Site of dynamite factory, Pembrey

button-theme-womenbutton_lang_welshbutton_lang_frenchSite of dynamite factory, Pembrey

Large volumes of explosives were manufactured inland of the Wales Coast Path here, peaking in the First and Second World Wars. Pembrey Country Park opened on the site in 1980.

The sandy terrain was ideal for dynamite production, being away from housing and near a railway. Sand was easily formed into banks around factory buildings, to contain any accidental explosions. In 1881 the Stowmarket Explosive Company began to produce dynamite, fuses and detonators here, for collieries and quarries.

In November 1882 an explosion killed four girls and three boys, aged 13 to 24. The shockwaves rattled windows in Burry Port. Dynamite was stored at the site after the company failed in 1885.

A “TNT factory” was opened here in 1915 by the Glasgow-based Nobel’s Explosives Company and nationalised in January 1917. It had 400 buildings over 3.12sq km (771 acres). It produced 15,000 tons of crude TNT during the First World War, and 20,000 tons of cordite (which propelled missiles). Some of the output went to the adjacent filling factory. Cordite was dispatched to Surrey in steam-heated railway wagons, ensuring a steady temperature.

By the end of the war, 4,765 people worked at the TNT factory. Most commuted by train from Swansea and other towns, and 59% were women. The diaries of Gabrielle West, a police officer at the site, record that the ether in the cordite caused up to 30 women per shift to suffer epileptic fits, some having 12 successive fits. She likened the acid section to hell, because airborne acid particles rotted clothes, impaired breathing and prickled skin. “You are blind and speechless by the time you escape,” she wrote.

The Royal Ordnance Factory built new facilities on part of the site in 1938, and employed up to 3,000 workers here during the Second World War. It continued to produce ammonium nitrate (a dynamite ingredient) after the war, for fertilising farm fields. From 1944 to 1963 it dismantled defective munitions.

With thanks to Alice Pyper, of Dyfed Archaeological Trust

More about the Pembrey munitions factory – Dyfed Archaeological Trust website

Website of Pembrey Country Park

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