Blaenavon Ironworks – Where better steel was born!

Not our usual fare because you can in no way look at this and say it is a castle but it is none the less very interesting from a historical viewpoint and can be described as robustly built. If you have an interest in Industrial history, specifically the innovation that allowed the production of cheaper, better quality steel. The “basic steel process” or the “Gilchrist-Thomas process”, named for the industrial chemist Sidney Gilchrist Thomas and his cousin Percy Gilchrist who was a chemist at the Blaenavon Ironworks came about when Sidney discovered a solution to the problem of phosphorus in iron, which resulted in the production of low-grade steel. By using dolomite or sometimes limestone as a lining for the Bessemer converter rather than the usual clay they were able to remove the phosphorus and produce a better quality of steel at a fraction of the price. It also produced a byproduct of phosphate fertilizer.

Tiny Castle, Big Impact – St. Quentins Castle

St. Quentins has many names. You say St. Quentins and I say St Quintin’s. It’s also known as Llanblethian, and Castell Llanfleiddan. It sits in what appears to be a quiet, out of the way village in Llanblethian, Cowbridge, Wales.

It’s thought to have started out as a ringwork with a bank and ditch in around 1102 with the stonework being added in the late 12th century and then reinforced in the early 14th by the Earl Gilbert de Clare. However, Gilbert was killed before the castle was completed, and because the castle lacks certain features, it is possible that the building work was discontinued as a result of the Earl’s death. By 1740 it was was said to be in a ruinous state.

The gatehouses did see some use as a prison in the 15th century and was briefly occupied as a dwelling in 1820.

Caerleon Amphitheatre.

Wolf Nipple Chips! Get ’em While They’re Hot, They’re Lovely! Monty Python quotes aside, this is the location of a Roman legionary fortress or castra and the headquarters for Legio II Augusta from about 75 to 300 AD. That’s Augustus’ Second Legion to the likes of you and me. And where you have soldiers you need to have entertainment. Apparently, subduing the indigenous population just wasn’t entertaining enough and their company clearly wasn’t that good. Probably because they didn’t want to be subdued. (The locals were revolting) Cinema hadn’t been invented yet and so instead, in around 90 AD they built an Amphitheatre with seating for around 6,000 spectators. The word Amphitheatre isn’t even Roman but instead comes from the Greek (amphi), meaning “on both sides” or “around” and (théātron), meaning “place for viewing”. That’s the trouble with the Romans. If it isn’t nailed down, they would have it away.