This film is part of Free

The First Four Years

An industrial epic plays out in steelmaking South Wales.

Industry sponsored film 1951 42 mins Silent


This majestic documentary tells the story of ambitious modernisation in the Welsh steel and tinplate industry. This involved upgrading the Margam works near Port Talbot and building both the Abbey hot strip mill next door and a new cold rolling mill and tinplate works at Trostre near Llanelli. Film cameras were frequently on hand: thanks to them, an integrated mega-complex takes shape before our eyes.

The film was produced by cooperative production company DATA, whose dynamic leader Donald Alexander secured rolling contracts with both the National Coal Board (for the Mining Review series for which DATA is best known) and the Steel Company of Wales for ongoing coverage of the developments summarised here. No doubt DATA's filmmakers, based in London, frequently combined steel with coal filmmaking trips to Wales. Clocking in at over 40 minutes, this compilation of DATA's footage is an exhaustive progress report on four years' worth of large-scale and complex work. Taken a sequence at a time, it's engrossing industrial history. Taken as a whole it's a cinematic monument, colossal in scale but intricate in detail, to the magnitude of a major project - and the sheer ambitious optimism of the postwar re-investment in British industry that lay behind it.