Site of Cwmbrân ironworks
Cwmbrân Retail Park occupies the site of a canal-side nut and bolt factory, which grew into the area’s biggest employer.
An iron foundry was built here in 1800, taking advantage of the recently built Monmouthshire Canal, which connected the site to Newport. Narrow boats could transport bulk goods more efficiently than the basic roads or tramways of the time. The foundry was initially owned by members of the Blewitt family. They included Reginald James Blewitt, who was a treasurer of the canal company in the 1830s.
The land here once belonged to Madame de Solignac. She was the widow of Charles Griffiths of Gloucester and Llanyrafon, Cwmbrân, when she married Eugène Jean Baptiste de Solignac (son of of Lieut-Gen Baron de Solignac of Montpellier and Milhou, France) in 1840. She leased the foundry land to the Cwm Bran Bar & Boiler Plate Co.
In the 1840s the canal company diversified into railways. It upgraded various tramways and built a new railway from Newport to Blaenavon which passed the iron foundry east of the canal (where the A4051 is now), with sidings into the foundry. The Cwmbrân Iron Company later developed the facilities here and on a site to the west.
In 1864 the ironworks was taken over by the Patent Nut & Bolt Co, which was established by Arthur Keen and a partner in the West Midlands in 1853. It passed to Guest Keen & Co in 1900, and to Guest, Keen & Nettlefold Ltd (GKN) two years later. Coal and coke (coal prepared for use in blast furnaces) came from local collieries owned by the company, which also owned a local brickworks. In the old photo of the works you can see several GKN-owned wagons.
Many local GKN employees served in the First and Second World Wars. The company’s plaques in memory of those who died are now displayed at Cwmbrân Park.
The factory closed in 1972. The lower photo shows construction of the canal bridge into the retail park in the 1990s.
Postcode: NP44 3PB View Location Map