Discover Ebbw Vale’s Industrial Past and Colourful Future
The Ebbw Vale Works was once the largest steel works in Europe. Operating for over three centuries and across two world wars, it employed tens of thousands of local people over the years. The site’s closure in 2002 has left the area bare. But Ebbw Vale remains an important place for ex workers and their families who maintain a deep connection with the local landscape.
Del Evans started at the Ebbw Vale Works in 1967 and worked at the site for 48 years. He has fond memories of his time on the steel works and the sense of community and family that the works brought to the area. Del and his pals would dress as highwaymen and ‘hold up’ workers for their small change on their way to work, raising thousands of pounds for Children in Need over the years.
Now, local residents and former employees hope to rekindle this sense of community spirit through Furnace to Flowers - a project which will benefit both wildlife and people.
Wildlife has always played an important role in the life of the works and its employees. Alan Waite, a former fitter at the Ebbw Vale Works, recalls how he would spend his lunchbreaks hunting for frogs, newts and water boatmen: “To my surprise I found the site covered in bulrushes with wildlife living in the water… despite the works still operating, all around, wildlife was thriving.” Alan Coles, who started at the works in 1967, has made wildlife his vocation since the works’ closure, travelling around Wales, the UK and internationally to capture landscapes and wildlife on film.
But life as a steel worker wasn’t always a walk in the park. Noel Evans remembers how the early furnace worker would “take his life in his hands” when feeding the furnaces, fearing a blowback which was “something like a volcano erupting”.
The Furnace to Flowers project aims to celebrate these rich memories and community histories. The project will showcase the area’s rich industrial heritage by evoking the colours of the blast furnaces and factories – oranges and yellows, purples and blues.
Furnace to Flowers is one of three projects competing to become the Grow Wild flagship site for Wales. The winner will receive £120,000 to realise their vision. Voting is now closed and the winner will be announced very shorlty. Read more about our finalists HERE.
Photos courtesy of Ebbw Vale Works Museum and Alan Coles.