The Royal Ordnance Factory
Bridgend South Wales
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Water

Introduction.

Water is a scare resource at the best of times it serves man in many ways as sustenance to his very existence and also to supply his industry.

In the pre-war Bridgend district water was used primarily for human consumption and secondly for farming, within the town itself water was piped to the homes of the local populace by the water utility company from local reservoirs and aquifers, however, in the surrounding farmland it also came from local wells.

It was no secret that Bridgend and the surrounding areas are located on prehistoric limestone strata. This is testified by the fact that the water obtained from the local wells and outcrop streams is very hard.

Water supplies in the Bridgend area never dried up even in the driest of years the wells; streams and local pools were always flowing with water.

Pre War Planning.

Following the rise of the Nazi Party and Hitler becoming Chancellor the UK government began to assess the changing political scene, and when the Germans marched into the Rhineland it changed the political landscape in Europe.

At the time the British government under Prime Minister Ramsey Macdonald could do nothing to stop Germanys territorial expansion, this was because the UK and her ally France were both militarily weak following the cut-back of military spending after the tend of WW I.

In Britain a program of rearming the country as an insurance policy against possible future conflict was initiated; included in this was the construction and deployment of new arms factories.

Relocation of the Waltham Abbey and Woolwich arsenals was high on the agenda because of the lack of room for expansion and closeness to continental Europe. Finding a new home for the factories was not easy, as the government had laid down strict conditions that they should be re-located to areas of high unemployment.

Equally the local infrastructure had to support such factories, and not least amongst these was the ready supply of Water.

In this regard South Wales and Bridgend in particular met the requirements for a new ordnance factory, it was therefore early in 1934 that the first tentative enquiries as the availability of suitable building land and water supplies were made.

At the time the best estimates were that all of the resources were readily available and that there were no obvious resource problems.

In planning the Bridgend Royal Ordnance Factory the primary factory was to be located on Waterton Farm and it’s surrounding farms, with Brackla Hill to the North as the site for high explosive and Cordite storage, later, the Brackla site was also developed as a fuze filling factory.

Data supplied by Woolwich indicated that a considerable amount of water would be required in the production of Gun Cotton and for human consumption by the workers,

Initially, this was estimated to be in the range of 100,000 gallons per day.

This would cost one shilling per 1000 gallons* from the Mid Glamorgan Water Board, and would be part of the operating cost, and whilst this was not considered exorbitant it was a cost that could be substantially reduced by abstracting water from the Aquifers located beneath the site.   *Today this would equate to approximately £90,000 per annum.

Decisions.

All of these matters were discussed at the highest levels, and following the decision to build a new filling factory at Bridgend for the manufacture and filling of bombs for the Army and Navy; planning started in earnest. As soon as the sites had been surveyed, and the land had been procured the construction phase started in the spring of 1937.

As the tension within Europe increased so did the expansion plans for the Bridgend ROF, it was realised that the operating costs would increase significantly and these were examined to establish if there ways of reducing them.

Obtaining water from the local Aquifers by sinking wells on the site was an option for which sanction to spend  £1000 to £1500 was granted.

A Post War Map of Bridgend Aquifers

For Source see acknowledgements

The Bore Holes.

The first of the bore holes was sunk by Messrs. John Thom Ltd between June and September 1937 to a depth of 400 feet, drilling of the second bore hole was started in 1938-9 and was completed by the same company in January 1942 to a depth of 761 feet. A third bore hole was located near the second but was never completed.

In the survey records for the first well John Thom stated that the well is located 600 yards South and 40 degrees West of the Church in Coychurch village with the grid reference number given as SS9352 7936. He stated that water was struck some 300 feet below the surface, and that the rest level of the water below the 400-foot deep well top was 191 feet. He claimed that the abstraction rate was 14200 gallons per hour.

In his final report in September 1939 on Artesian Well number one to H.M.O.W John Thom stated the following:

1.      When the bore hole was 200 feet deep on the 29th of July 1937 the rest water was 2 foot 9 inches below the surface and yielded approximately 1,200 gallons per hour from 180 feet below the surface.

