.. The G.K.N. works at Cwmbran closed in 1980 ..
.. 2010 ..
.. 1970`s ..
.. Cwmbran Retail Park now stands on the former site of the Guest Keen & Nettlefolds (G.K.N) Works ..
.. Guest Keen & Nettlefold ..
John Guest - Arthur Keen - John Sutton Nettlefold
.. Women workers at the Guest. Keen, & Nettlefolds `nut and bolt` factory in Cwmbran c 1914-18 ..
History of Cwmbran Works
CWMBRAN commenced with the building of a Forge, a Foundry and Engineering Shops in 1800 and It appears that these were sited where Forge House now stands. Much ironwork was cast and forged here by the owner, Reginald. James. Blewitt, Esq., of Llantarnam Abbey, and amongst the many bridges cast were the ' Halfway ' railway and canal bridges, which were recently demolished. These were made in I847 and one span has been re-erected near the main G.K.N. offices at the Cwmbran Foundries.
Gradually the works spread North by the side of the Monmouthshire Canal, and it was said that a field of growing corn was cut on Clomendy Farm to make way for the Puddling Furnaces and Mills, much to the consternation of the local people. Another Foundry was built where Precision Forgings Limited (also in the G.K.N Group) now stands and thousands of Bowl Type Railway Sleepers were cast here. After being fettled they were loaded into canal barges and taken down to the companies wharf at Newport to be loaded onto ships for their journey East; it has been said that one horse would pull 40 tons of these castings by barge to Newport wharf in three and a half hours, returning with other products.
Nearby was a Blast Furnace producing pig iron, some was sold, but most of it went to the New Foundry which was built between the canal and the slopes of the Mynydd Maen mountain, the blast furnace was built where an ancient Cold Blast Furnace still stands, which is now incorporated into a huge retaining wall.
By the late nineteen century, on the scene appeared Cwmbran Colliery, it’s mineslope, airshaft and brickworks, together with workers houses which dotted the mountainside and belonged to the Patent Nut & Bolt Co., ltd. A little way down the valley, construction was under way for a Coke Oven Plant, fed by conveyor belt from the Colliery, later to be brought up to date with modern Coal Washery and Bye Product Plant producing Tar, Benzol and Sulphate of Ammonia. A large proportion of its coke going to the Blast Furnace and Foundries.
In 1900 Patent Nut & Bolt Co. Ltd., became Guest Keen & Nettlefolds Ltd. Down In the valley came the new Foundry, comprising of a Jobbing Shop producing castings up to15 tons, a Railway Chair shop dispatching over 800 tons of chairs per week to nearly all the regional railways, together with Indian, Crown Colonies and South American railways; another product was hundreds of thousands of London Underground Cable Brackets.
.. A G.W.R. (Great Western Railway) `Railway Chair` cast in G.K.N Cwmbran .. it was used to attach a rail to a wooden `sleeper` ..
Alongside the canal a large works had grown, comprising of puddling furnaces which used blast furnace Iron with Cwmbran coal, to produce wrought iron which was rolled into square, round and flat sections. The mills were driven by a huge Beam Engine thought to be ex Marine. Steam was produced by waste heat from the furnaces, which fed the Mill Engines and most of the other engines in the adjoining Nut and Bolt factories.
After the First World War. Mild Steel railway components were in demand and wrought iron manufacture ceased at Cwmbran. Bolts, Nuts, Key and Fish Plates continued to be made in mild steel and were supplied to railways throughout the World. Electricity was brought into the whole works and the Colliery In 1920 and steam power disappeared.
At nearby Oakfield, in 1842 a Works was started to produce railway engines and trucks, but altered its production to fire bricks because of the discovery of a rich seam of Fireclay. This works was owned by Mr. Cyrus Hanson, and was subsequently bought by G.K.N. Limited in 1900.
