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Merthyr Tydfil & district

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Rails from Dowlais span the world !

Almost every railway company in England bought rails from companies such as Dowlais, Cyfartha and Ebbw Vale. The foriegn market was almost limitless; from the early 1830's onwards, Cyfartha had a lively trade with the United States, and by 1850 Crawshay had invested a quarter of a million pounds in American railways. Rails of Welsh manufacture were laid between Warsaw and Vienna in 1837. In the 1840s, there was extensive business with Russia and it was probably on a rail bearing the letters GL (Guest Lewis, the trade mark of Dowlais) that poor Anna Karenina met her end.

[Based on The History of Wales, John Davies 1994 . Debbie Jones 13.3.2000 G]


The Siberian connection

At one time those who transgressed in Russia were sent to Siberia and if they went there by train they could thank John Hughes and his team of Welsh workers for organising the laying of the first tracks. The Russians were so pleased with his efforts in the  C19 that they named a town, Yuzovka, after him. If they asked him where he came from he would say " Merthyr Tudful in Wales ".

[ Based on "A Helping Hand by W J Jones 1996. Gareth Hicks]


An unfortunate visit to Merthyr Tydfil in 1802

In 1802, Nelson the hero of the Battle of Trafalgar visited Merthyr Tydfil with Lady Hamilton. They spent some time in the Star Inn as the guests of Miss Jenkins the inn keeper. To celebrate the visit to Merthyr, a cannon was fired off at the nearby lime kilns, which unfortunately resulted in the death of a young boy.

Lady Hamilton was so upset at the incident that she paid the lads parents eight guineas for funeral expenses so that he could be interred in a decent manner.

[Based on a story from 'Valley Views', published by Merthyr Tydfil Library. Debbie Jones 19.3.2000 G]

According to T. E. Clarke's 'A Guide to Merthyr Tydfil and the Traveller's Companion' first published in 1848, the cup from which Nelson drank on his visit to the Star Inn was kept by the licensee as a memento of his visitand could be viewed in the possession of the then landlady of the Star.

[Karen Kousseff  20.3.2000 G]


The Dowlais Works- -the Guest connection

From "Working Iron in Merthyr Tydfil" by Richard Hayman, Merthyr Tydfil Heritage Trust 1989

The Dowlais works was founded in 1759, by Isaac Wilkinson with partner John Guest. In 1787 John Guest was succeeded by his son Thomas, followed by his son John Josiah Guest in 1807. JJG was a liberal, Merthyr's first MP (1832)and responsible for setting up the first educational facilities for the workers, also served on the Board of Health. Dowlais contracts included: Baltimore & Susquehanna Railway 1835, Berlin & Leipzig Railway 1836, St Petersburg-Pauloffsky Railway 1836, New Orleans & Nashville Railway 1836, East India Co, Great Western, South Eastern and Dover & East Counties Railways (1840s). Before 1815 lucrative contracts for iron arose out of the American War of Independence, Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars in France.

From "The History of Merthyr Tydfil" by C Wilkins, pub. Joseph Williams & Sons, Merthyr Tydfil 1908:

On 26th November 1852 JJ Guest died. All business stopped despite it being a Saturday, everyone was very subdued.

[Karen Kousseff  5.4.2000 G]


Mr Gypson's balloon

From "A Guide to Merthyr Tydfil and The Traveller's Companion" by T. E. Clarke (written in 1848, now published by Cardiff Academic Press ISBN 1 899025 01 4):

"In the autumn of 1847, the inhabitants of Merthyr and the neighbourhood were gratified by witnessing the ascent of Mr Gypson in a balloon, being the first time one had been seen in this town. Thousands of persons were congregated on the tips and every available place where a glimpse of this novelty could be obtained. The balloon hovered for some time over the town, and as it passed the Plymouth iron works the great heat caused it to ascend considerably higher. The aeronaut alighted safely near Quakers' Yard, and returned to Merthyr the same evening."

[Karen Kousseff 7.4.2000 G]


The market place

From "A Guide to Merthyr Tydfil and The Traveller's Companion" by T. E. Clarke (written in 1848, now published by Cardiff Academic Press ISBN 1 899025 01 4):

Writing in 1848 the author describes the principal market at that time, held  every Saturday:

"There is now a good market-house, which stands on about two acres of land, and is lighted in the evening by upwards of 90 gas-burners. [...] The centre of this spacious place is occupied by traders in butter, cheese, bacon, &c., drapery, shoes, &c., and all kinds of hardware, toys and sweetmeats, forming quite a bazaar. On each side of the market are butchers' stalls, 112 in number; the meat is of an excellent quality; adjoining is the market for vegetables, great quantities of which are supplied from Bristol; those who attend with butter are principally from Carmarthenshire.

"Besides the gas-lights many hundreds of candles illuminate the building; if the walls were white it would give the whole an air of greater comfort. Business is generally conducted in a peacable manner, the only interruption to general good order spring from the rivalry of the dealers in "rock", who seem to drive a flourishing trade. There are two bookstalls well furnished with books and the periodicals of the day.

"In the front of the market is a spacious square, which, in summer time, is frequently filled with exhibitions of all kinds. We have seldom seen such heterogeneous mass as presented itself to our view as we passed through the motley crowd one evening in 1847. The noise and hootings of rival comedians and musicians, who, foremost of a band of heroes, were advocating the respective merits of their performances, tended to produce a scene of tumult and confusion upon which "Babel" might have been written with some truth."

[Karen Kousseff  8.4.2000 G]


Blast furnaces

By 1850 there were 41 blast furnaces in the Merthyr area, operated day and night with only the occasional shut-down for cleaning. Daylight would be replaced at sunset not by darkness but by the light and flashes of all the fires, and the glow of the smouldering tips. With the continuous heat and noise caused by the iron-making process, it must have been an 'infernal' place to be.
On this subject, here are two eye-witness descriptions from 1848:

From "A Guide to Merthyr Tydfil and The Traveller's Companion" by T. E.Clarke (written in 1848, now published by Cardiff Academic Press ISBN 1 899025 01 4):
" The scene at night is beyond conception; the immense fires give a livid hue to the faces of the workmen, and cause them to present a most ghastly appearance; while sounds of blast and steam, rolling mills, and massive hammers worked by machinery or wielded by the brawny arms of athletic sons of Vulcan, preclude the possibility of being heard when speaking."

And from "Working Iron in Merthyr Tydfil" by Richard Hayman) (published by Merthyr Tydfil Heritage Trust 1989, ISBN 1-871404 04 5)
This is a quote from a visitor to the area in 1848 called Charles Cliffe:
"The vivid glow and roaring of the blast furnaces near at hand - the lurid light of distant works - the clanking of hammers and rolling mills, the confused din of massive machinery - the burning headlands - the coke hearths, now if the  night be stormy, bursting into sheets of flame, now rapt in vast and impenetrable clouds of smoke - the wild figures  of the workmen, the actors in this apparently infernal scene - all combined to impress the mind of the spectator wonderfully."

