Blaenavon District

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Past Present & Future: Blaenavon District

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Past Present & Future: Blaenavon District


Blaenavon has at last been granted recognition as the crucible of the industrial revolution, the place where the modern world was built on foundations of steel and pig iron. (Davies, 2005: 133-137) Sydney Thomas Gilchrist's discovery in 1878 of the means of removing phosphorous and other impurities from iron ore made Blaenavon steel famous as the finest in the world. Its pits produced the high-quality coal which fuelled the great trans-Atlantic steamers and railway locomotives built from Blaenavon steel. But by then, the small town located between the rugged hills of the Brecon Beacons and the Valleys of south Wales had already earned its place on the industrial map. In the mid-19th century, south Wales and Blaenavon in particular attracted more migrant workers than anywhere apart from the United States. (Evans, 2005: 373-379 ) They had come to share in the prosperity created by the world's leading industrial centre.

The Blaenavon Industrial Landscape World Heritage Site (WHS), which currently forms the most significant example of industrial heritage-led Brownfield regeneration within the Borough and Wales. (Edwards, 1996: 341-363) The Blaenavon WHS retain a significant number of archaeologically and architecturally important sites and monuments. Many of the industrial structures, as well as the associated features from that era, are well-built and have potential for re-development. However, the industrial remains are also protected by various forms of cultural heritage legislation. (Grey-Davies, 2009: 41-47)

The Blaenavon Ironworks

The Blaenavon Ironworks forms the centre of the World Heritage Site encompassing over 33,000 square hectares. The landscape is a Registered Landscape of Outstanding Historic Interest (HLW (Gt) 1 and the historic sites are extensively protected by a number of statutory measures including listed building and Scheduled Monument status. (Kenrick, 2006: 233-238) There are also other ecological and landscape constraints, including four Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), which affect the area's potential re-use.

The site, which is located adjacent to the Brecon Beacons National Park, is protected and managed by the Blaenavon Partnership, both as a historic landscape and as a series of individual sites which encompass the historic town. Blaenavon's historic landscape features have been actively conserved and interpreted by the Partnership which was formed from representatives from the main public bodies. (Bowen, 2008: 205-231)

These partners include Torfaen County Borough Council, Monmouthshire County Council, the Brecon Beacons National Park, Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council, Blaenavon Town Council, and the Countryside Council for Wales, the Welsh Development Agency, the Welsh Tourist Board, British Waterways, the National Trust and Cadw. (Davies, 2005: 133-137) By involving many partners the Trust aims to provide effective stewardship and conservation of the landscape and its sensitive regeneration in close consultation with local people.

The conservation approach to Blaenavon has largely been one of “museum process” which aims to retain the landscape in its current form as much as possible. (Kenrick, 2006: 233-238) This approach is regarded as the purest form of conservation and involves preservation and repair of sites ...
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