2.      When the bore hole was 309 feet deep on the 15th of August 1937 the rest water was 7 feet below the surface and yielded approximately 4,150 gallons per hour from 101 feet 6 inches below the surface when tests were conducted on the 16th of August.

3.      When the bore hole was 350 feet deep the rest water was 8 feet below the surface on the 25th of August 1937 and yielded approximately 4,500 gallons per hour from 110 feet 6 inches below the surface.

4.      When the bore hole was 400 feet deep the rest water was 12 foot 10 inches below the surface on the 1st of September 1937 and yielded approximately 6,000 gallons per hour from 60 feet below the surface when tests were conducted on the 2nd of September.

A test was then carried out with the pump placed 200 feet below the surface capable of raising 25,000 gallons of water per hour from that depth. The testing was carried out for seven days and nights from 8.30 am on the 15th of September 1937 and this yielded 14,200 gallons per hour.

There was no chemical report available at this time but one can assume that the purity of the water met the H.M.O.W requirement.

Geological and Environmental Site Reports.

Geological Survey.

On the 17th of June 1941 Mr. F.M. Trotter of the governments Geological survey department; met with representatives of the Mid Glamorgan Water Board, His Majesties Office of Works and Buildings, Mr Thom of John Thom Ltd, and Mr Watkyns a consulting engineer to discuss the water supply requirements of the Bridgend Royal Ordnance Factory.

The following is a transcript of their meeting:

The site of the existing water-bore (bore hole/well number 1) which yields with continuos pumping, 300,000 gallons per day, was chosen by Mr. E. Dixon and an account of the geology and the possibilities of obtaining a water-supply from underground sources is given in his reports.

Mr. Dixon also gives reasons for considering that the catchment area of the Shwylle Springs, the source of supply of the Mid-Glamorgan Water Board, lies to the South of the river Ewenny, whereas water from beneath the factory site has a catchment area to the North of that river.

In addition to the 300,000 gallons per day obtained from the existing bore hole, the Mid Glamorgan Water Board has contracted to supply the R.O.F with 450.000 gallons per day, and the Board is, in fact, at present supplying 650,000 gallons per day. The Board have intimated, however, that this amount cannot be increased, and they may have to reduce it to the contractual figure. Thus an additional supply is urgently needed, particularly as the factory is now working three shifts per day.

Selection of site for a second Water bore.

The existing bore obtains its water from the Carboniferous Limestone. The main catchment area appears to be to the North and North East of the factory site on the long dip slope of the Dolomite Conglomerate (a rock which here consists of boulders of limestone set in calcareous-dolomitic cement) which is unconformably underlain by Carboniferous Limestone.

Both the Dolomitic Conglomerate and the Carboniferous Limestone rocks have a low porosity, and their contained water almost certainly occurs in joints and fissures.

Springs rise in the Dolomitic Conglomerate along its junction with the alluvium flanking the Northern side of the river Ewenny to the South East side of Coychurch. The springs occur to the south east of the north-westerly faults, which, at Coity, bring Rhaetic against Dolomitic Conglomerate. Fissures associated with these faults are likely to yield water, both in the Dolomitic Conglomerate and in the underlying Carboniferous Limestone.

Mr. Neilson of the Ministry of Works and Buildings stated that to sink a well and erect a pumping station on this site would involve considerable delay as it lies 1,000 yards beyond the eastern extremity of the R.O.F., on land neither owned or serviced by the crown. He intimated that if there was a reasonable chance of getting water from a well at some site within the factory he would be prepared, in the first place, to sink a trial bore there, rather than go outside the limits of the factory.

The choice of sites within the factory is seriously limited by the layout of existing buildings, but it was considered that there is a reasonably good chance of obtaining water by boring on a site adjoining the now demolished Waterton Court, providing the boring was carried into the Carboniferous Limestone.

Mr. Neilson decided that a trial bore would be sunk here and provisionally instructed Mr, Thom of John Thom Ltd., Manchester to make the necessary arrangements for commencing the bore forthwith.

