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Historical Notes




Iron working in Aberdare


This is the earliest historic iron date when it was worked at Cae’r Cashier Cwmaman by two Irish brothers named Hughes one of whom Peter later became a woodturner.


Hirwaun   The beginning of continuous iron history


Benjamin Turner of Brecon and Richard Wellington of Hay opened Brecon Furnace.


William Tanner sold Brecon Furnace to Thomas Daniels and Richard Reynolds of Bristol.


Daniels and Reynolds sold their interest to Mayberry who conveyed leasehold to his son.


John Mayberry married Anne daughter of John Williams 1713–1784. New indentures between John Mayberry and the Rt Hon Lord Windsor for leasehold of all mines of iron ore or coal on Hir Waun Wrgan for 99 years from June 1758 at £23 per annum.


Mayberry and Wilkins iron furnace at Hirwaun - 1774.


Sub-lease to John Wasse of Stafford and William King of Bristol for 14 years at £324 per annum. This venture was not successful and the lease lapsed and was taken back by Mayberry and Wilkins. It was still not successful and was subsidised by Wilkins and Co Bankers of Brecon later known as Brecon Old Bank and later amalgamated with Lloyds in 1890. The Bank was formed by Anne Mayberry and her brothers Jeffery of the Priory Brecon and Walter of Maesllwch, Radnor, who was later a Member of Parliament and became the first Governor of Chittagong and member of the Supreme Council of Bengal.


Sub-lease of interest in Works to Anthony Bacon of Cyfarthfa


Bacon carried on works with great success.


Anthony Bacon died the 3rd.wealthiest man in UK. He owned half of Virginia. He left his Hirwaun interests to his sons Anthony and Thomas who were minors, and the Court of Chancery placed the works into the care of Samuel Glover of Abercarn.


The Bacon brothers come of age and take over the works but neither has the skill and Anthony sells his interest to his brother for £3,000. He then buys the Aberaman Estate from Edward Mathews.

1803 Mar 1

Thomas Bacon demised works called Hirwaun Furnace to Jeremiah Homfray of Llandaff, Ironmaster, Francis M. Bowzer Esq of Middlesex, and Simon and Lionel Oliver of Bristol linen merchants for 55 years from June 1802 at rent of £1,500 per annum for 20 years then £1,000 per annum. George Overton became Works Manager. He was very popular and was responsible for opening the first Works Company Shop.


Bowzer, Overton and Oliver continue as Hirwaun Iron Works Company.


Taken over by Fry and Co Bankers of London.


Mayberry and Wilkins final conveyance of interests to Bacon interests.


Works and Bacon interests purchased by William Crawshay II, ‘The Iron King’ of Cyfarthfa.


Glamorgan Canal financed by Wilkins and Co and Aberdare Canal Co.


Richard Crawshay died. William Crawshay II, his grandson, took over.


First railway locomotive steam engine in Aberdare valley built in Gurney Works for William Crawshay to haul coal to Abercynon 1830.


9,035 tons of iron produced at Hirwaun taking 55,713 tons of coal and there were nearly 900 men employed there, 600 of whom were directly connected with the Iron Works. Most of them lived in the Parish of Aberdare, the works were in the Parish of Penderyn. This caused great discontent as the poor became a burden on the Parish of Aberdare.


Earliest colliery school in South Wales established at Hirwaun.


Tower built by Francis Crawshay.


Hirwaun iron works closed. Francis Crawshay moves to Forest House.

Llwydcoed and Abernant Iron Works

There had been a tradition of iron working at Cae Cashier, mid 16th C and at the beginning of the 17th C at Cwmdare near the Bwllfa, and from Troedrhiwllech, [Gardd Aberdâr].


Cae Luce Llwydcoed. Furnace was blown by two bellows as in a smithy. Ore came from Cwm-Nant-yr-Hwch and Cwm David Howell. The coal was local.


Ffwrnes-y-Garn at edge of Merthyr/Aberdare, Bryn Defaid, Cam Buarth Maen. Owner Bownser; Cashier, Siams Sion Gregor or Gregory, lived in Farm Comin. Nicholas Siams, d.1830 also Bardd Parod. Sion Rhys ap Ifan in the latter part of the 18th C used to send teams of oxen to drag timber from Dyffryn, Mountain Ash. He was also the smallpox vaccinator.


Arrival of the Scales


Indenture dated June 14, John Lord Jeffreys and wife Lady Charlotte sold part of Llwydcoed Forest to Hughes of Brecon for £200.


