The Upper Sirhowy Valley still retains some of the scars of heavy industry. The Bargoed Coal Company sank the Abernant Colliery in 1880, and this later linked with the Llanover Colliery in Argoed sunk in 1912.
Markham grew as a settlement from 1913 following the purchase of land by the Markham Steam Coal Company and sinking of Markham Colliery in 1911; the village’s name being derived from Sir Arthur Markham, a director of the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company.
Reflecting the fluctuations of the coalmining industry, Abernant Colliery raised its last coal in 1932 and later became a pumping station to assist with the drainage of neighbouring pits, while Markham Colliery finally closed in 1985.
The valley also comprised the Bedwellty Pits (two pits and two levels), Rock Colliery (1878-1957) and Hollybush Colliery (1880-1921). Manmoel on the other hand remained relatively untouched by heavy industry; instead it still bears the features of many centuries of agricultural, ecclesiastical and monastic activities.
The area is proud of several notable milestones including Manmoel’s ancient religious importance; as the birthplace in 1832 of James James, composer of the music of 'Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau'.
Evan James was the Innkeeper at The Ancient Druid when his son James was born. He apparently also ran a Wool Mill lower down the river (which is now long gone). In those days there was no running water, so the Inn would have obtained its water from the spring that rises just a few feet to the south of the main building (in times of drought or very heavy frost the whole village apparently used the spring).
This water is extremely clear (and very cold) and it has a beautiful taste. The spring is fed from a deep rock aquifer, the water flowing from it at the same speed and temperature week in week out, year in year out.
Pictured right is Ron Palmer Welsh Captain playing the pub game of The Quoits. This was a very popular game in the valleys and Argoed was the venue for Wales-England quoits internationals.
Zephaniah Williams, one of the leaders of the Chartist Rising in 1839 was born at Argoed and the march poured through the area. The Rock Inn was once used as a law court.