Apprehensions were expressed by the Water Board representatives that a water bore at the factory site might affect the yield of the Shwylle Springs.  The Shwylle Springs were visited. It was given as our opinion that a boring for water on or near the factory site would not interfere with the flow of the springs. This opinion was based on the reasons given by Mr. E. Dixon in his report with which I agree.  It was pointed out that apprehensions on this score were raised prior to the sinking of the first water bore, but this, although now pumping continuously, has not effected the yield of the springs.

The report was signed by F.M. Trotter on the 18th of June 1941.

Chemical and Bacteriological Site Report.

On the 16th of July 1942 the Governments laboratory No. 389 in London were asked to conduct a chemical and biological analysis of the bore hole water.

Their report is itemised below.

Chemical Examination.                                                  Parts per 100,000

1.  Oxygen consumed in 4 hours @ 80° F)                                           0.01

           from N/80 Permanganate)

2.  Nitrogen from nitrates                                                                      absent

3.  Combined chlorine                                                                           1.8

4.  Total hardness (as calcium carbonate)                                              31.0

5.  Alkalinity        (as calcium carbonate)                                               28.5

6.  Lead, iron and zinc                                                                          absent

7.  Reaction (pH value)                                                             (7.2)

8.  Appearance                                                 Clear, colourless, odourless.

9.  Sediment                                                                                         negligible

Bacteriological Examination.

Number of organisms per ml. Growing on nutrient agar

A.  in 2 days at 37°C                                                                            2

B.  in 3 days at 20-22°                                                                         50

Probable number of coli-aerogenes organisms                           none

        Per 100 ml.

Typical Bacterium coli                                                               absent

The report was submitted to H.M.O.W on the 27th of July 1942.

What is not clear is the reason why the Chemical and Biological report was sanctioned at this time. (Authors Note).

From the information supplied by the British Geological Survey it appears that the second bore hole did not locate a suitable source of water.

Wells.

Pre war a number of farms and cottages in the Bridgend villages of Coity, Waterton, and Coychurch obtained their water from small and relatively shallow wells.

In the main these wells supplied domestic water whilst other wells were also used for cattle watering.

The sinking of a much deeper well by the Ordnance factory seriously effected some of these supplies to the extent that the wells ran dry when the ROF started pumping large volumes of water.

 


For Source see acknowledgements

The following correspondence has been extracted from the KEW Public Records Office file AVIA 22/25/3.

A letter on this subject was addressed from the then H.M. Office of Works to the Ministry of supply dated 27th of June 1940.

This letter stated: That in October 1937 a letter had been received from the Penybont R.D.C. that the public well at Coychurch, a village adjoining the site, had run dry in consequence of the ROF operations, and that the water level of the well had failed within a few hours of the start of the test and had started to flow again almost immediately after the pumping had stopped.

It was obvious to the local officials that that the borehole was the cause of the trouble.

The H.M.O.W took the treasuries solicitor’s advice on the legal position, this pointed out that as the source of the village well was from an underground spring, and as the ROF did not draw off water from a defined surface channel the Penybont Council did not have any grounds for complaint within the law.

Discussions between the Clerk of the R.D.C indicated that only three or four cottages in Coychurch were dependant on the well, as most of the local inhabitants of the village obtained their water from The Mid-Glamorgan Water Board’s main supply.

The Clerk was asked to ascertain whether any serious inconvenience would arise in the event of the well having to be abandoned.

Completion of the borehole included the fitting of an impervious lining to a depth of 200 feet before any further pumping was done. It was hoped that when this lining was in place the borehole would not have any further effect on the local surface wells.

The borehole was not brought in operation until the factory started up, nothing more was heard from the Clerk in the meantime, however a letter was received from a local resident who’s property was adjacent to the factory boundary. The text of which follows: -

On the 11th of June 1940 Mr Wautier of the Grange in Coychurch village wrote to “The Chief Engineer, H.M. Office of Works at ROF South Side Bridgend.

In his letter Mr Wautier stated that he had informed one of the H.M.O.W officials that since the ROF had started pumping water close to his property the water in his well had fallen from 12 feet deep to 3 foot 10 inches.

He stated that this was a very serious matter as he used the water for domestic purposes, also for cooling milk and feeding his cattle.

As the matter was now urgent he wanted to know what the Chief Engineer was going to do about it as he had to bring 240 gallons of water per day from the waterworks 11 miles away.

