A Romantic Valley in Wales ...














Facsimile Edition






West Glamorgan County Archive Service




Neath Borough Council






Excerpt from the Preface


It is hoped that the work will prove a welcome contribution to the History of Wales. The region surveyed furnishes valuable evidence of conditions and events of all epochs from the prehistoric to our own times. It has been the home of distinguished families of princely stock, the birthplace of eminent men, the site of notable ecclesiastical foundations, the arena of bitter manorial strife. In particular, no adequate literary or industrial History of Wales could be compiled until the story of the Neath Valley had been unfolded at some length. The Valley has ever been the home of song and story. It was the birthplace or the adopted home of numerous Welsh poets, the very existence of some of whom has long since been forgotten, while the original connection of others of them with the Vale of Neath has been completely obscured. It was the cradle of some of the most important Welsh industries and the scene of one of the earliest and most vigorous manifestations of the Industrial Revolution in Wales.


64                                                       HISTORY OF THE VALE OF NEATH


The original gift of land to the Church



In his foundation charter, now available only in a transcript, Richard de Granville and Cons-tance his wife gave to God and the Church of the Holy Trinity at Savigny in France all the waste included within the four waters of Nedd,Tawe, Clydach, and Pwll Cynan; the Chapel of their Castle of Neath; with all the tithe . . . of corn and other produce . . . half the fish in the river Nedd; the mill of Clydach; and all the meadows which lie from the above-said mill as far as the ditch of the new town, and from the same ditch as far as the Water of Nedd, and all their possessions in the town of Aissa, etc. This early grant included an extensive tract of land from Cilybebyll to the sea, the lower part of which was no doubt well subjugated; for there De Granville had his tithable English and French collected together in a new town, the Welsh having been driven inland or exterminated. As to the mill, Di. Birch queries " Mclin y Rhos " high up on the Clydlach stream; but the Abbey Mill was probably the first occupant of the site of the present ruined ironworks. (See further under" Copper, Iron, and Grist Mills.") The meadows delimited were probably those of the present Cwrt Herbert and Glyn Leiros. This Charter may be dated A.D. 1129, for the Annales de Margan records that in 1130 " the convent in the Church of Neth " was established.






Excerpt on the Grist Mills which were an important possession of the landowners as all the farmers were required to have their grain milled at the owners mill. Note that in the 1759 lawsuit, the Bryn Coch miller was of the name W. Thomas – quite probably Hopkin Thomas’ father.


Other Mills on the Clydach. In the Inquis. Post Mortem of Countess Joan, Lady of Glamorgan, 7 June 1307, three mills are included under the De Clare hamlet of Cilybebyll --" tria molendina aquatica "-- worth 20s; per annum. The Neath Abbey mill was hardly one of these; it is therefore doubtful how low down on the Clydach the first of them stood and how far the names. Cwm-y-felin, Cae'r felin, and Glyn-y-felin attest an early grist-mill. Bryncoch Mill: At the date Nov. 7, 1747, this was in the hands of William John, for the Llan Gatwg register shows the baptism of his son Richard. The mill was in use till about 60 years ago. Melin-y-Rhos stood at some distance below Plas Cil-y-bebyll. Its foundation stones can be discerned in the present farmhouse. Old natives speak of a farm-servant carrying, on a Saturday afternoon in 1846, a sack of wheat across the meadows of Pentreharn to Bryncoch Mill (1-1/2 miles), and returning with a load 20 lbs. lighter for the Sunday baking. Twenty pounds of flour, or 2s in silver, was the miller's charge.


1759.-An action at law brought in the Glamorgan Sessions, 12 July 1759 (Trinity Term, 33 George 11), throws some light on these Clydach mills. Vicar W. Thomas of Llangatwg-Nedd claimed-and was finally awarded, 25 Nov. 1762-a tenth part of the profits of the corn, grain and malt which were ground yearly in great quantities at one of them (? Bryncoch). The defendants, M. Price and T. Williams (with whom the miller, W. Thomas, was attached), stated in the course of their evidence : " that the said manor or lordship [of Cadoxton] was now vested in H. Stanley, George Rice, and H. Compton ' , … that the said G. Rice in his own right, the defendant M. Price as lessee to Stanley, and this defendant T. Williams as lessee to H. Compton, were seized of and entitled to the rents and profits of the several messuages and lands in the parish of Cadoxton, which were part and parcel of the lordship of Cadoxton, near Neath, and were parcel of the possessions of the said abbots of Neath Abbey and their successors; that on part of the possessions of the said abbots, on a certain brook called Clydach, in the said parish, there was an ancient mill, which from time beyond the memory of man, had been free, quit, and exempt from tithes; that the defendant M. Price, as lessee of Anne Stanley, whose estate therein H Stanley now had, and T. Williams the father of this defendant, who was then the lessee of H. Compton and G. Rice, being possessed of the said ancient mill, as parcel of the estate which heretofore belonged to the said Abbey of Neath, did, in the year 1740, pull down the said ancient mill, and with some part of the materials thereof erect and build another mill on the stream of the said brook, and on lands which were heretofore part of the possessions of the said abbots, and which for time immemorial had been free and exempt from the payment of tithe ; that the defendant M. Price, and J. [misprint for T. ?]


                                                THE OLD GRIST MILLS                                                      225


Williams the father of this defendant, having built such new mill, this defendant and the said owners of it permitted the other defendants to hold the said new erected mill during several years as tenants to them, the profits of which were payable in shares, as in the said answer is mentioned."


In the course of his claim the Vicar denied the accuracy of a portion of this statement, saving : " that the defendants pretended that there had been an ancient mill in the parish which was exempt from the payment of tithes, and which through length of time had decayed, and been taken down, and new mill erected thereon with the old materials; and that therefore no tithes were by law due for the same. But he insisted, on the contrary, that the mills of which he now demanded tithes had been erected on a part of the parish where no ancient mill had ever stood, for that they were erected on a new channel or current of water, which had been diverted from its ancient course into a new cut made for some private purposes of the owner of the soil on which the same was made; that they also pretended that there were no mills in the parish but what were exempt from the payment of tithes ; but that, on the contrary, there were several ancient mills therein which did pay tithes, or some recompence in lieu thereof."




This footnote to the section on coal operations is notable as it is the first mention of the application of steam-powered (or fire-engines as the heat source was fire) pumps. Other sources indicate that there was a close association between the Boulton & Watt firm and the owners of the Neath Abbey Ironworks.


Whether the application of steam, as an agent in mechanics, had ever exercised the attention of that ingenious pioneer, Sir Humphrey Mackworth, there is no extant record. He died in 1827 ; but Newcomen's " atmospheric " engine had been used, apparently before that date, for pumping water out of mines, thus enabling sinkings to be carried on at previously unknown depths. So far as record goes, the first steam engine used at Neath was that of Boulton and Watt. James Watt entered into partnership with the Birmingham hardware manufacturer, Mr. Boulton, in 1775; and their new business of making steam engines was well on its way before the end of that year. They registered four new patents between 1781 and 1785, and erected an engine at Landore circa 1786. It is probable, therefore that the " fire-engines " were introduced at the Neath pits between the years 1775-1790 by Sir Humphrey Mackworth's grandson -- Sir Herbert Mackworth, who succeeded his father (Herbert M.) in 1765 and died in Oct. 1791.


                                       THE PERGWM COLLIERIES                                              24


There were numerous coal pits and Collieries in the Neath area. This note on the Aberpergwm  Collier is of interest in that it mentions that certain of the pits produced anthracite which was not valued due to the difficulty in burning it.



The Aberpergwm  Colliery.  Mr. George Williams (died in 1796, and was ultimately succeeded by Mr. Rees Williams, who died 1812) opened a coal-level or, more probably, worked an old one for local uses. In July 1794, when "Squire" Elton was fighting the Board of Customs on the matter of the heavy duty of " 5/6 per chalder " charged on the Glan-y-wern coal which he shipped at Trowman's Hole on the Neath river, he procured (for comparison with others) a sample of coal from Aberpergwm which was described in the report as "not hitherto shipped either Overseas or Coastwise." The Collector had it tested on a smith's fire at Swansea, and issued a verdict which is interesting as an early "analysis" of anthracite : "Will not burn without a mixture of clay or other substance; produces neither Flame nor Smoke; used for burning limestone. -- Cust. MSS., sub anno. The date 1793 for " J. Foxes "-the style of the firm was "Foxes and N.A. Iron Co." (see the section on "Iron") - is somewhat early, for that company's lease of the Neath Abbey mill and foundry which marks their advent from Cornwall, dates no earlier than 13 July 1792. The entry may be for "ironstone," which Mr. Warner saw them working there in 1798. As to the Birmingham Co.'s precedence in commercially operating Aberpergwm coal, we have the contrary testimony of the same traveler (Warner's Second Walk, 1798, p. 104) who mentions "a productive colliery, worked by Mr. Williams "near to the side of the Canal below Aberpergwm. The coal was sent by water to Neath and “shipped to distant markets." This suggests that the Pergwm coal was not leased to the Birmingham Co. till after 1798 (August).




