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The Holly-Bush Tower, Vale Of Neath

The Holly-Bush Tower, Vale Of Neath

Photographer: Napper, R P, British and Foreign Portrait Company

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1864

Shelfmark: 1784.a.30

Item number: 18

Length: 20

Width: 16

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

View of the Holly-Bush Tower, a rock formation in the Vale of Neath in south Wales, taken by R. P. Napper of the British and Foreign Portrait Company. The image is one of twenty landscape photographs documenting the picturesque scenery of the Neath valley published in 1864.

In his accompanying text, Charles Henry Waring wrote of the tower: “This curious rock stands in the middle of the Neath Vaughan River, a mile and a half above the Upper Scwd Ddwlu Fall”. According to Waring, the Vale of Neath was until recent times the haunt of fairies, and he tells a number of whimsical Victorian stories about their inhabitation of the landscape. The victim of jealousy, a beautiful water fairy is supposed to be incarcerated in the Holly-Bush Tower:

“[O]f the three tribes, the rock fairies were the most powerful; and they watched until they caught the poor water fairy quite by herself, and then they built her up in a rock in the middle of the River. And the fairies of the air brought seeds, and planted trees on the rock, and blew about the rock to keep it dry…Now you can fancy how sad this made her true lover, the poor water fairy; but he never deserted her, and always flows round her rock prison, and sings to her, and tries to wash away the hard stone, and get her out; but the rock fairies always prevent this; and that is the reason the rock has stood for so many ages, and that the poor little fairy is still shut up in it.”

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