The Aberdulais tinplate story

An artist's impression of the Victorian tinplate works at Aberdulais © National Trust / David Hammond-Williams

An artist's impression of the Victorian tinplate works at Aberdulais

In 1831 local businessman William Llewellyn established the Aberdulais Tinplate Company.

It was one of the first tinplate works where iron ingots were rolled into flat plates and where the rollers were power-driven, in this case by a waterwheel. Previously, the red-hot iron ingots were beaten out by hand with hammers until a sheet of plate was formed.

Within 20 years the Aberdulais Tinplate Company had expanded with the construction of the Lower Works, some 400 yards to the south, and the original site known as the Upper Works. The two sites were connected by a tramway. Horses-drawn drams ferried materials between them.

Another branch of the tramway ran over the tramway bridge to a wharf on the Tennant Canal, from where the finished tinplate sheets were transported to the dockside in Swansea for export.

A hive of activity

During the tinplate years, Aberdulais was a bustling village. A report by the Children’s Commission in 1842 tells us that there were 138 people working at the two sites of whom 34 were children aged between 8 and 13.

Aberdulais village sat at the centre of a web of routeways. Footpaths and bridges led workers to the tin mills; rivers and canals, tramways and railways brought in iron, tin, wood and coal to the furnaces and melting pots of the valley.

The plastic of its age

Tinplate revolutionised life and packaging. In 1891 Britain boasted 225 tin mills, of which 205 were in South Wales. And today tinplate still plays a vital part in our everyday lives - on the tinned goods shelves of our supermarkets, for example.