                                                      MID-VALLEY TAKINGS                                                247


The following excerpts deal with the coal operations in the Neath Abbey area and in Bryn Coch. The Neath Abbey area was mined for considerable time before the N.A.I.W. operations commenced. The Bryn Coch pit is reported to have been started before 1772



Neath Abbey.-At the beginning of this section, we have dealt at some length with the post-mediaeval evidence of coal-working in the neighbourhood of the Abbey. We reproduced Leland's testimony of pre-1540 and the Compotus reference to the "coalpit " of Abbot Leyson Thomas. Our next item (Margam MS. 5220) dated 12 Oct. 1670, is a Lease granted by Elizabeth, widow of Richard Cradock, and Christopher Cradock his son, " to Bussey Mansel of Britton-ferrey Esqre, for 5 pounds, of veins and mines of coal under a messuage called Court-ryde-hire and its lands, in the parish of Cadoxton-juxta-Neath ... for 21 vears, at a royalty of one shilling for each weigh of coal obtained, etc." (It is interesting to find the ex-Cromwellian coal-prospecting near Neath Abbey). A Lease of 29 Oct. 1672, granted by Phillip Hoby (who succeeded his uncle Edward Dodington, as Lord of the Manor) to Gwenllyan Jenkin, widow, and John Jenkin, shows that their tenure of "Tir Meurig Hopkin" and "Tir Gwilyin Howel" in Coedfrank, was subject to: " 2 days' work with oxen and to keep two horses to carry coal from the Pits of the said lessor at the usual rate of payment." (Nal. Lib. D.D. 819). Elizabeth Hobv and her daughters, etc., granted a Lease in 1694 to a London Company (see D.D. 829 under "Manor"), wherein power is given them "to import and land on the north side of the Abbey coal bank an commodities requisite for the use of the copper mill."




As the centuries rolled on Neath Abbey coa1 acquired considerable fame. Here are many coal-mines," says a Cadoxton writer in reply to Edward Lhuyd's Queries c. 1697: " but ye most considerable are near the Abbey of Neath where many workmen are employed."'The local Customs Rccords do not commence till 1709, but from that date onwards there are constant references to the shipping of coal from this river. The standard of quality in culm, or thro' coal, was invariably that produced at Neath Abbey, compared with which all neighbouring coals were allotted a second place. In 1722, "There was a vein of coal at Neath Abbey which, by an old order of the Revenue authorities, was allowed to be shipped promiscuously as it came from the pit's mouth  In 1732 there is frequent reference to " the culm at Neath Shipt off by the bridge," and we are inclined to believe that the Neath Abbey coal was at this period carted there. The 1731 Report of Mr. Brian, the Customs Surveyor, to which Mr. T. Price's letter of 1732 is an answer, contains another reference. As to the ownership of the Neath Abbey Colliery, Mr. Beavan testified before a Parliamentary Committee in 1810 that previous to 1793 the coal was worked by the owners of the soil, the lords of the Abbey for whom Mr. Thomas Williams of Cwrt Herbert was chief manager. This is supported by the Customs Records, in which there are many references to TomasWilliams." He is first mentioned byname in 1739.  Under"Iron" we have lifted the curtain on the figure of Thomas Pryce, a descendant of the Prices of Briton Ferry, who lived at Cwrt-rhydhir, between Duffryn and Neath Abbey. By virtue of the following citation, found among Francis’s Materials, we can now fit him out in the additional guise of a-coal-owner: 1754. " On Wednesday the 24th of last month, seventeen men, who were working in the coal-works of Messrs. Pryce and Williams, near Neath . . . were all killed by the damp of one of their coal-pits. They were buried the next day in Cadoxton church-yard-" This printed extract seems to have been taken from a paper or magazine. The number of men killed and the day of the month axe identical with the details, given further on, of the Wern Fraith explosion, May 24, 1758, which is the subject of Ben Simon's song. All depends upon whether the 1754 of the extract is, or is not, a misprint. In 1767 the Customs Board having determined to enforce the use of the "strike" measure in appraising the coal-carts, the Neath Abbey manager replied as follows :



                                                   NEATH ABBEY COLLIERIES                                              249


Gentlemen . . . . I received your letter . . . in relation to the shipping of Coal. In answer to your former I said I could have no Objection to the Method proposed, as our Carts are already Strike Measure; so cannot now have any..

                                                                        I am . . . THOMAS WILLIAMS.'

Court barbert, Sept. 23, 1767.


It is recorded in the Report of the Coal Commission, 1810, that the Lords of the Abbey ceased working their colliery before 1793. Mr. Richard Parsons, who was making iron at Cwm y Felin, near the Abbey, till 1792, leased the minerals and took over the collieries. A Report on the coals shipped at Neath and Swansea, included in the Customs MSS. under I July, 1794, contains a reference to the coal at " Mr. Parsons Abbey Pitt " which was reported to have " very little cohesion "indicating that it lacked bituminous qualities." You will please to observe," added the Neath Customs Officers (B. Howell and Thos. Leyson), " that Mr. Richard Parsons has two other Collieries at Neatb Abby which are shipped for all Coal." Probably Wern Fraith was one of these. In Donovan's South Wales there is an interesting sketch of the "ginn " that was used in winding up coal from the Neath Abbey Drift about May 1805: it shows a horse drawing full trams from the colliery, with the Abbey in the distance. In a printed report, dated March 1817, there is an account of a local explosion. Richard Parsons was succeeded by his son John, whose coal-lease expired about 1850. He lived at the Graig, Neath Abbey, and there his brother Richard died in Nov. 1850. In a document cited below, John and William Parsons are shown as parties to the coal-lease of Gelli Deg, etc., in 1833. The family name is commemorated by the incline of "Parson's Folly" above Llan Illtyd.


Neath Abbey Coal Co.-The first Quaker coal-lease has been mislaid or lost. It was taken out in 1806, and thereby Geo. Croker Fox and others of his family, etc. (who in 1792 acquired the N.A. Ironworks) contracted with Mrs. M. Williams of Dyffryn and her three daughters (Jane M., Elizabeth and Maria) to work for a term of 63 years the minerals under the Dyffryn estate. It is stated that, the co-heiresses being under age, the lease had to be legalized by Act of Parliament. We have now before us a series of documents, recently unearthed, which throw light on the N.A. Co.'s coal projects from the year 1819. One MS. sheet states that the " New Neath Abbey Coal Compy seems to have begun 26 June, 1819." At that date Jos. T. Price & his nephew H. H. Price, held 5/12ths of the shares, the other 7/12ths being in the bands of the Fox family-respectively  -- T. W., A., Joshua, G.C., and C. Some changes of holdings took place before 1826, and others before 1844. Transfers occasioned by death from 1838 to 1874 are enumerated at length in the final Quaker indenture. On the death of Isaac Redwood, Nov. 19, 1873, the company decided to realize their assets and wind up the business. They sold their property to George and John Batters of London, and Adam Scott of the same place. The surviving partners are indicated The Messrs. Batters and Scott " entered into


250                                        HISTORY OF THE VALE OF NEATH


it for & on behalf of the " Dyffryn Main Colliery Co., but they sold the property again in 1874 to the United Company " (Dynevor Dyffryn & Neath Abbey United Collieries Co.) the transfer was concluded on Sept. 29, " subject to the rights & interests of H. C. Compton & Lord Dynevor & the late John Parsons . . . their heirs, etc., in to or upon that portion in wch the sd J. Parsons constructed a tramroad."


                                                     COLLIERY EXPLOSIONS                                                251


In the course of time the United Co. was merged into, or became known as The Main Colliery Co., which remained under the managing directorship of Mr, John Newall Moore till his death. In 1898-9 the Co. sank two new pits on, the farm of Cwrt-y-Clafdyl-an enterprise which has greatly benefited the Skewen district.


Bryncoch.-In the Lease of the Bryncoch Furnace, granted by Philip Williams of Duffryu to the firm of Coles, Lewis & Co.-from Lady Day, 1772 the " Coalery at Warndee " is mentioned : " on paying 4/- p. Wey of 54 Baggs, each Bagg to contain 3 Winchester Bushels for all Coal got on said Premisses. " "PwIl Mawr," Bryn-coch, sunk for the Quakers by William Kirkhouse the engineer and canal-constructor, some time after 1806, was said to be the first deep pit (200 yards) put down in this country. The "drowning" of the Bryn-coch colliery at 11:00 a.m., April 6, 1859, is still spoken of with awe by the elderly miners of the district. Eighty men and boys were employed there at the time. In one or two headings boring towards the old " Fire Engine " pit was carried on, no one suspecting the presence of much water. But suddenly at the above hour the old working was pierced, and water began to flow into the colliery like a river. There was but one way out-for the boring had been undertaken with the purpose of providing an upcast on the Fire Engine side and all but 25 of the men managed to escape; the rest were overwhelmed by the flood which ultimately rose over 80 feet in the drift. Some horses were saved, but two saved themselves by leaping into the descending trams and were drawn up in time. A boy escaped by clinging to the tail of one of these horses. The place was even then called the Main Colliery and the owners were named as Fox, Redwood & Co., a Quaker company.




                                                       CHAPTER XIII.


Iron‑making and Other Industries.


THE origin of iron‑making in Glamorgan is lost in the mists of antiquity, but it probably dates back to the Roman period. Early Mediaeval evidence may be found in such a Vale of Neath place‑name as "Enesgaueleu," which is mentioned herein, under "Physical Features," as the name of a piece of land concerning which an action-at-law lay in the Comitatus of Glamorgan in 1249. The word presumably stands for "Ynys-y-Gefeiliau," viz., the river-meadow of the forges. (It stood somewhere between Aber Gwrelych and Resolven). "Rhyd-y-Gefeiliau" survived till the lXth century near the site of the Margin Forge. The earliest definite mention of iron-making in the Manor of Neath occurs in the Glamorgan Accounts of John Giffard de Brimmesfeld, 1281 (9 Edw. I):—


(Latin deleted) In English thus:— Iron. And for two parcels of iron produced by one worker working in the forest of Neath and not more because many workers did not forge there at the same time the war being the cause.