[Karen Kousseff  9.4.2000 G]


Puddling

Puddling was a dangerous and highly skilled job, and the men worked in eight-hour shifts rather than the more usual twelve hour shifts. In the iron making process an initial refining results in 'pig iron', and a furtherrefining is needed to make it into the finer and more malleable 'wrought iron'. This second refining, during which process any last traces of carbon and oxygen are removed, is called puddling. Pieces of pig iron are put into the puddling furnace and heated until they become soft.

T. E. Clarke ("A Guide to Merthyr Tydfil and The Traveller's Companion", written in 1848, now published by Cardiff Academic Press ISBN 1899025 01 4)   takes up the story....

"When the whole is melted, the puddler stirs it about in all directions; in doing this he is obliged to be constantly changing his tools, which soon become red-hot, and are plunged, as they are withdrawn, into a vessel of water to cool them. When the liquid mass loses its fluid property, and assumes the appearance of a loose granulated mass, the external particles of which appear in vivid combustion, whilst the main portion of it is less brilliant, these appearances indicate that the metal is "coming round to nature," as the puddler terms it; he continues to move the mass about vigorously till it becomes so thick and tenacious as to stick together and form into lumps. At this time the puddler, with great dexterity, exposed to a severely scorching heat, and a light of the most dazzling brilliancy (which no ordinary person can even look at but for an instant), separates the metal into masses resembling in size and figure quartern loaves of bread, but weighing from 50lbs. to 80lbs. each, called "puddled balls"; and having arranged his batch of metal upon their vitrified bed, they are left there exposed to the continuation of the heat, until they can be successively extracted and delivered [...] to the shingler, who takes it up in a pair of tongs and heaves it on to the depressed part of an anvil [...]. At the same time another shingler, whose turn it is (there being two shinglers to each hammer), moves and turns the ball about on the anvil with the tongs, between every blow of the hammer; this operation reduces, by a very few blows, the shapeless ball into a bloom; this bloom is a rough square bar, about 20 inches long and 4 or 5 inches thick [...]. It is, while of a bright red-heat, passed through the shingling-rolls, and brought into the form of a flat bar. This bar is, immediately it has passed through the rolls, and while it is still red-hot, put between the jaws of a pair of shears, worked by the engine, and cut into the lengths required."

[Karen Kousseff  10.4.2000 G]


Puddling was the discovery of Henry Cort in 1784. By puddling, it was possible to make fifteen tons of iron bars in twelve hours rather than one ton as before, and so rapidly was the invention adopted by the ironmasters of Merthyr it bcame known as 'the Welsh method'.

From A History of Wales. John Davies Allen Lane 1993

[Steve Keates 10.4.2000 G]


A first for Merthyr Tydfil

The first locomotive in the world to haul a load on tracks carried ten tons of iron [ and 70 passangers] from Penydarren, MT, to Abercynon. This happened in 1804, over 20 years before Stevenson's Rocket service from Stockton to Darlington.[The tracks for the latter line were made in Ebbw Vale].  The fact that the famous loco was built in Merthyr  by Richard Trevithick is commemorated in a well hidden corner of the town, a humble and insignificant tribute to a remarkable engineer who worked in Wales.

[ Based on "A Helping Hand "by W J Jones 1996. Gareth Hicks] 


Dr Joseph Parry [1841-1903]

Described as the "Supreme Composer of America", Joseph Parry was born in Merthyr Tydfil. He left Wales with his family in 1854 for Danville, Pennsylvania when 14 years old , he worked in an ironworks there but returned later to Britain to study at the Royal Academy of Music and Cambridge University. He returned to Danville and opened a College of Music there.  He was later appointed Head of Music at Aberystwyth College and , between teaching, composing and his choir , he was a very busy man, also criss-crossing to the USA many times. He ended his career as a lecturer in Music at Cardiff and is buried at Penarth.

He composed over 400 hymn tunes , the best known being   Aberystwyth . His opera Blodwen was the first written in Welsh. Most male voice choirs have his Myfanwy in their repertoire , his tune but it is uncertain who composed the actual words to the latter.

[ Partly based on "A Helping Hand "by W J Jones 1996. Gareth Hicks 12.5.2000 G] 


Gloomy Customs Report for the port of Cardiff 1782

Re; Coal from Merthyr Tydfil to the coast and the competion of Swansea and Llanelli with the port of Cardiff in the 1780's

'We have no coal exported from this port, nor ever shall, as it would be too expensive to bring it down here from the internal part of the country'.

Coal Society [quoting from E L Chappell. History of the Port of Cardiff, 1939] David Egan Gomer Press 1987

[Steve Keates 4.5.2000 G]


China in Merthyr

From Second Stages in Welsh Ancestry , Rowlands & Rowlands;

'......what today would be termed the 'inner city areas --- ' 'the worst areas lay immediately north and south of the main retailing area, at Ynysgau-China and Caedraw respectively......'

'The most notorious was known under a variety of aliases, usually China or the Cellars'....... 'in 1847 Commission on State of Education in Wales succinctly described it as ...'a mere sink of thieves and prostitutes, such as unhappily constitutes an appendage to every large town.''

From 'Writers of Wales' series - Jack Jones by Keri Edwards,. on page 25 is written:

'Fortunately the Parry family [Joseph Parry's family] escaped the disease in the 1849 epidemic [in MT] when over 1600 died [from cholera], and Joseph [Parry] survived from the pages of 'Bidden To The Feast' to become the central character in the biographical 'Off to Philadelphia in the Morning' [1947] The latter book describes the theatres and Opera house, and also the Market Hall in Merthyr.

[Jill Muir 9.5.2000 G]


Cholera and living conditions in Merthyr

Housing conditions were very bad in South Wales as like other parts of the UK. The iron works and coal mines at Merthyr Tydfil attracted 1,000s or workers and families. Many worked in the pits, and many of the small 2 or 3 bedroomed properties housed three or four families, leading to overcrowding and its consequent illnesses. If there was a toilet, this would be a shared one between three or four cottages.

This lack of basic sanitary requirements led to three cholera epidemics, occurring in the hot summers of 1849,1854 and 1866. On the 22 August 1866, 'the family Connolly occupied the house No 9 Sunny Bank, it is a small four-roomed house - total cubic space of the three sleeping rooms about 1200 feet. Here thirteen persons slept nightly. The wife was first seized; to her bedroom was a small window about 18" square, outside was a heap of ashes saturated with putrifying house slops. Eight others of this family were attacked within five days; they were removed to the Cholera Hospital'. The report goes on to say that Mrs Connolly probably caught the disease by visiting No 16 Sunny Bank, where a woman had died. The report describes No 16 as: ' intemperate and dirty' while the cesspool in the garden was overflowing and the floor of the sleeping room thickly covered with dirt and filth'

[See Pages 66 & 67 Table XVII from Report of Thomas Dyke, Medical Officer of Health, Merthyr Tydfil.]

