Pont Llanio Milk Factory
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What: Milk and butter factory
Where: Pont Llanio, Cards.
Built: 1896 (butter factory); 1937 (industrial dairy)
2005, 2009, 2019
Last Known Condition: Derelict, part used as farm storage
Page Updated: June 2019
I first saw Pont Llanio dairy on an environmental studies field trip some fifteen years ago. Back then I was in a hurry to get to the next survey point and in any case next to the abandoned factory was an obviously lived-in static caravan complete with washing drying in the yard and dogs barking at the gate. I was instantly fascinated by this grey unlovely building plonked down unceremoniously in the beautiful surroundings of the Teifi valley, but it I had to wait nearly four years for my chance to get in. By this time, the caravan had been abandoned and the yard was used only for storing hay and farm machinery. Sadly, there wasn't much at all left inside the buildings, but in nearly fifty years of dereliction the elements and nature had worked fantastic patterns of trailing ivy, rust and peeling paint. I revisited several times, trying to find new rooms and make sense of it all - with all the machinery long gone, it is difficult to tell what the many rooms and levels might have been used for; only here and there will you find a piece of pipework stranded halfway up a wall or a thick wooden inspection hatch in the wall indicating a cold store beyond.
Milk processing in the small Cardiganshire hamlet of Pont Llanio dates back to in 1896 when a small butter factory was established by the newly-formed Cardiganshire County Council alongside the Carmarthen and Aberystwyth Railway Line. In those days, most milk produced in the county went into production of butter, cheese and other dairy products which would be unlikely to spoil on the way to market.
The first years of the twentieth century saw a steep decline in the fortunes of Cardiganshire dairy farmers and although farmers' co-operative societies encouraged a revival of sorts, it was not until the establishment of the national Milk Marketing Board in 1933 that milk was collected, processed and distributed on an industrial scale.
Through the 1930s, the local farming economy became increasingly dominated by milk production organised and overseen by the Milk Marketing Board (Bwrdd Marchnata Llaeth).
As a result of increasing production and reorganisation of the country into zones, a new depot and processing plant was opened next to the old butter factory on the 1 October 1937 with the first shipment of 200 gallons of raw milk, which arrived by lorry before being checked and emptied into a receiving tank. Milk for onward distribution was then chilled and loaded into 3,000 gallon glass-lined rail tank wagons that were sent on to Carmarthen sidings to be attached to trains bound for London. The year 1939 saw a decline in demand for liquid milk, so the factory was extended and upgraded to produce butter and dried milk powder; both were to become important parts of the wartime diet under rationing. Milk destined for these products was diverted to a separator which produced cream (used for butter) and skimmed milk (converted to powder by hot-air spray drying).
By 1950, intake peaked at 30,000 gallons a day, the plant employing 120 staff with 24-hour working through the summer months to meet increasing demand. In 1955 a second factory was opened at Felinfach, between Lampeter and Aberaeron to increase production capacity. Unfortunately for the MMB, however, there followed a sustained decline in milk consumption, leading to inevitable rationalisation. As facilities at Felinfach expanded, so those at Pont Llanio were transferred or wound up; by 1969 the intake had fallen to 10,000 gallons a day and there were just 32 staff. The plant closed the following year with some of the jobs and all of the milk intake being moved to Felinfach, which still operates to this day.
Malaws, B & McDonald, M, ‘Bwrdd Marchnata Llaeth: Four Milk Marketing Board Creameries in Wales’ Industrial Archaeology Review, 40:1 (2018), pp25-38.
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, 2011 'Milk factories at Pont Llanio & Felinfach' [https://www.peoplescollection.wales/story/378182] Accessed 08/06/19
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, 2018 'MILK FACTORY, PONT LLANIO' [https://coflein.gov.uk/en/site/91430/details/milk-factory-pont-llanio] Accessed 08/06/19