March 26th. Samuel Hughes of Tregynter County of Brecon conveyed to Saul Glover and William Mond of Aberaman all that Royalty or Lordship or reputed Lordship of Llwydcoed and several tenements in Aberdare for £6000.


February 8th. Indenture between Saul Glover, (Birmingham), on 1 part and John Thompson of Salop, J.M. Hodgett of Stafford, George Scale and John Scale leasing some 702 acres of Fforest Llwydcoed for 70 years from 24 June 1799 at rent of £1,000 per annum half yearly for first 2 years and then Quarterly.


July 26, Iron first released from No 1 Furnace of Aberdare Iron Company, Prop. G. Scale Esq. Date impressed on a ball of iron weighing exactly ½ Ton, which was used afterwards for many years to weigh iron produced at Llwydcoed. 50 Tons of ore were used daily for some years. The iron produced was carried on the backs of mules to Bryn Gwyddel by Edmund Parry, thence in carts to Penydarren by Edward John Morgan, returning with flour to Mr Scales’ Company Shop.


September: Francis Homfray of Worcestershire secured lease from Anthony Bacon and returned


to his county to enlist service of iron workers for new enterprise in Merthyr district and the immigrants settle down.
Francis with his sons Samuel and Jeremiah made satisfactory progress in the new venture in Merthyr and were the first to use pit coal on a serious scale. They dispute with Bacon over the use of ore. They set up an iron works at Penydarren. There were endless disputes leading to costly litigation, as the Homfray family were very litigious and inveterate gamblers.


Samuel and Jeremiah Homfray are unsuccessful in a lawsuit against Dowlais Iron Co.


Samuel and Jeremiah at law against each other.


Samuel Homfray bet 1,000 guineas a side with Richard Crawshay that Trevithick’s Steam Engine would convey a load of iron from Penydarren to Navigation. 10 tons of iron and 70 men were conveyed to Navigation at 5 miles per hour in February.


Samuel Homfray paid £300 in damages to William Tait for defamation.

Aberaman Estates


Edward and Mary Mathews had no male issue so a Deed of Partition and Release was made so that their daughters received protection Eleanor, married Hugh Lord of Pembrokeshire, to receive the Aberaman Estate — thereby Lord Street.
Rebecca married John Curre of Itton Court, hence Curre Street.
Maria married Thyne Hough Gwynne of Buckland, Brecs. The daughters were given a share in the mineral rights of the Aberaman Estate.


Crawshay Bailey bought second share from William Curre of Itton Court.


Crawshay Bailey bought third share from J.P. Gwynne Holford, hence Holford St.


October 4th: Jeremiah Homfray and James Birch of Abernant, engineer, took a lease from Mr Wyndham Lewis, Llanishen House near Cardiff and Mr William Llewellyn of Cowbridge his mortgagee on certain farms - Tir William Canpunt, Blaennant-y-Wenallt and Cwm Cynon in the Parish of Aberdare for the purposes of working mines, establishing iron works etc, extending over an area of 530 acres.


Homfray and Birch lease more land at Abernant from Walter Wilkins. The lease mentioned royalties, which is the first known reference in local indentures and was drawn up by Thomas Mayberry, solicitor, of Brecon. Tyr y Werva (Werfa) and Gorangon Fach Farms situated in Ystradyfodwg and Abernant-y-Wenallt in Aberdare Glamorganshire also of iron and coal under the same for an annual rental of £31..10s to Walter Wilkins for the life of Nicholas John, (tenant farmer of Abernant-y-Wenallt), and £91..10s after his decease for the residue of the 99 years lease and yielding and paying to Mr Wilkins the sum of 1/- for every ton of iron ore, iron mine, and iron stone and also the sum of 6d for every ton of coal or culm which shall be raised up on the several tenements and in default of raising such tons as will produce the sum of £300 yearly then yielding to the said Mr Wilkins such default as aforesaid the clear yearly rent of £300.


Homfray and Birch articles of partnership and James Tappenden of Fareham Kent, James Tappenden Junior and Francis Tappenden. Capital £40,000 advanced by the Tappendens.


First iron ore into pig iron. Ore from Cwmdare, Tir Ifan Bach Draws. The Royalty clauses proved a severe handicap especially as there was a lack of access to the sea. Either it had to go via Taff Valley to Cardiff via Navigation, or by canal from Glyn Neath to Swansea.


