Boots & Bread

Boots & Bread

...Industrial Heritage & Hardship

Places Of Interest

  • Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

    The dramatic Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal is an engineering marvel built in 1805, by architects Thomas Telford and William Jessop. It is built in cast iron on 19 pillars over 100 feet above the River Dee on the Welsh-English border, and has recently been named a World Heritage Site. The poet R.S. Thomas (1913-2000) served his first curacy nearby at Chirk from 1936 to 1941, after which he became curate of Hanmer a few miles to the east. The aqueduct would have been well known to Thomas, who met and married his wife, the artist Elsi Eldridge, during his time in the area.

  • Trefin

    William Williams (1875-1968), known by his bardic name Crwys, wrote the famous poem Melin Trefin lamenting the closing of the 500-year-old Mill at Trefin. The work symbolises the dying heritage of rural village life in this part of west Wales. The powerful opening line “…Nid yw’r Felin heno’n malu yn Nhrefin ym min y mor...” (‘The mill is not grinding tonight in Trefin at the edge of the sea’) is often quoted as an expression of longing. Trefin is also the childhood home of Cerys Matthews (b. 1969), former lead singer with Catatonia who cites the small low-tide sand and shingle beach below the old mill as her favourite childhood haunt.

    Photo of Trefin Mill - copyright / Pauline E

  • National Waterfront Museum

    Wales' claim to be the World's First Industrial Nation has many references in literature. This innovative museum in the heart of Swansea's waterfront tells of the many struggles of our industrial past. The Museum’s Achievers Gallery focuses on writers and artists with an industrial background and the influence this has had on their work. From the museum, you could also walk along the Promenade to the publicly-funded memorial of Swansea Jack which stands near the Museum. This legendary 1930s Swansea dog rescued 27 people from drowning in the docks.

  • Gilfach Goch

    The author Richard Llewellyn (1906-1983) stayed in Gilfach Goch in 1939 to write his novel How Green Was My Valley, which lays bare 19th century life in a Welsh mining community. The novel was eventually made into a film during the Second World War, and Dylan Thomas is rumoured to have worked on the screenplay. The BBC also adapted the novel for a 1975 television production, scripted by Elaine Morgan (1920-2013) - one of Wales’ most remarkable 20th century feminist figures. Morgan wrote extensively in the field of anthropology, whilst also working as a playwright and screenwriter.    

  • The Guardian - Six Bells Mining Memorial Sculpture, Abertillery

    This innovative, unusual monument of a miner was created in 2010 to commemorate the 1960 Six Bells mining disaster in which 45 men lost their lives. The 20m steel sculpture overlooks Parc Arael Griffin, the site of the Six Bells Colliery. The miner, with outstretched arms and weathered steel skin, blends with the surrounding hillsides, evoking the embedded tragic realities of this area’s industrial past. Read the names of the miners lost in the accident and a poem recalling the day it happened, just beyond the sculpture, by the National Poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke (b. 1937).

    Poem - copyright Gillian Clarke

  • Rhondda Heritage Park

    Rachel Trezise (b. 1978) was born in Cwmparc in the Rhondda Valley and writes about post-industrial life in the valleys. Her semi-autobiographical debut novel, In and Out of the Goldfish Bowl, depicts the hard, brutal edges of childhood here. Trezise’s Dial M for Merthyr and the National Theatre Wales play Tonypandemonium are also set locally. Both mark the real-life struggles of growing up in the Rhondda. The 1980’s pit closures created a bitter legacy of unemployment, drug and alcohol dependency, and mental illness. Visit nearby Rhondda Heritage Park for an insight into valley life.

  • Aberfan Disaster Memorial Garden

    Aberfan is a small mining village in south Wales. In 1966, heavy rain caused a coal slag heap to collapse. The ensuing landslide engulfed the local primary school, killing 144 people, most of them children. The aftermath was badly managed, with some donations to the Relief Fund being used to pay for the corporate clear-up. The FWA (Free Wales Army), angered by the blocking of relief claims, helped local people with their applications for compensation. Laurie Lee (1914-1997) visited Aberfan in autumn 1967, and was moved to write the essay The Village that Lost its Children. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the disaster, poet and playwright Owen Sheers (b. 1974) wrote The Green Hollow, a ‘film poem’ based on the voices and memories of those involved. Black River by Louise Walsh, published in 2016 is also worth a read.

  • Loudoun Square, Tiger Bay

    Loudoun Square lies at the heart of the mile-long stretch of Cardiff’s dockland housing, commonly known as Tiger Bay. The area is home to one of the oldest multi-cultural communities in the UK: as the coal metropolis of the world for much of the 19th and 20th centuries, Cardiff attracted a wealth of immigrants to work aboard ships and to build and service its docks. Explore the cult underbelly of Tiger Bay with some of the city’s contemporary writers. From the broken Maltese family living in Trezza Azzopardi’s (b. 1961) The Hiding Place, to the biography of local girl, Dame Shirley Bassey by John L Williams (b. 1961). One of the most important literary figures of this area is Leonora Brito (d. 2007), who shone a light on the black history and culture of the Docks and Tiger Bay. Her acclaimed collection, Dat’s Love and Other Stories, has been reissued by The Library of Wales. Tiger Bay (1959), a British film starring John and Hayley Mills, includes many scenes shot in the docks area. 21st century Cardiff Bay offers much to the urban adventurer. Lose yourself in a book and a snack at the Octavo Bookshop Cafe & Wine-bar.