Excellent refractory bricks for Steelworks, Coke Ovens, Locomotives, are produced from its own clay levels, many of these bricks being used in the furnaces at Cwmbran, this refractory works is now a Nationalized concern. After the First World War, due to regrouping of Industry, it was decided to discontinue making pig iron at Cwmbran and the Blast Furnace was blown down and dismantled. Later in1928, again due to re-grouping, the Colliery closed, followed soon after by the closure of the Coke Ovens and Bye Product Plants.
During the Second World War the mills were especially busy producing many sections of angle flat, rounds and squares, most of these being used for Bailey Bridges and other war purposes.
About 1951, it was decided to transfer steel rolling to Cardiff. The Castle and Tremorfa Works then took over production and Cwmbran Mills closed down. Soon it was seen that due to railway closures and to British Railways having their own foundries, manufacturing of all railway castings and fastenings must cease at Cwmbran.
It was then decided that a very modern Automotive Cylinder Block foundry should be erected and the old railway chair Foundry was turned over to Cylinder Head production. Cwmbran Works left the Railway era and entered the Diesel age.
This Foundry was opened by Lord Montgomery In 1954 and has expanded ever since, producing Cylinder Blocks and heads for the leading Diesel Engine manufacturers. This was followed by the conversion of the old Nut & Bolt Works into a modern foundry with the latest electric arc and annealing furnaces to produce Malleable castings such as steering links, spring brackets and differential components for the motor trade.
Another G.K.N. Works, Precision Forgings Limited, Is sited alongside the canal, where the Mills and Fabrication Department were. This firm produces turbine and compressor blades for modern aircraft engine industry in stainless steel, titanium, and nimonic, as well as hot forgings for the motor and allied industries, and also aircraft industries.
Both foundry and forging concerns are being continually improved and expanded, so that the Works started in 1800 has now, after 170 years, grown from a very small shop into one of the leading manufacturers in Britain, both producing a product for which there is a growing demand.
( Monmouthshire Record Office)
.. Munitions Workers at G.K.N during the First World War ..
My Great Great Grandfather was killed in an accident at the Patent Nut and Bolt works - below is a transcript of the article was published in the Monmouthshire Merlin on 24th October 1890:-
On Saturday an inquest was held at the Town Hall, before Martin Edwards touching the death of Daniel Reardon, who died at Newport Infirmary this morning through injuries received last night at the Patent Nut and Bolt Works, Cwmbran. George King a fellow work mate deposed the deceased was employed in lifting ingots onto a barrow. There was a stack of blooms behind him, and witness thought – though he was not sure- that the deceased must have taken a wrong step backwards, and the stack probably being shaken by the ground sinking a bit, caused several tiers of them to fall on him. Each bloom weighed more than a hundred weight. By the Coroner:- The ground was what was called made ground and the working of the engine probably caused the stack to shift a little. Mr Bamford a fireman gave evidence. George King recalled said he heard the noise of the falling blooms, but before he got to Reardon he heard the latter call out ‘Oh King I’m killed’ – The coroner thoughts that tiers gave way, inconsequence of the support yielding. A verdict of accidental death was recorded.
Prior to that his son was killed by drowning in the canal by the bottom bridge pub - I have also been able to find the following article that was published in the Pontypool Free press on 18th November 1881:-
A sad case of drowning occurred here on Thursday week. Patrick Reardon a boy of about 8 years of age, while riding on a boat, where it was rising in a lock opposite the Old Bridge Inn, fell into the water and it appears by the evidence at the inquest was allowed to remain there some considerable time owing to the inhuman conduct of the boatman Joseph Saunders, who although he knew the boy was in the lock went away with his boat without rendering any assistance. An inquest was held on the body at the Old Bridge Inn on Saturday, before Mr Brewer coroner for the district. The boatman was not present. The little brother of the deceased said that his brother fell off the boat and the boy who was steering tried to reach him with hi s hand but could not and the boat passed up the canal. Kate Driscoll the next witness called said I saw the brother of the deceased crying and asked what he was crying for, he told me his brother was in the water. I ran after the boatman who before I could ask any question told me the boy was in the lock below. The jury returned a verdict of accidental death and said the man Joseph Saunders deserved to be severely reprimanded for his inhuman conduct.
