The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust
Historic Environment Record

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Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 04699g
Trust : Glamorgan Gwent
Community : Abersychan
Unitary authority : Torfaen
NGR : SO2584403644
Site Type (preferred type first) : Post-Medieval Engine house
Status : Scheduled Monument , listed building II

Summary :
An engine-house built by the British Iron Company, originally thought to date to the mid-19th century and built to drain its mines, but know proven to have been constructed in 1827 to power the 'Old Forge and Mill' of the British Ironworks, and subsequently adapted for pumping purposes. The engine house survives as a standing building and is unusually complete for its period, and is of particular importance and retaining notable fixtures and fittings (Roberts 2017).

Description :
'A Cornish beam pumping engine-house built by the British Iron Company to drain its mines. The engine-house stood within the complex of buildings of the British Ironworks, most of which were dismantled in the 1880s.

The engine-house is built of sandstone with round-arched openings and a slate roof, and is of considerable architectural quality. No surface remains of the shaft are visible. The engine-house is unusually complete for one of its period, and is of particular importance in retaining several fixtures, including interior timber beams and stairs, and cast-iron brackets and plates' (Original GGAT HER description).

The engine house, originally considered to house a ‘Cornish Beam Pumping Engine’ dating from 1845 used to drain the British Ironworks Companies Mines'. is now known to date to 1827 and to have originally housed a 45–inch ‘rolling engine’ designed and located to power the adjacent old forge & mill complex of the British Ironworks. Detailed plans and elevations of the site survive in the Neath Abbey Works Collection which provide provide evidence of the planned layout of the building (confirmed by fieldwork) at three levels (ground plan, cylinder loading and cylinder plate) and provide the elevation of the Lever wall, i.e. the SW gable elevation with its archway for the beam, with two recesses 9-inches deep, 6-inches wide set into the Lever Wall façade 4ft apart (each below a beam end) extending from below a plate at the base of the archway to ground level. An arched entrance is shown to the left (i.e. NW) side of SW elevation at ground floor level. The site is noted in a document of 1876 under Forges (old) & Mills) as a ‘Low Pressure Beam Steam Cyldr. 45” (Working Old Forge Mills)’ (Roberts 2017).

The setting of the engine house location is first shown in detail in plans of the Neath Abbey Works Collection, which show the engine house largely projected out (i.e. to the NE) from the line of the old forge/mill building and that the original 3 boilers associated with the engine house were located on the NE side of the engine house. The NE elevation is shown in a drawing entitle ‘Sundry views of mill at Abersychan’ dated 1827 in the Neath Abbey Collection, which depict a three storey gabled building with a centrally placed arched doorway accessed from the right (i.e. NW) by a solid masonry stair (presumably preserved below current ground level), with two identically sized arched windows above, one per storey. By the time of the time of the survey of the 1st edition 1:2500 OS map of 1879, later forge/mill structures are shown attached to the SE elevation, whilst a small structure has been added to the NW side (Roberts 2017).

The field visit identified that the upper storey had been partly altered - in particular the NE gable of the engine house had been re-constructed, and the upper arched opening heightened and partially blocked from the original sill height – this would correlate with adaptation to carry out pumping operations. Maps of 1884 shows a pit located just NE of the engine house, the works still in place, whilst a document of c.1876 refers to a ‘Forge Pump’, which had ‘one Bucket Lift. Stroke 5ft and a note has been added stating ‘This pump is worked by forge Engine’. The 2nd and 3rd edition 1:2500 OS maps of 1902 and 1922 show the engine house in isolation with the associated stack some distance to the NE, whilst a plan of 1907 refers to the site as ‘Old Forge Pumping Pit’ (Roberts 2017).

Sources :
, 1992 , British Iron Works, Abersychan, Gwent: An Archaeological Report.
Hawkes J , 1993 , Archaeological Assessment of The British Reclaimation Scheme,Near Abersychan, Gwent.
Riden P , 1994 , Historical, Topographical and Archaeological Assessment of the Implications of The British Reclaimation Scheme, Abersychan, Gwent.
Roberts, R , 2017 , GGAT 148: The British (Abersychan) Ironworks, Talywain, Torfaen: Survey GGAT unpublished report no. 2017/59.
The Handley Partnership , HAAbase built heritage assessment system: Buildings at Risk database
01/MM List/Cadw/1994/SAM Lists

Events :
E003946 : British Iron Works, Abersychan, Gwent (year : 1992)
E003947 : Archaeological Assessment of The British Reclaimation Scheme, Near Abersychan, Gwent (year : 1993)
E003948 : Historical,Topographical and Archaeological Assessment of the Implications of The British Reclaimation Scheme, Abersychan, Gwent. (year : 1994)
E002182 : 'The British', Pontypool: Archaeological Evaluation Report EVAL (year : )

Related PRNs : 85065, 04596g, 02515g

Compiled date : 05-10-1995

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