Maesteg Iron Works

Bristol and Region Archaeological Services was commissioned in late 2006 to undertake an excavation on the proposed site of a Tesco foodstore on a site in Maesteg, Glamorgan, South Wales.

From the late 1830s, until its closure in 1885, the site was occupied by an iron works. The majority of the redundant buildings were demolished by 1914 to make way for the Maesteg—Port Talbot railway line and a number of railway sidings; only the blast engine house (known as the ‘Cornstores’, now part of Maesteg Sports Centre) and the partially intact remains of one of the four blast furnaces (No.1) survive and are scheduled as an ancient monument (Glamorgan 418).

blast furnace

The former blast engine house—known as the ‘Cornstores’—and the partially intact blast furnace No.1

The excavation resulted largely from the findings of an evaluation carried out on the site by BaRAS in December 2004/January 2005. That project had revealed the in-situ remains of two demolished blast furnaces (No.3, built 1839; rebuilt 1871 & No.4, built 1839; rebuilt 1867) belonging to the 19th century iron works, as well as sections of wall belonging to the casting house (built 1839) and an area of the sand casting floor where the pig iron was produced.

Blast Furnace No 4

The northernmost blast furnace (No.4) with robbed out wall in foreground and base of hearth to rear

The latest fieldwork, which took place over a period of 10 weeks between late November 2006 and early February 2007, uncovered the in-situ remains of several substantial buildings associated with the former iron works. Within the study area the partial remains of five substantial iron works buildings, erected between 1839 and 1872, were excavated and recorded, specifically the casting house (built 1839), a mills and forges building (built 1846), a puddling forge (built 1855), a rail mill (completed Oct. 1855; enlarged 1872) and a boiler house (built 1855). The exterior walls of these buildings were constructed largely of Pennant Sandstone with internal features, such as machine platforms (with integral cast iron ‘holding down studs’) and chimney bases, built largely of the same material while flues, drains and floor/working surfaces were largely of brick. As the earlier evaluation had found, within the remains of the casting house were traces of the sand casting floor onto which the pig iron was cast.

rail mill at maesteg

The nort-west corner of the rail mill—built 1855—with Maesteg RFC stadium beyond

The works finally closed in 1885 and many of the buildings had been demolished by the late 1890’s, leaving just the blast engine house (reused as a feed store for pit ponies) and one of the four blast furnaces (No.1; built 1849) largely intact.

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