Based heavily on pages 63 & 64 of 'Children Working Underground', by R.Meurig Evans of the Schools Service, National Museum of Wales 1979.

[Jill Muir 24.5.2000 G]


The Truck system and Tommy Shops

A factor probably contributing to the general discontent amongst Merthyr iron workers leading to the Merthyr Rising of 1831  was the Truck system. Instead of using normal coin of the realm, some Ironmasters paid their workers in special coins or credit notes, known as "truck".These could only be exchanged at shops, known as Tommy Shops which were owned by the iron companies themselves. Although "truck" wasn't as widespread in Merthyr, as say in Monmouthshire, several Merthyr ironmasters held on to their Company Shops , paid their workers in "truck" and also encouraged them to get into debt. Many of the workers objected to both the price and quality of the goods sold in these Company Shops.

To illustrate the point,  the following  table is based on prices in 1830 in Company Shops in Monmouthshire compared with those in ordinary market shops.The second figure is that for Company Shops;

Flour, per pack =2/4d. =2/6d.
Bacon, 4 lb =2/0d. =3/0d.
Mutton, 2 lb =10d .=1/0d.
Beef, 2 lb =8d .=11d.
Sugar, 1 lb =8d. = 9d.
Butter, 1 lb =9d. =1/0d.
Tea, 2 oz. =8d. = 1/0d.
Cheese, 2 lb =1/0 =1/6d.
Totals =8s.11d. = 11s. 8d.

Source; Monmouthshire Merlin, March 1830.

[Based on People, Protest and Politics in C19 Wales, by David Egan. Gareth Hicks 27.5.2000 G]


Richard Crawshay and Cyfarthfa Iron Works

One of the early ironmasters was Richard Crawshay, son of a Yorkshire farmer. Born c1739 he ran away to London at age 16 and spent some time there in the iron trade as a warehouseman. He married his employer's daughter and moved to South Wales in 1786 when he leased the Cyfarthfa site from Anthony Bacon. Bacon had set the works up in 1765 and made great profit on government contracts for the American war, and from exporting iron and ore.

Richard Crawshay made the Cyfarthfa iron works the largest in Great Britain and employed in the 1790s more than 400 men and boys. By the time he died in 1810 he was reputed to have made a fortune of one and a half million pounds.

Originally he was in partnership with James Cockshutt and William Stevens but this was dissolved in 1791. They were replaced by Watkin George. For the period 1788-1791 exist the first of the extant  Crawshay ledgers and many letters written by him , mostly from his London office. here is an edited  selection of items  though to be of particular interest;

..................................................................

Jan 7th 1788

Invoice of 58 Iron Cannon, 59 carriages and 775 shot shipped by Richard Crawshay in the Count de Nord, Cap'n Waters for Constantinople.....consigned to Messrs Humphreys & Co merchants at Constantinople for sale..

56 Guns---24 pounders; 2 Guns---32 pounders. [149 tons,7 cwts,3 qs,5 lbs @12/-] =1792.14.8
59 Carriages at 6 each =354.-.-.
683 Round shot---24 pdr ; 92 Round shot---32 pdr. [8 tons, 8 cwt, 2 Qs, 15 lbs] = 84.6.4
Total Invoice 2231.1.0.

To H & Jno Humphreys & Co;
During the late war I was concerned in a considerable contract with our Government for Iron Ordnance at the ending of which some were thrown on the hands of all Contractors, for a variety of reasons that an ingenious Board can invent when no longer in want of the Stores---amongst which were 58 cannon of 24 and 32 pounders which have undergone the proof at Woolwich. They are all cast solid and bored of the very best metal....and when disposed of remit to me the proceeds in good Bills on Paris or England...the latter I prefer.
N.B I have invoiced these guns at 12 only ....our Gov't gave 18 all the war and I hope your sales will produce me still more..................

......................................................................[Gareth 12 July 2000 G]

Jan 23 1788

Letter to Wm Dent indicating "that he is to build 1/16 of ship building for Capt Wordworth at Harwich---to supply iron stores as are wanted for the ship. viz. Kentledge, Guns, Shott and anchors."

I love certainties in contract and therefore give the prices of our articles, viz;

Qnt Kentledge 23---5.10. per ton
Anchors delivered at Harwich---38
Guns proved and delivered at Woolwich---16+
Round Shott---12
Double lead---15

To be paid for as the other supplyers of Stores are."

[ Kentledge is pig iron used as permanent ballast]

.........................................................................

8 Feb 1788

Letter to James Cockshutt; " but I am sorry to repeat , business is not your Forte---and how are we to continue those Concerns gives me no small uneasiness"

[ those means here the works of Cyfarthfa and Penydarren]

..............................................................................

26 Feb 1788

Letter to James Cockshutt; "I desire you will not think of sending Stamped Iron to Cardiff---its disgraceful enough to sell our Metal in Blooms---in Stamps ruinous---either determine on more masterly conduct  or give it quite up. ...........................He [Mr Cort ]says you should make 25 Tons per week---I wish it may prove so."

...................................................................................

20 March 1788

Letter to  James Cockshutt ; " I am really weary with alarms and finding fault with your inattention or exertions or want of abilities.......I hope that we shall meet in April with more pleasure than has for 1 1/2 years past been the case. Your sincere friend RC."

....................................................................................

30 Sept 1789

Letter to  James Cockshutt ; " I received yours of the 23 inst. concerning the Balance Sheet---a frightful one it is and has kept me awake all night and further comments by letter will be no good."

......................................................................................

25 Feb 1790

Letter to  James Cockshutt ;" We want a man of business in our Concerns---at present there's not one among you. Leave off useless calculations."

..........................................................................................

15 July 1791

Letter to Col. W. Dalrymple ;"  Perseverance is my motto......To return to the Iron Trade I am a pretty considerable Ironmaster---and with 2 Furnaces of my own and 2 of my neighbours whose whole product I take---we produce jointly 140 tons of pigs weekly---and my Forges and Mill are able to make 100 tons a week......We find from experience when we make most the quality is the better."

.....................................................................

24 August 1791

Letter to  James Cockshutt ; " ...let us prepare ourselves for a sale or some mode of disposing of our Works--- this government of them cannot be endured."

......................................................................

29 August 1791

Letter to Brook Watson Esq. ; " To make pig iron cheap and in quantity with one furnace only at 25 tons a week should be the first object---and the probable outift[sic] before you bring any to market would be at least 8000 exclusive of Royalty which from the original letter is only 300......In the 8000 I have only calculated on building a Furnace, Workmens habitation and opening the mines, carriages and common tools for the Work--- I will allow 3 years before you are fairly at work."

......................................................................

1 Sept 1791

Letter to  William Stevens and William Crawshay, Gents;

[the detailed accounts for Cyfarthfa  show a net profit for the half year of 849] ".....it appears we have been trading 5 1/2 years with an enormous capital for the supposed profit.............to very bad management this great fall off from a reasonable profit must be attributed---the last 6 months were the worst---loss when our expectations were raised to expect a real profit..The capital load on myself.....can no longer be tolerated...........settle a plan for JCs immediately withdrawel from the Works..........