I thought they maybe of interest to you for your site, which I have found extremely interesting.
Best wishes, Angela Rogers
.. G.K.N lorry ..
.. Malleable Section 1978/9
.. Malleable Section - January 1981 ..
.. Photograph contributed by Doug Eyre , Supervisor (white coat ) ..
.. Malleable Section ..
.. Photograph contributed by Doug Eyre (3rd from the left) ..
.. Malleable Section ..
.. Photograph contributed by Doug Eyre , (back row, far right ) ..
If you recognise yourself or fellow workers please click here ..
Vernon Jones: My dad is 3rd from right, back row, Delwyn Jones. Not sure how long he worked for GKN but I'm sure it was a long time as I can't remember him working for anyone else. He sadly passed away in 2011, aged 79. He used to live a few doors from Doug Eyre.
Tracy Tucker responds: My Dad, Bryn Hook is 5th from the right (in front of the lady,Mrs.Tew); Mum says he worked for G.K.N. on and off for about 18 years. Dad sadly passed away at the age of 44 in 1977.
Graham Pattimore responds::" I recognise two `old faces` in this photograph and both originally from Forgehammer".
Front row: (2nd from right) Ralph Thomas, (3rd from right) Trevor Smith.Trevor Smith responds: "I worked for G.K.N twice, first from 1958-61 then I left to join the army. I rejoined in 1966 and left in 1972. I do remember you Doug and the others too. Lovely to see the old faces and bring back the memories."
Graham Spreadbury responds: The gentleman, second right at the back is Mike Bergin a wonderful man who worked under my grandfather Fred Spreadbury, his brother Les and he also worked with my father Paul, so many wonderful memories of GKN parties as a youngster. Mike Bergin also gave me a start to my career when i went to work with him at FAG bearings in Malpas Road Newport 1980; my name got me the job!!
.. G.K.N. Workers 1931 ..
.. This photograph appeared in the 1982 Checkpoint Calendar ..
Colin Bowen formerly of Chapel street, Pontnewydd recognised his father, Robert Alex Bowen (3rd person from the right in the front row).
Julian Thomas responds (May 2009):
I have the names of some individuals in the 1931 GKN photograph from my mother, Elaine Wilding, who recognises her father and grandfather and some others.
Her grandfather Samuel Wilding who was foreman of the GKN Fitting Shop, is the man in the middle wearing the black hat and with his arms folded. Her father (my grandfather) Jack Wilding is the second from the left in the middle row, wearing a cap and with a dark moustache. The man to the right of Samuel Wilding is his son, Stanley Wilding and the man in front of Stanley is Seymour Hicks.
..The Blast Furnaces ..
This interesting photograph appeared in the book entitled `In those days` and shows the dwellings of Forgehammer (now an industrial estate opposite Aldi`s), the decorative Blast Furnace House, made of dressed stone, various chimneys, the Blast Furnaces, the hydraulic lift, and the retaining wall, parts of which, built with foundry slag, can still be seen today(2009 )
.. Retaining Wall ..
.. Solidified Molten Slag ..
|.. Cast Iron Fixing Plate on the face of the `Retaining Wall`..|
.. An Iron `bridge spar` cast at Cwmbran Iron Works 1847 ..
.. Photographed on the footpath between Commercial Street and Abbey Road, Old Cwmbran ..
... The bridge Spar has recently been refurbished in Telford and is now `back home` ... 2006
.. If you have memories to add or old photographs you would like to share please click here to email me ..
Guest Keen & Nettlefolds (Midlands) Limited
Railway Fastening Division Cwmbran Mon.
.. Presentation made by Mr. A. ATHA. Managing Director, on 28th October 1958 to employees with 30-50 years service ..
M.TURNER (33years) * W. WILLIAMS (Labour Officer) * H.G. POWIS (Labour Manager Atlas Works) * R.A. BOWEN (30 years)
R.E. POWELL (40years) * A.ATHA Managing Director) * H. BROBYN (Works Manager) * H.W. LEWIS (50years) * P.W. JARRETT (40years)
Burnicle Studios Newport.
