Hide Articles List

6 articles on this Page



WELSH INDUS- TRIES. ANTHONY BACON AND THE BEGINNING OF CYFARTHFA. THE FIRST FUKXACK- JOHX WESLEY AT MEHTHYR. By CHARLES WILKINS, F.G. S. And vho was the great Anthony Eaoor., the man who preceded the Crawsliays, whose Hume was on every tongue a hundred years ilgu. REd of whom no memorial remains in Hone or graven imageThe most trust- count of iiijil i, liea worthy account of him is that he was a Dative of Whitehaven, famous for its iron ore Jteposifcs, largely used in the days of Anthony *"U at Plymouth; that he was a successful nifcichant in London ana, hearing 01 tne future of Lewis and Guest, travelled down 'es into Wales to see for himself if the reports were true of its being a land of iron and, con- •s^iuenily, gold. Xlie old inhabitants who knew him have |ong, Eeen dead, but the narrative I;lu been handed down from them, and is preserved m the history of the neighbourhood, that toe made his entry about 1763 into Merthyr, .0-Rd, there was no road down ths valley, must have come over the Waun Mountain. 7*18 Rioae of travel wao uy mvtie carixiig* *nd he put up at. the Star Inn, from where he made trips around the district, in parti- cular visiting Hirwain, ^heve the north crop ox the ironstone measures wa.s well developed aaf! trie simplest tyro in lromnaiang could see t-nat prospects were good. It took some kioae to note the various features of the moun- tain land which was to be the scene of his Pioneer efforts, but eventually, in August, .65, the lease was drawn up between ^es.sr^. Bacon and Brownrigg, of Whitehaven, Earl Talbot and Mr. Richards, of Car- whereby, subject to conditions and the of small leaseholders, they were to nave the great mineral tract of Cyfarthfa teight miles in length and live m 'width) for 99 years, the rental tc be .€200 per ^HQuiti. Messrs. Talbot and Richards were going to give their property away, as -vioigaoi, of Newport, had done, for a paltry rent of £26. They must have, who considered a la.rge sum in those days, two undred pounds <. And there was another Proviso; the sma.id leaseholders had to be beetled with; the little farmers of the moun- ams. Most of these were in monetary diffi- cultly and the gossip in the villa.ge a cen- ago was, that one Williams, a dealer, lelj most of the "skins," and he, too, had be bargained with. Anthony Bacon was evidently bent upon ,IV Going the thing in a thorough maimer, for in y(,ai be th 'Sa"le 7eai- May 1, 1765> he bought up ieac-e of the Wannwyllt family, previously Ranted to one of the venturers by the Hon. eyis Windsor Hickman, Karl of Plymouth thus, white Lewis ana Guest held land roir, the Bowlais heights to Merthyr, Baoon dl d. his fr ends ruled over Plymouth ani M'lartofa, a track of bud such as would Ve ciosely approached the domain of a Lord r^arc'her a century or two before, and com- pared with which a German barony would been nowhere. t "7ne lease was drawn up by the great lawyer 1 the district, who did all the legal business l^r a wide are?.—Bold, of Brecon, Cardiff belng almost aa insigniifcant then as ~*erthyr though it was the abode of one of lne officials of the hill districts, the coroner. 7*1 sariy parish books many are the entries early ironworks days to "fetching the crownei- Bacon's first difficulty after sign- is the k:,?e Was to come to terms witr, the email farmers, wao held leases for the soil ti- /a;TtEe terms and dates. The rental of i^rms varied from .-05 tc £ 10 Very tw were more, and Bacon arranged to buy uem. out for £ 100 aash. which tliev gladly s'ocepted, especially as it was accompanied by the offer that employment should be found leathern and their II(I-.les in ooa-i getting or QMting materials for the furnace. There c.a.? onl: Ir:n, however, who was not to be settled 30 easily, and this was Evan Williams, ^"ho did -a little ch and ling it the a:i:~ bvea in &. thatched "ge on the -C Penheolgerrig road. a \Jlarr,s wanted more than a hundred pounds, set* k Thes? details settled Bacon Tf* work in earnest. Old traditions an 'k9*' ai-s first furnace was at Plymouth. WV»* the forerunner of the great Cyfarthfa *'Va's a f°rge- as may, year 1755 saw the building of TilK TIKST i'URXAGL AT CYFARTHFA. f0A ^Ul'dred years ago it stood unchanged be- com IUO'jt*riasing inhuences of steel had j^fca,wJut, the notable, remarkable "Number grev ^aa never had time to get ivied and 6 -e a iNonnau castie, for it wan never ,Jf anything but industry. Stern asc^M 'race bres had been unceasingly ac9c" with it. Time hid covered it over 5oir,t)re cast, making it blend with age livin- 1' «^ere it stood, while every iUul, from tkfc master to the simpiesD 'la(* 'Deen <TA''ept away, the old C the _° :s falling oway a,3 an ebbing tide; 4ag., c°ming in cefoseiessly the tide yst liberties iad beer, ftriv'r "1011 ,^13 °'(- furnace, stray seeds of *Mid Sowere had found out quiet and ie-r,-red recesses, and there in the spring OioQa^111'161" soothed, as if, were, the old da^k ""i ^ust as iVm gbnts do at times some birds r and niore than that; wild of th *Kiea the .smoke and fire and roar n « biast would gather there, too, and chiros 5ea,.f)eo.t-(i bejiernxi clear above the ring of jr "eQ -ron- This was nearly 50 years ago. --d€r t'lat Number Five iriakes one hotp •* « en °ne reca!