.............................................................................

A corner is turned

The partnership was indeed dissolved  on 22 September 1791 and things changed dramatically over the next few years. The Crawshay Ledger Accounts for the period 1791-1798 start with Richard Crawshay's capital standing at 14,369 and cash in hand 69.2.4 but by 1798 the figures had changed to 103,908 and 27,325 respectively.

..................................................................................

The Ledgers and Letters for this period show the following  items of interest;

.................................

Names in the Cash Book

The book has details of Cash Book entries which appear to relate to the year 1791, the following names are shown therein.

Accounts debited; Rees Jones, brickmaker -11.4d ; Thomas Hawkins, moulder -7.1d.; Cwmcanncei Colliery 118.18.8d. : New Canal Colliery 72.3.3d. ; Glenderis Colliery 42.7.4d.

Accounts credited ; William Gould 4.10.0d.; David Davies [smith] 2.3.6d. ; Cyfarthfa Club 3.8.9d. ; William Onions 3.9.0d. ; William David 3.19.5d. ; Trenchback Houses -6/0d. ; John Cove & Co 7.1.3d.

.........................................................................................[ Just this section Gareth 13 July 2000 G]

8 Sept 1791

Invoice for 142.0.0.d  in respect of   383 Bars of Iron shipped by Richard Crawshay on board the Mary Francis Capt'n Brine for Smerna.................

................................................................................................

29 Dec 1791

Letter to  William Reynolds ; " I am happy to tell you that at last overcome the evils of puddling and am now at work making good iron about 772 tons of Blooms weekly from each air furnace."

....................................................................................................

9 Jan 1792

Letter to Thos Cooke ; " Mill yield is at 21 1/2 good ".........The Mill will not roll 50 tons Mill bars 3 1/2 inch  in 2 days---and till you increase your own qty of Blooms it ought to be done without night work @ 50/- a ton weight brt and fetched away. With respects to your Colleagues I am RC."

.............................................................................................................

30 April 1793

Letter to Wm Pitt ;

Crawshay is complaining about the effect of the French War on business and '"that the blame should lay on the Bank Directors who insisted on giving a gradual check to the floating credit which had raised our country to the greatest pitch of opulance in the trading world have stabbed it to the heart and done more mischief than they can ever redress.  To check credit at the moment war commenced was a narrow minded policy in them and a great danger to the nation."...... " The executive government of which you are the head is looked up to by the great manufacturers of the nation in whose fortunes and talents give employment to the labouring part of the kingdom and on their powers to keep them employed I firmly believe is the internal peace of our country."....."And if I dare presume to ask one favour from you its now that my London House may be protected with some temporary support from Government or what other means may meet your friendly ideas. I can give you plenty of security in Bar Iron or Shares in the Glamorganshire Canal for more than the want which I estimate at 20,000."

[ Note; For those not so well up on their British parliamentary history William Pitt [the Younger] was the Prime Minister, a Tory who carried out fiscal reforms and union with Ireland, also became embroiled in the war with France in 1793.]

........................................................................................[Just this section Gareth 14 July 2000 G]

6 May 1793

From Cyfarthfa, a letter to Rt Hon. Lord Hawksbury ;.........."at this spot I have established a manufacture of Bar Iron for as 4000 tons a year which gives employment to many hundreds of people, a Canal down to Cardiff to conduct our mountain labour to the sea and after a great toil and expense of money near 50,000 I have made it productive of profit to my satisfaction...."

.........................................................................................

14 March 1794

To Lord Dinevor---a letter complaining about " an extraordinary   tax proposed by Mr Pitt on all Slates, Stone and Marble carried by sea from one port to another of 20 for every 100 value"....... in the letter Crawshay says  " I beseech you speak to Lords Grenville and Hawksbury about it.........but I know that in the great press of business, l etters from ordinary men are often thrown aside........"

...............................................................................[Just this section Gareth 14 July 2000 G]

1795-6

Letter to James Cockshutt who has been pestering him for money ;" ...talk of legal action. By 2nd May 1796 Crawshay, through Stevens, seems to want to give him 1000 as a final payment .... [ under the partnership dissolution agreement] .." to have done with him".

.........................................................................................

3 Nov 1797

Letter to Thomas Erskine Esq. ; " I sincerely wish you long enjoyment of the wise retreat you have made from Business---that will never be my lot. I must die in harness having created a giant that nobody will buy of me---and cannot afford to give it away---its now perfectly competent to make 10,000 tons of bar annually--- if we had a peace would certainly make that quantity or more next year---" for I must do more than any other man or my emulation is not gratified.."

........................................................................................

[Based on  "Accounting, Costing and Cost Estimation[Welsh Industry 1700-1830]" by Haydn Jones 1985, Gareth Hicks G ]


Glamorganshire Canal

In the 1790 s iron was moved from Cyfarthfa to Cardiff by road. The ironmasters of Merthyr at this period stated that it was costing them more than 10,000 a year in transport costs to move products to Cardiff, the wagons carrying no more than 2 tons of iron at a time.  Later [ in 1794]  when the Glamorganshire Canal was opened transportation was to become easier and less costly . Richard Crawshay recorded in his diary;

" that which 8 years ago was damn'd impracticable is now finished to the Sea Lock with a fall of 568 feet in 27 miles--through rocks and over a steep mountain--thro' bogs, gravel, sand and almost every strata of earth ".

[Based on  "Accounting, Costing and Cost Estimation[Welsh Industry 1700-1830]" by Haydn Jones 1985, Gareth Hicks 16 July 2000 G ]


Crawshay succession

Richard Crawshay's eldest son was William, who took over responsibility for the Works on the death od his father in 1810. He in turn was succeeded by his son William II in 1834.

Based on "Accounting, Costing and Cost Estimation[Welsh Industry 1700-1830]" by Haydn Jones 1985, Gareth Hick s ]


Dowlais Iron Company

From Dowlais Iron Company Letter Books[Copy Letters 1782-94]

William Taitt, son in law of John Guest, was in charge of selling iron at Cardiff and also of policy at Dowlais.

The early years of a particular enterprise were not necessarily attended with much certainty of market conditions and cost of production and selling prices were not always known. Quoting a price on the basis of a cost estimate was avoided and [ most unusually] the final bargain was struck on a mutually agreed basis.

Here is a letter written by Taitt to one James Lukin;

"Inclosed you have a Bill of lading for Twenty Eight tons dark grey Pig iron shipped on board the William and Mary, William Godfrey master, which hope will arrive safe and merit your Approbation. Not having sent any Iron to London this year, I do not know the Price, but shall be perfectly satisfied in leaving it to you, and when you have received and tried the Iron [ which is much superior to the Iron formerly from this Work] I'll thank you inform me what you think of it. We shall have another furnace at work in about another month when shall be happy to be favor'd with your future Commands."