This iron-making hearth in the forest was situated, we may safely assume, at no great distance from the Castle, for at that stirring period raids by the Welsh mountaineers were fairly frequent. Wood for charcoal-burning was plentiful, and the iron-stone revealed by brook-floods could be gathered in most of the glens. The primitive methods of producing iron—the hearths being moved from place to place, as the supply of Iron stone and charcoal varied—probably remained unaltered till the Age of Elizabeth, when the advent of skillful foreign workmen and the formation of adventure companies led to the discovery of new metallic processes.


1566: The first proof of a small forge actually in being—and therefore dating back to an unknown period—is found in a Lease for 99 years granted to John ap Henry ap Howell1 of Rhydyn, Llangatwg, and dated March 1, 1566, "on a house, garden and forge in the Manor of Cadoxton . . . at 5/4 per annum." As this was on Neath Abbey land, it may have been located not far from the colliery which the Abbot held at the Dissolution. Writing in 1578, Rice Merrick stated that "Mynes of Iron, Lead . . . and Cole "were found in the mountain and coast districts of Glamorgan. 1635: As stated elsewhere, the muniment chest of the Neath Corporation contained, about 1747, some documents described as—"Articles touching the cupilo at Neath," but whether the cupilo was for iron or copper there is no evidence. 1658: The Eaglesbush Jointure of 1666 mentions "the house and forge in the tenure of Evan Hopkin" in Water Street, Neath. 1667: Further on we note the discovery of a Dulais forge at this date. But "1667" must be too early by four or five years, for in the Hearth Tax Roll of 21 Feb. 1670-1 (at the Record Office) there is no mention of this forge. The Roll, however, locates other forges then existing in the Nedd area; to wit, Da. Webborne's at Briton Ferry; John Edward's in the parcel of Clun, Wm. Pierce's and Tho. William's respectively in Cadoxton Village; Evan Richard's in "Glyndylais Ycha" and Lle'n Watkin's in "Glyndylais Yssa." . . . On Sept. 10, 1694, Elizabeth Hoby and other "Lords of the Abbey" granted to Thomas Scawen of London, Thomas


1 Margam MS 2951 (iv. 204) shows an assignment David Gytto William to John ap Henri ap Howell, gentleman, of a lease by Frances Williams alias Cromwell of lands in Cadoxton for 99 years, with quitclaim of the same to his son, Jenkin John. 20 Aug. 1578.

286                               HISTORY OF THE VALE OF NEATH


Leake, Thomas Neale and Benjamin Gyles "a parcel of land whereon an ironmelting furnace stood. "1 It is clear from the delimitation made on the lease that the Old Furnace stood not far from the site occupied by Foxes & Co.'s late 18th cent. ironworks at Cwm Felin, Neath Abbey.


Circa 1715.—There is some reason for concluding that Thomas Popkin of the Forest, Swansea Valley (High Sheriff of Glamorgan, 1718) was associated with the ironworks at Neath Abbey, and this may account for thc introduction of two of his Relatives as local ironfounders. Under ".Melin-y-Cwrt" we produce a document showing that castings from Neath Abbey were brought to that furnace and forge in 1718, while another MS. proves a Lease of the Melin-y­Cwrt Furnace by Thomas Popkin2 in 1736. Carw Coch (Essay, pp. (33-4) stated in 1856 on the authority of James Prosser, aged 94, of Neath Abbey— whose mother had been in service with the partners (called by him Pitt, Collins, and Lewis, but known to the documents as Coles, Lewis & Co.)—that the originators of the Neath Abbey iron-works were the gentlemen here named. The only value of this testimony is its confirmation of our surmise that Pytt and his conferees succeeded Popkin not at Melin-y-Cwrt only, but also at Neath Abbey. There is some ground for assuming, as we show further on, that Popkin's nephew, Thos. Pryce, succeeded Coles, Lewis & Co. at the abbey works and the furnace of Bryncoch. Unfortunately the documents do not bridge these gaps in local metallurgical history. Thomas Lewis of Newhouse, Llanishen, was a half-brother of Gabriel Lewis who married Thos. Popkin's daughter Jane, and thus Thos. Lewis became a member3 of the firm of Coles, Lewis & Co. of the Melin-y-cwrt and Ynys-y-gerwn works. Thos. Popkin's daughter Mary, married Matthew Pryce of Cwrt-y-Carnau (the grange of Neath Abbey) a cadet of the Prices of Briton Ferry, whose 2nd son Thomas Pryce4 lived at Cwrtrhydhir, Neath Abbey, and supplied the British Government with munitions of war. According to ID W. Jones,5 Thomas Popkin's second son, John who lived on the old Abbey land of Drymma, "owned extensive ironworks and his father before him, and his forge was so perfect that one of its chief operations was the. manufacture of muskets" (Transl.). Another connection is found in the marriage of Thomas, natural son of the above Thos. Popkin, with Elizabeth, daughter of Llewelyn Williams of Duffryn (who succeeded his father Philip Williams as Steward of the Manor of Cadoxton). Thos. Popkin, Jun., settled at Brycoch farm (which at a later period was let "at will" to the Miers' firm by his wife's 2nd husband, Dr. William Jones of Neath), and here we have a clue to the site of one of the Popkin iron-furnaces which devolved in time to his relative, Thomas Pryce.



These following notes relate to the existence of an iron furnace at Bryncoch beginning about 1735. The owners were Quakers who naturally were in the armament business.


The Bryncoch Furnace.—The date of the foundation of the Bryncoch Furnace has not been found, but it may possibly be fixed at c. 1735 or even earlier. "Elizabeth dau. of Mrs.. Thomas Popkins" was baptized at Ll. Gatwg, Aug. 7, 1750. Thomas Popkin died in 1752, and this date is significant in view of the appearance of the name of his nephew, Thomas Pryce, as iron master in the Customs MS.. of 1758-60 and a magazine reference to an explosion of fire-damp in 1754 at "the coal-works of Messrs. Pryce and Williams near Neath." As to Thos. Pryce, Chas. Wilkins observes rather indefinitely on page 31 of his Coal Trade, that "Previous to the Quakers there was a Mr. Pryce. He lived at Longford Court, near Neath Abbey. He was an iron


1 M.S. D.D. 829 (Nat. Lib. of Wales).

2 Son of the Sheriff of 1718. His elder bro. Robert married Rebecca Evans of Peterwell, who as "Mrs. Rebecca Popkins" appears as a subscriber to the Rev. Theoph Evan's Pwyll y Pader, 1733.

3 All the evidence we have seems to confirm this identification, though the abstracts of the leases do not, unfortunately, give Thos. Lewis's home residence.

4 A "Thomas Price, of Watford," Glam, was a partner (1759-63) with Thos. Lewis and others in the Myrthyr (Dowlais) Furnace.

5 Han. Morg,  347.

                                    BRYNCOCH AND NEATH ABBEY                                                  287


manufacturer at Yniscedwyn . . . and other places, before the Hills and Crawshays. He had a number of small furnaces in various places, first for charcoal and then coke. Pryce died about the middle of last century, leaving a large fortune to his widow and an only son." We have a bill of exchange (Customs MSS.) which shows that Thos. Pryce1 was alive in 1785. On Feb. 22 of that year, Richard Parsons of Cadoxton writes: "pay Thomas Pryce Esq.... £100." The following extracts, from the records of the Board of Customs, indicate this gentleman's activities in 1758-60. They reveal him as a Shotfounder and Gunmaker to the Board of Ordnance and prove his residence at Cwrt-rhyd-hir, Neath Abbey,:—


175S-60. Extracts from the Customs .MSS. Oct. 11, 1758. The Board of Customs writes as follows to the Collector, etc.:—" Gent., Mr. Boddington of the Board of ordnance having by his Letter of 9 Int. acquainted us that Mr.Thos. Pryce of Coretredhir near Neath has the Iron ordnance and Round Shot men'd on the Back hereof Cast for his Maj. Service We direct you to permit the Said ordinance to be Shipped 071 board the Coaster, Jno. Williams mr. and the Ch'g Molly, Will Harris mr. with proper Dispatches in order to be Brought `& Landed at Woolrich for his Majesties Service . . . By the Coaster, Jno Will's ma.:— 26 Ton of 32 pound Shot; 14 Ton of 24 pounder; 15 4-pounder Guns, 3 3- pounder Guns  by the Ch'g Molly, Will Harris ma'r:—22 ton of 32 pouncl Shot; 12 ton of 24 p'd Shot; 5 Ton of 12 pdr. Shot; 2 Ton of 6 pdr. Shot; 15 4-pounder Guns; 15 3-pounder do." Again on Dec. 2:—  "Gen.... Mr. Th. Pryce, shot pounder hath got ready at Neath one hundred & Ten Ton Pound Shot for his Majesties Service, we direct you to permit the sd. Shot to be Shipt on board the Molly, Jen. Frances mr.... and Landed at Woolwich... "In other letters "Woolwich Warren" is the place of landing. On Feb. 23, 1759, there is ordered from Mr. Pryce: 'Twenty Guns, nine Pounders, and Forty Eight Tons of Round Shot". On March 6:- "10 Tons of 12 Pounders and 5 of Six Pounder Shot." On March 20: "Twelve Guns Nine Pounders: Seven tons of 12, four of 6, and 4 of 32 Pounder Shot." On July 19: "88 tons of round shot for Portsmouth."  On October 9: "Fifty tons of Iron Shot." On October 25: "Seventy tons of Round Shot. . . to be shipped on board the Anne & Margaret, Sherrock Jenkins master . . . and landed at Portsmouth Gun Wharf." On Nov. 8: "Seventy tons riund shot . . . and landed at woolwich warren." On Dec. 20: "Eighty Tons Round Shot." On Jan. 12, 1760, the following Round Shot: "30 tons for 24 pounders, 20 tons for 18 pounders, 20 tons for 12 pounders, and 10 tons for 6 pounders." On Jan. 22, 1760: "Eighty Tons Round Shot." In April of same year: "10 tons for 6 pounders round shot, 40 of 12, 15 of 18, and 15 of 24 pounder shot."