Photograph kindly contributed by Colin Bowen who relates :-
This photograph was presented to my father on the 28th October 1958 along with a gold watch for 30years service as a Fitter and Turner. My Grandfather started work at the Patent Nut & Bolt Factory in 1883, where he spent all his working life as a Wages Clerk and Timekeeper; at that time the workers in the Factory had to put their hand through a `Pidgeon Hole` window to collect their brass work token. If you were late in the morning, you would put your hand through the window to get your token and would receive a `good whack` on the back of your hand from my Grandfather.
At that time my Grandparents lived at 27 Richmond Place ... when I was older in the 1950`s people used to tell me they didn't like my Grandfather because he had `Whacked` them on the hand .. more than once !!
.. GUEST KEEN AND NETTLEFOLDS CWMBRAN 14TH SEPTEMBER 1954 ..
.. EMPLOYEES WITH 30 TO 50 YEARS SERVICE ..
Back row L-R: S. A. BEVAN (Labour Manager), G.T. PINN (35yrs), P MEREDITH (40yrs), F. (OR E.) CUNNINGHAM (40yrs), W. C. PURNELL (40yrs), W. E. BEVAN (30yrs) G. H. J. CHURCHILL (40yrs), A. ROBERTSON (40yrs)
Front row L-R: C. BRINKWORTH (40yrs), E. JONES (50yrs),W. J. SMITH (50yrs), M. H. TOLIT (Managing Director), F. E. CECIL (Director & General Manager), F. W. BISHOP (50yrs), G. VILLARS (50yrs), F. SCOT (50yrs)
(Photograph contributed by John Jenkins whose Grandfather was F.W.Bishop and believes the originator was the South Wales Argus)
.. G.K.N. (CWMBRAN) LTD. AUTO CLUB (Car badge) ..
.. Click on image to enlarge ..
.. G.K.N. Token ..
.. G.K.N. Rugby Team circa 1959/60/61 ..
.. Photographs contributed by John Moxham ..
.. GKN Football Team circa 1955 ..
Glenville Skyrme contributed two photographs of the G.K.N. football team, taken around 1955 and relates: My father, Russell Skyrme worked there years ago mainly at Precision Forgings, he remember some of the names especially Doug Eyre. In the first photograph, my father is in the back row, 14th from the left, and in photograph 2 he is back row 3rd from the left.
.. G.K.N Cricket Team 1950 ..
A. Lloyd, H. Thomas, H. Horsfield,. J. Bevan, A. Mellish, S. Wilcox, H. Morgan, A. Kelly (Chairman), H. Davies
V. Peterson, N. John, V. Watkins (Captain) E. Compton, D. Taylor, D. Beech
R. Jenkins, M. Jenkins, C. Williams
Lawrence Skuse recalls :-
I remember working one summer at the "Malleable" (the bottom, end of Clomendy Road, where they made small castings as opposed to the main foundry further up towards Forge Hammer where they did diesel engine blocks). This was a summer job from West Mon, to earn a bit of pocket money. I worked as a core setter, placing the fiddly bits inside the sand moulds, working quickly before the top of the sand box was slammed on the bottom. It was hot, dirty and exceedingly smelly work, with choking fumes and intense heat - I hated it, but stuck it out for the full six weeks.
We had frequent tea breaks to replace fluids; everybody had a "Billy Can", a white enamel can with a cup-lid. These would be filled with water, then placed on a hot casting from the furnace, it would boil up in no time! Then put your tea in and swing it round windmill fashion to make the tea. Much later, I used to amuse my children on picnics making the tea this way (less the hot castings of course!)
For lunch I would take my Billy Can full of tea and my sandwiches, and walk across the road to the field on "Nimmy Narke's" land (now the Greenmeadow Community Farm) just to get some fresh air. At the end of the day I would walk home, stinking of foundry dust for a hot bath.
