Just a quick post this time; a break from the 18th and 17th century to look at the changes that have occurred even in the past 50 or so years, and a chance to talk about a wonderful photographic archive.

The National Library of Wales has recently begun digitising its huge collection of photographs by the late photojournalist Geoff Charles, who lived in Brymbo. In his time, Charles was one of the most talented and significant photographers working in Wales, and in a lifetime of work for Y Cymro, Farmers Weekly and other publications built up a large library of negatives. Although they cover all areas of Wales, some of these are a record of the area in which he lived.

Looking North across the site of the 1947 opencast workings. Although the grass has fully regrown, the skyline was completely changed by further workings in the early 1970s.

It is interesting to compare this picture, taken by Charles in 1947, with the picture at right taken in (as far as I could manage) the same position – looking north from Vron towards Penrhos and the old site of Brymbo Hall. The 1947 picture shows the first phase of the opencast coal workings that were to completely change the face of much of the area. Although the land’s levels were totally altered, the mound of mine spoil at Penrhos (top left) and the untouched line of Offa’s Dyke, stretching across the fields at centre right, provide useful points of reference.

Perhaps the biggest change can be seen on the skyline, which in the 1947 photo shows, towards the right, the crest of a hill and the small wood that sheltered Brymbo Hall (itself out of sight over the crest and behind the trees). The land was almost completely levelled in the early 1970s, although by then most of the trees had gone.

More interesting photos of the workings, taken by Charles on the same day, are available in the set of negatives titled “Opencast mine landscape at Brymbo” on the NLW website. Photo gcc04148, for example, shows a similar view from  further back towards Vron, with some of Vron’s houses visible at right, and makes it particularly clear how much today’s landscape has altered. As with other photographs in the NLW collections, you can order high-quality prints of these, for a fee.