Weaver & Co mill, site of
Quay Parade, Swansea
Louis Gustave Mouchel
Factory/Industrial Plant |
photo Mouchel archive
The Weaver & Co flour mill in Swansea was the first entirely reinforced concrete fully-framed building to be erected in Britain. Unfortunately now demolished, its design was by the French engineer Hennebique, who developed a patented system of reinforcement that he exported world-wide.
Though not the only engineer experimenting with the medium in Britain, Hennebique found success with his addtion of shear reinforcement in concrete beams, which he patented in this country in 1892. His main patent for the Hennebique system dates from 1897, the year the mill was constructed.
During the construction of the mill, Hennebique selected Louis Gustave Mouchel to be his UK agent, and Mouchel proceeded to use the system for a wide variety of structures, including jetties, bridges and retaining walls. By 1908, there were 130 concrete frame Hennebique-system buildings in Britain — more using this system than any other.
Mouchel became involved in the project, though he hadn't set the it up. Hennebique had an agent in Nantes, a city with close trading ties with Swansea, which is perhaps how the initial connection was made. However, Mouchel accompanied one of the directors of Weaver & Co to France to look at ferro-concrete construction prior to the signing of the mill contract.
The mill was constructed on a site beside the basin of Swansea's former North Dock. It was six storeys high, with its lower floor cantilevered some 3m above loading bays. It was constructed of materials imported from France — cement, aggregate and steel.
The building survived wartime bombs, but — despite being in good condition — was demolished when the dock was filled in to make way for a Sainsbury’s supermarket. It stood on the site now occupied by the supermarket carpark. Nearby associated buildings were also demolished, during the construction of Fabian Way, one of Swansea’s arterial roads.
"Francois Hennebique (1842-1921) reinforced concrete pioneer"
by D.G. McBeth, Proceedings Institution Civil Engineers (1998), 126 May, 867-95, paper 11382
"Mouchel: A Century of Achievement" published by Mouchel, 1997
"Agents of Change: Hennebique, Mouchel and ferro-concrete in Britain, 1897-1908" by Patricia Cusack in Early Reinforced Concrete ed. Frank Newby, Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2001