In May the quantity is not given - and at that date the entries on the Customs Board Orders Book came to an end.  From the fact that these were shipped at Neath—as one entry indicates—we infer that the Guns and Shot were made at Thos. Pryce's works in the Bryncoch-Neath Abbey, area. Among the documents of Coles, Lewis & Co. is the following abstract lease, marking a transfer of the Bryncoch furnace (consequent possibly on the death of Thos. Pryce) to that firm, with which Thos. Lewis (a brother of Pryce's uncle Gabriel) was or had been associated:—


" Lease from Philip Williams-Esqr. of Duffryn of Brincoch Furnace & Tenement of Land from Lady Day 1772 for Thirty five Years liens for the First five Years £25 p. Ann. and for the Remainder of the Term £25 p. Ann. and Also of a Coalery at Warndee on paying 4s p. Wey of 54 Baggs, each bag to Contain 3 Winchester Bushels for all Coal got on said Premisses, with a Clause in the said Lease that if the Works or Coal is not Worked within the Space of Six: Months at any one time that then the Lease shall be Void, and the said Phillip Williams or his Heirs to take to the Premises again .... ,£20."


In view of the evidence we have already adduced of iron-working (probably continuous in the Neath district from the coming of the Normans by the record of 1281, the forge of 1566,2 the iron-melting furnace anterior to 1694, the Popkin-Pryce probable continuation through the 18th century till after 1780, the Coles, Lewis & Co. succession at Bryncoch in 1772, &c., the following note


1 Thos. Pryce bought Dyffryn House, St. Nicholas, and was living there in 1776, when he granted a lease of the piece of land whereon the historic chapel of Gyfylchi was  built. His mother was alive in 1762 (L.P. 85), and the Minutes of the Swansea Fishery 1775 state that his brother Joseph had then "gone abroad"

2 And others of 1670-1 mentioned above.

288                                        HISTORY OF THE: VALE OF NEATH


(received 15 July 1919) from Mr. Stephen Michell, who is writing a history of the Cornish Foundries, is worthy of quotation:—

" John Harvey who originated the Hayle Foundry took old iron scrap to Neath in exchange for iron pumps1 as early as 1776. The Cornish founders of those days would only produce small and simple castings, of the methods of casting cylinders and pumps they had no knowledge. The founders at Coalbrookdale and elsewhere jealously guarded their trade secrets, to discover which John Harvey's travels and devices make a romantic story. I have been trying to find out when the Neath Abbey works were built and have no documentary evidence of earlier date than 1800. It then becomes an interesting query— where did John Harvey get his castings a quarter of a century earlier ? "

We have little doubt but that they were procured from the works of Coles, Lewis & Co., or those of Thos. Pryce, which had supplied the Government with munitions in 1758-60.


The last dated abstract‑lease of Coles, Lewis & Co. in our possession is marked 1772, but their rentings of "A warehouse and yard, &c. at Neath Key" from Herbert Mackworth, Esq. (who was created a Baronet in 1776) and "A Warehouse at Britton Ferry" from George Venables Vernon, Esq., are both undated. On Sept. 19, 1764, a member of the above firm, "William Coles, of Cadoxton, ironmaster," leased the site and built the first Swansea Pottery Works. "The first engine turned out of the Neath Abbey works," says Turner (Ceramics, p. 11) "was placed in the old grinding mill of the Swansea Pottery by . . . William Coles." He died before Feb. 1783.2


Behind the vestry door of the parish church of Llangatwg there are two memorials, respectively in iron and stone, perpetuating the name of Thomas Guest, of Neath, Ironmaster, who died Dec. 14, 1782, aged 53. His widow Ann was buried there, Feb. 24, 1790. So far, we have found no document to throw light on his career or to indicate the local ironworks of which he was "master." But the probable link; is with the Vale of Neath firm of Coles Lewis & Co. Apparently Thomas Lewis of that firm founded the Dowlais Works in 1757‑9. There were a number of shareholders who were joined by John Guest of Broseley in 1782. The latter died in 1787 and was succeeded by his son Thomas,3 who remained a prominent partner till the succession of his sons (Sir) John Josiah Guest and Thomas Revel Guest about 1819. We can only surmise, therefore, that the Thos. Guest who died at Neath in 1782 was a brother or cousin of John Guest of Broseley, grandfather of Sir. J. J. Guest of Dowlais.


Neath Abbey: 1785‑92: Richard Parsons.- on a previous page we quoted a bill of exchange which indicated business relations between Thos. Pryce and Richard Parsons in 1785. The link is interesting in view of a Lease which marks the termination, in 1792, of R. P.'s career as an "ironmaster." Till this lease was unearthed by us there was no evidence—not even a tradition— that Parsons had ever made iron at Neath Abbey. That he took over the "Abby Pitt," in 1793, from the Lords of the Manor of Cadoxton, is shown herein under the "Coal" section.


The Advent of the Quakers.—Many attempts have been made to fix the date of the coming of the Quakers from the Duchy of Cornwall to the ancient ironworks at Cwm‑y‑Felin, Neath Abbey. The Fox family are said to have settled in Cornwall over two centuries ago.4 A former Geo. Croker Fox


1 "The pipes used underground for drainage are always known in Cornwall as pumps, and were originally of wood "

2 We have not been able to verify Turner's statement by any document.

3 See Lloyd, Old S. Wales Iron Works p. 33.

4 "'There is evidence that the Foxes were established in Cornwall at least as early as 1646, at St. Germans. They made their appearance in Falmouth in 1656-7. Later. members of the family settled at Looe, Fowey, St. Austell and Plymouth, and engaged in business as smelters and general merchants. In the 18th cent. the Foxes of Falmouth leased the piers and quays of Portreath, and laid out much capital in improving the roads over which copper ores were brought to the wharves for shipment to Neath, Swansea, and other places." Private leturfrom Mr. S. Michell.

                                  THE ADVENT OF THE QUAKERS                                                     289


founded the firm at Falmouth in 1754 (says Mr. W. Lloyd Fox). From that date until 1780 the name was G. C. Fox; then until May 1, 1810, G. C. Fox and Sons; from 1810 to 1821, Foxes & Sons; from 1821 to 1871, G. C. & R. W. Fox & Co.; since 1871, G. C. Fox & Co. The family were engaged in tin-smelting and other business at Par, but early in the last century they were associated with the Williams family of Scorrier and Burncoose, Cornwall, trading as Fox, Williams & Co., copper-ore purchasers and smelters. They bought ores from the mine adventurers in Cornwall and smelted the same in South Wales. Mr. S. Michell states1 that old workmen connected with the foundry at Perran believed Peter Price (born 1739) had originated the Neath Abbey ironworks; and as he had found on inquiry "that the extant Abstract of Leases granted on the Neath Abbey Estate, up to the year 1798, contained no lease of the site of these works," there was nothing left but the Quaker record dating Peter Price's settlement at Neath about 1800.


While Mr. Michell was carrying on his investigations, we were working to the same end, without any definite results. But now (Jan. 24, 1920), after a two-year's search, we have run the 2nd Quaker Lease of 1818 to earth at Neath Abbey, in the possession of Mrs. H. H. Price (widow of one of the five lessees of 1852-1854). And since this document recites the material portion of the Lease of 1792, the whole story becomes tolerably clear and authentic. As already stated, Richard Parsons held the furnace and rolling-mill at Cym-y-Felin in and up to 1792, when he demised the whole property": by lease to the Foxes and their friends. The recital begins thus:—


" Whereas by Indenture of Lease bearing date the thirteenth day of July in the year One thousand seven hundred and ninety two and made . . . between Richard Parsons of Cadoxton in the County of Glamorgan Iron Master of the one part and the aforesaid George Croker Fox deceased, Robert Were Fox, Thomas Were Fox, Mary Fox, George Fox, Thomas Fox, Edward Fox, Peter Price and Samuel Tregelles, Thomas Wilson of Truro . . . Copper Smelter, John Gould of Truro . . . Doctor of Physic and William Wood of Swansea . . . Iron Master who had severally agreed to and with each other to become Partners in the Trade Business and concern thereafter mentioned of the other part the said Richard Parsons for the considerations therein mentioned DID demise, lease set and to farm let unto the said [here follow the above names] their Executors Administrators and Assigns All that Mill and Foundry with all the other Erections . . . in a certain Vale or Dingle called Cum Velin in the parish of Cadoxtone . . . theretofore made use of as Mills for battering of Copper3 and then lately for the purpose of rolling Iron Plates and making Cast Iron Goods then in the occupation of the said Richard Parsons," etc.


The document shows that Parsons' original lease was held of George Talbot Rice, John Compton, Wellbore Ellis and Ann his wife, Christopher Doyley and Sarah his wife. The first-named, born 8 Oct. 1765, came of age in 1786 and succeeded to the Barony of Dynevor on March 14, 1793. Apparently, therefore, Parsons' lease was granted some time after 8 Oct. 1786.


The following Minute Papers were discovered recently when the old residence of Jos. T. Price, near the works, was converted into cottages:—


" At a Meeting of the Neath Abbey Iron Co. held at Perran Wharf, Tuesday August 23d 1796. Present, G. C. Fox, Geo. Fox, Peter Price, Saml. Tregelles, John Gould. Resolved. Ist, That Charles Vivian be order'd to deliver an Invoice with every Parcel of Goods charging the Dark Grey No. 1@ 5. 15/ Do. No. 2 @ 5. 10/ & Bright Gray @ ,£5 and that he be desired to send an Account at the above mentioned Prices of Pig Iron shipped for Sir Benjamin Hammet immediately the above Account to be sent to Mr. Francis Hannmet at Pennygourd.


