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Report - Novelis Aluminium Mill, Rogerstone - July 2010

Discussion in 'Industrial Sites' started by clebby, Jul 21, 2010.

  1. clebby

    clebby ( . Y . )
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    Novelis Aluminium Mill, Castle Works, Rogerstone

    There's only one thing that will get me to agree to a trip to Wales: heavy industry. So when ImmortalOwl suggested we go and check out a derelict Aluminium Mill that's nearly a kilometre long, I jumped at the chance.

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    Metal has been worked at this site since 1776, when an iron foundry was set up beside the ruins of Rogerstone Castle on a site that would become known as the Castle Works. This first industrial venture failed in 1879, and the site was cleared six years later by Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds, who built new mills and a nail factory on the site. GKN remained until 1937, when they moved their business to East Moors in Cardiff.

    In 1939 the Northern Aluminium Company cleared the site again to build an aluminium factory. Production began in 1940. Notable customers include the De Havilland aircraft company, who used aluminium from the plant in the wings of the Hurricane fighter plane. The importance of the factories part in the war effort meant that Rogerstone was a prime target for German bombing, so the town was forced to light crude oil burning stoves on the main road through the village at nightfall to create a smoke screen.

    At it's peak the factory employed over 9,000 people. More recently it was taken over by the Swiss-owned conglomerate Novelis, who used the mill to make aluminium roll and sheet products for foil packaging, building material and industrial engineering products. Over time, job numbers decreased to 900 owing to technological advances, and then to just 440 as a result of the economic downturn. In late 2008 orders were down 60 percent and the plant was said to be losing £1.5 million a month. Novelis finally announced plans to close the plant in March 2009, and production ceased fully in April 2009.

    Excuse the shit photos - my tripod is broken, they've resized badly and I was too knackered to put much effort in - it's mostly point and shoot.

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    Unfortunately, much of the machinery has been stripped out and sent to India, but the sheer size and scale of the sheds is awe-inspiring in itself, and if you like your gantry cranes I suggest you get down here. There's lots.

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    Basically, the aluminium would be cast into ingots at one end of the mill. The buildings in which this happened are simply staggeringly vast - Pyestock size. Unfortunately demolition has begun on them, and all of the machinery has been stripped out. But it's an incredible space - you have to be there to appreciate it's size.

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    And one piece of machinery remains. A 120 tonne, yes, one-hundred-and-twenty tonne gantry crane is still suspended from the roof. The lifting gear alone is spread over 3 floors. (excuse the lousy lousy photo, this was actually the last place we visited and was too tired to give a fuck about photos)

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    That is a big fucking crane. So big, in fact, that the inside of the beam is a room. With windows and everything, and even a little workshop.

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    Amazing. Anyway, the ingot bay would have had a very large control room, spread over 2 floors and with full height windows overlooking the casting pits. Unfortunately, it's now almost entirely stripped.

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    Only one control deck remains:

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    It's a shame that this escaped the radar for so long - it would have been epic on a stick just after closure. Once the ingots were cast, they would be taken to the rolling mill. Here they would be extruded between two rollers and crushed into a thin sheet. It's a very very long building, but most of the machinery has been (rather messily) removed. Still, more gantry cranes:

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    And there's still just enough machinery to make it worthwhile:

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    Behind the main "hall" of the plant were many rooms that would have once contained yet more epic machinery. They seem to be less stripped than the rest of the plant, however:

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    Some sort of pump house, lights still blazing and water still gurgling:

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    Intact control room:

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    We found some schematics to the plant in one of the offices:

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    And finally, the completed rolls would come to the distribution section of the building:

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    It's an epic place, but if you want to go, get there as soon as possible - it's coming down. Also bear in mind that there are demolition workers in there during the day, as me and ImmortalOwl found out the hard way. (Basically, we ended up hiding in several different rooms including their locker room while they were 30 feet away, before culminating in a final game of cat-and-mouse. :p) One particuarly blind contractor walked within 10 feet of us when we were in full view without noticing. Fail.

    It was a great day out, even if it meant I had to go to Wales. :p

     
    #1 clebby, Jul 21, 2010
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2010

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