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Monday, 17 November 2014

The Edward Hubbard Collection

Llanwddyn. The parish church of St. John in the distance, and the Powis Arms hotel to the right. The village contains the church, two chapels, a school, three public houses, and about forty private houses, all of which will be submerged.

The Edward Hubbard collection consists of images of the construction of dams over the rivers Elan and Vyrnwy, both huge engineering projects to provide water to Birmingham and Liverpool respectively.

The photographs in the Lake Vyrnwy album (C12624, 1880s) show not only the vast effort, and minimal machinery, involved in the construction but also views of Llanwddyn village street, with the inhabitants outside their houses looking at the photographer. It must have taken a while to set up the equipment and it would have been a relatively rare sight attracting much attention – very different from today’s realities of ubiquitous cameras and instantly uploaded images.

These evocative photos are captioned ‘Llanwddyn village –to be submerged’ and the like; a whole village about to vanish. The community was relocated – apparently without any controversy – to a replacement village built by the Liverpool Corporation on a more elevated site above the reservoir.

The last photo in the album depicts a group of engineers, ‘the boys of the old brigade’. All of them have beards; is this the men’s fashion of the day, or a sign of social class? And where in the social hierarchy of the day would an engineer be placed?

The Boys of the Old Brigade.
The Vyrnwy Masonry Dam. North west end of wall in September, 1883. Material: Cyclopean masonry in Portland cement. Greatest thickness at base, 120 feet. Height of masonry above foundation when the photograph was taken, 35 feet.
Foundation Rock of the Vyrnwy Masonry Dam. South west end of the trench as exposed in June, 1882.

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