Forge & Railway Trail
The smelting of iron ore to produce iron has a long tradition in and around Govilon. The hillsides above and around the village were rich in all the essential ingredients; wood (for charcoal) coal (for coke), Limestone and iron ore.
The earliest smelting was very small scale with charcoal used to produce small quantities of iron at a number of locations across the Usk Valley. Charcoal burning platforms can still be found in the area. Larger scale iron smelting followed the development of coke and direct use of coal in furnaces. From around 1790 larger works sprung up right across the Heads of the South Wales Valleys where coal, iron ore and limestone were exposed close to the surface.
Major works were built at Blaenavon with smaller sites constructed at Garnddyrys, on the hillside above Govilon, and at Clydach. The ruins of all three sites are very visible, with the Blaenavon site now open as a museum.
Wildon Iron Works
Govilon itself did not have major furnaces but iron products were manufactured at a number of forges and mills. One such site was the Wildon or Wilden Iron Works that closed in the 1870's. The remains of this can be best viewed from the railway viaduct.
The origins of the works are not documented but pre-date a 1790 entry in Bradney's History of Monmouthshire. An 1846 map shows a number of workshops and outbuildings. Later this was expanded into a single complex. The site had a small furnace from which wire rod and nails were made from bar iron. It had its own water wheel fed from a large rectangular reservoir, and the site also housed a lime kiln. It expanded in the latter half of the nineteenth century, resulting in the stream being culverted and the addition of a number of buildings including a brick kiln. At this time it was known as Wilden Wireworks and therefore, may have been related to the wireworks of the same name in the Stour Valley, Worcestershire
Over the road to the North of the works were 4 small cottages in front of a managers house (whose deeds date from 1675 when the owners were the Prosser family). A cottage and the managers house still remain today. Near the cottages was the works weighing machine, stables and a blacksmiths shop – now 2 private houses. An incline ran down the valley, passing Upper Mill and stopping at the canal ”dry dock”. A branch of Bailey's tramroad was run into the works, and later this was replaced by a railway siding running from the location of the current Forge car park.
Wildon Forge House
The larger house set back from the road was the Forge Managers house and dates from 1675. To the west were 4 workers cottage, but only one still stands. Towards the village were the works office and adjoining workshops. Both are now private houses.
Garnddyrys Forge and Rolling Mill
The remains of a forge, rolling mill and associated works sit on the slopes of the Blorenge Mountain high above Govilon at an altitude of 400m (1300ft). It was located on the tramroad between Blaenavon and Llanfoist primarily to take advantage of cheaper cargo rates on the Llanfoist to Newport canal route than if the cargo was loaded at Pontypool.
Pig iron was brought to Garnddyrys from Blaenavon, along with coal, and turned into wrought iron. By 1841 300 tons of wrought iron was produced here each week. This then passed through the rolling mill to produce bars, rails and plates.
In 1853 the expanding railway network offered quicker and cheaper transport. Garnddyrys had become an inconvenient, expensive and obsolete works. A decision was made to build a new larger plant at Forgeside, Blaenavon. Operations at the Garnddyrys site ceased by 1860. Today the site of the works can be explored with care.