NOW AND THEN: Send us your Llanwern Steelworks memories

South Wales Argus: Llanwern Steelworks memories Llanwern Steelworks memories

LAST week we again featured Llanwern Steelworks and asked for your memories.

Tom Edmunds, 74, from Risca, worked at the steelworks from 1962 until his retirement in 1994. He said: “ I was part of the works protection, which dealt with safety and security. When the Queen visited she came by rail and all the local children stood there waving flags. We had to cover parts of the works to ensure her safety.

“When I first started working there, there were more than 13,000 people working there between the workers and contractors. By the time I left there were just 3,000.”

Joanne Marsh’s father, David Parrish, helped design the steelworks and worked as a chief engineer from 1960 to 1980. She said: “He and my mother moved to Cwmbran from Bridgend in 1959 to oversee the building of the works.

My father commissioned a miniature scale of the works, which was in Cardiff Museum for many years.

“My dad missed seeing the Queen as he was too busy making sure everything went smoothly!”

Keith Sims, 71, from Newport, said: “I helped built the first roads in and out of the works. My job was driving the steel piles, and then I worked insulating the pipeline. In 1958 I was conscripted into the merchant navy and celebrated my 18th birthday in New Zealand. When I came back in 1960, I went to Llanwern and got a job working on the plant machinery. I worked there for five years, on and off.”

Mr Price said: “I worked for McAlpine on the building of Llanwern steelworks and I remember the first lorries of shale being delivered to the plant in 1959.

McAlpine saw 26,000 men on their books, and it was during the same period that the pipeline from Severn Junction was laid. I remember the introductions to the Queen at the official opening very well. I went on to become area office manager for Carling, South Wales.”

Tony Bishop (Elvis) of Newport said: “I started at the steelworks on August 8 1962, and I was the first labourer in the cold mill, annealing department. I remember well the time when the boys from the Valley steelworks, Ebbw Vale and Tredegar came down for work. I was a young lad at the time and my father-in-law made me an alarm clock so as not to be late for work.

“New Tarmac flooring was laid in the cold mill for the Queen’s visit and she was given a private caravan for her visit. We tasted caviar for the first time after she had left, and many of us acquired one of the tablecloths that had been used during the opening celebration.”

David Brown said: “I was one of the first Ebbw Vale steelworkers that came down to Newport in 1962.

I worked in the cold mill in the annealing department and I remember having to get up at 5am to catch the 6am bus in order to work my 8am-4pm shift – that was an unbelievable journey. The cold mill at that time had no canteen or washing facilities.

“I was eventually allocated a house in Risca and early in 1963 my son was born, but the snow was so bad that we were unable to move down until April.

“I remember the Queen opening the plant in 1962, we left that day with her official tablecloths wrapped around our waists as they were all being thrown away.

“I eventually became the works representative for the cold mill C shift, and I can remember that we broke production records in 1967.

“I left in 1982 with many happy memories even though at that that time there were lots of job cuts due to a new works measurement incentive scheme.”

The story of Llanwern steelworks on film

The following are from a film made in the mid-60s telling the story of why Newport was the site chosen for the steelworks. It includes fascinating footgae of old Llanwern, the opening and building of the works and Newport scenes from the 60s.

Comments (5)

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2:38am Tue 23 Oct 12

janusa says...

i was a barmaid at the spencer club in 1970 mr and mrs lawrence ran it then, my mother worked in one of the canteens in the middle 60s, weekends were a lot of fun, people were great, had some great singers there on sunday nights ....
i was a barmaid at the spencer club in 1970 mr and mrs lawrence ran it then, my mother worked in one of the canteens in the middle 60s, weekends were a lot of fun, people were great, had some great singers there on sunday nights .... janusa

6:47pm Tue 23 Oct 12

corpardguy says...

