Report - - British Nylon Spinners, Pontypool - December 2016 | Industrial Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - British Nylon Spinners, Pontypool - December 2016


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British Nylon Spinners, Pontypool.

Visited on a couple of occasions with @Salmon, @Polo and the little round-headed buffoon that is @Mobutu.


Unusually for me I'm going to keep this fairly brief, as there's been a couple of comprehensive reports recently. I'd been meaning to make the effort here ever since it was posted back in 2012, but like so many of these places rumours of site-stripping and demolition abounded, and something 'better' always seemed to come up. As it turns out these rumours weren't entirely without truth - the spinning floor itself has indeed been stripped back to the brickwork, but fortunately this looked to be the more modern part anyway and the rest is exactly as it appeared 5 years ago.

Some history:

In 1939, ICI took out a licence to manufacture nylon fibre. Realising that they needed the experience of a specialized textile firm, ICI formed a partnership with Courtaulds, who were leading suppliers of viscose rayon. In January 1940 they registered British Nylon Spinners as a limited company with a nominal capital of £300,000 and took equal shares in the company. The product was badly needed to make parachutes, especially after Japan's entry into the war in December 1941 blocked supplies of silk. In March 1945 it was announced that they had purchased a site in South Wales.

The factory was built between 1945 and 1948; it was designed by Sir Percy Thomas and Son and is the major production unit on a formally planned and landscaped industrial complex. The historical context for this development lies in the catastrophic decline of the traditional south Wales industries between the wars, and growing recognition that the national interest would best be served by a balanced distribution of diversified industry.

The factory was originally the source of all nylon yarn produced in Britain and employed some 5,000 people. Construction began in 1945, with Sir Robert McAlpine and Sons Ltd as general contractors; production began in 1948. There was some expansion thereafter, not only to the main plant itself, but also in associated buildings on the site; these included a doctors' surgery, a building devoted to testing and developing the products to support their successful use by customers, an administration block and a Research and Development block. Around 1960 a clubhouse was built across the road with a huge ballroom, as well as a rifle range, judo lessons, a restaurant and bars. BNS ceased to exist in 1964, when ICI purchased Courtaulds' stake after a failed takeover attempt of Courtaulds proper. At some point it came under the control of DuPont, and latterly seems to have been managed by a company called Terram (albeit the works were used in a much reduced capacity).

It should be noted that the derelict parts lie above (and between) a very active business park, with units in use day and night, and a long list of tenants to include the police. However, as is always the case, if you look like you know what you're doing it's surprising how many roofs you can run across and windows you can climb through without anyone batting so much as an eyelid :p


I was somewhat surprised to discover that the main plant is a grade-II* listed building, a designation that was slapped onto it in 2005 no doubt to the utter disgust of its current owners (a business park) who will now never be able to realise their dream of building a new housing estate *cry*. To quote Historic England - "this major factory has survived with only superficial modification, and therefore illustrates with exceptional clarity key elements of early post-war industrial building design. It is a pioneering example of industrial architecture applied to a pioneering industry, by a leading Welsh architect of the C20. Its modernist idiom clearly expressed not only the organisation of production on the site, but also the aspirations for a clean modern industry to take its place in a well-planned development. It is therefore listed at grade II* as a landmark in the development of an architecture of industry, and of industrial culture in post-war Wales."

The spinning tower dominates the site and represents the early stages of production in the transformation of the raw nylon polymer - I'll start at the top:


Terylene being one of the various brand names produced on site:


This room would be fairly special even if you found it at ground level, with its original Reddish gantry crane and dated signage. When you consider that it's 100 feet up in the air it's bordering on epic!


Aforementioned crane




The hopper floor below (not many pictures here, see Salmon's report)


The lack of any real 'manufacturing' floor was slightly disappointed, but fortunately nylon production seems to be a fairly temperature-critical process and so the upper floors of the factory are dominated by several huge air conditioning plants



Makers plate epic






The plan and layout of the building were designed strictly around the original production process, and with the clear separation of production from office and welfare accommodation. Production spaces are linked to the original welfare and administration block by corridors that cross a series of internal gardens which in turn bisect the longest corridor I think I have ever seen and was at one time the longest in the UK. Clock!


The canteen itself has been converted into a dog grooming business or something equally silly but the original kitchens remain





Kitchen basements


Locker rooms



The kitchens were an unexpected find, and lie sandwiched between a couple of live units. I'd put money on there being more little gems like this waiting to be found on site so if you're planning to go here keep an eye out.​
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