Penwyllt Book Review

Eric reviews a book by Peter Burgess

This latest addition to the club library was originally published in 2020 and then reprinted in 2021. It is in A4 softback format with glossy full colour cover and runs to 92 pages. It contains many maps and diagrams and well reproduced photos. Many of you may know Peter as a long term member of WCMS and (I believe) a former Croydon member.

This is unsurprisingly a somewhat specialist book aimed primarily at people who have an interest in SWCC and OFD, yet it will probably appeal to a wider range of people such as those with an interest in industrial history or even those who wish to walk in the area.

The first six chapters deal with the history of the area and how it’s industry developed from the start of the 19th century. This covers the development of the tramways, railways, quarries and brickworks and is well supported by maps and plans which enable you to relate the still visible remains to any existing knowledge of the caves and Penwyllt. These chapters are full of interesting snippets of information. In only two pages I learned that the road up to Penwyllt only exists because it was built by an Opera singer who wanted to be able to reach the station, that the station features in the film “Young Winston” (1970 - directed by Richard Attenborough) where it purports to be in South Africa and that the railway only stopped carrying freight in 1977. I found this to be particularly amazing as it is only some four or five years before my first visit to Penwyllt and there are probably some existing club members who will remember seeing trains running.

The book then continues with a look at the social aspects of living in Penwyllt where at one stage up to 300 people lived. The SWCC buildings are only a small part of what was once a much larger community. The address is properly Powell Street, Penwyllt and there were at one time a number of other streets.

Subsequent chapters then go on to look at the geology of the area before moving onto a description of Ogof Fynnon Ddu complete with colour photos. This leads into a potted history of the caving organisations currently associated with the village. Namely SWCC, WCMS and the South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team.

The book concludes with the details of 3 field walks each of which takes in a different aspect of the area’s history – Tramways, Railways and Industry/Community. This last aspect makes the book of interest to a slightly wider audience. The walks could well make an attractive alternative to caving on a nice summer’s day.

The book is now available to borrow and I would suggest that it will be of interest to most members of the club.

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Eric Downer