Also the Clerk reported that the Coychurch village well was now pumping sand indicating that the well lining had little or no effect.

The problem was then passed onto the Ministry of Supply to decide on the course of action based on their solicitor’s advice, which was simply to refuse to admit liability.  While not admitting liability they proposed to take steps as an act of grace to provide people affected with an alternative supply.

It was stated that it would only cost £1-0-0 to connect each effected cottage within the village an that the same water main passed Mr Wautier house and it could therefore be supplied for the same cost.

Mr. Muir of the H.M.O.W. indicated that there were other houses outside the village that were supplied from wells, but nothing had been heard from the occupants. He therefore cautioned the Ministry of Supply that if news of the Government paying for connection to the mains water supply got around this could trigger off a series of claims.

In their response regarding the depletion of the Coychurch wells on the 8th of July 1940, the Ministry of Supply responded that notwithstanding the strictly legal aspect the department as an act of grace they should refund the cost of connecting to the water mains whenever a claim was made, and if it could be shown that the ROF bore was the cause of the loss.

They pointed out that no action should be taken except on an actual claim.

In the case of Mr. Wautier’s claim the Ministry stated that he should be informed that his alternative was to link to the water mains supply, and that consideration would then be given to a claim for reasonable costs.

On the 31st of August 1940 H.M.O.W wrote to the Ministry of Supply stating that Mr Wautier strongly objected to the proposal offered to him and that he proposed writing directly to the Ministry on the matter.

The outcome of this particular claim is unknown, as there are no further references to the subject within the PRO document AVIA 22/25/3.

The Pond.

The Bridgend ROF ‘s impact on the local farmers affected not only the Coychurch wells it also affected one notable farmer, namely a Mr John Jenkin Jones of West Plas Coity.

In the spring of 1941 John Jenkin Jones saw his cattle pool visibly drying up; something it had never done in the past, and he was convinced that the cause was the new war department Royal Ordnance factory on the other side of the West Plas road. He approached the resident engineer with his concerns about the lack of water to feed his cattle caused by their drainage activity, but to no avail, so eventually he resorted to legal measures to try and resolve the matter, and so began a 17 month battle with the authorities.

On the 8th of July 1941 his solicitors Stock Wood and Williams of Bridgend wrote a letter on his behalf, to Mr. L.H. Stone the resident engineer at H.M.O.W at Waterton Bridgend; stating their client’s concern about the lack of water in his pool for the daily watering of his 30 head of cattle during the dry weather.

They also stated in their letter that Mr J.J. Jones said that the pool had never been known to dry up until now, and that it was suspected that the springs had been diverted or affected in other ways by some deep trenches which had been dug by the War Office contractors on the Southern side of the road.

The solicitors requested an urgent investigation into the claim ass the matter had become a serious one for Mr Jones.

On the 17th of July 1941 Mr. L.H. Stone responded on behalf of the Superintendent of the Bridgend ROF stating that he was investigating the matter referred to in Stockwood & Williams letter, and that he would communicate with them as soon as his enquiries were completed.

No other correspondence on the matter has been lodged on the Public Record Office files until March 1942. Authors note.

On the 20th of March 1942 Messrs Stockwood & Williams again wrote to the Superintendent of Bridgend ROF stating that their client had drawn their attention to the delay, and that last summer he was put to considerable expense and inconvenience owing to the absence of water in his pool.

They reiterated that Mr. J.J. Jones had always relied upon this pool for watering his cattle and that the previous summer he had to haul water daily for them, and he did not want to have the experience again in the coming summer months.

They stated that they would be pleased to hear from them the result of their investigation referred to in their letter of the 17th of July 1941 as promised.

On the 31st of March 1942 Mr. L.H. Stone wrote a letter on behalf of the Bridgend ROF Superintendent to Mr J.R.G. Morgan at department S.S.3 in the Ministry of Supply stating the following:

The pond was not on ROF land but lay to the North of Coity Road serving “A” Group Brackla.