2d. That C. Vivian be desired to return the . . . in readiness to cast Grate backs particularly for Kitchen Ranges, also when they shall be in readiness to deliver any other castings and to send the Particulars.


I He speaks of "an old book on the Foxes" which was lost sight of when it passed into the possession ol Mr. Grace, a Bristol Quaker.

2 We are indebted to Capt. G.Weston Young, R.N., of Brynglas, for the privilege of perusing the document at first hand.

3 For this Alill, see the "Copper" section.

290                                     HISTORY OF THE VALE OF NEATH


3. That C. Vivian be desired to lay the necessary Rails on the additional Coak yard.

4. That a few Stones may be sent from Newas and Swan Pool to line the C . . . that they may be tried for a Hearth and that C. Vivian send the necessary dimensions.

5. That Charles Vivian be desired to procure an Account of the Sizes of Rolls both soft and hard and to enquire whether any Moulds ready made could be procured, or whether they could be procured in the Neighbourhood of Neath and on what terms.

6. That C. Vivian be desired to put up a Clay Mill if that be not done immediately.

7. That C. Vivian be desired to procure a freight for the Hearth Stones if possible, if not to send the two friends1 to Newnham but not to send her until advised of the actual arrival of the Stones at Newnham. that C.V. be desired to apply to Thos. Williams s Agent at Swansea to know whether the Barges that take their Copper up could not bring back the Stones—C. Vivian is also desired to write Saml. Smith of Brinscomb to know whether he could not procure a Conveyance for the Stones.

8. That C. Vivian may address the House of Handyside under the firm of Gilbert Handyside of Falcon Foundery London.

9. That C. Vivian be desired to write to Richard Barclay of the Bear Garden Foundery London asking him whether he wants any bright grey @ £5 and also that he write Gilbert Handyside to the same Purpose, and also Lukins, Blackfmars Bridge & Jones & Co. Wapping.

10. That C. Vivian write John Clare Wolverley .... cestershire an Account of the Qualities of our Iron . . . on Hand with the Prices as above requesting to know whether he wants a Supply by desire of Mr. Price Also John Edwards Belfast offering him Iron at the above Prices stating to the several Parties that we mean to sell at three Months credit.

11. That Dr. Gould be desired to pay Messrs. G. C. Fox & Sons their disbursements on Account of the two Friends.

12. That Mr. G. Fox be desired to send Freeman to Wales as a Pattern Maker.2

13. That the Company will attend to the supplying the Men at Aberpergurn with Barley the ensuing Year



At a Meeting of the Neath Abbey Co. held at Perran Wharf Nov. 14th 1797. Present Jno. Gould, Geo. Fox, Peter Price, Saml. Tregelles junr., Jno. Williams & Thos. Wilson. Resolved, That Chs. Vivian deliver to Robson & Rees all the Iron the Company can spare reced from Mr. Tanner; at the same price it costs the Co.

2nd. That Thos. Pengelly3 go over to Comb Martin & Follow the Directions which will be sent him by Mr. Saml. Tregelles.

3d. That Dr. Gould pay Mr. Tregelles & Jno. Williams their Expences on a Journey to the North of Devon.

Six years after the Advent of the Foxes, the Rev. R. Warner of Bath passed through Neath. In his Second Walk through Wales (August, 1798) he gives a brief but useful account of what he observed at Neath Abbey in 1798:—

"We next visited the iron and copper works .... Two immense blast furnaces belonging to Messrs. Fox & Co. are constantly at work, each of them producing upwards of thirty tons of pig-iron every week. They are blown by iron bellows, worked by a double engine, constructed on the plan of Messrs. Boulton and Watts, with a steam cylinder of forty inches in diameter. A foundery also, belonging to the same firm, attracted our attention. (pp. 96-7).

On p. 104, Warner shows that at this date (1798) Fox & Co. were working "iron-stone" behind "Aberpergam, the seat of Mrs. Aubrey," and dispatching it to the Abbey works by "the new cut through the Vale" (viz. the Neath Canal). 1800: The Lease of 1792 names Peter Price as one of the first partners. It would appear, however, that he did not arrive in Neath till 1800, to take up the duties of a manager. The Annual Monitor for 1856 says that Price, "having embarked in an iron establishment at Neath Abbey . . . removed in the year 1800 with his wife and family to reside in the neighbourhood of Neath." We find from a letter in the Customs MSS., dated 27 Dec. 1794, that William Wood (one of the partners) was then "agent" at Neath Abbey for Geo. C. Fox and Sons of Plymouth. Peter Price possibly succeeded him.

Writing in 1804, Donovan (South Wales, p. 72) mentions the tramroad by which the ore was conveyed from the canal and river side to the Abbey:—

Close to the bridge we noticed a party of labourers 1ading their dram waggons with masses of grey and reddish argillaceous iron ore, that lay in heaps along the shores, in order



1 Messrs. Fox's vessel.

2 There is a Freeman tablet in Llan Illtyd.

3 He is commemorated by a graceful epitaph at Llan Gatwg.

                              NEATH ABBEY IRONWORKS                                                          291


to convey it from the landing place along the rail roads1 to the works near the abbey. This ore is the product of most part of the southern coast of Wales."


1806: Scouring for Ore.—Under the account of "Rees Williams, Esq., Aberpergwm," on p. 470 of the Gwyn MS., the curtain is slightly raised on the operations of the Foxes' firm when scouring for "iron mine" in the Aberpergwrn area:—


" Dec. 31, 1806. Long attendee. upon you, on the subject of your sevl. grievances and complaints agt. Messrs Fox's as to their very injurious manner to the Aberpergwm Estate of working. the Iron Stone Mines by scour" &c. & advising you thereon, 13/4. Writing long letter for you to copy and send to Mr. Fox at Perham wharf fully detailing the circumstance, 6/8. April 30, 1807: Attendg. you on the subject of Mr. Teagues digging a Trench in the Channel of the River along Maes Gwyn lands and throwing the rubbish in such a direction as to divert the flood over Maes Gwyn lands and advising thereon, 6/8. Writing to Mr. Peter Price respecting the same, 5/-.


In the same MS., p. 462, there appears for May 1814, an account debited to "Mr. Morgan Lewelyn" who, subject to trustees, possessed land at Pyllfa'r On, Gwaenydd Gwrach, etc.:—


" Sevl. applications to Mr. Joseph Price to obtain an inspection of the lease granted by you to the late Thomas Teague on the Copyhold Tenement called Pwllfaron & which had been assigned to David Lake and of which you had no counterpart, 13/4. Makg. an exd. Copy thf., 15/-"


Thomas Teague was apparently a servant or mine manager for the Foxes and Peter Price?


1817.—The Neath Abbey Ironworks are advertised for sale by Joseph T. Price, in The Canmbrian of Dec. 6, 1817. The second Quaker lease, now before us, shows that on March 31, 1818, the above J. T. Price, H. H. Price (sons of Peter Price), Alfred Fox and Thos. W. Fox the younger of Plymouth, signed a contract to take over and purchase the works, etc., paying a "consideration" of £1000—


" This Indenture made the thirty first day of March in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred and eighteen Between Thomas Fox of Wellington in the County of Somerset, Merchant, George Fox of Perran Wharf in the County of Cornwall, Merchant, and Robert Phillips Fox of the same place Merchant (which said T. Fox, G. Fox, and R. P. Fox are the Executors . . . of George Fox late of Perranwharf . . . deceased) the aforesaid Thomas Fox, Edward Coode of St. Austell. . . Gentleman and the aforesaid George Fox (which said T. Fox, E. Coode and E. Fox are the executors of Edward Fox late of the parish of Egloshayle . . . deceased) Dorothy Fox of Kingsbridge . . . Devon, Widow, William Matravers of Westbury . . . Wilts Merchant, Samuel Tregelles of the parish of Budock . . . Esquire Peter Price of Neath Abbey . . . Merchant, Elizabeth Fox of Falmouth . . . Widow Executrix . . . of Robert Were Fox late of the same place Esquire deceased, Catharine Fox of Falmouth . . . Widow, George Croker Fox of Falmouth aforesaid Esquire, and Catharine Peyton Fox of Falmouth . . . Spinster (which said Cath. Fox, G. C. Fox and Cath. P. Fox are Executrixes and Executor . . . of George Croker Fox of Falmouth . . . deceased) Thomas Were Fox of Falmouth . . . John Williams of Scorrier House in the County of Cornwall aforenaid Esquire (carrying on business as Iron Founders at Neath Abbey aforesaid under the Name Style and Firm of Foxes and Neath Abbey Iron Company) of the one part, and Joseph Tregelles Price of Neath Abbey aforesaid Merchant, Henry Habberley Price of the same place Merchant, Alfred Fox of Falmouth . . . Merchant and Thomas Were Fox the Younger of the Borough of Plymouth . . . Merchant of the other part."


The "recital" of the first Quaker lease of 1792 - given on an earlier page— follows the above section. The remainder is too long for quotation. It may be said briefly that the area extended from a point twenty yards above the waterfall on the Clydach down to the bridge on the main road, and included all the erections in the dingle—the mill, foundry, nine dwelling-houses, etc.; two parcels of flat land extending from the said bridge to the river—in holding which it was forbidden to do any "injury to the Old Abbey "—the lower having a breadth north to south of 150 yards and a length along the river of 80 yards, the other (towards the bridge) being not less than 60 feet broad east to west;


1 Mr. Sutton saw traces of an old tramway near Glyn Leiros, when the Neath to Skewen road was widened there a few years ago.

