A commemorative plaque was unveiled recently to celebrate the heritage of the Brown Lenox Chainworks in Pontypridd, and its contribution to Welsh industrial history. The plaque was jointly unveiled by ICE Wales Cymru’s Chair Matt Jones, together with Owen Smith MP, Mick Antoniw AM and Town Councillor Loretta Tomkinson. Members of the Victorian Society, SWIEET, and other local history groups were also in attendance.
As one of the UK’s first purpose built chainworks, Brown Lenox began operation in 1818 following the lease by Captain Samuel Brown (1774–1851) of the site. The works were led by Samuel Brown and Philip Thomas, who oversaw the manufacture of iron chains for the anchoring, mooring and even rigging of ships. Brown Lenox produced the chain cable for every Royal Navy ship from the 1820s to the First World War and other ships such as Brunel’s Great Eastern steamship through to the Cunarder QEII. The works gave skilled employment to many in Pontypridd and the locality, but the site finally closed in 1999 and is now occupied by Sainsbury’s supermarket, which supported the event. Closure of the works brought an end to one of the longest standing and consistently successful companies in Wales.
The ceremony forms part of a wide range of celebrations across the UK of the impact of chainworks on the UK’s industrial heritage. A plaque was also unveiled at the same time to commemorate the start of work at Horncliffe near Berwick upon Tweed where the Union Chainbridge crosses from England over the river Tweed to Scotland – uniting England and Scotland with Welsh iron. On 10 August, Menai Bridge Community Heritage Trust also marked the bicentenary of the laying of the foundation stone of Telford’s famous suspension bridge in 1819.
Matthew Jones, Chair of ICE Wales Cymru, who jointly unveiled the plaque, said:
“ICE has long commemorated important historical engineering achievements. This plaque marks not only the development of a world-famous establishment here at Pontypridd but the start of British suspension bridge building across the UK.”