I was an apprentice in the Labs in 1964, and ended up working in the Cold Mill Test house (CM7) and hot strip mill finally finishing up in the Pipe mill we had a great grounding in Metallurgy, Chemistry and Fuels tech. all of which have helped me in my career.
Great canteen at A9 which had a pretty good curry (I even took the odd date in there for a 1:30am meal, cheaper and cleaner than the Lahore)....
Central labs was scary at night as there was rumoured to be a ghost in "monks ditch" who visited occaisionally
I am now working in Aerospace in the states and have helped with the Space Shuttle and some cool Military engine projects, but Spencer Works was the start of it all.
I was an apprentice in the Labs in 1964, and ended up working in the Cold Mill Test house (CM7) and hot strip mill finally finishing up in the Pipe mill we had a great grounding in Metallurgy, Chemistry and Fuels tech. all of which have helped me in my career. Great canteen at A9 which had a pretty good curry (I even took the odd date in there for a 1:30am meal, cheaper and cleaner than the Lahore).... Central labs was scary at night as there was rumoured to be a ghost in "monks ditch" who visited occaisionally I am now working in Aerospace in the states and have helped with the Space Shuttle and some cool Military engine projects, but Spencer Works was the start of it all. corpardguy

5:37am Wed 24 Oct 12

Ratch says...

I worked at Llanwern from about 1962 to 1971 when I emigrated to Australia. I was the youngest Loco Driver employed at that time.I worked in the Blast Furnace, the Teeming Bay, Coke Ovens etc. Whilst working in the Blast Furnace the Loco I was driving was Burnt in Half when someone in the Blast Furnace poured Hot metal over it by mistake, luckily I escapes. I was there when all the construction of the works was completed ,and when the Queen officially opened the Works.
I worked at Llanwern from about 1962 to 1971 when I emigrated to Australia. I was the youngest Loco Driver employed at that time.I worked in the Blast Furnace, the Teeming Bay, Coke Ovens etc. Whilst working in the Blast Furnace the Loco I was driving was Burnt in Half when someone in the Blast Furnace poured Hot metal over it by mistake, luckily I escapes. I was there when all the construction of the works was completed ,and when the Queen officially opened the Works. Ratch

11:08am Wed 24 Oct 12

adrian simmonds says...

As a schoolboy at the time the Spencer Works was being built, my memory is of the huge traffic jams caused by all those lorries carying shale to be tipped on to the marshy land in order for foundations to be built, And in between leaving school and starting university, I had a short-term job in the drawing office of Sir Robert McAlpine and Sons, the main contractors. Little did I suspect that in later years I'd make my career in the international steel trade, and that included selling quite a lot of steel from Llanwern overseas..
Sad that Llanwern is now little more than a finishing mill, but there are plenty of plants in Europe that have had to close completely.
As a schoolboy at the time the Spencer Works was being built, my memory is of the huge traffic jams caused by all those lorries carying shale to be tipped on to the marshy land in order for foundations to be built, And in between leaving school and starting university, I had a short-term job in the drawing office of Sir Robert McAlpine and Sons, the main contractors. Little did I suspect that in later years I'd make my career in the international steel trade, and that included selling quite a lot of steel from Llanwern overseas.. Sad that Llanwern is now little more than a finishing mill, but there are plenty of plants in Europe that have had to close completely. adrian simmonds

3:32pm Tue 6 Nov 12

Nospin says...

After leavig school and waiting to go into the RAF as an apprentice my grandad got me a "job" as driver's lad on the shale lorries that Mr Price mentions.

WE came down from Penygraig via Machen or down the A48, 3 or 4 times a day. It was my job to make sure it 4, I would hand out the ciggy packets or bottles of IPA at the weighbridge to ensure a favourable drop site so we could turn round quickly and get in 4 trips. If I recall there was a one way system for the lorries through Newport, there was of course just the one bridge crossing the Usk.
After leavig school and waiting to go into the RAF as an apprentice my grandad got me a "job" as driver's lad on the shale lorries that Mr Price mentions. WE came down from Penygraig via Machen or down the A48, 3 or 4 times a day. It was my job to make sure it 4, I would hand out the ciggy packets or bottles of IPA at the weighbridge to ensure a favourable drop site so we could turn round quickly and get in 4 trips. If I recall there was a one way system for the lorries through Newport, there was of course just the one bridge crossing the Usk. Nospin

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