*s wonderful history* om- as the years went b7 in turning h /.?n. tok Part the American ',Var„ ekow'i! 3 H1 eveL7 industrial need here and ft nrvf er2' antJ' w"hen the land had peace, took that part in supplying the iron re(i;,ir«d to rail our own counhw a"d pro,ff a' a°d Russia, as well. Bacons fcQdT+K*8 M as.as as that of Guest had been, both S^ing of fuel was the difficulty with Work EJeiV e °°urse °f things was that ^ae furnace should be carried on three to w eek, and the other three to be devoted irrWen 'i cuti;mS- which the men. enjoyed thev e specially as on their own account blaekr>C>,lr>k*ried it with snaring game, shooting fiteho C?CK, and making a foray amongst the ths ?CK^ anai °ther vermin that alxiunde-d in and Tbese sports recessitated do-f«, VVoorl S ^ar';big that ensued in Cyfarthfa a,s ,• '? Was- in the past generation, suggested tIl. origin to the name "Cy-farthfa," or rMici Jrkmg place of dogs. This name is now *Wi! 1Tu>re Plausibly suggested to be the Suit fGr'?g ^'e mountains." The very pur- ^■hicu>r lia« suggested that Aberdare .Uiil, ■^as nas Principally the foraging ground, haun/ c Gwyddil, not as being the but s" 4)' ^'e -r's'i poets in bvegone days, In the haunt of these woodmen, the ^'n rect>^ections of the old people of ami Ji &e> handed down to their children Aatl <e'r ^iidren's children, the bounty of tin: aoay Bacon to Vae small farmers wan PUt to good u«e. The tale told V, tha'' of them frequented the ale-hoi.se Wcli ^as gone, and then were oaly get employment a A the works I |l ha->ijjj^g coal froni the mount<i.iit le'r-P, ir iiu 3 ^hole district there were ninety farms, j) 9' these Cyfarthfa, swallowed up twenty. ^ui-t himselt a hoivse, can • a ^een froat^jig the office, blackened with the smoke of a century and a half, and there applied himself diligently to the make of iron and its despatch by mulei and ponies to Cardiff by the mountain road. Some idea of the difficulty a.ttending this method of transport can be gained even now by anyone choosing to climb up the Wa-un Mountain and travelling even to Gelligaer, and in Bacon's time the hardship was stili greater. lie appears to have been a man of resources, and when he had, in 1767, built another furnace and found a good market for his iron the old charcoal make being of great excel- lence, he began to make known to the farmers the desirability for the general good of the parish that a road should be made down through the valley to Cardiff. He was an adroit man. The historian tells us that, so far as the vihge history wa.s con- cerned, he was the first to put into practice the theory that one of the most approachable ways of getting a. man's sympathy in any movement is, hrst. to give him a. good dinner and plenty of drinkables. The plan has always found favour since, and, no matter what the movement is, goes along more merrily with an accompaniment of the clink of knives and forks and popping of corks. Bacon gave a. dinner, where we are not told, oniy that it wa-s in the village, and very probably at the Star, and to this he invited all the farmers. It was one of the red-letter days of village history. The tables were well laid. There was no champagne then in vil- lage inns but plenty of good nut-brown ale, for which Merthyr had great repute, even in the days of the CommionweaJth. The d'mner aittracrted every one of the fanners and leading villagers, and the way the ale went around showed that business was meant. We are told that when the tables were cleared more ale stili was brought forward; "0 that when Bacon arose to speak, and brought on a number of good, sound reasons why a, read should be made, and spoke of the abundance of coal and iron in the valley, the audience were in a good mood to listen and to applaud. It is true that, some needed an interpreter, but they got on very well with an occasional aid Then Bacon spoke of himself, and his partner, Brownrig. of Whitehaven, and promised that if the road were made he and his partner would carry OIl the works with energy. This, and his offer ot a large sum in aid. of the cost, finished his appeal. and a paper was handed around, and soon bore good wit- ness in a lengthy and substantial subscription list of the strength of his appeal. The road was; contracted for by Mr Robert Thomas grandfather of Dr Thomas, The Court, and in 1767. the date of the second furnace, was completed. In the meanwhile. Guest, at, Dowiais, wa,s plodding along, and it is interesting to not*, that the two ironmasters^ Guest and Bacon, never appeared as rivals, but in a good homely way had struck up a. friendship, a-no. often met to cement it One of the recollections of old village life is that Guest was frequently to be seen either walking down or riding a pony in the direction of Cyfarthfa, ajic. always carrying j, little basket in which was his dinner. So the two old-fashioned men met in this homely thrifty way Tney were both Englishmen- living amongst strangers, in a strange land, and this alone led to an inti- macy such as occurs now in African wila's, or an American prairie