It also stated that he had investigated and ascertained that prior to the factory being built, the pond was always full, and that it appears that in getting out the excavation for the Boiler House, and mains, about 100 yards distant, an underground spring was disturbed and consequently diverted, causing the pond to run dry.

He also stated. “Should you decide that Mr. Jones be assisted, he would suggest that a pipe be laid from the ROF mains across the road to a position adjacent to the pond, from which troughs could be filled”.

This letter was received two days later by The Ministry of Supply at Adelphi House in London.

On the 31st of March 1942 Mr. S.F. Hitchcock wrote to Mr. J.R.G. Morgan at the Ministry of Works & Buildings, Architects Division, in the Palace Hotel, Southport, stating:

In his letter: He explained their situation, and their observations on the matter of the pool. He asked the M.O.W & B could confirm that the drying up of the pond was attributable to factory operations referred to, and whether the suggested remedy was the best way of providing an alternative supply of water for Mr. Jones.

He also stated that if the suggestion were approved could they give an approximate cost of laying a pipe from the factory mains.

He also asked if they could report back as early as possible as the original complaint dated from July of the previous year and that Mr Jones had been put to considerable expense hauling water for his cattle during the previous summer.

On the 4th of April 1942 a MR W. Davies of H.M.O.W & B at Elstow responded to Mr. J.R.G. Morgan stating that he had no recollection that they encountered a spring whilst excavating for the Boiler House or any works in the vicinity.  Either, whilst he was on the site following this work, and the period of 9 months thereafter. He also stated that during this period he had received no complaint from Mr. Jones that the works had affected the supply of water to his pond.

 He stated in his reply, “ that it may be true that our works did eventually affect his water supply, but this, I think would be very difficult to prove”.

He suggested that Mr. Morgan ascertain from Mr. Jones the date that he first noticed that his pond was affected and also the action taken by him when he noticed this, with dates.

In his letter he went on to say that it would be possible to ascertain if they had caused the problem by examining their storm drains in fine weather as they would indicate at once if there was a regular stream of water from a spring flowing through them. He claimed that if there was no water running through the drains laid by them, there would be no other way for the water to get away, and this would be definite proof that the works had not affected the supply of water to the pond.

On the 9th of April 1942 Mr. Morgan wrote to Mr. Hitchcock on the subject, suggesting that from the resident engineers response it was advisable for him to visit the site along with Mr. Jones and his solicitors; otherwise lengthy correspondence would have to be entered into that would take a considerable amount of time to resolve.

Mr. Hitchcock consulted with Mr G.H. Douglas the Assistant Director of Ordnance Factories on the matter and it was agreed that Mr. Morgan proceed with his suggested visit.

However, he also said that they should bear in mind the Resident Engineers report when discussing the matter with Mr Jones and his solicitors. Stating that “We cannot admit liability or commit ourselves to expenditure until the facts are established”.

On the 23rd of April 1942 Messrs  Stockwood & Williams wrote again to Mr L.H. Stone of the Bridgend ROF complaining about the lack of action on their clients behalf.

Mr Stone wrote a letter to dept S.S.3. in the Ministry of Supply on the 29th of April 1942 following Stockwood & Williams letter asking what action they proposed taking on the matter.

Following this, a letter was sent by department S.S.3 at the HMOS to Mr. J.J. Jones’s solicitors stating that arrangements had been made with Mr. J.R.G. Morgan of the Ministry of Works and Buildings, Architects Division, Southport Lancashire to investigate and discuss the matter with them, and that they should hear from Mr. Morgan shortly.

On the 4th of June 1942 Mr S.F. Hitchcock of the Ministry of Supply wrote again to Mr L.H. Stone at Bridgend ROF stating that he had now received Mr. J.R.G. Morgan’s report stating that there was no evidence that the works had caused any diminution in the supply of water and that Mr. Jones had interfered with the pond and as a result he did not think that they could offer him any financial assistance in the matter.

 Hearing nothing from the parties concerned Mr. W.A. Williams of Messrs Stockwood and Williams wrote again on the 16th of September 1942 to Mr S>F> Hitchcock at the Ministry of Supply that they had heard nothing further on the matter of the pool since their meeting with MR J.R.G. Morgan on the 4th of May.