The Tappendens undertook the construction of a tramroad passing by the accommodating Aberdare Iron Works at Llwydcoed to the Neath Valley some 8 miles in length with an artificially constructed inclined plane after Llwydcoed to reach low level of Neath Canal. This was for the use of the Tappendens only, calling themselves the Tram Road Company. Tolls were levied on the use of the Tram Road by the Aberdare Iron Works Co.


January 26. Jeremiah Homfray and James Birch withdraw from the Abernant concerns the Terms of the disassociation were as follows

1 Mr Homfray was to be paid £1000 optional with Messrs Tappendens as to time but they paying him in the meantime £100 /annum
2 Mr Birch exactly the same
3 Mr Birch also to have £150 /annum in addition for his own lifetime but to quit his house in Abernant before next Lady Day
4 Mr Homfray to receive in addition a pipe of Port.
The same man witnessed both agreements viz. Richard Fothergill.
John Fothergill 1763–1828
Richard Fothergill 1758–1821 who had two sons Richard and Roland. They were a Westmorland and Cumberland family.
Richard was a builder in Clapham.


Partner in Iron Works at Sirhowy.


Joined Samuel Homfray at Tredegar. His influence increased and he prepared way for his son Roland Fothergill 1794 - 1871 to take over. The Tappendens found trade difficult after 1815 but in that year 21,000 tons of iron was produced in the Aberdare Valley.


Abernant Iron Works closed temporarily. Richard and son Roland Fothergill take over.


6078 tons iron sent down Glamorganshire Canal from Crawshay’s works at Hirwaun.
6,211 tons from Scale and Fothergill and Co, Aberdare.


David Musket Papers on iron and steel published at London.

Blast Furnaces operating

Wayne & Co


1 Furnace

W. Crawshay


4 Furnaces

Thompson & Co


6 Furnaces




4 Furnaces

3 in Blast

Wayne & Co

2 Furnaces

1 in Blast

Thompson & Co. Aberdare

3 Furnaces

2 in Blast

Thompson & Co. Abernant

3 Furnaces

3 in Blast


October 17th The cashier of Abernant Iron Works was robbed of £2,000 by three Irishmen. The culprits were caught overnight.


Roland Fothergill bought Aberdare and Abernant Iron Works outright for £75,000, and stock and fittings for £60,000. He then retired and left the running of the business to his nephew Richard Fothergill 1822–1903.


The annual wage bill at Abernant alone was £60,000.


Aberdare Iron Company including 3 Abernant and 3 Llwydcoed Furnaces produced between 800 and 900 tons of iron a week.


Aberdare Iron Co. employed some 4,000 men and the Gadlys Iron Co. 1500.


Wage bill at Abernant £200,000 employing 4,200 men.
Richard Fothergill original member of Board of Health.


Married Elizabeth daughter of James Lewis of Plasdraw.


Became Member of Parliament for Aberdare.


Financial disaster due to circumstances beyond his control such as the introduction of the new Bessemer Process for which iron ore had to be imported from Spain.


He did not stand for re-election as he had been declared bankrupt. Retired to Tenby, where he died in 1903.
The candidates in the Election were
C.H. James who got     7,522 votes
Henry Richard who got 8,085 votes
The first time conservative
W.T. Lewis who got      4,445 votes

Gadlys Iron Works
Gen. (Mad) Anthony Wayne was called by George Washington to subdue Indians at Merrimac River Ohio in 1794 and he ensured a lasting peace. He was related to Waynes of Aberdare. He may have been an uncle of Matthew Wayne who at the turn of the 19th C was a furnace manager for Richard Crawshay at the works at Cyfarthfa. He and a Mr. Knowles while refreshing themselves at an inn at Quaker’s Yard met Joseph Bailey son of Richard Crawshay’s sister Susannah, who had married a Yorkshire yeoman John Bailey.



Joseph Bailey rose to become his uncle’s right hand man, and a driving force at Cyfarthfa.


1500 men worked at Cyfarthfa.


Richard Crawshay dies. He leaves ¼ share in the Cyfarthfa Works to his nephew Joseph. Joseph Bailey left Cyfarthfa and linked his fortunes to those of Matthew Wayne who left him £800 in a will.


25th March purchased Nant-y-Glo Iron Works in Blaenavon from Harford Partridge and Co. to end 22nd June 1869. Joseph Bailey sold his interest in the Cyfarthfa Works to William Crawshay for over £20,000.