[Based on  "Accounting, Costing and Cost Estimation[Welsh Industry 1700-1830]" by Haydn Jones 1985, Gareth Hicks ]   

More from Dowlais Letter Books.

The great ironmasters of the C19 had reports of affairs concerning their works very regularly and this is part of such a report dated 13 January 1832 from Thomas Evans, agent, to Josiah John Guest, controlling proprietor with nine sixteenth share of the Dowlais Iron Works. Its content is interesting ,covering the Truck Act, coal theft, meal breaks,  sacking a man etc;  although the  meaning isn't always totally clear.

"....................We are at work on the American Rails, and they turn out very well, a Gentleman from the United States is here inspecting the work, and highly approves of them. Mr Ogden has given the remaining 250 tons of Bagnell to make at 8.5s.0d per ton, besides saving the Insurance from Cardiff to Liverpool.
Perhaps you may not recollect that on Monday next the Truck bill comes into operation, and all the Gentlemen mean to draw up a document for the Men to sign, agreeable to what the law requires.
Mr Meyrick's clerk has drawn out a form and Mr Crawshay, Johnson and Pendarran have had them, would you please to have them done also. Petherick informs us that their iron is extremely cold short,and that he cannot at all account for the reason, and their Coal furnace is and has been making white iron for a considerable time.
Old William Harry has been ill for some time, would it not be better to select some sharp fellow to inspect the Pudlers and when William gets better  let him be employed to keep the time, and wait at the Lodge Gate, where some person must be engaged, as the [ re is] a quantity of Coal stolen from the yard now.  His wag[es], say 18/- per week would be saved by keeping a sharp lookout on the time spent at Meals by the men, and there is no place more eligible for that business than the Lodge. Before you left home you expressed a dislike to William Rees, and if I mistake not said that you had given him notice to quit , he is still employed, not considering that you gave me directions respecting him I did not, of course, think it right in me to stop him without first consulting you."

[Note; The Truck Act was passed in 1831, for most employees payment in truck orders was declared void and illegal. The Truck system revolved round the employer having his own shop where goods were sold to employees on credit, usually dearer than normal, and paying the men in requisitions instead of money.

[Based on  "Accounting, Costing and Cost Estimation[Welsh Industry 1700-1830]" by Haydn Jones 1985, Gareth Hicks ] 


School visits in 1856 -Merthyr

Feb 19th;

"I had partly arranged before Mr Baxter came to Wales that he should pay a visit to this important Town, in order to try again, whether we could have awakened the numerous and influential Dissenters of the place to a sense of duty towards the rising generation. But Mr Baxter's time was too short and other engagements so numerous that we could not go then. I found that the feeling for having a B.S [British School ]here is now stronger than ever. It is a wonderful fact that the proprietors of the Works in the Town, Penydarren and Cyfarthfa, do not put their schools on unsectarian principles. There are 8 National schools in the Town, and not one British School, although the number of Dissenters are at least 10 for every one of the Churchmen. There is now a better prospect than I have ever seen before."

School visits in 1856-Abercanaid and Pentre-bach

Feb 20th;

"These places are populous districts on both sides of the River Taff near Merthyr. They are connected with the extensive works at Pentre-bach, where National schools have been established many years ago. Here again the Dissenters are obliged to submit to Church Catechism, and Church attendance.  There is no public school on unsectarian principles , at Abercanaid, Pentre-bach, or Troedyrhiw, in this neighbourhood although they have dissenting Chapels numerous."

[From the Journal of William Roberts ['Nefydd'] in The National Library of Wales Journal Vol lX/1, 1955. Gareth 15 Nov 2000 G]


"One of the most interesting places in the United Kingdom"

The contrast between the poverty of iron smelting in the west [ of south Wales], compared with its prosperity further east, can best be realised from the description of a visit to Merthyr Tydfil  c1780 by a Swedish metallurgist [P Mantoux].

" Some twenty years ago,  i.e. c1780, it was but an insignificant village, but the works now established there have in a few years made it one of the most interesting places of  the United Kingdom "

There, on a length of half a Swedish mile, in the narrow Taff Valley, he counted thirteen blast furnaces , each capable of producing an average 40 tons of pig-iron a week. In the Pen-y-darran works alone, he was shown 3 blast furnaces, 3 refining furnaces, and 25 puddling furnaces. The mechanical equipment was most impressive. At Cyfarthfa, the water-wheel which worked the forge bellows was 52 ft in diameter. There were steam engines everywhere, 70-80 h.p engines. The factories seemed like towns filled with hurrying peoples ; one, with its dependent mines, employing 900 workmen. The owner, Samuel Homfray, was said to employ in his various works about 4,000 men.

[Based on The Economic Development of Swansea and of the Swansea District to 1921. By D Trevor Williams. University College of Swansea Pamphlet 4.  1940. Gareth 27 Jan 2001 G]

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Rhondda

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There's tidy !

'Bylaws came into effect 21 Aug 1879 . They not only covered the layout of streets and buildings but also placed obligations on the occupiers of houses to clean adjoining pavements at least once a day, to clean privies, earth closets and ash pits [not to do so could lead to a penalty of 1] and to insure the removal of household rubbish'.

So that's why Rhondda women were noted for being scrupulous, washing their fronts, doorsteps, windowsills etc. There was a good reason.

[See Fisk, p 37, Ystradyfodwg Local Board, Bye Laws 1879. Jill Muir 29.3.2000 ]


Rhondda-food and cleanliness

Contemporary evidence suggests that food was a major item of expenditure in the Rhondda miner's budget; for the arduous nature of his daily employment demanded that he should eat as well as possible. The miner lived mostly on bread, butter, broth, vegetables, and the staple diet at work was bread and cheese. The principal meal was taken in the evening after work hours and called 'tea' but in the 1840's, tea drinking itself was a somewhat unusual and expensive innovation. Some of the newer houses built towards the middle of the century possessed a small garden where the miners grew their own potatoes and kept a pig and a few chickens. Older natives of the Lower Rhondda emphasize the cleanliness of the colliers on those days, for in mining parlance, they 'washed all over' daily which was a marked contrast to the habit of most of miners of the Scottish or Lancashire Coalfields at that time. [There was a legend that washing the back weakened it, and some older colliers would allow that part to be washed only once a week!] Indeed, at the lodging house at Dinas, it was part of the bargain that the lodger should wash every night before going to bed. The interiors of the houses, too, were 'clean and neat' according to several reporters who visited the homes of the unfortunate Cymmer miners in 1856.

From  'Rhondda Valleys' by E.D.Lewis 1959

[Jill Muir 4.4.2000 G]


Rhondda-health

On the whole, the miner of the Lower Rhondda was undoubtedly better housed than his counterpart in the older industrial areas of South Wales and since the district was still largely rural until after 1860, he was spared those fearful scourges of smallpox, cholera and diphtheria which from time to time ravaged human life in crowded towns like Merthyr Tydfil.