They also stated that following their meeting with Mr. Morgan that he or his representative had met Mr. John Jenkin Jones at the site but that no intimation of their findings had been communicated to them although they had written to Mr Morgan on the 1st of June 1942.

They asked the Ministry to reply without delay their findings on the matter.

In his reply on the 19th of September 1942 Mr S.F. Hitchcock stated that he had written to Mr Stone stating that he had now received Mr. J.R.G. Morgan’s report stating that there was no evidence that the works had caused any diminution in the supply of water and that Mr. Jones had interfered with the pond and as a result he did not think that they could offer him any financial assistance in the matter.

In their reply to Mr Hitchcock on the 5th of October 1942 Mr.W.A.Williams of Messrs Stockwood and Williams stated that they had seen their client stating that he was very surprised at the statement in their letter that stated that Mr Jones had interfered with the pond.

He had instructed them to refute the statement at once and to say that he has not at any time interfered with the pond. All that he had done was to stop the overflow of water from the pond from running into the nearby road which was causing a nuisance, and this had nothing to do with the source of the water.

He further added that this work of dealing with the overflow into the road took place about 8 to 10 years previously, and from that time up to the time that Ministry entered the adjoining land for the purpose of their works he had no trouble at all with the supply of water to his pond.

Mr Williams stated that it appeared to them that Mr Jones statement dealing with the overflow which he had communicated to Major Morgan or his representative at their interview had been wrongly construed.

They restated their case that the Ministry was at fault and that they were either seeking compensation or an alternate supply of water for their client.

On the 27th of October 1942 The Director of Ordnance Factories (Filling) Engineering and Supply wrote to The Superintendent at ROF Bridgend intimating that although there was no proof that they had caused the problem it was likely that their works had effected Mr Jones pond.

The Director suggested that this maybe a case where an alternative supply of water could be provided to the complainant on an “ex gratia” basis. Finally stating “ I cannot imagine that Mr. Jones will be a better neighbour if he is without water”.

Mr. L.H. Stone wrote on the 12th of November 1942 to the A.D.O.F. Engineering at the Ministry of Supply stating:- “The whole matter has been reviewed and it is felt that in view of the element of doubt, an alternative supply of water should be provided “ex gratia” for Mr Jones”.

Stockwood and Williams wrote again 5to Mr. S.F. Hitchcock on the 10th of November asking for a reply to their previous correspondence.

In their reply on the 28th of November 1942 Mr Hitchcock replied that the department was prepared to provide an alternate supply of water subject to a limit of £21.10.0d for the work but their client would have to pay the water rate for the water supplied.

And that arrangements were being made with the Factory to have the work put in hand.

Mr J.R.G. Morgan of The Ministry of Works and Buildings was advised of this by letter from Mr Hitchcock on the 28th of November 1942.

Finally the file was closed on the 29th of March 1943 some two years after it had been opened.

Authors Observations:

In assessing the time it took to resolve this matter it must be borne in mind that this occurred at a critical time during the war, and that there were many more important issues that had to be dealt with.

However, it does appear to be an unnecessary distraction that should have been delegated to the factory to deal with rather than the Whitehall bureaucrats.

It was not as though some unacceptable precedence had been set in these cases as each case could have been and was settled on an individual basis. And this only serves to illustrate the inflexibility of the whole organisation that such a simple matter had to be dealt with at the top.

In cost alone the many man-hours and travelling costs outweighed the £22 – 10s – 0d that it finally cost the Ministry to lay on an alternate supply for Mr John Jenkin Jones.

 


Ministry of Works Map

Acknowledgements.

British Geological SurveyNatural Environment Research Council – Wallingford Oxford

                                                                www.british-geological-survey.co.uk

Detailed reports and documents can be purchased from the British Geological Society

With special thanks to Melinda Lewis

Groundwater Systems and Water Quality

Environment Agency – Llandarcy Neath Port Talbot –

With special thanks to Anne Sennett

Environment Agency

Public Records Office – KEW

Documents AVIA 22/25/3.

Reference.

                        Rhaetic of the Bridgend District by W.H. Francis.

 

Joe Ludlow

Bridgend

4 September 2023

 

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