Nant-y-Glo Iron Works succeeded immensely in spite of general decline.


Matthew Wayne sold out his interest in Nant-y-Glo to Joseph Bailey for remainder of lease and came back to the Merthyr-Aberdare District.


Tenant of Gelli Deg, Merthyr. He was a prominent and generous member of Hen Dŷ Cwrdd, Cefn Coed. He married Margaret Watcyn of Penmoelallt and both lie buried in the cemetery of Hen Dŷ Cwrdd, Cefn Coed.


Matthew Wayne set up iron works at Gadlys, Aberdare, with his partners George Rowland Morgan and Edward Morgan Williams who retired from the Company in 1829. It was a small compact works with one furnace worked by Matthew Wayne. The land was leased from Bute. Some 350 acres and the coal for the iron works was worked from a balance pit nearby and later from Pwll-y-Graig and Pwll Newydd.


Gadlys Iron Works 444 tons of iron on Canal boats to Cardiff.


Gadlys Iron Works 731 tons of iron on Canal boats to Cardiff.


He conducted the business himself and was unwilling to add new mills or forges.


Matthew Wayne


Feeling advanced in years Matthew Wayne offered his works for sale by auction; auctioneer was George Robins. Works employ 150 people and are capable of producing 1700 to 2000 tons of iron a year. Cardiff and Aberdare Canal ensures quick and lucrative sale. There is also a powerful steam engine from Neath Abbey Works. No sale was effected. Thomas Wayne and William Wayne join their father in the business, output 1291 tons.


Old Matthew Wayne was persuaded to follow example of Lucy Thomas, (1781–1847), of Waunwyllt Abercanaid, “The Mother of the Welsh Steam Coal Industry”, and to dig coal for its own sake and not merely for the manufacture of iron.


Lucy Thomas, wife of a man called Robert Thomas who came from West Wales, opened a pit in Abercanaid in 1828 to sell coal on the open market. After the death of her husband, Lucy Thomas and her son William opened the London market for the sale of Welsh steam coal early in the 30s of the last century. William Thomas opened Llettysiencyn in 1843, later sold it to his brother-in-law, William Rees, whose sister married W.T. Lewis, later Lord Merthyr.


Waynes leased some land from the Davids of Abernantygroes, Cwmbach, and in June proceeded to dig for coal. They drove down 49 yards and hit the famous 4-foot seam, exhibiting coal in the December. Wayne’s Merthyr and Aberdare Steam Coal Company consisted of Matthew Wayne, W.W. Wayne, Thomas Wayne, William Thomas David of Abernantygroes, Mrs. Gwladys David and William Morgan of Hafod.


Wayne and Co exported 3,373 Tons of Coal.


Wayne and Co exported 48,000 Tons of Coal.

The iron works still progressed due to the efforts of Thomas Wayne.


Blast furnace 55 tons per week.


Second Furnace is fired.


95–100 tons of iron per week. April 23 stone laid by Thomas Wayne for the establishment of a small tin works.


Gadlys Iron Co opened a small pit at Cae Cwm chiefly to supply coal for use at own iron works. W.W. Wayne owned 73 acres of Dullas (Waun Dullas). William Davies cashier of the iron works was also connected with the tin works.

Thomas Wayne was a first class employer and was held in high esteem by his workmen.


Wayne interests in Gadlys Iron Works sold to Birch Co. of Hirwaun.


Collieries changed management a few times until taken over by Worcester Coal Co in 1892. They exported 194,000 tons that year.


Crawshay Bailey bought Matthew Wayne's share in Nant-y-Glo. He and Joseph worked it with great success until at least 1835. He was a strong practising Anglican.


Entertained President and 5 leading ministers at Sasiwn Nant-y-Glo. He bought estates for their mineral wealth but his brother bought them for their agricultural value.


Anthony Bacon’s Estate at Aberaman, previously the Mathews, some 1500 acres was put up for sale. Since Bacon’s death in 1827, his son Charles and brother Thomas had lived in Aberaman House. It was ‘knocked down’ to an ordinary looking man clad in homespun who paid cash on the spot. It was Crawshay Bailey. His object was to set up a new colliery and iron works but it was a long way from the canal. He did not come to live there for 9 years.


C.B. opens iron works at Aberaman.


August 1st: Railway extension from Navigation opened. Limestone for ironworks came from Penderyn quarries.