Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

James Brown (1809-1889)

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James Brown (1809-1889) of Russell and Browns

Son of Richard Brown (of Blaina)

1836 Left the partnership of Russell and Browns

1836 July 4th. Married 'On Monday the 4th inst. at Panteague, by the Rev. D. Williams, James Brown, Esq. late of the Blaina Iron Works, to Jane, third daughter of J. Conway, Esq. of Ponthrydyrun Works.'[1]

1851 Living at Brynglas, Malpas, Monmouthshire: James Brown (age 42 born Glamorgan), Tin Plate Manufacturer. With his wife Jane Brown (age 38 born Monmouthshire) With their four children; James Brown (age 12 born Monmouthshire); Richard Brown (age 10 born Monmouthshire); Thomas Brown (age 5 born Monmouthshire); and Jane Brown (age 10 Months born Monmouthshire). Also visitors (appear to be his parents) Richard Brown (age 78 born Salop), Retired Iron Master. With Elizabeth Brown (age 87 born Worcestershire?). One other visitor. Four servants.[2]

1889 Obituary [3]

Mr Brown was born in the year 1809, and, consequently, he had reached the great age of 80 years. His father, Mr Richard Brown was a man of stalwart proportions, over six feet in height, and quite the type of the old class of Welsh ironmasters. He hailed from Shropshire, whence so many of the leading ironmasters have come.

The subject of our biography was born at Merthyr Tydvil, not far from Penydarren Iron Works, then worked by the Penydarren Iron Co., of which the late Mr Samuel Homfrey's father was the managing partner. It was at these works that be spent his boyish days. He was a youth of vigour, both physically and mentally, and he gave early promise of the possession of no ordinary talents. From Merthyr his father and family migrated to Blaina, or perhaps more correctly, speaking, to Coldbrookevale. There his father, in conjunction with Mr Tom Llewellyn Brewer, Mr John Russell, and others, established Colebrookevale Works, which were for a time carried on successfully. With this enterprise was associated Mr Thomas Brown, who was the elder brother of the deceased, and who subsequently became the managing partner of the famous Ebbw Vale Company, of which Mr Darby and others were partners. Mr James Brown, being then comparatively young, had little to do with the management at Blaina, his elder brother Thomas having the control. The works at Blaina and Coldbrookevale did not succeed as anticipated, and finally, there was a collapse which involved serious losses to all the partners.

This was about the first rebuff which toe deceased gentleman received in commercial life, and for some time it proved a serious one for him, for he was unable, owing to the difficulties which bad arisen, to engage in any other commercial pursuit for a considerable time. For a short period he undertook the supervision of Tondu works, then owned by Sir Robert Price, and only relinquished that position upon the latter gentle- man ceasing to be proprietor.

In the year 1844, Mr Thomas Brown became a partner in the great and wealthy firm of the Ebbw Vale Company, and in the course of a few years Mr James Brown was appointed the representative of the Company for the sale of all their coals. He then took up his residence at Brynglas, Newport, a mansion celebrated for many great historical events in connection with the borough of Newport. Here Mr Brown dispensed hospitality with a generous hand. No one ever applied to him in vain tor assistance of any kind where it was shown that assistance was really merited, In fact, it may be stated that, during his stay at this stately mansion, he was practically the King of Newport. It was while here that Mr Brown was first elected mayor of the ancient borough of Newport, and it was at this mansion that be gave the celebrated banquet to the members of the corporation which was supplied by Gunters, of London, at an enormous cost. When Mr Brown's term of office as mayor expired a public dinner was given to him, in recognition of his great services to the borough, district, and county. The late Mr W. S. Cartwright presided at this banquet, and amongst those present were the leading men of Monmouthshire and South Wales, Lord Llanover, then Sir Benjamin Hall, was unable to be present, and he wrote a letter regretting the circumstance, and taking occasion to remark that Mr Brown's services were of marked and important a character that he well deserved the tribute that was paid to him in inviting him to a public dinner. It was just about this time that Mr Brown's political views began to develop themselves more clearly. Being dissatisfied with the policy of the then Liberal organ, the Monmouthshire Merlin, he determined, in conjunction with others, to establish a rival newspaper, in case the Merlin could not be purchased. A very handsome offer was made by him for the purchase of the Merlin, but this was declined, and, as a result, the Star of Gwent newspaper was established. The career of this newspaper IS tolerably well known. For many years it was the leading organ of Liberalism in Monmouthshire and South Wales, and Mr Brown expended no less a sum than £6,000 in its establishment and promotion. It should be stated that, at the starting of the paper, the late Lord Llanover, Mr T. M. Llewellyn, Mr Charles Lyne, and other leading Liberals were associated with Mr Brown, and rendered pecuniary aid. The burden became increasingly heavy, and the property was ultimately transferred to Mr Brown, who continued with unfaltering energy and at great expense to carry on the newspaper. He ceased to be connected with it in 1860; and, at the death of the late Mr Thomas Williams, it became a Tory organ. It was during Mr Brown's earlier years of this proprietorship that the late Mr Alderman Duncan, J.P., was associated with the management of the Star of Gwent.