292                               HISTORY OF THE VALE OF NEATH


an additional 15 acres, adjoining the works in or near the dingle was to be marked out for their use within 12 calendar months. The document shows that after 1792 the Foxes Co. had erected on the said premises "two Furnaces for Smelting Iron" and certain other works and edifices. We can therefore date, c. 1792-4, the "Two immense blast furnaces . . . producing upwards of thirty tons of pig iron every week" which the Rev. R. Warner saw "constantly at work" in August, 1798! The Quaker lease of 1792 was for 61 years (Parsons' own lease was for a longer but unspecified period) and the yearly rent was £60. plus £1: 5: 0 for the 15 acres—free of all rates and taxes "excepting only Tithes and Church-rates agreed to be paid and discharged by the said Richard Parsons, his executors," etc. The list of names indicates what changes had been made by death, etc., during 1792- 1818, and it marks the entry as partner of the Cornishman, John Williams1—the founder of the great firm mentioned herein under "Copper."


1818.—In his Old S.W. Iron Works, p. 102-4, John Lloyd prints six letters sent from the Neath Abbey works (variously signed by "Joseph T. Price," for himself, or on behalf of the "Foxes and Neath Abbey Co.," "Neath Abbey Co.," and "Price Brothers") to the Quaker, William Ives of the Speedwell Mine Co., Coleford, for whom the N.A. firm were making, at various dates in 1818, tram-plates and pipes for colliery uses. Lloyd adds this comment:—


" These works are of old date, and were placed, for the sake of the water power, on the little brook Clydach, which, rising on the upland ground at Cilybebwl2 falls into the Neath river at Neath Abbey. We have no papers showing when this Forge was first formed, and as far as we know, these works have always been in the hands of Quaker families.3 It is quaintly said that "they never tried to grow large," but were contented to jag on at a moderate rate, but ever mindful to turn out work of the best make. Unlike other ironmasters in South Wales, they did not get together a fortune by casting or boring cannon for scenes of warfare."


Extracts from the Letter Books of Alfred Fox, 1820-58.—We are indebted to Mr. W. Lloyd Fox of Falmouth (who as Fox & Tilly carried through the transfer of the Foxes' N.A. Coal Co. to the Dynevor Dyffryn Co. in l874) for the following extracts concerning the Neath Abbey Works, taken out of his father's correspondence:—


1/3/1820.—A. Fox to J. T. Price, Neath Abbey, as to cost of iron ore and setting on a furnace.

16/5/1820.—In a letter to Hungary for the purchase of mineral specimens: "My partners & myself under the firm of Foxes & Sons are largely interested in the copper, tin & other mines in the Kingdom."

6/7/21.—A. F. to J. T. P. expressing desire not to lose J. T. P. as the kind and active manager of the Works of the Neath Abbey Iron Co. (J. T. P. remained).

2/8/21.—Writing to an Agent in Altona, Alfred H. Fox says: "Thou canst very properly, when soliciting signatures, allude to our being largely interested in the export & import trade & propose to the houses to favour us with advises of the state of their markets. Our having a large capital, which others have not, gives us the means sometimes of serving our friends more effectually. We have adopted our present firm-name, G. C. & R. W. Fox & Co., because the House of G. C. Fox & Sons, so well known in the mercantile world, was composed of G. C. & R. W. Fox, the parents of our present partners.

23/10/21.—A. F. to J. T. P. expressing hesitation to accede to proposal to separate the agency of the Colliery & Iron Works & suggesting that Henry Price might act as Joint Manager m both concerns.

24/12/23.—The dividend of £1800 from the N.A. Iron Co. for the year ending 5 mo. 1823 & the payment of £12 per share on G. C. Fox & Sons 30 shares & on my Uncle's (Thos. Were Fox) 8 shares in F. & N.A. I. Co. have of course been settled.

15/8/24.—H. H. Price's marriage engagement.

10/11/24.—A. F. to J. T. P. as to purchase of the Cheedle Works.

6/5/26.—Alfred Fox to his uncle Thos. Were Fox of Plymouth, agreeing to buy his 1/32 share of the Foundry, furnaces &c. and in all the concern at Neath (except the collieries)


1 See Minutes of 1797 on a previous page.

2 Cil-y-bebyll.

3 This is true of the period of Messrs. Foxes, Price & Co., 1792-1875.


                                        NEATH ABBEY IRONWORKS                                                    293


This 1/32 made up my father's share to 6-1/2/16. Geo. Croker Fox and T. W. Fox Junr., Plymouth, were partner with some  others.

N.B.—The foundry at Perranwharf near Falmouth was in 1828 under the management of Chas Fox who resided at the Cottage (now Goonvrea).

7/11/26.—A. F. to J. T. P., suggesting laying down rolling stock for their own iron ore.

31/1/29.—R. W. Fox to J. T. P. Proposal ~ to taking the Graigola Colliery.

7/2/29.—Do. Partners to meet previous to entry on their new Colliery question. Also as to exchanging with J. Parsons his collieries.

4/11/36.—Alfred Fox to his brother Joshua as to sale of his 1/32 share in Collieries & Iron Works & profit on Graigola Colliery (Swansea Valley).

16/11/36.—Do. on liability under recent purchase of Glanbran.

Feb. 1899.—Henry Price's 5/32 shares in N.A. Iron Co. were disposed of to Nathaniel Tregelles, G. C. Fox, T. W. Fox, G. P. Fox, and J. T. Price.

20/12/41—Alfred Fox to Thos. W. Fox, Plymouth, as to erection of a Rolling Mill at Briton Ferry & of raising iron ore & for making other preparations for putting furnaces in blast in connection with the proposed Mill.

2/2/44.—Do. as to negotiating with J. Parsons at Brighton for sale of Graigola to Benson.

Mar. 1844.—Sale of Pwllfaron colliery, Abernant Iron Mine, Briton Ferry investment &c. was in contemplation.

7/3/1844.—A. F. to J. T. Price, referring to conference with G. C. Fox, R. W. Fox, Geo. Philip Fox, & R. B. Fox, respecting possible sale of Pwllfaron Colliery & Abernant iron mine & smelting Inventory, for £21,200. If this does not take place, it probably will be expedient to sell Briton Ferry investment for £20,000.

13/3/48.—A. F. to T. W. Fox & Wm. Fox, Plymouth, acknowledging a form of dissolution of the Neath Abbey Iron Co. as far as they (R. W. F. and W. F.) were concerned & also Nathaniel Tregelles.

5/1/1849.—Alfred Fox to his cousin Wm. Fox of Elfordleigh, wrote: "I might be willing to sell Glanbrane at a good price. It is perhaps of more value to us than to any one else because we can ship the coals at Neath and Port Tennant, by hauling them through Bryndewi; not I admit in the most advantageous manner because we have to draw them uphill to the top of the incline, and we also have the prospect, as a purchaser might have, of working them by a level in the Swansea valley and shipping them at Swansea if a yard can be obtained there; also as to the contemplated sale of Briton Ferry engines, etc. We ought to have strong ground abandoning a concern on which much outlay was incurred viz., to work Tor y Mynydd and a thicker vein to the South a few yards off, to say nothing of all the other veins at our disposal."

9/2/1849.—Letter to J. T. Price after conference with brothers R. W. Fox, G. C. Fox, and R. B. Fox. "Neath Abbey concern should be stopped, with respect to opening a new colliery. We have a capital colliery near at hand at Pulfaron already opened and wanting a customer."

28/11/1851.—" My son Theodore goes to Wales to join Barclay [R. B. Fox, son of R. W. Fox] and H. and E. Price as managers in the foundry, our lease m which expired in 1852." Mr. W. Lloyd Fox adds: "This lease must have been renewed, I think. My brother Theodore left Neath for Middlesbrough about the end of 1863. My father, Alfred Fox died 20th May, 1874, and so far as I know he had no interest in the N.A. Iron Co., then."

8/12/51.—A. F. to Francis Fox, Tottenham, London N., stating his contemplated retirement from the Engine Manufactory at Neath ~ that his son Theodore Fox1 would take his place, who was about to settle in Wales (at Drymma, N. Abbey).

30/1/52.—A. F. to Theo. F. Letter to latter at Neath Abbey.

27/12/56.—A. F. to Chas. H. Waring & Theodore Fox, Managers of the Abernant Iron Co., Neath Abbey, asking them to transfer to his cousin H. H. Price 1/30th share of the Abernant Co. (held by A. Fox's late brother George P. Fox, whose admors. had sold it to H. H. Price).

9/9/58.—A. F. to J. D. Powles, London. The N.A. Iron Co. consists of my son Theodore, my cousin Henry Price, and Jane Gurney Fox (widow of my brother Robert W. Fox's only son, Robt. Barclay Fox who died in Egypt in 1855)."


These extracts contain information of historical interest about the Neath Abbey Iron Co., which is not otherwise obtainable at this date. So great was the reputation of the firm through South Wales, and the greater part of England, that for a long period of years they held the place of pre-eminence for the manufacture of all kinds of machinery, pumps, boilers, marine and stationary engines, etc. The machine-shops were enlarged about 1821-3. In 1824 the Company leased the old Cheadle Copper Works and there carried on a shipbuilding trade of considerable note.


1 Brother of Mr. Wilson Lloyd Fox, Registrar, Plymouth, the extractor of these notes.


294                            HISTORY OF THE VALE OF NEATH


Peter Price died in 1821, aged 81. His son, Jos. T. Price, became managing director of the new company in 1818, and, after a most successful business and philanthropic career, died a bachelor in 1854, aged 71. Henry Habberley Price, born 1825, continued as manager after his uncle's death. In 1852-4, the partners were Theodore Fox, J. T. Price, H. H. Price, Edwin Price, and R. B. (son of R. W.) Fox; there remained in 1858 the first and third of these, together with Jane G., widow of R. B. Fox. Mr. Chas. S. Price had probably gone to Australia at this period.