While I was there, the chief shop steward for the whole of G.K.N, Jackson, came down a couple of times trying to organise more of his pointless wildcat strikes, but we never had any during my six weeks.
Although I hated it at the time, I can look back now with the fondness imparted by the years. I never worked down the mines, I can't sing, and I only played rugby when forced to at school, but at least I can claim a connection to one Welsh heritage - iron and steel.
Lawrence is also reminded of a next door neighbour in the Pen y Parc Prefabs in the 1950s, Mr Jarrett, father of Alice Ball, with whom he lived.
He was a well known figure in the Pontnewydd bowls fraternity, often to be seen immaculately turned out in blazer with Bowls Club badge, cravat or tie, and a Panama hat. He worked on the last shift at Springvale before they closed it down, and told me of how the foremen kept them hard at it to the end of the shift, filling all the drams, knowing all the while, as the colliers did, that none of the coal would leave the adit. At the end of the shift, they all trooped out and the entrance was sealed, with the full drams inside where, presumably, they still are.
Graham Pattimore recalls :-
I can remember as a young boy walking across Forgehammer Row and onto the canal bank with my pals to go to our school at Saint Dials in Old Cwmbran. In those days it was safe to use this route, in the evening time after school we would fish for minnows and stickle backs under the bridge in the photograph, we fondly called it the long tunnel.
Adrian Mahagan recalls :-
To the left of the picture was the old Precision Forgings Ltd, part of Guest Keens and Nettlefolds I think, and to the right was the old railway tracks , you can just about see the old gasometer in the background. Does anyone remember the guards vans from the old trains being parked on the sidings? Aahh many a good `mooch` from school was had in those ...
.. The G.K.N. works at Cwmbran closed in 1980 ..
Click on the Now & Then images to enlarge
The G.K.N site has now been redeveloped and replaced by Springvale Industrial Estate and Cwmbran Retail Park
.. Click here for more `Now & Then` photographs ..
Date: 31st July 2011
Name: Tom Absalom
Email: click here
Les Gardner, Sam Beard, Eddie….. the `Stokoe` family all worked in the core finishing shop. Where are they now? .I have heard that Charlie Evans has passed away but where are the rest of you??
Date: 15th March 2010
Name: Graham Pattimore
Email: click here
I have enclosed an old photograph that my mother had stowed away. It was taken at the bottom of G.K.N. foundry (Precision Forgings), just a few weeks before the foundry closed in 1990. I only know one person in this photograph and that is Ronald Clark second from left, maybe someone else will be able to fill in the names of the others.
Webmaster: I recognise my Father - in - law Ron Birden (deceased). Far right.
Date: 20th March 2010
Name: Graham Pattimore
This photograph was taken in the 1950`s at the G.K.N social club.From the left: Alf (whiffer) Powell. Bob Pattimore, Hazel Pattimore, Maureen Hewings, Morris Hewings.
.. Does anyone have a memory to share? if so click here ..
Date: 5th October 2008
Name: Anthony McHale
My name is Anthony (Tony) McHale, aged 81. I was Chief Maintenance Engineer at G.K.N. Malleable Foundry from 1965-1968, Has anyone any memories of me at the time? Fred Brock and Albert Booth spring to mind. I used to frequent the St.Joseph`s Club at Greenmeadow .... Would love to make contact with past colleagues and friends.
Updated: A person I didn't mention when I worked with GKN Malleable foundry was a colleague named Jack Pryce, who was the Chief Electrical manager.
Date: 8th January 2008
Name: Richard Walton
Email: click here
I've just been looking at your webpage for GKN Cwmbran with great interest, and I wonder if anyone might be able to help me. I am trying to find out any details of my birth father - Roland Barton Reade - who worked at GKN Cwmbran from the early 1920's until 1936, when he returned to Wellington, Shropshire, to work with the Horsehay Co. He was killed in a motoring accident in the area on 01.09.37, and his funeral was attended by many members of staff from Cwmbran. While he was working at Cwmbran, he took out two patents concerned with railway sleepers, and his address at that time was 40 Victoria Street, Cwmbran.