Roads and Riots

Because the lime from this part of the Black Mountain was transported entirely by horse and cart, the lime industry has had a big influence on how the road network has developed over centuries.



In the 18th century industrial manufacturing on the south side of the mountain had not yet begun. On the north side however, great changes in agriculture to increase production and efficiency were happening. Lime played an important part in this 'agricultural revolution' because it was used as a soil improver for bringing new land into cultivation and increasing crop yields. The lime industry expanded rapidly to supply the increase in demand for lime from farmers.

It was difficult to transport lime on the old roads, so 'turnpike trusts' were formed to raise finance to build new roads and maintain them. By looking at old maps and documents we can see how the lime industry on the Black Mountain has influenced the development of the road network in the area.

© Brecon Beacons National Park Authority Crown copyright and database rights 2012 Ordnance Survey 100019322

The earliest road across the mountain was called the 'Bryn Road' (marked in blue), and is now sometimes called the 'Roman Road'. In 1779 the Llangadog Turnpike Trust was formed. They repaired the road up as far as the Brest Cwm Lloyd lime kilns. The pink routes are old tracks leading up to the quarries.

As the limestone quarrying moved eastwards along the outcrop, a new road was built by the Turnpike Trust (marked in green. By 1819 the old route across the mountain had been abandoned and a new road was built across the mountain (the present day A4069 - marked in red).



These early 1900s photographs show carters transporting lead ore in Ceredigion; A scene comparable to transporting lime from the Black Mountain quarries of the Brecon Beacons. (Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales)





Toll gates were built at various locations to charge the lime carts for using the roads. Farmers would queue up with their carts at the toll gates early in the morning to try and reduce the costs by completing their journey in a day. A vivid account of such a journey in the late 19 th century was recalled by W Llywelyn Williams in his book 'Slawer Dydd'. Here is a summary of his tale:

'Wil the Waggoner'

To arrive at the kilns by dawn on Monday, Wil had to set off after midnight so as not to break the Sabbath. To save time he harnessed four horses to his four-wheeled wagon before the Sunday night. In preparation for the trip Wil had been stealing oats to give to the horses to give them energy for the race. The red, white and blue painted wagon, and the horses with their platted manes and tails, looked magnificent as they set off like lightning at midnight.

While he waited impatiently at Abermarlais for the old man to open the toll gate, Wil learned that wagons from Cwmbran and Glandulais had passed through 10 minutes earlier. So as soon as they had paid the toll and received their pass, Wil raced his cart off at such a pace that the ground shook as they galloped through Llangadog. It was a miracle that there were no accidents as Wil raced in the dark through Cwm Sawdde, to try and overtake his rivals on the narrow roads. But as the road began to rise up on the slopes of the Black Mountain Wil' managed to overtake the Cwmbran and Glandulais wagons, and a half dozen others, to ensure his wagon was the first to reach the kilns just as dawn broke!


Farmers might use much as 4 tons of lime on an acre of land in a year. Farmers who did not have easy access to lime had to travel long distances to get it. L ime from the Black Mountain was transported as far as Aberaeron on the Ceredigion coast, a journey of two or three days.

The turnpike system imposed tolls on lime wagons. As well as the tollgates on the main turnpike roads, "side-bars" were set up on smaller roads to catch any traffic trying to avoid the main routes. These extra tolls made it very expensive for farmers to transport lime.

In the first half of the nineteenth century agricultural communities were suffering from bad weather and poor harvests and changing market values for agricultural produce. Despite their reduced incomes, rents, rates and tolls increased ( - cite_note-Howell_114-2) making it difficult to invest in improvements to try and increase agricultural yields.

Coupled with their other woes, these tolls were one of the major grievances that lead to the famous Rebecca Riots which took place in south and mid Wales between 1839 and 1843. Angry farmers dressed up as women and took direct action by destroying the toll booths.

They became known as Rebecca and her friends. There are reports of "secret night meetings in the hills around Llangadog" and several attacks on toll gates on the roads leading from the Black Mountain quarries.