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Blaenavon Ironworks

Location

Southwales Map

OS Ref: SO 249 091

Last Visited: 2015

Blaenavon Ironworks

Blaenavon Ironworks

Okay, I have to admit that the ruins of old blast furnaces are not everyone's idea of a perfect day out. That said Cadw and the BBC between them have gone a long way to make the Blaenavon Ironworks site as interesting as possible for the casual visitor.

Cadw have installed a son et lumière style presentation in one of the remaining casting houses.

This is good, if slightly confusing due to the fact that the bottom of the associated blast furnace is missing. It is also very noisy, but then so were iron foundries.

Middle Row 1967

Middle Row
1967

Back in 2007/2008 BBC Wales filmed two series of a reality reenactment show called Coal House in which three families were taken back to live life as it might have been at various points in the history of the works and area. As a result the site boasts a series of cottages dressed to represent the different eras.

I found the 1960s one particularly evocative, capturing perfectly the combination of shabby prewar and eye-wateringly garish contemporary design; so often we only see the latter.

Admission is currently (2015) free, but check their Cadw website for details of opening times etc.

The Water Balance Tower

The Water Balance Tower

The Sidney Gilchrist Thomas Memorial

The Sidney Gilchrist Thomas Memorial

Dominating the site is the Water Balance Tower, a hydraulically operated lift used to raise waggons full of raw materials to the top of the blast furnaces. There are fine views over the surrounding area from the top of the tower.

The site's main claim to fame is the experiments carried out by Sidney Gilchrist Thomas and his cousin Percy Carlyle Gilchrist in 1877-78 that led to Gilchrist-Thomas process.

This was a method of removing phosphorus from molten iron in a Basic-lined Bessemer Converter. This allowed steel to be produced from cheap, low quality, high sulphur iron ores.