Former Corona bottling plant, Porth
This building, now home to a community arts facility called The Factory, was formerly the bottling plant for Corona soft drinks.
Two local grocers, William Evans and William Thomas, were concerned that miners in the Rhondda were spending too much of their incomes on alcohol. To ensure that attractive soft drinks were readily available, they opened a factory on this site in 1897 to carbonate and bottle water, with fruit flavours added. Their first adverts proclaimed a “revolution in the manufacture of non-alcoholic drinks”.
The company was initially known as Welsh Hills Mineral Waters. The words Welsh Hills Works are still inscribed above the entrance arch.
The company’s distribution system allowed residents to buy the drinks from horse-drawn carts outside their front doors. A deposit on each bottle was repaid when the empty bottle was returned. The fizzy drinks proved to be more popular with children than with miners. The company grew rapidly, ultimately producing Corona drinks at 87 factories around Britain.
In winter 1908 the Porth factory was employing c.58 “girls” and six men. The workforce increased to c.100 each summer to cope with demand. A large boiler, almost 3 metres in diameter, supplied steam to power the machinery and generate electricity for lighting. There were numerous vats for liquid ingredients. Stone ginger beer (a soft drink) was matured on the fourth floor in tanks of 2,700-litre capacity (600 gallons).
In 1899 the company was fined 30s for breaching the Factories Act. An inspector found four young women at work at 8.15pm, two hours after they should have finished. They had started at 6am. Other young women were also at work but the inspector chose to prosecute only for four offences. During the same court session, two dressmakers, a draper and a hat maker in Porth and Ferndale were fined for breaking the Act. In every case, young women were found to be working illegally. One dressmaker, who had previously been convicted under the Act, tried to conceal from the inspector two girls, aged 14 and 16, who were working at 8.50pm.
In 1909 a Swiss professional faster called Victor Beauté ingested nothing but Welsh Hills soda water and lemonade during a reported 38-day fast in a glass-walled room in Tonypandy. Adults paid 2d to see him, children 1d. He lost c.12kg (more than two stones).
Corona’s advertising slogan in the 1970s was: “Every bubble’s passed its fizzical.” This was revived in 1995, to tap in to parents’ nostalgia.
The Porth factory closed in 1987, when Corona became part of the BritVic group. In 2000 the premises were reopened as a music recording studio and a centre for production of TV programmes.
In 2011 the site was acquired by the social enterprise company Valleys Kids, which manages The Factory as a venue for live music. Young local musicians get the chance to perform on the same stage as established professionals. Art exhibitions are also held here.
Postcode: CF39 9PP View Location Map