The Blue Bell or St James Reservoir.
The Ebbw Vale Works Water Resources The acquisition of water resources throughout the long history of Ebbw Vale Works was of no less importance than the purchase of its raw materials - coke, iron ore and limestone. As demand for steel increased it became essential to find further water resources and to foster ways and skills of conserving and enhancing supplies.
The early ironmasters utilised natural swallow holes in the geology, and used gutters to divert water away from them. Many of the large bodies of water were immediately adjacent to the characteristic small square ponds that denoted the balance pits necessary to work deep pits. Most of these bodies of water were supplying the Beaufort
Iron Works in ownership of the Nantyglo Iron Company and the Ebbw Vale and Sirhowy
In the mid 19th century the River Ebbw could not sustain the demand by itself. Despite
the high average rainfall of Ebbw Vale, the early ironmasters were unable to make the
most of this supply. This was due to the geographical location of Ebbw Vale, positioned
as it was at 1,000 feet above sea level.
The river supply was strictly limited and water
drained away very quickly from the catchment area to the coast.
The first edition of the Ordnace Survey map of 1880 identifies 17 bodies of water,
contained within the boundaries of Sirhowy, Ebbw Vale, Beaufort and Nantyglo
considered large enough to be marked as reservoirs. There were several other bodies
of water not so marked as reservoirs, but were clear sources of supply for the works
that were rapidly expanding.
Extracts from the 1905 survey plan show more than 30 ponds and reservoirs were
available to the works at Ebbw Vale, although not all were directly connected by a
At this time and following the earlier demise of the Beaufort Iron Works, its group of
ponds on lease from the Duke of Beaufort were assigned to Ebbw Vale Works, now
reconstituted by Abraham Darby to trade as Ebbw Vale Steel Iron & Coal Company in
Beaufort Group of ponds.
These ponds and reservoirs became a major source of supply and include the Upper and
Lower Boat Ponds, Farmers Pond and Parfitts Pond at Beaufort and Blaen-y-Cwm
situated at the foot of Llangynidr mountain. This latter reservoir became the works
largest water resource when 37.4 acres of adjoining land was acquired from the Duke of
Beaufort by the Ebbw Vale Company in 1920, to enlarge it from a storage capacity of
26 million gallons to over 265 million gallons. The work was finally completed by Richard
Thomas & Company, the new owners, when the works was purchased by them in 1936. In
January 1938, cracks were discovered in the concrete core wall and 16 families in the
vicinity were evacuated.
In 1942, the the Company acquired a further 120 acres of
adjoining land from the Duke of Beaufort to protect the approaches to the reservoir.
Peak Storage Capacity.
By 1960, when Ebbw Vale Works was at its peak as a fully operational integrated steel
and finishing plant, the effective storage available for the assurance of uninterrupted
production was 415 million gallons of water, which could be brought to the works through
an infra-structure of nearly 50 miles of pipeline. More than 30 ponds and reservoirs
were filled from a catchment of 3,500 acres.The smaller ponds were not connected to
the main water circuit but maintained as auxiliary supply for such matters as
At the height of its operations, approximately 30 million gallons of soft water was used
per week, and it was estimated that the amount of water which was in actual circulation
in the works, being cooled, cleansed and used again in one week was equivalent to
Following nationalisation in 1966 and a rationalisation of the industry, steelmaking ended
in the works and the demand for the hitherto water storage capacity was not required.
From the late 1970’s for the next two decades, water storage dropped and so the need
to keep the storage capacity.
By the time the works had been demolished and the works’ site sold in 2006, the
destiny and fate of all its resources had all been resolved.
The map below of the Beaufort group of ponds & reservoirs was compiled from an Estate
Plan from 1905
Key to Ponds
|A. Blaen-y-Cwm Reservoir
||B. Pin Pond
||C. Lower Black Pool
|D. Farmers Pond
||E. Upper Boat Pond
||F. Lower Boat Pond
|G. Parfitts Pond
||H. to L. Minor Unnamed Ponds