Blaenavon World Heritage Site

Blaenavon World Heritage Site Wales

UNESCO inscribed the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape as a World Heritage Site in December 200. The reason stated was :-

"The area around Blaenavon bears eloquent and exceptional testimony to the pre-eminence of South Wales as the world's major producer of iron and coal in the 19th century. All the necessary elements can be seen, including coal and ore mines, quarries, a primitive railway system, furnaces, the homes of workers, and the social infrastructure of their community."

In the immediate area of Blaenavon town, the places to visit are Big Pit National Mining Museum, Blaenavon Ironworks, Pontypool & Blaenavon Railway, Blaenavon Community Heritage & Cordell Museum, Workmen’s Hall, St Peters Church and the town itself. With World Heritage Status the town is improving itself, having suffered from decline in post industrial years, and is now becoming a very popular tourist spot.

Big Pit National Mining Museum of Wales is situated on the site of Big Pit Colliery, a real coal mine which ceased production in 1980. It is now one of Britain’s leading mining museums and offers an educational and entertaining day out for all ages. Big Pit is the main attraction within the World Heritage Site.

Visitors can enjoy an 20 minute audio-visual presentation describing the life at the coal face and the changing methods of coal mining through time. The virtual guide takes you through a replicated mine where a modern coal face is brought to life through sound and light. The Pithead Baths enable visitors to understand more about the daily life of a coal miner. A highlight of the museum is the guided underground tour conducted by experienced colliery personnel. The tours last just under an hour, however further time is taken to kit out visitors with helmet and cap lamp etc and riding down the 300ft(90m) descent of the mineshaft.

Blaenavon Ironworks was founded by three businessmen from the Midlands and opened in 1788, the Blaenavon Ironworks was built using the latest industrial technology with three steam powered blast furnaces. Within ten years the ironworks was the second largest in Wales, employing 350 people and producing 5,400 tons of iron a year. In 1810 another two furnaces were added. Blaenavon ironworks became one of the largest ironworks in the world. The ironworks fell into decline with the coming of large scale steel production. Blaenavon Ironworks is today the best preserved blast furnace complex of its period in the world

Blaenavon World Heritage Centre. This focal point of reference for the World Heritage Site combines video presentations, interactive touch screen monitors and oral history with traditional displays to explain to visitors the different features that make up the World Heritage site and give a history of the iron making town. The World Heritage Visitor Centre is housed in the restored St Peter School ( the school was built in 1816 by Sarah Hopkins in memory of her brother the Iron master Samuel Hopkins).

Cordell Museum. The museum holds a collection of local objects which tell the history of the town of Blaenavon and its residence from the early days of the industrial revolution through to the modern day inscription as a World Heritage Site. The museum holds and displays numerous items relating to the community from local industrial archaeological, historic photographs, furniture, coins and military uniforms. The museum also acts as a large family history archive for anyone tracing Blaenavon ancestors. The museum holds census records for the years 1841, 1851, 1871, 1881 and 1891, trade directories, records of Colliery Accidents and a book of remembrance of Blaenavon’s fallen heroes of the Boer war, World War One, World War Two, Korea and Northern Ireland.

St Peter's Church Built by the local iron masters Samuel Hopkins and Thomas Hill in 1804, the church is one of the earliest buildings in the town. The adjacent school is soon to open as the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape Heritage Centre.

Pontypool & Blaenavon Railway Maintained by a group of dedicated railway enthusiasts. Train rides can be enjoyed on the remaining track of Wales' highest standard gauge railway

Workmen's Hall This magnificent building (1895) was built by contributions from the iron and coal workers. It represents the high point and social aspirations of industrial society in South Wales.

Blaenavon World Heritage Site

Map of Blaenavon Town Centre


World Heritage Sites in Britain