Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Squeezing the Orange

Back in the 1890s Alexander Richardson Binnie, the chief engineer at London County Council, had big plans for Radnorshire and Breconshire.  He intended to construct a series of reservoirs which would pipe water to the thirsty multitudes of the Great Wen.  In addition to drowning communities such as Llangammarch, Garth, Cregrina, Llanbister and Abbeycwmhir, the plan also envisaged the clearance of the population from the surrounding water catchment areas - these would be left to the sheep.

Some 18% of the acreage of Radnorshire would be commandeered by London and an incredible 58% of Breconshire - some 488 square miles in total.  With Birmingham and Liverpool also vying for Welsh water it was little wonder that the country was described by Swansea's Liberal MP Sir Henry Vivian as "a carcass which is to be divided between them according to their own needs and wishes."

Binnie's proposals, he had first noted the suitability of the valleys while building railways in the 1860s, was strongly supported by Sidney Webb and the Fabian backed Progressives who controlled London County Council.  By the end of the decade a less ambitious plan, supported by Welsh MPs from DLG to Mabon, would have seen the damming of just the Upper Wye and the Irfon.  This, too, fell by the wayside due to the opposition of the Tories, no doubt mindful of the interests of London's existing private water supply companies.

Although Binnie died in 1917 it's interesting to learn that the company that he founded designed Llyn Brianne in the 1970s ( see note below). Could his plans be dusted down again at some future date?  Surely no supporter of the one nation agenda could object to sacrificing our countryside to the greater good of the United Kingdom's most important city.  Indeed a British patriot should be flushed with pride at the very thought.

Note:  According to this page Brianne is not a local placename.  It is a near anagram of A R Binnie though.


Anonymous said...

Thankfully Dwr Cymru is publicly owned but accountable to an executive board (Glas Cymru). Severn Trent still take their water from the Elan/Claerwen, but f**k it we can take 'em.

Fferllys said...

Its actually quite frightening to imagine what beautiful landscape would have been flooded if this plan had gone ahead.

Re Llyn Brianne's & your link to

"No one from the locality had heard of the word Brianne until the proposal for the new dam was put forward. It is in fact named after a stream, called ‘Nant y Bryniau’, which literally means a stream in the hills. It would seem therefore that at some time a mapmaker had misspelt the word Bryniau, a sadly common occurrence when people are not used to our language. It’s too late to complain now so for the rest of time it will be Brianne. I think that Llyn y Bryniau would have been a far nicer name – means, lake of the hills."

The writer is wrong when they write:
"It’s too late to complain now so for the rest of time it will be Brianne"

Bryniau would have been known as a name for centuries, whereas Brianne has been used for a mere 40+ years.

Is this yet another example of the need for a name change that is linguistically appropriate and historically correct?

Its never too late to right a linguistic and historical wrong if one is determined not to roll over :)

radnorian said...

Yes I saw that but I do wonder if it was as innocent as mangling a Welsh placename. It's such a near anagram of A R Binnie, the consultant engineers on the project, that I do wonder if someone was having a laugh.

gwyn said...

The reformulation Nant y Bryniau is not correct. It's true that the map has a mysterious and clearly far-from-standard Nant Brianne, but the local pronunciation, which I myself heard from an old lady born in the immediate vicinity, makes it quite clear that the name should be Nant Peirannau (pron. Peranne, Pyranne).