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British Steel Tinplate Works General Office

A Grade II* Listed Building in Ebbw Vale, Blaenau Gwent

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.7774 / 51°46'38"N

Longitude: -3.2023 / 3°12'8"W

OS Eastings: 317147

OS Northings: 209429

OS Grid: SO171094

Mapcode National: GBR YY.Z68X

Mapcode Global: VH6CV.FLXB

Entry Name: British Steel Tinplate Works General Office

Listing Date: 29 October 1999

Last Amended: 29 October 1999

Grade: II*

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 22530

Building Class: Industrial

Location: Prominently located along Steelworks Road, on E fringe of massive steelworks complex.

County: Blaenau Gwent

Community: Ebbw Vale South (De Glynebwy)

Community: Ebbw Vale

Built-Up Area: Ebbw Vale

Traditional County: Monmouthshire

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Ebbw Vale

History

Built 1915-16 for the Ebbw Vale Iron and Steel Company to the designs of Veall & Sant of Cardiff, architects. Due to the First World War, only half of the intended building was realised, which would have resulted in the clock tower being centrally positioned. An ironworks was established in Ebbw Vale in 1786 by Walter Watkins of Danygraig, who formed a partnership in 1789 with Charles Cracroft and Jeremiah Homfray. Blast furnace built 1790. The partnership was dissolved in 1791, leaving Homfray as main shareholder, who reformed the company as Harford, Partridge & Co. More land was leased, and in 1794-5, a tramroad built to the limestone quarries at Trefil. The Crumlin branch of the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal opened in 1798, allowing the export of 1655 tons (1682 tonnes) of pig iron from Ebbw Vale that year. By 1830, this rose to 18,133 tons (18,424 tonnes) of pig and finished iron. The Sirhowy Ironworks, Tredegar, was purchased in 1818. In 1829, rails were being made for the Stockton and Darlington Railway, and by 1834, four furnaces were in blast. The Victoria Ironworks was added in 1848. The works were purchased in 1844 by Abraham Darby of Coalbrookdale, with Thomas Brown as manager. The new company invested heavily, purchasing the Abersychan and New British Ironworks, Pontypool Ironworks, and the tinplate works at Pontymoile. By 1863, the company had 19 blast furnaces, 192 puddling furnaces, 1200 workmen’s cottages, and 7500 acres (3038 hectares). In 1864 the company adopted the limited status of the Ebbw Vale Iron and Coal Company. The Bessemer process was introduced in the 1860s by the chief engineer, Edward Windsor Richards, and Ebbw Vale became a noted producer of steel, the works being extensively modernised. The Boer War brought in profitable orders, and the size of the population of the town doubled between 1901 and 1914, as the works expanded. The decline of the early C20 was arrested when in 1935, Richard Thomas & Co bought the site and built a new steelworks, which prospered after the last War, to decline by the 1960s, due to cheap imports. Steelmaking ended after 1965, the works concentrating on tinplating steel coils. After 1973, a new tinplate works was announced for the Ebbw Vale works, and the hot strip mills closed, as a new tinplate and galvanising works was built within a vast complex of metal-sheeted buildings.

Exterior

Free Dutch/Baroque style. Impressively long range of red brick, with extensive detail in buff coloured ashlar. Artificial slate roofs. Composition consists of central two-storey entrance block, with long single storey wings, with tall clock tower to the S end, originally intended as the centrepiece. Central block of three wide bays: end bays projecting, with elaborately shaped gables, with ashlar finials. Central portions of end bays broken forward to contain arched ground floor windows with radiating timber glazing, and a wide ashlar eight-light mullion and transome window above, with small round-arched pediments containing radiating glazing. Flanking narrow lights to both storeys. Gables are also broken forward to centre on elaborate brackets. Hoodmoulded gable tablets containing roundels. Right return elevation has large round-headed leaded dormer with radiating glazing, paired sashes to left. Recessed central bay contains wide bow-fronted pink granite porch supported on Tuscan columns; parapet with raised blank arched tablet to centre. Ashlar facing within porch doors to concave central section, and narrow lights to curved returns (door and windows are modern). To first floor is central advanced dormer with heavy ashlar segmental pediment with moulded finial, two narrow transomed windows. Flanking paired plate-glass sashes with ashlar mullions and lintels. 9-window single storey right-hand wing with narrow 4/1-pane sashes. Left window is a triplet with 4/1:6/1:4/1 sashes, with small leaded round-headed dormer light above, with radiating glazing. Right end bay projects, with shaped gable and bow-fronted mullion and transome ashlar bay window of 15 lights; convex metal-clad ribbed roof. Beyond to right, is square porch, round-arched blocked door with ashlar hood; heavy ashlar pediment with elongated fluted keystone running through. 9-window left-hand range with narrow sashes as above, and similar triplet with dormer. Projecting end bay with shaped gable: later porch within angle. End bay has shallow rectangular ashlar bay window of eight lights; radiating glazing to lunette under deep hood above. To left is very elaborate three-stage clock tower. Blank lower stage. Middle stage has paired tall round-headed openings framing narrow slit windows. Ashlar keystones rising to pseudo-Doric entablature, which has odd elongated triglyphs against a brick background. Ashlar clock stage, twisted through 45 degrees; heavy cornice with pulvinated frieze and small convex leaded dome with big ball finial. Clock faces within carved cartouche-like openings (including dates of 1915); inscriptions above, one reading ‘time passeth away without delay’. To left of tower is broad gable of single storey cross-wing, which has simpler shaped gable, the centre advanced to contain Venetian window, with timber radiating glazing; narrow light each side. S elevation of wing with tall round-arched windows, and blank arched centre opening with hood breaking eaves.

Rear elevation has right-end gabled elevation of S wing, with similar elevation to front. Set back is parallel gabled wing in line with clock tower. Long two storey central range, advanced pebbledashed gable to centre with eight-light ashlar upper transome and mullion window with arched radiating window immediately above; narrow flanking lights. Right section with upper sash windows, some 1/1, others 4/1. Lower floor obscured by later flat-roofed addition. To left of gable, elevations are pebbledashed, including tall left-hand two-storey wing, with modernised glazing.

Interior

Central vestibule with fireplace and impressive imperial staircase of ashlar, set behind three-bay ashlar screen with segmental centre opening flanked by narrow round-arches. Heavy arcaded balustrading, also to landing stretch, which has central clock set within shaped surround. Square-section moulded newels, with elaborate metal openwork lamp-finials. Diagonally-set lower newels, with globe finials. Upper flights of stairs supported on two-bay arcades. Spine corridors with glazed brick arches at intervals, and tiled dados. N end front room was formerly the managers room, now home to an exhibition on the history of the works. Barrel ceiling with cross-beams having simple balusters above. Timber cornice. Elaborate ashlar fireplace with segmental arch dated ‘EV 1916’. Marble insert, and iron grate.

Reasons for Listing

Listed as a very fine and rare survival of an industrial office complex, with much of its character and detail well-preserved. Designed by a leading firm of Cardiff architects to an unusually high specification, reflecting the great prosperity of the steelworks in the Edwardian period.

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