Being largely engaged in the coal trade, Mr Brown showed indomitable energy in prosecuting what he considered the necessary steps for developing that great industry. He built two large iron steamers, and was, in fact, one of the pioneers of iron ship building. It may now be stated that he was before his day, for the steamers had afterwards to be sold at a great reduction upon their cost price. This proved a serious check in his commercial career while be resided at Brynglas, and it eventually precipitated his downfall. Financial pressure, assisted by many other circumstances which it is unnecessary to recapitulate, necessitated his calling his creditors together and it was finally arranged that they should receive a composition of 10s in the £. Considering the enforced sale of the vast property at Brynglas, and of the other securities possessed by the deceased, it needs little astuteness to come to the conclusion that an estate that could realise 10s in the £ (having regard to lawyers, accountants, and all other parties that had to be satisfied) was really a solvent one that might have paid 20a in the £ if time and opportunity had been afforded. Not withstanding this great blow to his commercial career, Mr Brown retained an extraordinary hold upon the people of Newport and the whole of Monmouthshire. He was a man of great intellect —an extensive reader, one who studied almost every phase of human life, and, above all, a sympathiser with the poor and oppressed, politically, religiously, and in all other aspects of life.

Before we part with Mr Brown's commercial career it should be stated that he was a partner with the late Mr John Conway in the Abertillery Tinplate Works, where a considerable amount of his capital was lost. He was also associated with other gentlemen in the sinking of the Forchamman Colliery, Aberdare, and to this day one of the pits in connection with that colliery is known as Brown's. Pit. With the Uskside works, in the time of Mr Hughes, now deceased, he was also connected. It was about this time that the peculiar institution known as “The Corner" existed at Newport. This singular club or secret society abrogated to itself the right to control all matters parliamentary, municipal, and even religious within the borough. Mr John Hyndman was the proprietor of the inn where this extraordinary held its meetings. It was known as the Hope and Anchor, and exists to this day it the bottom of Cross-street. Here used to assemble, not day by day, but night by night, the notables of the district, amongst those being Mr James Rennie, Mr John Logan, Mr Woollett, Mr Downing Evans, Mr Wm. West, Mr Charles Lyne, Mr Wm. Williams, Mr W. Morgan, Mr John Harrison, Mr Billy KilIy, and many others whose names are now forgotten. The late Mr John Bachelor was also a frequenter of the Corner. From the Corner all candidates, parliamentary, municipal, or otherwise, who hoped to be successful at elections, were selected. It is a notable fact in the history of our friend, Mr Brown, that upon one occasion he did try conclusions with this singular club, and that was in the celebrated election of James Rennie for the town council, the bone of contention being the then drainage scheme proposed by Mr Hawkshaw, the celebrated engineer, and an alternative one by Mr Alfred Williams, the borough surveyor. Mr Rennie sup- ported the great engineer but in the election that ensued he lost his seat, and Mr John Davies, grocer, of High-street, was elected in his place. This led to the resignation of some of the leading men connected with the Newport Town Council, notably the late Mr T. B. Batchelor and others. Mr James Brown, however, notwithstanding the defeat of the council, and after that election threw in his lot with the Corner and became one of its most active members. He made a remark at the time, “I will never again fight the Corner." Later on The Corner was transferred to the Tredegar Arms, High-street, and there many additional recruits were added, among them being Mr Thomas Williams, Mr Wyndham Jones, Mr Russell Evans, Mr Samuel Goss, Mr Oliver Goss, and others. . . . [more]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Hereford Times - Saturday 16 July 1836
  2. 1851 Census
  3. South Wales Daily News - Monday 19 August 1889