Blaenavon Ironworks is one of the best preserved 18th century ironworks in Europe. It was the first purpose multi-furnace ironworks in Wales and in its era was at the cutting edge of technology. In the year 2000, Blaenavon Industrial Landscape was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In 2014, we were contracted by CADW to undertake both external and internal repairs of the Weighbridge building as well as external limewash and consolidation with limework to the Stack Square cottages and surrounding perimeter walls and buttresses.
The Ironworks remained open to the public, so each area was sectioned off at a time whilst work proceeded to the multiple buildings across the site. Due to the time of year we had to phase the works with careful programming so that the heritage limework did not fail.
The rotten floor of the Weighbridge building was removed, and repair work commenced on the windows and doors. The roof was stripped and re-slated with the existing useable natural welsh slate where possible and new slates to match. Areas of frost damaged brick that could not be repaired were removed, replaced and repointed.
Window and door casings were re-fit to match the existing. The existing corrugated covered sheeting to the front porch of the Weighbridge was repaired.
Work was carried out to restore the Stack Square cottages. Render was removed from the Middle Row cottages. The external paint was removed using the Doff cleaning system and surfaces were made good. Limewash coats were applied to the cottages in keeping with traditional methods.
Work was completed to restore the North Row cottages’ chimney stacks where much attention was taken over matching the existing details. The chimney stacks were demolished and re-built. Our operatives re-pointed the chimney stacks with lime mortar.
The roofs of the cottages were repaired including the up-stands, soakers and valley gutters. New cast iron rainwater goods were installed to the Middle and North Row cottages to match existing details. Leadwork was replaced.
The rotten timbers to existing window and door joinery of the cottages were repaired and replaced. The external windows, doors and door sets were redecorated as required with paint to match the existing specification.
For the Weighbridge building internal repairs were carried out to the existing wall finishes, concrete floor and plasterboard ceilings. New insulation was installed between the rafters. Electrical work consisting of ceiling light fittings, switches and power points. The walls were painted. Timberwork, door and window joinery were painted with an undercoat and gloss paint.
As the works are within the World Heritage Site, and are open to the public, we discussed holding a Limewashing event upon Stack Square Cottages with CADW and CIAT. Health and safety documents were prepared, insurance approvals obtained, and PPE was purchased as part of the planning process. On the day three groups of ten people attended, from grandparents to infants and included CIAT members.
Each workshop lasted two hours and was conducted by our Director Philip Braithwaite and assisted by our team. The workshop included a tour of the restoration works and the theory behind the lime work and its uses including the mixes. Everyone then had the opportunity to apply limewash upon the cottages and were given the PPE (hard hat, high visibility vest, gloves and goggles) as a memento of the day.
Our organisation enjoys delivering open days on large projects as they give members of the public the chance to understand more about restoration projects in their area.
We committed to take on local labour to work alongside our workforce and the workers were trained in heritage skills. This benefited the community and enhanced the skills of local workers.
Throughout the restoration careful consideration was paid to the historic nature of the Ironworks. Our work was in keeping with traditional methods and maintained the historic feel of the site.