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The Nantyglo Round Towers and Gated Communities

Nantyglo Round Tower (photo by David Smith)

Nantyglo Round Tower” by David Smith. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons.

The Nantyglo Round Towers in Wales were the last castle-style fortifications to be built in the UK.

Jeffrey L Thomas writes:

The Round Towers at Roundhouse Farm in Nantyglo, Wales, were built by industrialists Crawshay and Joseph Bailey, who, by the early 19th century controlled much of the iron resources in the region, including the massive iron works at Nantyglo located about a mile south of Brynmawr. Fearing that their workers would one day rise against them, in 1816 the Baileys built the last fortified tower in Britain as a place of refuge against a potential worker’s revolt. Today these ruins stand as unique and important reminder of the region’s industrial strife.

When I first visited the Nantyglo Round Towers, I was very struck by the way in which, rather than realising that the unrest among the iron-workers in their employ was caused by genuine grievances resulting from their ill-treatment of them, they decided that their workers were merely “uppity”.

Rather than deciding to address the workers’ grievances and treat them better, they provided themselves with a fortification to strike fear into the hearts of the workers, and to ensure that in the event of another riot, they would have somewhere to retreat to.

I was also struck by the parallels with gated communities, which had recently been introduced in the UK. These “communities” are based on the rising fear of crime, violence, and the othering of the urban poor.

Setha M Low writes:

Across America, middle-class and upper-middle-class gated communities are creating new forms of exclusion and residential segregation, exacerbating social cleavages that already exist… While historically secured and gated communities were built in the United States to protect estates and to contain the leisure world of retirees, these urban and suburban developments now target a much broader market, including families with children … This retreat to secured enclaves with walls, gates, and guards … threatens public access to open space, and creates yet another barrier to social interaction, building of social networks, as well as increased tolerance of diverse cultural/ racial/social groups

Rather than redressing the injustices which lead to the disaffection of the urban poor, caused by the austerity agenda and the increasing divide between rich and poor, the middle classes retreat to these urban enclaves where they can enjoy their unearned wealth and privilege without having to look at the increasingly distressing vision of the have-nots crowding at the gates.

Similarly, as migrants, displaced by wars fomented by the West, clamour at the gates of Europe, there are calls for them to be forcibly ejected from our midst. They are locked up in prisons, treated in an inhuman and degrading manner, and forcibly deported.

From the Detained Voices blog:

We have witnessed the worst treatment immigration detainees receive at two detention centres (Brookhouse and The Verne). We have witnessed officers dressed in full riot gear (shields, helmets and baton) coming to remove a detainee who have refused deportation. Such brute force is used early in the mornings and also late at night or sometimes midday when everyone is banged-up. We are not allowed phone cameras, so we can’t video the brutality that is hidden from the public eyes.

Other detention centres that use brute force are Colnbrook, Hammondsworth and Yarlswood. In most detention centres, there are two detainees per room. The room has bunk beds, a sink and toilet with little or no ventilation. The majority of detention centres have no openable windows and the air we breathe is not fresh. Detainees are locked behind doors from 9pm-8am and again between 12:30-13:30 and also between 16:30-17:30. That is clearly a prison regime being practiced by the Home Office on detainees.

If anyone doubts that migrants are displaced by wars fomented by the West, consider that many migrants fleeing across the Mediterranean from Africa and Syria are fleeing DAESH / ISIL, and that the West has been interfering with politics in the Middle East for more than a century.

We, the powerful, must stop this vicious cycle of destroying others’ lives and livelihoods, and getting annoyed when they rise up and demand justice. Instead, we should promote justice and start the process of restorative justice. Without justice, there can be no peace.


I was reminded of the Nantyglo Round Towers and the building of gated communities by Rhyd Wildermuth‘s fairy tale of the evil wizards, The Disenchanted Kingdom.


  1. Postal workers–going postal enters the vocabulary when the working conditions some postal workers dealt with were so bad. It took more than a few of these incidents before the management wised up and changed things.

    Gated communities: In the non-flat areas of Southern California, I noted that the gated communities in canyons and otherwise against elevated ground had only one exit. This may apply to others elsewhere, but there is one in Santa Cruz County which has only one entrance/exit.

    The common feature, and the reason which I would not choose to live in them, even had I the money to do so, is the susceptibility to worst-case scenario wildfires. In SoCal, the hills are usually quite dry, and especially during the windy seasons, fires can start and suddenly cover dozens of acres. The one in SCruz Co. is surrounded by a pine forest, and I suspect many of those homes have shake rooves.

    My rule has always been no single access areas, no shake roof, enough light (SAD), and no pine or eucalyptus (severe allergy) trees within sight. This does tend to rule me out of most posh communities. Fine by me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When you go to university as a teacher one of the things that they insist that you do before accepting a teaching assignment is to walk through the community where you will be teaching. Most teachers do this before their very first assignment then never repeat the process. This year my principal decided to do something about it and took us on a three hour bus tour of our community. Along the way he pointed out the houses where our “trouble” kids live.

    It wasn’t eye opening for me, I’ve done the ride through the community before and I knew where, and how, our kids lived. It was obvious, however, that most the teachers on that bus had been clueless. Most teachers make barely enough money to be counted in the middle class, but the prestige that teaching grants means that most of us marry people who make far more money than we do. We wrap ourselves in the middle class privilege that our salaries and prestige allows us and like to pretend that all our students live the same way.

    It goes back to building walls. It makes us uncomfortable to be confronted with poverty and desperation on a daily basis and so we build walls so that we will not have to see it. It is to our shame, it is, after all, our responsibility to help them to rise out of poverty.

    Liked by 1 person

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