However, while the landscape is slowly knitted together into a patchwork of heritage visitor centres, heritage trails and conserved historic buildings, there remains one glaring oversight, the day by day decline of Ty Mawr. The images included here do not really do justice to the shameful state of this property, but do provide some indication as to its condition following winter 2012/13. Plenty of other adventuring photographers have ventured inside this building and recorded the internal deterioration, though this structure has reached a point where even I (as a fan of climbing live volcanoes, I have a slightly warped sense of personal safety) have severe reservations of stepping inside (not to mention the whole trespass issue, not that there is any indication to say that the current private owners would give a hoot one way or another). Photographs from outside though clearly indicate the severe rate of decay across the roofing. As many conservators would be quick to point out, once the roof is gone, the rest follows soon after.
There are occasional mutterings in official local government documentation about the need to slow the rate of decay here, and vague acknowledgements that Ty Mawr really does matter. But it is simply the case, that for all the occasional talk, in practice, nobody cares. Ty Mawr is a big, old structure, and a financial nightmare to conserve. Even the most optimistic heritage campaigner would have to conclude that there will never be the money provided to save this building from becoming scrap and rubble, it is simply too late. Following the closure of the site as a nursing home, the unwritten intention for this site has been quite clear, ‘leave to fall apart, bulldoze, demolish, and build something new’. For someone, Ty Mawr will make a lovely development project, at least the land upon which it once stood will. For Blaenafon and Wales though, a key component of the industrial heritage story will be lost, forever.
On this note, it seems that there is an opportunity with the forthcoming Heritage Bill for Wales to take action. Listing status has always been a hotchpotch piece of legislation, open to the interpretive whims of individuals, changeable as the wind. Few of us will need reminding that listed status provides no guarantees of protection, and there is nothing to compel owners to do anything to prevent the decline of properties in their care. The Heritage Bill for Wales could change this. I write this with no real sense of optimism, after all, the legislative movements in Wales since 2011 have been far from groundbreaking and we are yet to see the ‘distinctively Welsh politics’ much promised after the referendum of that year. But there is at least a chance that buildings like this, and their inevitable loss, will shame those responsible for heritage in Wales at a legislative level, to take this opportunity to enshrine in law a requirement of care for those who buy up our listed and shared heritage, rather than just demand that any sledgehammer led alterations are done so only with permission.
I hope for a lot, I expect little.