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Loftus Garden Village is drawing attention to Newport from far and wide. But the site has already played a big part in Newport’s past.


Site History In Pictures

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Recent History


Feb 2013: Seren Group’s Garden Village housing moving a step closer with recent land purchase – Newport housing scheme on ex-Pirelli site moves step closer

Dec 2012: Seren’s Garden Village plans on Newport ex Pirelli site – Plans on show for housing on ex-Newport Pirelli site

Feb 2012: How the South Wales Argos reported on the issues affecting the former Pirelli site in June 2012 – Gipsy threat to Newport housing scheme


STC and Pirelli Cables Factories


March 2002: The Pirelli Factory closes, a devastating blow to the local economy and the now 200 people working there – BBC Archive Story

1991: Italian company Pirelli take control of the Factory from Standard Telephones and Cables Limited

Post-war: The site and factory is taken over by Standard Telephones and Communications, with many workers from #11 Ordnance Factory finding roles in the new STC factory.


Royal Ordnance Factory Number 11, Newport


1943: Labour Minister Ernest Bevin visits the ROF factory in Newport – Ernest Bevin visits number 11 Royal Ordnance Factory

1943: ROF girl’s portrait is picture of the year: Dame Laura Knight and her model Ruby Loftus are accompanied by Director-General of Royal Ordnance Factories Sir Charles McLaren on their visit to the Royal Academy Summer exhibition to see Dame Laura’s painting of Miss Loftus at work on a lathe.




1941: ‘Night Shift’ was filmed at the Newport ROF Factory – In November 1941 the Crown Film Unit visited ROF Newport to make a Ministry of Information film about the Factory’s production – watch the film below.




The American Military then edited ‘Night Shift’ in order to create a film that would inspire American women to match their British counterpart’s efforts in supporting the war effort.




1941/42: The work that was done at ROF,swiss replica watches on the Former Pirelli Factory Site, Newport, is beautifully captured in this painting of Ruby Loftus, by Dame Laura Knight, held by the Imperial War Museum. 

1941: Royal Ordnance Factory Number 11 opens: The factory produced anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns between 1941 and 1945.

The Wartime Newport website tells the full story of life at the factory and holds an archive of personal memories of factory life from people who worked there.

Another fascinating personal account is recorded here by BBC, of one family’s ties to the Royal Ordnance Factory. Do you know somebody who worked at the ROF during the war years?

1940: Here you can see a German 1940 wartime map of Newport - this section covers the former Pirelli site, North of Cromwell Rd.



Pre-War Years


1920: Corporation Rd in 1920 – the Garden Village planned for the former Pirelli factory site will mark the next chapter in the history of Lliswerry – Corporation Road




The Ruby Loftus Story



Before the War



Stella Ruby Isabella Loftus (known as Ruby) was born on 4 October, 1921. Ruby was the second of four children and lived with her parents, Martha and Harold, in the town of Llanhilleth, South Wales.  She had two sisters, Queenie and Elsie and one brother, Harold.


During the Depression years, Harold Loftus moved his family to London where working conditions seemed to be improving. It was here, in Finchley, London, that Ruby found work as a shop assistant in a tobacconist’s shop – and it was here that she first met John Green, her husband to be.


During the War


Harold Loftus passed away in 1938, leaving the family devastated.  Following his death and to escape the London Blitz in 1940, the family returned to their roots in South Wales, living in Corporation Road, Newport. Mother Martha found employment as a porter at Newport Railway Station and Brother Harold,  joined the Navy.


In November 1940, sisters Ruby, Queenie and Elsie went to work in No 11 Royal Ordnance Factory, Newport, making Bofor Guns, a sophisticated,watch-clock-repair double-barrelled anti-aircraft weapon for the war effort.


Ruby was an outstanding worker and within months had mastered one of the most difficult operations in manufacturing armaments. Ruby was the first woman ever to have mastered the highly skilled technique of “screwing the breech ring for a Bofor gun”.  It was difficult and exacting work, normally performed by men of exceptional engineering ability.


During the war, it was essential that the recruitment drive be maintained to increase the all-important production of armaments. Additionally, several artists were commissioned to document the nation’s war effort.


Ruby was 21 in 1942 when her exceptional machining and engineering skills were brought to the attention of well known artist, Dame Laura Knight.


Dame Laura was commissioned to paint Ruby working at the lathe in the ‘gun factory’. Travelling to Newport, Dame Laura sketched and painted Ruby working at the lathe over a three to four week period.


“Dame Laura came to the factory and spent the day making sketches of me while I worked. At the end of the day Dame Laura chose which sketch she liked best, she was looking for the one with the most “go” in it.  She chose the one she liked; once she made her mind up it stayed made up””. Source: The Story of the Picture, R. Green (nee Loftus)


Picture of the Year


In April 1943, the painting “Ruby Loftus screwing a breech ring” was put on show at the Royal Academy of Art. The painting was given a prominent place and dominated the Academy’s summer exhibition. On 28 April, 1943, two days before the Academy opened, Ruby was invited to a private viewing and to make a News Reel film. When unveiled, it was hailed as “the picture of the year” and  practically every newspaper in the land ran photographs of Ruby Loftus, and the painting. In addition to the immense amount of press coverage Ruby received, she was interviewed by BBC radio, went to a cocktail party at The Ritz hotel and met a lot of famous people. It brought instant g instant fame to Ruby, immortalising the young woman. During World War II the image on canvas became a poster and Ruby’s infamous painting still hangs in the Imperial War Museum to this day.


“Since this all took place I have married so my name is now Ruby Green, nee Loftus.”

October 17th, 1943”.   Source: The Story of the Picture, R. Green (nee Loftus).

On 18th September, 1943 Ruby married L.Cpl. John Green of the 11th Hussars, one of the original “Desert Rats” that formed General Montgomery’s 8th Army, serving in North Africa. They were married at St John’s church, Newport.


After the War


After the War, Ruby turned down the offer of a Government sponsored engineering course. In the meantime, her brother-in-law had emigrated to Canada and wrote to Ruby and John explaining there were far more opportunities over there than in post-war Britain. In 1948 Ruby and John emigrated to Canada, settling firstly in Kelowna, then Winfield, British Columbia. It was shortly after settling in Winfield that Ruby was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.


Ruby began work at a local orchard, packing apples. She then went on to work at Winfield Post Office for many years, and became a correspondent for the local Vernon News and Kelowna Courier newspapers, reporting all the weddings, deaths and community events that occurred.  Ruby was  active with the church all her life, was Secretary of the Anglican Church Guild and was a charter member (founding member) of the Hospital Auxiliary.


In May 1962, Ruby and Dame Laura Knight visited the Imperial War Museum in London to view their famous painting once more and Ruby and John visited family members still living in South Wales.


Ruby and John became well respected members of their community and enjoyed their home in Winfield. Even during their time together in Canada, Ruby and John could not escape publicity;  their history and stories being profiled in several local newspapers. Ruby gradually lost her independence, cared for over the years by her devoted husband, John in their “cute, little green cottage in an apple orchard. Despite her difficult health problems, Ruby always remained cheerful and positive.


Sadly, John died in 2003 and Ruby died a year later on 28 June, 2004 aged 83. They are both interred at Lakeview Memorial Gardens Cemetery, Kelowna, BC.


(We would like to thank Mrs Irene Samuels, (Ruby’s niece) and members of the Loftus family for helping us tell Ruby’s story).




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