Glyn Neath Former Gunpowder Works

Restoration of Scheduled Ancient Monument

Brecon Beacons National Parks & CADW

  • Scheduled Ancient Monument
  • Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
  • Special Area of Conservation
  • Programme of Archaeological Monitoring and Recording – Written Scheme of Investigation:
  • Programme of archaeological recording and investigation during conservation works.
  • Record photographically and report on each structure prior to works commencing.
  • Briefings of procedures and protocols with Main Contractor (MC) prior to dismantling structures.
  • Monitor works on regular basis and as requested by MC.
  • Record of stones removed during construction of scaffolding.
  • Assess vulnerability/sensitivity of exposed remains.
  • Photogrammetric record of each structure upon completion of the work.
  • Information on the archaeological potential of the site to enable implications of conservation works to be assessed.
  • Site archive for deposition with local museum and to provide information for accession to Powys Historic Environment Record.

Ecology Watching Brief

Site facilitation and consolidation of ten ruinous structures: Stove house, Water Wheel Housing, Turbine and Pump House, Leat Support Piers/Stables, Old Corning House, New Corning House, Hydraulic Pump House, Expense Magazine, Chimney, Dusting House and Turbine House.

The Former Gunpowder Works has become a walking route whose ten former buildings are spread over a two-mile stretch of track. Now ruins, we had been contracted to make the remaining structures safe through consolidation and rebuilding. The area is now safe for tourists and history scholars.

Access was via a single narrow (1.5m) gravel track which was difficult to get vehicles along so logistically transporting the workforce and scaffolding required careful co-ordination in itself. To overcome this, we used our Polaris Ranger and Advent Loader to move materials and operatives to the work areas which was unobtrusive yet highly effective.

To safely and efficiently transport the scaffold to the remote locations in which it was required, we fabricated a “scaffolding trailer”. With the nearest road being 2 miles away, the narrow path to contend with, and the structures requiring a large amount of scaffolding yet with no access for lorries we concluded that the best form of vehicle to use was an ATV. We then needed the bespoke trailer for the ATV to tow; as this could not be found anywhere to purchase we manufactured our own. The deign started with the base utilising the ATV wheels and axles, the steel dimensions were calculated to take the weight of the scaffolding loaded, and the maximum weight limits had to be calculated. A strapping system was also developed based on load straps to ensure the rough terrain could be safely navigated.

In order for us to meet CDM requirements on this sensitive site, we analysed the whole area for potential areas to place our staff welfare facilities, office, stores and area for deliveries, as well as space for two vehicles to park. With land ownership changes and road weaknesses to consider, it was not feasible to place the facilities closer than a mile away from where the works were actually taking place. Even in the area selected, careful consideration had to be given to ground disturbance and sub-surface archaeology however, we were able to design a solution which did not damage the currently visible archaeology, or any sub-surface remains.

The Archaeological Clerk of Works carried out a watching brief during the site preparation works, recording before and after photos as well as during the construction of the scaffolding. An archaeologist was also present to observe and record the excavation of the scaffold sole plates. Stones displaced during this process were photographed, tagged and recorded, observing details such as dimensions, tooling and mortar traces. In instances requiring a more prolonged archaeological input such as the removal of rubble and other debris from localised areas of subsurface features such as gullies and least, and archaeological watching brief was undertaken.

As the structures became uncovered from our stripping back the vegetation that consumed them following years of abandonments, Archaeologists uncovered new areas of the buildings whilst we hand excavated the earth that had gathered. Some findings led to new understanding by the experts that had studied the history behind the Gunpowder Works. Rare moss was found during one of the inspections alongside the ecology that existed undisturbed between structures.

The largest structure – the Chimney – is situated on a hillside therefore a scaffold stair had to be erected to traverse the hillside. Once the scaffolding had been erected, we used photos, measures and tracing frames to record the existing structures dimensions; this was completed prior to any dismantling works taking place. Due to the unstable condition of the chimney, we were instructed to dismantle and rebuild the chimney to its former dimensions. Works commenced with the dismantling of the chimney down to ground level, the bricks were carefully cleaned off and stored for later re-use. We carried out mortar analysis of the historic mortar to determine what mortar to use in the rebuilding process. The chimney was then rebuilt to its former design and dimensions. A lead capping was introduced to prevent water ingress to the top of the chimney. All these works were carried out by our highly skilled in-house masonry and lead working teams.

The site, located in an isolated rural area remained open to the public throughout the works. As with all our projects, which generally invite a lot of interest from the public, it was vital that they felt continually safe and secure. As such, we ensured our site management and all operatives were proficient in communicating with any civilians, directing any concerns as necessary and prioritising the clearing and maintenance of the overall site, as well as coordinating deliveries and significant events to minimise disruption and maximise public safety.

During the works programme we held three open day tours to local residents, along with visits from local schools with over 120 children over a two-week period. Our teams careful planning and consistent communication between head office and site as well as with all stakeholders guaranteed the smooth running of these occasions. Our risk management strategy, in conjunction with the supporting policies and procedures, which are cascaded throughout the workforce, helped ensure a balanced approach was maintained across all categories of risk.

As a heritage and building conservation contractor we work hard to ensure our policies and procedures are up to date with contemporary requirements while maintaining the integrity of our time-tested ethos whereby the materials and techniques we use are sympathetic to the buildings and structures we work upon. Delivering the highest quality workmanship was made possible on the Gunpowder Works project by instigating regular visits from our Quality Champion who, in this case was company director, Phil Braithwaite. Due to the complex nature of this project, Phil often spent days at a time on site ensuring the site manager, restoration technicians and all operatives understood the requirements in order to reach the desired outcomes.

The Contract Manager also worked closely with the Site Manager as well as all stakeholders to enable us to adapt quickly to any changes in the programme. With the frequent discoveries of previously unknown parts of the buildings alongside encountering rare fauna, good communication was vital to maintain the momentum of the project. A thorough understanding of the archaeological and environmental intricacies ensured our Contract Manager was able to uphold the necessary reactive or proactive approach as required.

The architect carried out weekly site visits which included the presence of any other necessary stakeholders. Our site manager was always present for these which ensured information was regularly exchanged in a firsthand manner. These were always followed up with minutes being circulated and any actions could then be addressed efficiently. Further means of communication were used as appropriate whether by phone call, email or text message. Monthly progress meetings were held which were invaluable in maintaining face to face contact – an element of professional relationship building that is often overlooked. Our contracts manager produced a progress report prior to these meetings to provide all stakeholders with a visual up date that could be reviewed ahead of the meeting and then any arising issues discussed.

We have found an adaptable approach is necessary with regard to communication; in establishing the client’s preference, we are able to maintain our internal systems which are built on best practice and previous experience as well as being efficiently responsive to the needs of the client. We find email to be an extremely effective method of communication which allows as many stakeholders to be involved as necessary while providing an instantaneous means of issuing and sharing information that is available to refer back to. We are also experienced with the use of various management system software as used by our clients and associates.



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