Steelworks roll stack, Ebbw Vale

Steelworks roll stack, Ebbw Vale

This giant metal assembly is a relic of Ebbw Vale steelworks’ continuous strip mill – the first in the world outside the USA.

Ebbw Vale developed expertise in rolled products – particularly iron rails for railways – in the early 19th century. The boom in railway building brought large orders from British and overseas companies, but the steelworks temporarily closed in October 1929 as a result of the international financial crisis. Ebbw Vale was plunged into mass unemployment and poverty.

Picture of Ebbw Vale steelworks rolling mill in 1938In 1935 the steelworks was acquired by Richard Thomas & Company, whose chairman William Firth announced construction of an integrated works on the site. The rebuilt works produced iron and steel which were processed on site and sold to customers in various forms, including annealed sheet, tinplate and galvanised products.

At the hot strip mill, steel ingots were reduced (“rolled”) to form elongated steel bars. After reheating, they were rolled repeatedly to reduce their thickness.

The finishing hot-rolling facility, commissioned on 3 October 1938, passed the steel strips through a series of five mill stands. The one you see here was the last in the sequence.

The stands were supplied by American company United Engineering. Each contained four rolls. The steel strip passed between the central pair of rolls. Several stands are depicted here, courtesy of the Ebbw Vale Works Museum, from the front cover of The Times Weekly Edition of 21 July 1938.

The investment was timely, as Britain soon needed vast amounts of steel for the war effort. Ebbw Vale produced more than 300,000 tons per annum during the Second World War, for uses including shells and armoured vehicles.

Further investment after the war saw output increase again, peaking at 1,080,000 tons in 1960. The final hot-rolled coil was produced on 13 October 1977.

You can find a wealth of information and photos relating to local steelmaking at the Ebbw Vale Works Museum, in the former General Offices of the works (near the roll stack). Follow the link below for visiting details.

With thanks to Mel Warrender, of the Ebbw Vale Works Museum

Postcode: NP23 6AA    View Location Map

Website of the Ebbw Vale Works Museum