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British Industrial History

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Aberdare Ironworks

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Aberdare Iron Co, of Llwydcoed

Also known as Llwydcoed Ironworks.

1799 Ironworks were established at Llwydcoed by John Scale Junior and some of his relations, initially with one blast furnace but with an engine capable of blowing two.

Other works were set up nearby including Abernant in 1800, Gadlys in 1827 and Aberaman in 1847.

Aberdare produced pig-iron for local and export markets

1800 Messrs. Thompson Firman and Homfrey of London offered a loan to build a second furnace which was accepted[1]

1801 '.... at Aberdare, where another extraordinary machine has been constructed, in which, two wheels, each 40 feet diameter, working like the figure 8, increase the power each other, inasmuch that the water which drives the upper wheel, falls down and assists in turning the lower one.'[2]

1804 Richard Fothergill witnessed the agreement between the Tappendens of Abernant and Messrs. Scale of the Aberdare Iron Co (owners of the Llwydcoed iron-works) for the use of the tramway to connect their works with the Neath Canal.

By 1805 the Aberdare Iron Company had two furnaces, making a total of 80 tons per week.

At some point after 1814, Rowland Fothergill (1794-1871), son of Richard Fothergill, gained a controlling influence in the works as well as acquiring the works at Abernant but he was often at cross purposes with the Scales family.

1846 After a costly lawsuit, the whole works were put to auction; Rowland Fothergill acquired them and with his able management soon amassed considerable riches, and retired to Hensol Castle, near Cowbridge.

c.1855 Richard Fothergill (1822-1903), eldest son of Richard Fothergill (1789-1851), succeeded his uncle as manager of the Aberdare Ironworks[3]. He had acquired extensive knowledge of all the processes involved in the manufacture of iron and in the production of coal.

1862 Richard Fothergill acquired the whole of the Plymouth Ironworks which he converted from the cold blast system to the hot blast so that these works were serious competition for the great concerns at Dowlais and Cyfarthfa.

1866 David Evans succeeded his father as manager of the blast furnace

1866 Losses on some contracts and the failure of several large railway contractors put the company in financial difficulties; it was kept going thanks to a loan from Thomas Brassey in return for which he received a mortgage on the works[4]

c.1873 Fothergill also acquired the Penydarren Ironworks

1873 just before the great crash, the wage bill at Abernant amounted to £200,000.

1875 As a result of the introduction of the Bessemer process, and owing to coal strikes, Fothergill's companies failed, as did many others; Llwydcoed and Abernant iron-works closed. These works were not operated after this date. The iron industry was then represented only by a small tinplate works but by this stage the economy of the town was dominated by the coal industry.

Old photographs show a large diameter waterwheel used to power the blowing machinery for the blast furnaces [5].

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Boulton and Watt correspondence [1]
  2. London Courier and Evening Gazette, 12 November 1801
  3. The Times, Jun 01, 1875
  4. The Times, Jun 01, 1875
  5. Pages 113 & 114 of 'The Glamorganshire and Aberdare Canals' Vol. 1, by Stephen Rowson and Ian L. Wright, Black Dwarf Publications, 2001
  • [2] Wikipedia
  • Morgannwg, Vol. 40 1996 The Tappendens and the Abernant Iron Company, 1801-1815 [3]
  • Welsh Biography Online [4]