It has been stated in other histories that George Crane appointed David Thomas to oversee the application of the hot blast process to iron-making in America because he was busy defending his patents in court. The following paragraph bears that out.


In 1840, Mr. Crane of the Ynyscedwyn Works, brought an action against the Neath Abbey Iron Co. for an infringement of his patent for combining the use of hot blast with anthracite or stone coal, in the manufacture of iron. The case was tried in Westminster Hall, on the 11th and 12th of February 1840 before Lord Chief Justice Tindal and a special jury. Judgment against the defendants was delivered by the Court of Common Pleas on June 13, 1842. David Rowland, the Neath solicitor, commented on the findings in a book of 64 pp., Remarks on the Case of Crane v. Price, 1842.


The Quaker ownership ceased in 1874, when the works were closed down. About 1875 Mr. Edw. Davies (Caewern) and Messrs. Henry Jones and Howell restarted the concern, and carried it on for a period—till 1885-6. The machinists, founders and engineers scattered into various parts of the country, some of them establishing new foundries and other industries. Descendants of Messrs. Chas. H. and H. H. Price still live in the district, but RUIN has carved its name deeply on the remains of the far-famed ironworks. A paragraph in the Western Mail of May 30, 1923, indicates eloquently that while the very names of the famous ironmasters of Neath Abbey have become a mere memory, the machines which they made, nearly a hundred years ago, are still being used to commercial advantage in these days of scrapping machinery, it would be difficult to find anywhere in Britain a parallel to this remarkable record:—


" At the Lightmoor colliery in the Forest of Dean there is a Cornish condensing pump made at the Neath Abbey Ironworks in 1845. It is 70 in. cylinder, and will work with as low pressure as 10 lb. per square inch and is very efficient, delivering two tons of water per minute. The engine is still in its original state and is of beautiful design and workmanship and brightly polished. It works as well to-day as it did when the present manager, Mr. Meredith started 43 years ago, The engine is housed in a three-storey building 40 ft. high of a very massive type. The colliery has also winding engines working, which were made at the Neath Abbey works."



                                                THE BRANCH CANALS                                                 333


The Vale of Neath Canal was authorized by Parliament in 1791. It probably began operations late in the 1790.  Another canal, the Tenant Canal, was commercially successful, but it did not get started until 1816. As noted in the last sentence, the N.A.I.W. used a short connecting canal to ship its goods.



For the first 60 years of its existence the Vale of Neath Canal grew in prosperity, till the shares were at a high premium : in 1845 a Neath Canal 100 pounds/share was marketable at 340. Circa 1856-60, as much as 200,000 tons of coal were brought down annually for shipment, at Giant's Grave, into vessels of 80-2001 tons burthen that came up the river to that point. But after the opening of the Vale of Neath Railway this trade began to dwindle, and in 1883 the activity at Giant's Grave ceased altogether. By 1907 the coal-carriage of the Canal amounted to no more than 5000 tons a year. Some 6000 tons of silica were brought from Abernant to the Neatb brickworks of Messrs. J. B. Jenkins & Co., and the covered barges conveying gunpowder from Messrs. Curtiss's & Harvey's works at Pontneddfechan to their shipping-place near Red jacket were, up till the beginning of the Great War,' among the few things that had remained unchanged. Some portion of the canal revenue is secured from rent of water supplied to works. In the Briton Ferry area this is assessed at 132 pounds per annurn. (See Transit, pp. 68-9).


Canals failed to compete with railways in the provision of efficient and quick shipping facilities. The numerous locks on the Vale of Neath Canal seriously impeded the traffic; the boatmen were not always subject to control; but the greatest impediment was the laborious method of unloading to a bank, for stock, and refilling again when vessels were available.


336                                        HISTORY OF THE VALE OF NEATH



The. Tennant Canal traffic, from Aberdulais and the upper Vale of Neath to Swansea, grew with the years. For a long period, its coal-shipping trade amounted to an annual average of 150,000 tons. The general merchandize together with coal and other material for the use of the works on its banks averaged a further 120,000 tons per annum. Towards the beginning of the last quarter of the 19th century, however, railway competition had robbed it of a good deal of its trade, and its decay was hastened by the construction of new docks and the adoption of new methods of coal-shipping at its western terminus. The Tennant Canal carries coal no longer, except for local purposes at points where there is no other means of transit. Its main revenue in 1914 was gained from cargoes dispatched to Swansea from the Cape Copper Works, Briton Ferry, and from the yearly rent paid by the various works which it supplies with water.


Branch Canals.-Two short arms of the Tennant Canal deserve a brief notice here, for both were commercially important, viz. : (1) the arm at Aber Dulais which supplied a water-siding for the products of the " Dylais Forge " and later for the brickworks output, passing under the turnpike road beside the present Dulais Rock hotel ; (2) the short stretch of water in front of the main entrance to the great abbey of Neatb, which was profitably used by the Quaker company who functioned at the Neath Abbey ironworks.



                                              SOUTH WALES RAILWAY                                               341


There were two railways built in the Neath area.: the South Wales which ran in an east-west direction and The Vale of Neath Railway which followed the course of the Neath River and directly competed with the canal traffic.


South Wales Railway; Neath Section.


A railway from Swansea to London, via Neath, was mooted in the year 1824 but little support was forthcoming till the year 1836 when influential Glamorgan gentlemen united their efforts to push the project. With Mr. I. K. Brunel as engineer and adviser, the group sought Parliamentary powers to carry their scheme into effect, but the Bill failed to pass the House of Commons. The promoters then varied certain aspects of their plan, and on Feb. 26, 1845, appealed again for powers. The Bill was passed on Aug. 4, 1845 (Han. Morg. 69). Some five years were spent in the construction of the section from Chepstow across the Vale of Neath to Swansea, the opening ceremony taking place amid great rejoicings, boom of cannon, bell-ringing and display of bunting, on June 18, 1850. Thousands of people had assembled along the route. When the Directors’ train stopped at the Neath station-then situated at the Cadoxtonr road railway bridge-the Mayor presented the directors with an address on behalf of the Corporation and Burgesses. The Chairman of the Company, Mr. C. R. M. Talbot, having replied to the town's congratulations, the train moved on to Swansea-the then terminus of the line-where some 10,000 people from all parts of West Wales had foregathered. (The Cambrian, June 21, 1850). At a later date the railway was extended westwards to Carmarthen, etc. After the projection of the new railway in 1845, the noted ballad-writeer of the period, Levi Gibbon, proclaimed in several printed songs the wonderful changes in manners and modes of living that would be wrought by the introduction of the railway train.




Vale of Neath Railway.


When the railway through the Vale of Neath was projected, some of the older inhabitants viewed its advent with fear and trembling. An old manservant of Ynysygerwn prophesied that the cows would withhold their milk and the calves would die: The landlord of the " Plough " inn at Abertwrch bemoaned, with serious brow, the possibility that the smoke of the locomotives passing so close to his house would destroy the horses in the stables ; and Sian Glover, occupying a cottage at Pont-walby, feared that the puff of the engine would sour the contents of the milk-pails from Llanfaglan to Pencaedrain  The originator of the railway was a native of the district-Mr. H. S. Coke, town clerk of Neath. His first action was to proceed to London, in the summer of 1845, in order to put the project of a Neath to Merthyr line before the Earl of Jersey, the Directors of the South Wales and Great Western Railways, etc. So great did the engineering difficulties appear at the outset that Mr. Stephenson, "whose name was European," declared before a House of Commons Committee, "that it was impossible to make it a line adapted to the transit of minerals-that the difficulties were insurmountable " !Mr. I. K. Brunel, the famous engineer who designed the railway, proved this prediction wrong. Wooden bridges were thrown over the river and canal at Neath and Aberdulais, and from thence to Pontwalby construction was not difficult. The Glynneath-Hirwaen gradient of one in fifty, the splendid viaduct of Cwm Gwrelych consisting of four bays each of about 43 ft. span and 60 ft. high  and the tunnel at Pencaedrain, all tested the capacity of the constructors.The line was laid double on the " broad gauge " (7 ft.) and stations were erected at Neath, Aberdulais, Resolven, Glyn Neath, Hirwaen and Abernant. The terminus at Merthyr was finished after the opening of the main railway.




430                                      HISTORY OF THE VALE OF NEATH


The "Hopkins" Families.


In Ilanover MS. 42, Iolo Morganwg states correctly that:


"The Hopkins of Neath are descended from Hopkin ap Thomas of Vnys Dawy whose son was Thomas ap Hopkin after whom his posterity took the fixed surname of Hopkin or Hopkins. Hopkin Thomas was a bard and the most celebrated patron of the bards of his time . . . He lived about the year 1350. His son, Thomas Hopkin, was, like his father, a Patron of Welsh Literature".


The "Hopginiaid," says D. Bcnwyn in his elegiac "englynion" on Thomas Lewys of Baglan, "were of ancient Irish stock "—which refers to the Hopkins (or Ap Hopkins ) of Ynys Dawe. But on the male side the family clearly draw their descent from Maenarch, Lord of Brecon. After considerable investigation,


                                                   THE HOPKIN FAMILIES                                               431


we believe that the following lineage, which we have taken from Pcniarth MS. 120, p. 498, is fairly correct as a skeleton of the main facts:

" Neath h.


Dd. ap hopkin ap Tho: ap hopkin ap Rys ap hopkin ap Tho ap Ine' gen apo1  vychan apol ap Gr vap' ap Gr gwyr.

