Rubber-factory boiler house, Brynmawr

This unusual concrete building is the last remnant of the Dunlop Semtex rubber factory. Please view the boiler house from the road and do not enter it. The complex made innovative use of concrete and its buildings were the first in Britain from the post-war period to be officially listed (Grade II*) for their historical importance.

Brynmawr rubber factory under construction in 1948The photos, courtesy of the Welsh Government, show: the factory under construction in 1948, with the boiler house and railway station on the left; the factory in 1955; the derelict factory in 1999.

After the Second World War, the Labour government was keen to provide jobs in areas suffering mass unemployment from the closure of heavy industries. Industrialist Lord Forrester was keen to bring economic help to the Heads of the Valleys. He was also a director of the Brimsdown Rubber Company, which developed the factory at Brynmawr with government funding. The plans reflected post-war ideals, with workers and management sharing one factory entrance and canteen.

Aerial view of Brynmawr rubber factory in 1955The main factory was demolished in 2001 and its site was used for the retail park across the road from the boiler house. The nine gently curved roof sections over the main factory floor echoed the shape of the nearby hills. Circular skylights admitted sunlight. The factory floor was unusually large for its time (without partitions subdividing the space). Structural engineers for this ambitious new use of concrete were Ove Arup and Partners. Ove Arup himself later lent his concrete expertise to the Sydney Opera House’s design and construction.

Photo of derelict rubber factory in 1999The great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright paid a visit during the five-year construction period from 1946. The factory wasn’t a commercial success. It was soon sold to Dunlop Semtex, which used it to produce rubber flooring for buildings such as hospitals until the factory closed in 1982.

The factory’s boilers were housed in this building. Notice how the walls and roof are all in one parabola. There were railway lines beyond the building. You can still see remnants of the concrete viaduct where railway wagons delivered coal to the boiler house’s first floor.

Postcode: NP23 4PT    View Location Map