From  'Rhondda Valleys' by E.D.Lewis 1959

[Jill Muir 4.4.2000 G]


Rhondda fair

'The emerald greenness of the meadows in the valley below was most refreshing. The air was aromatic with the wild flowers and mountain plants'

Charles Cliffe's contemporary description of the Rhondda Valley before the arrival of King Coal.

[Jill Muir 13.4.2000 G]


Rhondda cruel

Dec 10th 1880 Naval Colliery, Penygraig, Disaster

'The next rescue party to descend did so by way of the upcast shaft which was situated almost a mile away at the entrance to the Ely Valley. Inside the workings were scenes of utter confusion. The whole fabric of the mine had been ripped apart and the roadway was littered with the carcasses of pit ponies. Further along they came upon the bodies of sixteen miners. Some were found kneeling as if in prayer but one fireman David Lewis, showed the marks of a more violent death. He lay, arms folded across his chest, clutching an arrowlike sliver of wood, which had been hurled, into his body by the force of the explosion. A particularly moving discovery was that of an old collier David Lloyd, knelt on the threshold of the safety of the lamp room. Cradled in his arms lay the body of a small child. In an heroic effort to shield the child from the flames that had engulfed the mine, Lloyd had sacrificed his life. It was all the more poignant that such a sacrifice was in vain.'

'The Cruel Inheritance - Life and Death in the coalfields of Glamorgan 'Roger Williams and David Jones, pub; Village Publishing, Griffithstown Pontypool, Gwent.

Western Mail, Tuesday December 14 1880

Poor Dai Lloyd who, as a young man came from Llansamlet 48 years ago,[1832] was one of those conveyed to-day to his long, long home. He had spent an industrious life at Dinas, having passed much of it in the services of Messrs Coffin and Co. [Abstracted from a column by Morien].
David Lloyd was my great great great grandfather. He was a 70year old lamp locker at the time he died. Still working at 70! No Old Age pension for him. Born in Llansamlet in 1810 he came to live and work in Dinas for Walter Coffin in 1830, so it is written in our Family Bible extracts. I have a photograph of an oil painting of him. David was interred at Cymmer Chapel yard.
David had sons Edward from whom I descend, William, whose descendants still live in the area, some being members of Glam FHS, Richard who went to America, but must have died there early,[ and of which they is no trace] and a son Thomas who left the area for America. He settled in Pennsylvania and Thomas' Family Bible says: 'David Lloyd Father of the above named Thomas Lloyd was killed by an Explosion at the Penygraig Colliery, South Wales, on Friday morning December the 19th 1880. He was on his knees praying, with a young lad in his arms. Buried at Cymmer'.

[Jill Muir 13.4.2000 G]


Early places of Worship [ Pontypridd & district]

It is not known when the Gospel was first preached in Pontypridd and district, but it appears that Howell Harris visited the Lan Farm, near the old Quarries, north of Pontypridd in the direction of Llanwonno, and whatever results followed, it is certain that the religious flame kindled by him was never extinguished. A meeting place was built near the farmhouse in which, religious services were held for many years afterwards. The old building is still in existence, but is now used for agricultural purposes. It is said that the pulpit was still there when the late Mr Williams, The Glog, tenanted the farm, and in a letter received from the late Dr Roberts from one John Samuel, Philadelphia, it was stated that the services were held there once a month, or when a preacher would come that way. Sometimes the giants of the Revival would come and preach near the New Inn in preference to going to the Lan. Among those whom Mr Samuel heard was Jones, Langan. That must have been before any chapel was built in Pontypridd, for Mr Samuel left this district in 1809, and Jones, Llangan, died in 1810. It is not known how long these services were continued, but we are indebted to Mr Samuel for this and many other valuable facts concerning the beginning of Non-conformity in Pontypridd. Mr Samuel also gives the names of four persons residing in the neighbourhood at that time [1805-1809] who belonged to the Methodist denomination. It is also said on the same authority that some families who came into the district at that time belonged to the Baptist denomination, and that the churches of Merthyr furnished a succession of preachers so that hardly a Sabbath passed without a preacher from Sion or Ebenezer. Services were held in the open air and in private houses until the loft over the brew-house of the old White Horse Inn was made use of for the purpose.

[Jill Muir 19.4.2000 G]


That "famous" bridge at Pontypridd

Possibly the most famous bridge in the country, for all the wrong reasons , is the one built by William Edwards in Pontypridd . His first attempt in 1746 didn't last long, it fell down. He had 3 other attempts before it stood up but even then people had difficulty using it. His first mistake was making the sides too heavy, his last was to make the roadway too steep so that horses found it hard to pull loads up one side and hold them back going down the other. When the river was low carriers tended to ford it instead.

[ Based on "A Helping Hand "by W J Jones 1996. Gareth Hicks] 


Dr William Price

He was the  eccentric pioneer of cremation who gained some notoriety in 1884 when he burned the body of his deceased son, Iesu Grist. He also believed in free love, was a staunch vegetarian and was a familiar sight in Pontypridd where he could be seen walking around with a fox fur on his head. He died in 1893 in Pontypridd, there is a monument to him in Llantrisant.

[ Based on "A Helping Hand "by W J Jones 1996. Gareth Hicks] 

Follow on;

"In any history of Welsh eccentricity Dr Price would surely play the leading part. His everyday costume was that of an ancient Welsh Druid of the shamanic department. His hair was long & plaited, and over it he wore the head of a fox, its skin & tail hanging down behind and its legs dangling like tassels in front of his face. He dressed in a white tunic with a scarlet waistcoat and green cloth trousers. Thus clad he would visit his patients, treating them wherever possible with herbal remedies, and these together with his startling appearance were generally effective. He earned a great reputation as a healer. Though a qualified doctor, he despised most of his profession, accusing them of heartless exploitation of the sick, dealing in dangerous drugs and prescribing pills which suppressed symptoms of a disease without curing it. He never operated except, as he once confessed, when he needed the money. He was known, however, as a brilliant surgeon. One of his feats, long remembered, was grafting a bone from the leg of a calf onto the crushed leg of a coal-miner.

Born in 1800 into a large family of an inactive literary clergyman who neither preached nor published, William Price drew attention to himself at an early age by walking about the country naked. For that he was denounced by the local clergy, whose anathemas he returned with interest. His life was spent in constant opposition to every form of authority- clergymen, doctors, lawyers, politicians, landlords, mine owners and all their works and institutions- and he did all he could to discredit them. The only apparent god, and the only ruler he recognized was nature. At the age of eighty five Price was presented with a son by his young woman friend, Gwenllian, and recognised the fulfilment of prophecy. He named the boy Iesu Grist (Jesus Christ in Welsh) thus further enraging the chapel ministers. But Iesu was not to succeed him as Archdruid, for at the age of five months he died. His father took the body up to a hilltop, lit a great fire and began to cremate it - a proceeding quite unheard of at the time- in the sight of people coming out of chapel. It caused a riot. A crowd stormed the hilltop, siezed Dr Price and would have thrown him on his own fire if the police had not intervened. They took charge of the baby's half-burnt body, arrested Price and held him in gaol.

