giving every appearance of having been built at a later date to the rest of the range. Further study and excavation may improve our knowledge of the building sequence.

Nigel A. Chapman. April 10 2017.