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Former British Ironworks office and foundry quadrangle

A Grade II* Listed Building in Abersychan, Torfaen

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.7264 / 51°43'34"N

Longitude: -3.0767 / 3°4'36"W

OS Eastings: 325731

OS Northings: 203620

OS Grid: SO257036

Mapcode National: GBR J2.2GTJ

Mapcode Global: VH79K.MVBY

Entry Name: Former British Ironworks office and foundry quadrangle

Listing Date: 13 September 1994

Last Amended: 28 July 1997

Grade: II*

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 14870

Building Class: Industrial

Location: The most prominent building in the area of the former British Ironworks, about 1000m south west of St Thomas's Church, Talywain.

County: Torfaen

Town: Pontypool

Community: Abersychan

Community: Abersychan

Locality: The British

Traditional County: Monmouthshire

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History

The British Ironworks operated from 1827 to 1883 and was constructed during the period in which South Wales was the leading iron producing region in the world. After initial difficulties of investment and construction, the ironworks became one of the larger ironworks in South Wales, with six blast furnaces. However, the works continued to have a troubled financial history until its closure in 1883 and the demolition of most of its buildings shortly afterwards. Unusually, the main ironworks buildings were designed with high architectural pretentions and on a monumental scale. The architect was Decimus Burton (1800-81), near the beginning of his career, who went on to become one of the leading architects of his generation. Construction began in 1826.

A map of the ironworks site surveyed in 1826 (i.e at the time of construction) does not show any of the surviving quadrangle, but the front (north-west) range appears to be shown on the Tithe Map, surveyed before 1841, and an early engraving of the main facade of the works shows a small building. It is probable that its front range was built at around the time that the works opened, possibly to Burton's designs, and was used as offices. The rest of the quadrangle was constructed as a foundry and workshops between c1841 and 1879 and is most likely to date from major new investments in the works by the Ebbw Vale Company in the 1850's. The north east corner pavilion was reconstructed with a first floor on the existing single-storey structure around the turn of the 20th century and was used as a colliery office for the adjacent British Colliery, whose pumping engine house survives nearby (MM216).

Exterior

The buildings form a closed quadrangle and are constructed of coursed sandstone with Welsh slate roofs (partially missing or replaced with corrugated iron). The whole quadrangle is single storey apart from the north-east pavilion which has two storeys and is rendered.

The front range of the quadrangle, facing northwest, formerly consisted of two square pavilions with pyramidal roofs and a lower connecting range. The right hand pavilion appears to be unaltered and is consistent with a design of the 1820's or 1830's. It has ashlar quoins, eaves band and window and door surrounds, with evenly coursed sandstone between. The windows were sixteen pane wooden sashes, of which two survive following some fire damage. The main elevation has two windows with a central doorway with a flat hood, and there are three openings to the north-west elevation,one partly blocked. The left hand pavilion has identical detailing to the ground floor, but with a fanlight above the doorway and alterations to the window frames made at the turn of the century. The former eaves band now forms a string course and the walls have been rendered. There is a hipped slate roof with chimney gablets. Tall casement windows have been placed in the upper storey, of four bays with one narrow central window to each outer side. The linking block is of rubble sand stone with dressed quoins and window surrounds. The windows are evenly spaced with shallow segmental arches and stone cills, containing metal small pane frames or timber cross frames with leaded light panels.

The south west elevation behind the pavilion has seven windows to the outside and four to the inside. The south eastern is built into the slope on the outside but has seven openings to the inside.

The whole complex has suffered extensive damage since listing in 1994; this is especially the case in the north west corner, which is now (January 1997) in a very damaged state.

Interior

Inside, the two-storey office building has a central hallway and staircase with four main rooms on each floor. The rooms to the south-west have corner fireplaces. The fire-damaged pavilion opposite has part of a magnificent pyramidal roof structure of massive timbers giving a large clear space interrupted only by later inserted walls. The trusses are of king post design with linked trusses at right angles. The remainder of the workshops also have king post roof trusses creating large open spaces. Cast iron floor plates typical of foundry buildings can be seen in some places and there are large areas of its south west side opened through the wall to cast molten metal. The air furnace is scheduled as an Ancient Monument (MM 221). Significant remains of casting pits and a waterwheel or small steam engine to power workshop machinery may exist below floor level.

Reasons for Listing

Surviving workshop and foundry complexes at C19 ironworks are now extremely rare, and this is believed to be the most complete surviving in Wales. Listed at Grade II* for its rarity, for the possible involvement of Decimus Burton in designing the front of pavilions, and for group value with the nearby pumping engine house and the air furnace within the quadrangle, both of which are scheduled as Ancient Monuments.

Recommended Books

Other nearby listed buildings

  • II British Colliery Pumping Engine House
    On the site of the British Ironworks about 100m north east of the former British Ironworks office and foundry quadrangle.
  • II The Big Arch
    Located next to the B4246 and carries a disused railway embankment across a disused railway line now a track. The arch forms the visual and actual gateway to the former British Ironworks area.
  • II Former Goods Shed of Abersychan and Talywain Station
    To the west of Talywain village, high on the embankment above The British and about 300m north of the Big Arch.
  • II Former colliery engine house at ETM Steel Fabrication
    On the south-east side of the Varteg to Llanhilleth mountain road at The British. The engine house backs onto the road and faces the yard behind.
  • II Church of St Thomas
    In the centre of Talywain standing in an extensive rectangular rubble walled churchyard.
  • II Waterloo Cottage
    In the Talywain area of Abersychan, Waterloo Cottage is at the southern end of Fairfield (off Waterloo Road), where the road becomes a footpath.
  • II High Street Baptist Church
    Built backing into the hillside on a high platform with stone retaining wall and iron railings on a site overlooking Cwmsychan.
  • II Chimney
    About 500m to the west of The British on the south side of the mountain road to Abertillery.

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