Dr Price & Gwenllian also had a daughter called Penelope .Another son (also called Ieusu Grist) was born to Dr Price and Gwenllian. The father was ninety at the time, vigorous as ever and still walking to visit patients in his fox-skin head dress. He died in January 1893. He left a will with precise instructions about the disposal of his body, It was to be cremated of course, ' thus helping the grass to grow and the flowers to bloom'

The above  was taken from a book called "Eccentric Lives & Peculiar Notions"

[Pat 14 Nov 2000 G]


Public Health , an  alternative description of the Rhondda from the Medical Officer of Health for Rhondda UDC  in 1893:

'The river contains a large proportion of human excrement, stable and pigsty manure, congealed blood, offal and entrails from the slaughterhouses, the rotten carcases of animals, cats and dogs.......old cast-off clothing, and bedding, and boots, bottles, ashes, street refuse and a host of other articles.......In dry weather the stench becomes unbeable."

Coal Society A history of the South Wales Mining Valleys 1840 - 1980 David Egan. Gomer Press 1987.

[Steve Keates 3.5.2000 G]


The rise and fall.....

Around 1850 the population of the Rhondda was under 1000. The first coal mines were opened about then and , with the influx of labour , by 1871 it had risen to 20,000. By the end of the C19 it was some 112,000. But the wheel turned and by 1985 it had slumped back to around 78,700, and is still going down.

[ Based on "A Helping Hand" by W J Jones 1996. Gareth Hicks 4.5.2000 G]


Birth Places of Inhabitants of Rhondda Valleys 1891 and 1911

This is only a selection of the figures, people came in from other places as well.

Birth Place--1891--1911

 

England

Devon --841--1,141

Gloucester--2,236--2,875

Somerset--3,291--4,057

Wales

Brecon--2,437--2,921

Cardigan--5,829--5,505

Carmarthen--4,024--4,601

Glamorgan--48,998--88,810

Monmouth--4,985--4,720

Montgomery--2,481--3,030

Pembroke--3,186--3,656

Foreign Countries--358--638

Figures used are from E D Lewis, The Rhondda Valleys(1959) and quoted in 'Coal Society' David Egan Gomer Press 1987

[Steve Keates 11.5.2000 G]


A Rhondda welcome!

Researching the Somerset migrations this gem leapt from the pages of a newly aquired book.

Around the early 1900's people were flooding into the valleys this gave rise to some discontent and derision among the older colliers, this Rhondda triban is quoted:

"Dylifa bechgyn ffolion
I'r cwm o hyd yn gyson
O Wlad yr Haf hwy ddont yn scryd,
Fel ynfyd haid o ladron."

[Foolish youths flock continously into the valley. They come in hordes from Somerset, like an idiot band of thieves.]

One conference of South Wales miners at this time was compelled to record a protest against the 'objectional practice' of taking on these newcomers as colliers regardless of their skill in coal cutting.

From The Rhondda Valleys. E.D. Lewis  Phoenix 1959

Those same miners families had come into the valleys themselves only 50-60 years before.

[Steve Keates 16.6.2000 G]


Chartists

... We leave Porth and go past Llwyncelyn pit over the Nyth-Bran meadow to the Hafod pit, near Tarren y Pistyll. Little do the peaceful inhabitants of Cwm George, the Hafod and Tarren y Pistyll know that in this spot were made the sharp spikes used by the Chartists when they revolted at Newport in 1836. There was a coal level somewhere under the Dareen, and in the smithy belonging to this level were forged many of the weapons of war with which the Chartists intended to terrify and destroy their enemies. The weapon made at the Hafod pit was a kind of three-pronged fork...

(From Glanffrwd: 'Hanes Plwyf Llanwynno' pub. 1888, translated from Welsh by Thomas Evans as 'Glanffrwd's History of Llanwonno' pub. 1950. David Pike  23.6.2000 G)


Newbridge, Pontypridd

The firm of Brown Lenox appears to have been formed in the early 1800s being contractors in 1808 and later taking a lease of a site in Millwall[London]. In  c 1818 it opened a works at Newbridge, Pontypridd, specifically to manufacture ships cables, anchors, chains etc. In its early days it did much work for the Admiralty, the firm is still in being [1985].

[Based on  "Accounting, Costing and Cost Estimation[Welsh Industry 1700-1830]" by Haydn Jones 1985, Gareth Hicks ]


Blaenllechau

A move from Aberdare to Blaenllechau Farm. The start of industry in Rhondda Fach and the search for steam coal.

David Davies (1797-1866) had acquired a small fund of fluid capital by his industry and enterprise, first as a tradesman with shops at Hirwaun and Aberdare, and later as the owner of steam coal collieries at Blaen-gwawr (Aberdare) and Abercwmboi. In 1857, he leased the mineral rights of 500 acres of Blaenllechau lands from the Thomas brothers and bought their small, disused level. David Davis's first objective was the Rhondda No3 seam, but his early mining difficulties were considerable. Transport, too, was a major problem, for all the machinery and materials had to be conveyed from the Aberdare Valley by horses, since the mountain track was too narrow for the passage of carts.

David Davis wrote in his Epic Poem;

"Heb heol yn unman, na dim ond ceffylau
I gludo yr ymborth a'r ger at y gwaith."

[Without a road anywhere, [and] nothing only horses-To carry the food and equipment to the works.]

The first efforts did not succeed Davies found that the No3 seam had 'dwindled to nothing' this was reported in the Cambrian of the 12 February 1858. His enterprise had reached a standstill.

While David Davies was attempting to find the No 3 his son Lewis Davies made a survey across the mountains from Aberdare to Blaenllechau, he advised his father to sink to a greater depth to win the steam coal seams. In August 1859 David Davies began sinking and struck the Four Feet seam on 14 June 1862 at the considerable depth of 278 yards. In time this proved a superior steam coal to the coal from Aberdare.

The TVR had pushed up from "Little Pit" Ynys-hir to Blaenllechau and the first load of steam coal was sent from Ferndale to Cardiff in the August of 1862.

Hanes-gerdd i'r Diweddar David Davies published in 1880
Adapted from The Rhondda Valleys E.D. Lewis Phionex 1959

[Steve Keates 21 July 2000 G]


A celebration in Pontypridd

In the August of 1851 John Calvert threw a party to all his friends and workmen to celebrate the success and establishment of his new pit at Gyfeillon. He had started sinking for the Rhondda No 3 seam in 1848 and in May 1851 struck the seam at a depth of 149 yards. He later established coke ovens at a cost of 17,000, and commenced a thriving trade in coke with the Great Western Railway Company.

Food for the party consisted of a Hereford Ox roasted whole in a specially prepared oven. A huge procession passed the pit with banners, emblems and bands from Gelliwastad, in Pontypridd, to the appointed place.

