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National Wool Museum, Drefach Velindre

National Wool Museum, Drefach Velindre

The Brief


The National Woollen Museum at Drefach Felindre in the Teifi Valley is based at an authentic working woollen mill which had been in continuous production for a hundred years.Wool was historically the most widespread and important of Wales’ industries in the 19th century.And Drefach was once at the centre of the Welsh woollen industry, being known as the Huddersfield of Wales. We were tasked with refurbishing the majority of the buildings on site together with designing a new circulation hub connecting the  2 main mill buildings. Our brief included the following

  • Improved visitor amenities including a new shop and café as well as access and facilities for the disabled.
  • A new Research and Collections Centre
  • Improved and enhanced display Galleries
  • Glazed roof and new circulation hub linking the 2 main mill buildings
  • Raised walkway to allow visitors to view the on site working commercial mill
  • Extensive works to provide a new car park within the existing flood plane.

The Solution


The proposals  evolved as a result of the integrated input of the Design Team members, together with valuable advice gleaned from a variety of other sources.The initial brief called for the construction of a new building, to comprise a Café, Shop, Toilets and Offices within the field to the north-west of the Site. However, following discussions with the Environment Agency this option was quickly discounted as no construction works were permissible within the existing flood plain.  Several further options were considered, including a new building within the existing Car Park, incorporating the new accommodation within the building, together with a new-build extension to the east of the Mill Buildings within the footprint previously occupied by the now demolished Engine Shed.

The preferred option consists of a new-build extension, as described above, to house the Tangye Engine, food preparation, Staff area, Boiler Room and public Toilets, with Office accommodation being provided on the first floor.  This proposal was discussed with a representative of CADW at an early stage and received their full support.

The remainder of the Mill Building was suitably upgraded to include structural strengthening works and improvements to mechanical and electrical services.  The proposals also allowed for the “in-filling” of the existing Courtyard to provide a new vertical circulation route, to include an 8-person disabled lift, together with an ambulant disabled staircase.  Two walkways were installed at first floor level to provide a means of circulation between the Mill Buildings.  The vertical circulation route and walkways are housed under high-level curved structures with the roof between the Mill Buildings being glazed.  It was envisaged that this area will become a striking focal point for the Museum, providing natural light and a “visual pathway” between the buildings.  The choice of materials was derived from the desire to exaggerate the difference between the fabric of the old buildings and modern technology of the new.  This is demonstrated with the elevational treatment of the new north elevation to the Courtyard, which consists of a structural glazing system, sitting on top of the old stone wall above the leet.  The “glass wall” is encased at high level by a metal sheeted curved roof.  The extension is of traditional build, but again, has a metal sheeted curved roof with colour-coated aluminium rooflights.

The North elevation of the Mill Buildings is essentially the new entrance to the Museum, approached from the “grassed” Car Park over a new timber pedestrian bridge along a timber boardwalk and into the Mill through an existing entrance doorway.  It is hoped that this route will prove a successful innovation as it introduces the visitors to the River, leet and Mill Buildings in close succession.

The Weaving Shed has become the home of the commercial operation.  Works to this area involved the removal of the existing entrance canopy, re-instatement of the slate roof and replacement of the entrance doors, with a new window to match the existing.

Internally the majority of the existing partitions will be removed to form an open “working area,” together with Staff facilities for the operator.  The public are able to view the weaving process via a walkway situated between the roof trusses.

The original Café / Office Building at the Site entrance became an Education and Resource centre housing an Education Room, Meeting Room, Office and archive storage, together with new Toilet accommodation to replace the existing ground floor offices.  The building fabric, other than internal alterations, was largely unaltered.

Externally, the existing steps to the west platform were removed and the hand railing completed to the perimeter and the existing double doors were replaced with authentic-looking bay doors.

The Design Team, in conjunction with the interpretative designers, endeavoured to create a Museum complex that is user-friendly, providing much-needed resources and facilities to enable the Museum to prosper.  Consultations with Statutory Authorities were extremely productive with the design proposals being discussed with Cadw, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Planning Department, Building Control Department, Conservation Department and the Fire Authority.  Disabled facilities have been given paramount consideration with suitable access being provided to all areas of the Site.

It proves that the research and effort contributed to this Project enhanced the success it richly deserves.

The project was tendered as a JCT Standard Form of Contract and administered by ourselves.

This prestigious project was completed on time and within budget with all parties extremely pleased with the outcome.