clearings, when white men get within cable tow 01 -.ne .1<11, other. Some of the incidents of Bacon's early 'e career were the stapie subject of gossip for many yea.rs after his time He built. a, smith's shop at Cyfarthfa, and c. great deal of tiie iron used was brought from Plymouth furnace on the backs of horses. A. number of men were employed in this shop and one day a. woman from the country come by r/'th a donkey load of the old-fashioned red plums, offering them at a penny a jugfull, and all' the men with the exception of two rushed out and were regaling themselves, when the roof of tlie shep feU, killing the two who had remained. In his. time a brutal murder was committed in fcts house This was a prelude to the ep- pesrance of shady characters, who thrc-nged to the works as they expanded, and there sought and found concealment; for in the early years of iron-making, and as well into the middle of this century, whenever a man wa- waiited for some crime or other, one oi the likeliest places searched. wns the iron valley. The, murder at Bacon's house was perpetrated upon one of iris servant maids by a discarded lover. The poor girl had sent him adrift for some reason or another, and having given r. new sweetheart a pi"> of silver buckles, the new lover wore them very ostentatiously in public, some say to Ynyscan Chapel, which. was one ot the first places built after Cwmglo, and these buckles were recognised by the jilted man. and he Towec revenge It is probabk that the buckles were his own gift, and so were quickly detected. Making his way to Bacon's house he saw the girl, and aceused her of her falseness to him Tnra roused her anger, hot words passed, and, catching up a knife, he stabbed her fatally. She did not die at the moment for she was able to crawl tlp- st-sirs. marking hei progress on the wall with a blood-red hand, and this wa? 3een wher trie otlie; servants came home, and the body o" the poor girl found. There was SOOf. a great outcry. The fellow was known, I and quickly jvunted down, tried, and hanged ivt Cardiff, Another renmiscence of Bacon's career is of more general interest. The clergyman, or the parson, as he was called at the time, T--R? Thoma,3 Price. On his mother 2 side he "n.2ki a Scudamore. and descended from Ower., Glyndwr He had been an Oxford stvdent, and for a college chum had the Karl or Oxford, who never forgot the happy days oassed with him, and when he had the oppor- tunity presented him to the living of Merthyr, Previous to his time the villagers and the parson were often at loggerheads, z. fact borne out by the records of St. Tvdvil s Church bul Thomas Price endeared himself to his peopj'e, and no matter whether they eschewed religious worship foi sports^ ^or were stern Presbyterians, they ah lived «o- ;,+ -e of C'ethei with him in amity. An instance of this was often, told by the old people Price, from lining In an agricultural district, found -m time parsed that sulphur and smoke and coal dust were not pleasant or healthy changes from th-e. odour of clover fields, and he became ill, and had; tc retire for a lengthened period into Monmouthshire This for some months was borne quietly, but when the stav became prolonged, s. petition was formulated by the vHIagers, and sent to him begging his return, and he did so, Fifty of thn villagers met him at Abergavenny, aim 03 there were no roads they had to cross the mountains on horseback, the rector can- ned in one of the primitive vehicles used for carting hay and leD, At one of the hating places the clergyman had arranged a. substantial dinner, which put everyone into good humour, and after this the pro- oesskm was re-formed, s-ud, passing over fcho Trevil range by Twyn y Gynor anfl Pant reached Gw-aelodygarth, then the rector ■% dwelling. Worthy families, fifty years ago. oould be named in many places of the district descended from the good oid rector one or two in past years holding position? of :nfluenoe. The rector was an old friend of Jonn Wesley, and it is shown by the itinerary of the that he great apostie that he visited Aberoare and Brecon, and, hearing that his old friend was the rector of Merthyr, came down from tne mountains to call upon, him, but, iintor- tunatety. Price- wa-s from home. It ic on record that the rector wa~ th:» first to introduce tea into the village, and this he did wh-er. the price was 20s the pound. Price knew the "value oi tea,, aud- how to snake it, but some of his friends for ■vhom he obtained packages were not so well informed, and one boiled it a. h .■ would cabbage, and, when he sat dowc. to snjoy hie costly dish came to the conclusion that the "mess'" was not worth the money. While Guest was inviting friends to join him in his increasing works, Bacon did the saane thing, and one may ea.sily infer that this wa. done after one of the. interviews between the two ironmasters, for Bacon's invite was also to Broseley to a Mr. Hom- fray, another of the early pioneers, whose family have made their mark from Merthyr over the hills to Newport, and whose entry will fittingly form the subject of our next notice. (All Rights Reserved). TOCTear.ioixri»:j; y .Tr.r—lf1,—rrrr-lf|—,




[No title]