Gwent Archive and Genealogy Centre

  • Location

    Ebbw Vale

  • Client

    Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council

  • Value

    £12m (£3m fitout)

  • Completion

    2011

Regenerating the historic past of the Welsh steel industry

Ebbw Vale steelworks was once the largest in Europe. Its closure in 2001 sparked a regeneration programme that cleared the site of all buildings except the listed General Offices, for which a new use had been found. The building was to be developed as a new home for Gwent Records Office, a visitor centre for the area, offices and function rooms. Our interiors team worked alongside our architects and building surveyors to assess the condition of the derelict structure and to formulate a workable plan for its restoration and conversion.

 

The Records Office includes specialist areas for conserving documents and search facilities as well as more conventional office spaces. We developed a design theme that alludes to the site’s rich history, utilising hot rolled steel, warm amber colours and oak to complement the building’s existing finishes.

The visitor centre – branded 3000 Degrees, uses multi-media technology to allow visitors to discover the story of the steel industry in the area. They can then discover what their personal connections might have been, encouraging people to delve in to their genealogy and investigate further at the Records Office. Working with an interpretive planner and AV experts we developed a scheme that provides a journey for visitors, culminating in a 5D cinema experience.


Historic Building Conservation

The General Offices building is an extensive and grand Edwardian red brick and stone building reflecting the importance of the former steelworks which it previously served. The architectural, historical and cultural importance is reflected in its Grade II listing.

The General Offices building remains largely as built, retaining its clock tower, large drawing offices as well as its board room and chairman’s office. Stride Treglown were appointed to conserve the General Offices building and to also provide a new extension to provide a new Gwent Records Office and Genealogy Research and Learning Centre.

 

The vast majority of the original building remains, but surplus low quality extensions have been removed and the exterior is being restored to reflect its original quality using materials to match the original. Despite the general completeness of original historic fabric no original external doors could be found and extensive archival research has not uncovered any photographic evidence. The designs for the new external doors were thus prepared, in conjunction with CADW, using patterns from the period and taking cues from the internal doors which were largely intact.

Internally there is also much of the original building and its finishes remaining to inform the refurbishment. Doors, ironmongery, the grand stone staircase and glazed wall tiling dados all remain and are being repaired, or restored where necessary.