Snowdonia’s hidden hydros – National Trust Dyffryn Mymbyr

The Dyffryn Mymbyr 7kw generator which took 8 streams to power

Your turning into a bit of a ‘geek’ was the greeting to my discovery of more info on the Hafod y Llan 1930’s hydro. My retort to Alun’s statement was ‘thought i was one already’. I have been bitten by the ‘i must know more’ bug. Yesterday this took me in a moderate monsoon back to the National Trust farm of Dyffryn Mymbyr near Capel Cerrig. Very close to the main road lies a very unassuming building which is a treasure trove to a ‘hydro geek’. I was there to know more and to understand how it worked and if there was any clue to the maker. I know the designer and installer was a well-known N Wales hydro engineer, one Richard Edwards of Llanuwchlyn. In the last few weeks and speaking to a lot of people i have come to understand there are many hundreds more than i thought of these little treasure houses across N Wales. Every shape, make and model. Foundry’s such as OG Jones and the Glaslyn in Porthmadog were producing a long string of cutting edge pelton wheels in the 20’s and 30’s

I re read my copy of the famous ‘I bought a mountain’ by Thomas Firbank to understand the process of building this specific hydro at Dyffryn Mymbyr. No JCB or electro-fusion – elbow grease and according to Fairbank a lot effort and the occasional swear. Having had a proper look at what we have, I think we can use his stream and reservoir again to start producing what he worked very hard to get for the cottages at the top of the hill

ps if you want to stay at the cottages – follow the link

1930’s was a good vintage for hydros

The Governor to regulate the precious water in the background , the pelton with the additional flywheel to stop the pelton ‘hunting’ and finally the 7kw generator to power a new the electric oven. All detailed in his book

a cup full of brushes for the generator.

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18 Responses to Snowdonia’s hidden hydros – National Trust Dyffryn Mymbyr

  1. Great photos (can we get any copies?) and another nice blog. Reading these hydro blogs in particular has made me realise how precious energy was regarded in the first half of the twentieth century and how much we have come to take it for granted since the arrival of the National Grid. Of course now energy bills are outstripping inflation by a considerable margin, the heritage you are re-discovering will be of great educational value to us all.

    • Keith Jones says:

      thanks for the comment. what i like about the dyffryn mymbyr hydro is the close link to the book. you can see the books detail installed in metal and machienery.
      which images do you want? all the best and thanks again

  2. Fascinating stuff and, as Carl says, great photos.

    • Keith Jones says:

      finding out more and more and there are hundred of these about. OG Jones Foundary, Glasyn Foundry and Richard Edwards Llanuwchlyn seem to be the main movers in N Wales. Have just been sent some stunning images of hydros in Cwm Pennant

  3. James Lloyd says:

    Really intersting story you should pitch it to country life!

  4. Johanna Firbank says:

    Johanna Firbank says:

    Interesting to read your blogs re the pioneering hydro scheme at Dyffryn Mymbyr, vividly brought to life, as you say, by its creator, my late father, Thomas Firbank (not Fairbank!) in a chapter in his classic book “I Bought a Mountain” – whose copyright I now hold.
    The labour in hand-digging a high supply reservoir, retained by 8ft peat walls, plus leats to harness a wild array of mountain streams in an area too precipitous for machines to venture, was quite phenomenal.
    There is another intriguing story here, too, of a dedicated “hydro” family, hinted at by the carved inscription AJ 1937, plain in your photo of the turbine house.
    I note that you plan an article. Perhaps you should contact me.

    • Keith Jones says:

      thank you so much for contacting me. sorry for the the miss spelling. My brain works quicker than my fingers on thekey board. Will contact you asap

    • John says:

      Hello Johanna

      I’m wondering if you still live in Wales. We last saw each other in about 1990 when we bumped into each other at Llandudno Junction railway station and prior to that (many, many years ago) in Redcliffe Gardens in London! John

      • Margaret Colling says:

        In case you didn’t know of Johanna’s death:-
        Published in the North Wales Weekly News on 17th September 2015 (Distributed in North Wales)
        FIRBANK JOHANNA I am sad to announce the death of Johanna Firbank after a long illness. There will be a private service in Kent. Anyone wishing to know more, please contact Sandra Ebbs on (01492) 583306

      • Keith Jones says:

        Thank you for this. I had not heard.

    • Sophie Bicknell says:

      Hi Ms Firbank,

      Sorry to contact you on this page, but I was wondering if I might be able be able to have a discussion with you about your late father’s book I BOUGHT A MOUNTAIN? Please do let me know if I could send you my contact details.

      Many thanks,

      Sophie Bicknell

    • John Thurlow says:

      Hi Johanna
      Just come across this blog, and you, after re-reading all your late father’s books. I have been trying to find out more about his later life, Perhaps you could e-mail me if you have a moment, and are able to help, if I am not being too intrusive.
      Yours sincerely
      John Thurlow

  5. Pingback: Snowdonia’s hidden hydros – National Trust Dyffryn Mymbyr | hidden hydros

  6. Sam Leonard says:

    Just read the book. Im studying civil engineering at Cardiff uni, and my dissertation is on hydro turbines. Thomas Firbank sure had a pretty amazing life!

  7. Janine Mills says:

    Dear Johanna, Delighted to see you are responding to posts about your father, who was a relation of ours. We’ve got a couple of copies of ‘I Bought a Mountain’ but none of his later writings – although I shall make it a point to seek them out in second hand bookshops or online. Your father was an amazing writer and a real character.
    Janine Mills

  8. Keith Jones says:

    fair enough. i have never been cursed with either spelling or grammar skills. I have good feedback from home on these two points….constantly! I am here to serve and receive feedback about my dubious skills. all the best. Keith (Ps my Welsh is a little bit better!)

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