Rheidol History

To celebrate Rheidol 60th anniversary...

1881: Hydropower for Aberystwyth

Professor Humpidge, from UCW Aberystwyth argues in an article that a ‘large quantity of electricity could be easily and cheaply obtained for the town of Aberystwyth’ by making use of the abundant water in the Rheidol Valley. The cost of this would be ‘almost nothing’, he says.

1921: A lost opportunity

An opinion piece in the Cambrian News laments the fact that Aberystwyth was ‘badly advised’ when it rejected a water-powered electricity scheme, for a steam-powered alternative. ‘The town has to suffer today and will have to suffer for years to come for the stupidity of its representatives in the past.’ It will be several decades before the idea is raised again.

1952: Changing the law

On 1 April 1952, the North Wales Hydro-Electric Power Bill is debated for the first time in the House of Commons. The legislation gives powers to the Central Electricity Authority - which was later becomes the Central Electricity Generating Board - for ‘the construction and erection of works and generating stations in the counties of Merioneth, Cardigan, and Montgomery and for the acquisition of lands and easements for the purposes thereof or in connection therewith and for other purposes’.

There is some initial opposition in Parliament, with one MP arguing ‘that the Bill in its present form will do irreparable damage to the natural beauty of one of the loveliest parts of Wales’. Eventually it becomes law on 27 July 1955, and the Act allows the construction of Rheidol, and another hydropower scheme at Ffestiniog, in Gwynedd, north-west Wales to go ahead.

Central Electricity Generating Board: A short history

The Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) is responsible for the generation and bulk supply of electricity in England and Wales. It operates the largest power system under single control, anywhere in the world. A central headquarters in London controls five regions, who are responsible for the operation of power stations and transmission lines in their areas. The North Western Region, which includes Rheidol, stretches from Aberstwyth to Buxton, and then to Carlisle. The CEGB also has two specialist construction and design divisions, one responsible for new power stations, the other for transmission lines.

The James brothers

There are few objections locally to the proposed Rheidol scheme. The only two people who are to be relocated are James James (Jim) and John James, who live in a pink-washed farmhouse at Nant-y-Moch.

‘This farm has been in the James family for more than 100 years’, John tells a reporter from the Empire News and Sunday Chronicle. ‘It’s mainly sheep and a few cattle, but it’s our way of life’.