History Corner

The past is ever present.

The Elan valley is known for its monumental Victorian dams that hold back the reservoirs, a visible reminder of how our history shapes the landscape and the places we live and work today. Their construction is recorded in numerous archive images taken by the Birmingham Water Corporation and provide us with an amazing insight into the work of the Victorian engineers and navies. However, there is a rich history across the estate which can be discerned from other historic images, giving us a glimpse into the past.

The workforce housed at the site of Elan village in rows of timber huts are recorded in photographs and we can, with careful observation, stand in the very spot the image was captured 150 years ago.

The Royal Garrison Artillery camped above the reservoirs for gunnery practise from 1903 to 1914 and the location of these summer camps can be determined by aligning the hilltop skyline today with this archive postcard.

The secret tests as part of ‘Operation Chastise’ to destroy the dam at Nant y Gro in 1942 shows us how the landscape has changed with washed down stone and subsequent collapse of the end sections of the part destroyed dam. This image was taken immediately after the successful test and clearly shows that more of the dam had survived than we can see today.

In the next issue I will look at some less obvious historic features as we record some new mounds in the ground and reveal the hidden histories of the many piles of stones, bumps and ditches across the estate.

Gary Ball