  • Table Mountain, Crickhowell

    From Crickhowell, climb Table Mountain, a major peak of the Black Mountains with stunning views. This area has inspired a host of writers including poet Chris Meredith (b. 1955). Border Country by Raymond Williams (1921-1988) is set locally with flashbacks to the 1920s and 1930s including the General Strike and Great Depression. Williams’ epic People of the Black Mountains is also based here. JRR Tolkien (1892-1973) reputedly stayed in nearby Buckland in the 1940s, while working on parts of The Lord of The Rings. Writing at a time when industrialisation had transformed the countryside, his nostalgic depiction of The Shire was inspired by this area. The hobbit settlement of Crickhollow (Crickhowell), Brandywine Bridge and Buckland can all be found nearby. Owen Sheers (b. 1974) grew up in nearby Abergavenny and is a keen hill walker. Table Mountain is managed by Brecon Beacons National Park Authority.

  • National Slate Museum

    Kate Roberts (1891-1985) is one of the best loved Welsh-language authors of the 20th century, and is known as “Brenhines ein Llên” (The Queen of our Literature). Born in a small ‘tyddyn’ (longhouse) called Cae'r Gors, Rhosgadfan, her slate mining family struggled to make ends meet. Roberts’ richly woven novels and short stories explore the personal stories of people living in poverty in this area. This is also a central theme to Un Nos Ola Leuad ('One Moonlit Night') by Welsh-language writer Caradog Prichard (1904-1980), who grew up in nearby BethesdaThe National Slate Museum in Llanberis is an excellent place to find out more about these communities and their stories. Recently refurbished with £1.6 million National Lottery investment, the attraction – at a former slate mine set within a country park near Snowdon – includes one of the world’s largest waterwheels.

  • Penrhyn Castle

    Penrhyn Castle is an enormous 19th-century neo-Norman building in spectacular surroundings. The estate’s wealth derived from sugar plantation slavery in the Caribbean, and later the exploited labour of slate miners in Gwynedd. Bitter disputes between Lord Penrhyn (1836-1907) and the quarry workers over issues such as pay and workers’ rights culminated in the Great Strike of 1900-1903. These events inspired many works, including the novel Chwalfa (‘Upheaval’) by T. Rowland Hughes (1903-1949), which was made into an award-winning production by Theatr Genedlaethol. Many local people still refuse to visit the castle, now managed by the National Trust - who are working on a major new interpretation project to explore the castle's complex and difficult history. The accumulation of wealth in Wales through exploited labour and slavery has inspired countless works of literature, including the ghostly Sugar Hall by Tiffany Murray (b. 1971) and also Sugar and Slate by Charlotte Williams, which explores these themes and more recent conflicts of identity in an autobiographical journey from Africa to Guyana and North Wales.

  • Stand and Stare Sculpture, Newport

    ‘Stand and Stare' is a tall bronze sculpture of a spirit enshrined within the body of the tree of life. It is a visually dramatic memorial of Newport's 'Supertramp' poet, W.H. Davies (1871-1940) whose poem Leisure contains the famous lines: "What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare". Dissatisfied with life as an apprentice in Newport, he left to travel the world as a casual labourer. One of the most popular poets of his generation, Davies’ work is based on observations about hardship, humanity’s place within nature, his own adventures and the situations and characters he encountered. 

    Photograph of the WH Davies plaque - copyright John Grayson / Geograph

  • Bells of Rhymney Sculpture, Rhymney

    The coal-seam rich valleys of south Wales fuelled the global industrial revolution and inspired generations of social activists and artists including Patrick Jones (b. 1965), a contemporary poet and playwright who has brought the struggles and contradictions of life here to new audiences. Welsh miner turned teacher and poet, Idris Davies (1905-1953) was born in Rhymney. The self-declared voice of a generation, his work reflected the idealism and protest of people here during the 1920s and 1930s. The poverty and mass unemployment of the Great Depression in Wales caused ripples beyond our borders, including the rise of both the Labour Party and the Communist Party, and the exodus of 200 miners to fight against General Franco in the Spanish Civil War. The Bells of Rhymney from Davies' debut collection was set to music and has become a folk classic. Pass Davies’ childhood home on Victoria Road and work your way up to the moor for views of the town and pit scars below.

  • Llanfoist Wharf

    Blaenavon’s landscape is a living, breathing reminder of the time when Welsh coal and iron powered the world’s industries. It is from here that Alexander Cordell (1914-1997) took his inspiration for his best-selling novel Rape of the Fair Country, the first in his series of novels portraying the turbulent history of early industrial Wales and working class struggles. Blaenavon has recently enjoyed a revitalisation, and investment in its heritage culminated in its recognition as a World Heritage Site in 2000. Visit the Big Pit National Coal Museum and Blaenavon Ironworks to discover more. Cordell is buried in Llanfoist. Follow the steep road up to Llanfoist Wharf, and climb the steps up to the canal towpath. Alongside the Grade II listed Llanfoist Wharf Boathouse are three properties which can be hired as holiday accommodation. From here you can walk along the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, where narrowboats are hired for holidays from Beacon Park Boats.

  • Penderyn Distillery

    Richard Lewis (1808-1831), known as Dic Penderyn, was involved in the 1831 Merthyr Uprising: a protest against the appalling workers' conditions, rights and wages adopted by the early industrial companies. Dic was wrongly convicted of stabbing a soldier with a bayonet and hanged in St. Mary’s Street, Cardiff. His last words on the scaffold were “O Arglwydd, dyma gamwedd” (‘O Lord this is injustice’). In 1874, another man - Ianto Parker - admitted to the crime. Dic’s martyrdom inspired a generation of socialist protest, strengthening the Trade Union and Chartism movements and inspiring literary works by Harri Webb (1920-1994) and Alexander Cordell (1914-1997) amongst many others. Penderyn Distillery shares its name with Dic, and is open for visits. Whilst in the area, take advantage of the stunning waterfall walks from Pontneddfechan, or walk from the Distillery along the old Penderyn mineral line to Hirwaun - both walks are beautifully illustrated here