The Welsh Works Porth started life as a fizzy drinks factory.

When the Corona drinks company was taken over by American drinks company BritVic in 1987 The Porth factory was closed. In 2000 it reopened as a music recording studio and a centre for production of TV programmes.

In 2010 the site was acquired by  Valleys Kids and transformed into a cultural hive of community activity with businesses located within the building, meeting rooms, multi-functional venue, art gallery, studio and café.

Corona’s advertising slogan in the 1970s was: “Every bubble’s passed its fizzical.”

The Story of Corona Pop

by Phil Carradice, first published on BBC Wales History Blog 26th June 2012

From the 1920s through to the end of the 1980s the sight and sound of the Corona pop man meant delight for thousands of children across the whole of Britain. It was a Welsh success story that has gone down in legend and remains an important part of the country’s social history.

Corona drinks were for so many years, delivered to the doors of houses across the land, first by horse and cart and then by lorry. And it all began with a small factory in Porth at the foot of the Rhondda valleys.

The pop – carbonated beverage to give it the correct name – was produced by the Corona Soft Drinks Company, a firm that had been created by two Rhondda grocers, William Evans and William Thomas. The original factory opened in the 1890s under the name of Welsh Hills Mineral Waters, the name Corona only being adopted in the 1920s as the company expanded its range of activities to include all of Wales and many parts of England.

Temperance movement

The firm had its origins in the temperance movement that was so strong in Britain during the final years of the 19th century. The Rhondda Valleys at this time were in the grip of the “coal rush.” They were full of coal mines and the pubs of the region did a thriving business as men, after a day down the pit, were desperate to quench their thirst. As a result drunkenness was rife.

Grocers Evans and Thomas from Porth were determined to find an alternative drink for the miners. They had already been introduced to soft drinks by a peddler from west Wales – artificial carbonated mineral water had been first produced by Joseph Schweppe in Switzerland in the 18th century and so it was not a new invention. The problem had always been how to keep the fizz in the bottle.

To begin with manufacturers simply hammered in a cork and wired it tight – a solution that was only partially successful. But then American Hiram Codd invented a revolutionary new system. It involved fitting each bottle with a glass marble, a rubber washer and a swing top that forced the marble into the neck of the bottle, so forming a tight seal. The rest, as they say, is history.

After visiting several manufacturers of carbonated mineral waters – in order to see how it was done – Evans and Thomas were ready for business. Their Porth factory was equipped with state of the art machinery in order to bottle the liquids and to clean empty bottles. But although the factory soon became a local landmark, sale of the fizzy drinks had little effect on drunkenness. And so it was decided that the product should be sold, door to door.

Over 200 salesmen, each driving a horse and cart, were soon operating across south Wales. They sold a wide range of drinks, starting with the original orangeade and then moving on to others such as limeade and cherryade. More exotic flavours such as American cream soda and dandelion and burdock were soon added to the list.

Money back on the bottle

The glass bottles in which the pop was sold were a valuable commodity and, from the beginning, the company operated a system of ‘money back on the bottle’, thus ensuring that generations of school children would augment their pocket money by collecting discarded bottles and turning them in to shop and door to door sellers.

Click here to watch William Evans, who founded ‘Thomas & Evans’ the grocery chain, talking about  how he started Welsh Hills Mineral Waters, which  later became Corona pop.

Thank you to John Geriant Roberts.for the video clip.  Hear more on John’s podcast ‘John On The Rhondda’. You can  find it on Anchor: https://anchor.fm/john-geraint/episodes/Corona-eolt40#