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Blaenavon Ironworks

Blaenavon Ironworks

Iron in Wales: Blaenavon Ironworks

Thanks to the use of 18th-century cutting-edge technology - coal and steam - Blaenavon Ironworks in south Wales became the second largest iron producer in the world.

The first blast furnace in Blaenavon, Wales, hit full steam in 1789. Literally, at that time, it was only the second blast furnace in the world that was additionally heated with a steam-blowing machine.

Iron Wales

Thanks to Blaenavon Ironworks and Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales emerged as one of the largest iron producers in the world by 1800.

Blaenavon Ironworks expanded steadily: blast furnaces 4 & 5 were built in 1810.

Iron foundry

By 1812, the five blast furnaces spewed out more than 14,000 tons of raw iron into the foundries.

Water balance tower

In 1839, a water balance tower was added, which hoisted the finished iron (and later steel) via a hydraulic lift to be transported away via the canal .

Iron and steel

Initially, only raw iron was made in Blaenavon. In 1870, also steel was made, and the name changed to Blaenavon Iron & Steel Company.

Thomas trial

In 1877, Sidney Gilchrist Thomas and Percy Gilchrist discovered in Blaenavon how to produce steel from phosphorous iron ores (found in Germany, France and Luxembourg), the so-called Thomas process.

The discovery gave Blaenavon a few more years of respite, but iron production stopped in 1904 and steel production in 1938, according to Engineering Timelines.

Since 2000, Blaenavon's industrial landscape, with the nearby Big Pit and the Ironworks, has been declared a World Heritage Site.

It is the best-preserved blast furnace complex from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution: the two remaining blast furnaces, 4 & 5, date from 1810.

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