By 1864 Calvert sold the pit to the Great Western Railway Company and it became known as the Great Western Colliery. Calvert seems to be a bit of a party animal and to celebrate this festive occasion, he once more marshalled his colliers, who with shouldered picks, marched to Pontypridd to a great spread which he had prepared for them.

Adapted from 'The Pioneers of the Welsh Coalfield' by Elizabeth Phillips 1925 Western Mail

[Also attending the first bash was, I like to think, James Keates Coal Miner and family who's entry in the 1851 census puts him in the right place. The remains of the pit head can still be seen on the Gyfeillon Road just past Hopkinstown heading up the Rhondda. Steve Keates 23 July 2000 G]


School visits in 1856--Pontypridd

April 7th ;

"This place in connection with Trefforest Works, has a population of from 8,000 to 10,000, and strange to say, without any schools excepting 2 or 3 private ones, and a very inferior NS[National School]. The private ones are excepting one very inefficient. I have endeavoured 2 or 3 times to rouse the leading men, more especially the members and leaders of the various denominations to act as they themselves considered necessary to establish a B[British] school ; but hitherto, I think for want of spirited leaders, unsuccessful. It is a remarkable fact that in other neighbourhoods with about 1/5th of the prospects that we have here they took the matter up spiritedly and worked on successfully. But such places as this, Merthyr Tydfil, Aberystwyth, Haverfordwest, and the like, after a very long slumber may yet rise up with more energy as is the case at Cardigan and other places."

[From the Journal of William Roberts ['Nefydd'] in The National Library of Wales Journal Vol lX/1, 1955. Gareth 28 Nov 2000G]

School visits in 1856-- Gyfellion [Pontypridd]

April 8th ;

"In this place there are at  the Coalworks about 300 men in the employ of the Gt Western Co., and their children are numerous. There is a Parish Church near it, the Clergyman and his friends about two years ago built a commodious schoolroom in connection with the Church with Govt. aid, and intended to have the workmen to give [ through the influence of the Agent [Mr M'dougal Smith] so much per cent of their wages towards the maintenance of the N[National] School ; and gave out a word to the effect that he had obtained the Agent's consent. The workmen almost all being members and hearers in the Dissenting Chapels made it a point to ask Mr Smith if such was the case , and he said it was not and offered to the men his aid if they wished to build a school on liberal principles. They wanted some information as to how they should proceed and I was very glad to give it to them. The Church Schoolroom hitherto has been and probably will be of no use. "

[From the Journal of William Roberts ['Nefydd'] in The National Library of Wales Journal Vol lX/1, 1955. Gareth 28 Nov 2000G]

School visits in 1856---Gwaunyreirw

April 9th ;

"Messrs Jones & Joseph have in this place about 150 Workmen ; a new Work now being opened by Mr John Calvert and another work with about 200 workmen by Mr D James of Merthyr ; making altogether about 1000 workmen within about half a mile of each other. Messrs Jones & Joseph are anxious to have a good BS[British School], and if the others will co-operate they may easily succeed.  The men themselves, at least some of them, are also very anxious to have one. Mr Joseph has engaged a room to establish a school temporarily, in order to see how it will take, and what readiness will be manifested in the co-operation of the workmen by sending their children to school, and allowing a percentage of their wages to support it. So the matter stands at present. I promised to visit the place again, and therefore will give further information respecting it."

[From the Journal of William Roberts ['Nefydd'] in The National Library of Wales Journal Vol lX/1, 1955. Gareth 29 Nov 2000G]

School visits in 1856---Cymer

April 10th ;

"This place is much the same as the last mentioned. Mr Ensol's Coal Works have already 150 workmen and being now greatly extended, will have many more,--Messrs Thomas Jones & Thomas have about 200---Mr Crawshay have about 100 ; making together about 450 and a new Work now being opened by Messrs Jones & Shepherd. This neighbourhood therefore will be very populous. Messrs Thomas Jones & Thos are anxious to have a good B School, and are about to make the same experiment as Messrs Jones & Joseph in Gwaunyreirw, with hopes of success, and of ensuring the co-operation of the other proprietors."

[From the Journal of William Roberts ['Nefydd'] in The National Library of Wales Journal Vol lX/1, 1955. Gareth 29 Nov 2000G]


'The Gloran'

'Gloran' comes from the hunting cry!  Here is a piece from E.D.Lewis' book ' Rhondda Valleys'

"With the dawn the hunt began and such was the mettle and dash of these Rhondda huntsmen that it became a byeword in Blaenau Morgannwg - 'Ymswynwch rhag Gwyr y Gloran ' ('Beware of the Men of the Gloran') These 'genial, mercurial, and talkative 'Gwyr y Gloran', monoglot Welsh hill farmers had a physique, dress, manner and dialect of their own and were mostly of a different stock from the surrounding peasantry.' So completely Welsh was the district that Walter Davies (Gwallter Mechain) wrote in 1828 -'I hope that my scheme will remain as long as Welsh is spoken in Trawsfynydd in Meirionethshire and Ystradyfodwg in Glamorgan' - probably the most isolated and the most Welsh districts of which he could think." ( E.D.Lewis "The Rhondda Valleys")

[Jill Muir   G 11 Oct 2001]


Zoar Chapel, Penygraig

Extracted from Soarina, the Centenary Book of Zoar Chapel, Penygraig.

Around the year 1813, Mr. David gave a room in the lower house in White Rock Row (Terrace) for the purpose of holding religious meetings, and he furnished it with benches and provided a pulpit. It is believed that the famous Welsh preacher Christmas Evans preached from that pulpit and it was also used in the upper room from which the Baptist cause of Ainon, Tonyrefail was started in the year

Before Mr.David came to the place there was rarely any preaching in Dinas, though the Independents (Annibynwyr) at Cymmer arranged for a sermon here occasionally. Mr. David also invited Baptist, Independent and Methodist preachers and provided them with comfortable hospitality at his own expense.

After some years, a good man, a Methodist by the name of Moses Rowlands came here, and he was particularly active and was successful in establishing a Sunday School.

This room, in White Rock Row, was used fairly regularly for preaching meetings, prayer meetings, and Sunday School until 1825 when Penygelli School was built for the purpose of a Day School and religious services of the Baptists, Independents and Methodists. (i.e. Calvinistic not Wesleyan). This school building was used for dwelling houses when the British School was built.

That school formed part of Ysgoldy y Tai (school for the houses). Penygelli School stood near the road and opposite the entrance to Grovefield, the residence of Dr. E.N.Davies. The Baptists held monthly meetings at Penygelli school at which the following brethren preached:-Kenvyn Pisgah, Williams Trosnant, Jenkins Hengoed,and Roberts,Pontfaen, Cowbridge.

[Jill Muir G 28 Feb 2002]

PS.----The school [for the houses] was seemingly known locally as the 'Yellhouse' - my gt gt grandfather refers to this in his note book. Has anyone heard of this please?

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