1. dd. m: Elz vz pine: Mansell

2. hopkin m: wenllian: vz. Jo: ap gr apo melyn

3. Tho m: Elen vrz: Morgan ap hopkin ap dd of gowyr

4. hopkin m: . . . d: to Wm ap Rys ap Jenkin of glunedd

        Court y bettus.

Tho: ap Wm hopkin wyn ap tho ap hopkin of swensey

1. Tho m: i anne d: to Wm Mathew of Radyr. no Issue   af'd mr friswith d: to Wm Bassett of Bewper by Cathr. Mansell his wife d: to sr Rys Mansell kt.

2. Wm m: i Maud d: tc ni Jo Wm Taylor of neth no Issue aft' m: Jenett vrz wm Lloyd ap Gitto dd of Llangattwg.

3. tho: hopkin wyn m: .... d: to Tho Jo Llu ... sister to lison ye last abbot of neath.


From other MS. sources we are able to throw some light on the line of descent, from father to son, as follows:—Cadifor of Glyn Tawe (ap Gwgan ap Bleddyn ap Maenarch, lord of Brecon); Griffith Gwyr, a lord of Gower; Griffith Vychan; Howel; Howel Vychan, whose son was—Einion Gethyn, of Cilvai, who after widowhood became a priest, known as Einion Offeiriad and Einion Hen. Eminent as a Welsh grammarian and bard. See Most. MS. I 10, p. 31; Pen. MSS. 62, 111, 158; B. Mus. Add. MSS. 14971 and 15060; Hopk. Morg., 3‑ 12.


Thomas ap Einion, c. 1300‑60; witnessed a document at Cilvai, 1337. Compiler of the Mabinogi of Taliesin, etc. A grant of land by his brother Ievan, is dated at Oystermouth, 1329.

Hopkin ap Thomas, c 1350-1405. Consulted as a Welsh seer by Owen Glyndwr. A great patron of Welsh literature and a powerful chieftain: Myv. Arch. contains poems addressed to him by five notable bards. His elegy on Dafydd ap Gwilym is in Iolo AISS. p. 94-5, and is dated 1380. Several Welsh fables are attributed to him. His son, Thos. ap Hopkin, had a grant of land at Y Faerdref, Clydach-Tawe in 1408 (C. iv.1458) and he is greeted in a poem by "Y Proth"; if he were Hopkin's heir, the next in this lineage was the second son—named as heir in Limb. Pat. 216—

Rhys, whose sons were Hopkin and Thomas.

Hopkin, erroneously called Hopkin Thomas in Limb. Pat., but Hopkin ap Rhys ap H. in grants of land, 1432 and 1465. About the latter date he was beheaded in Chepstow Castle for having fought with Philip Mansell at the battle of Mortimer's Cross, 1461, against the new King, Edw. IV. His possessions, 40 messuages, 600 acres of land, etc., were forfeited to Sir Roger Vaughan, Kt.

Thomas ap Hopkin is named in Limb. Pat. as Thomas Thomas of Ynys-Forgan and Neath Abbey who is said to have mar. Ellen dau. of Morgan ap David ap Hopkin of Gower, having issue Hopkin and a daughter.

Hopkin, described in a Fenton AIS. (says Hop. Morg. 14) as "of Penyfedw."3 From this point Pen. MS. 120, as quoted at the outset, gives some useful direction.

David ap Hopkin. He is named with Leyson Price, Philip Cradock, etc. temp Q. Eliz. (Cartue, vi. 2136), lived in the parish of Llan Gatwg, and mar. Elizabeth dau. of Philip Mansell of Llanddewi, Gower; the marriage settlement dated 20 May 1551 (C. v. 1994‑7), indicates that, besides land in Gower, he held "by leas parsell of the demaynes of the late monastery of Nethe." He signs the indenture as "Davyd Hopkyns," and on the top line (partly undecipherable)


1 This stands for Ap Howell

2 Indistinct: a contraction for "vychan,"

3 Query if this is the same person.

432                                HISTORY OF THE VALE OF NEATH


some one has wntten: "O what a treasure is love certayn . . . hartes be fyxed .... not refrayn." His wife Elizabeth is named in the Will of Sir Rice Mansell, Kt., 1558: "to my nyce Elizabethe Hopkyns a gowne of black' damaske" (C. v. 2045). Of this marriage, the only recorded issue is Catherine "d. and h.," who mar. William, eldest son of Leison Price of Briton Ferry. We now come to—


William Hopkins, the "Wm. hopkin wyn" of Peniarth MS. 120 who was of Cwrt‑y-bettws and mar. (1) Maud dau. to "nj1 Jo. Wm. Taylor of neth" from whom he had no issue; and (2) Jenett dau. of Wm. Lloyd ap Gitto David of Llan Gatwg. He was bailiff and collector of the rents of the dissolved Abbey of Neath, c. 1539-41, and leased Cwrt-y-bettws and Cwrt Etberne in 1566 from Francis Cromwell. In 1551 he is mentioned as a trustee of the marriage settlement of the above David Hopkyns. From this, and the three lines set out under "Court y bettus" in MS. 120' we conclude that William was an uncle of David H., and son of Thomas—there called "tho: hopkin wyn" —the heir of the beheaded Hopkin ap Rhys ap H. In this MS. is revealed the interesting fact that "tho: hopkin wyn" married a sister of Leison Thomas the last Abbot of Neath, and dau. of "Tho Jo Llu." Wm Hopkins's heir by the second wife was—


Thomas Hopkins, who mar. (1) Anne dau. and co-in. of Wm. Mathew of Radyr, without issue; and (2) Friswith, dau. of Wm. Basset of Beaupre by Catherine dau. of Sir Rice Mansell. By this latter marriage he became brotherin-law to Preb. Dr. Thos. Leyson of Neath and Llandaff Cathedral. We conclude, for various reasons, that this was the Thomas Hopkins to whom "a litle manor call'd Rysoulen" was granted in ferm for a thousand years (Peniarth MS. 120, fol. 468); and as he was an "uncle of "lyson ap Pryce" (viz. Leisan, the barrister-son of Rhys ap Ievan of Briton Ferry by Catherine Mansell) who died c. 1587, the passage of the manor into the hands of that notable Elizabethan, as recorded in the Pen. MS., becomes more intelligible. The Bettws and Etberne lease of 1566 granted to Wm. Hopkins was for 99 years, but terminable with the lives of himself, Thomas, Edmund and Hopkin Hopkins—probably his three sons. From this point we have not been able to connect clearly the links in the succession of "Hopcyniaid Nedd." We will therefore set down, as far as possible, in chronological order, the chief characters we have discovered:


John Hopkins.—Iolo Morganwg, speaking from a MS. pedigree of the Leysons of Neath, states: "John Hopkins the versifier of the Psalms, died 1541 a native of Neath. Sternhold married his sister, or he a sister of Sternhold not well known which, but it is rather believed that he married Sternhold's sister. But whether Sternhold was a native of Neath or not is not known, but he resided much at Neath. Their translation is greatly superior to any poetry of their age, in versification and every other requisite of poetry."


" William Hopkin, Gent." is listed with the Freeholders of Llan Gatwg Nedd, 1634; and the same list shows for Llan Illtyd, "Evan Hopkin" and "William Hopkin." (See "Names of all the Freeholders . . . 1634," pr. at Neath in 1849).


Thomas Hopkins held land at Baglan, 1626-7.—C. vi. 2175-6.


Francis' Charters, p. 84, names three officers: Thomas Hopkins gent., Portreeve of Neath, 1682. Leyson and David Hopkins, Common Attorneys of Neath, 1682. Jenkin and David Hopkin, Haywards, 1682. This indicates how prominent the "Hopcyniaid" were!


1 So in the MS.; it may be a cut-out, or an attempt at "m." The word Taylor may here indicate occupation.

                                                 THE HOPKIN FAMILES                                                    433


In James II's Charter, c. 1685-6, Thomas Hopkin gent. and Leyson Hopkin gent. are named as two of the "first and modern twelve aldermen of the Borough"; while David Hopkin is named of the Common Council. In 1679 Bussy Mansell granted a lease of Coed-Iarll, Llan Gatwg parish, for their lives, at a yearly rent of £9, to Mary Rees, widow, Leyson Hopkins and Katherin Hopkins, children of the said Mary.—Margam MS. 5085. "Lyson Hopkin "witnessed the Will of the above-named ex-Cromwellian Bussy Mansell, lord of Briton Ferry, in 1699.—C. vi. 2257. In 1686 the following were "presented" to the Grand Jury of the Leet Court at Neath: D. H. James for "makeing an assault and affray and breakeing a staffe upon Tho. Hopkin of this Burrough Alder'." John Hopkin "cobler . . . for . . . makeing an unlawfull assembly, and . . . wth force and armes comitting a riots . . . upon . . . three of his Matties officers for the collecting of Hearth money within this Burrough." A petty constable named John Hopkin was presented for aiding Samuel Jones and others who were attacked. Richard Leyson" for comitting a rescue against Jenkin Hopkin and Jno. Owen, Heywards . . . by takeing away from them the said Jenkin Hopkin, etc., a mare of the proper cattle of the said Richard Leyson."


In 1703, Thos. Mansell of Briton Ferry granted a Lease to Leyson Hopkins gentleman, of "Penrowting issa," "Penrowting ucha, lands called Melingrothen Huntings hill, Park or Parson Stove, Park Gwyn, Park crwn, and Park Leyson, etc." in the parishes of Neath, Lantwit, and Briton Ferry. Copy certified by Hen. Williams and Richd. Davies . . . 1720—Margam MS. 5388. L. H. was T. M.'s chief agent, 1705.—Frances, p. 114. David Hopkins gent. and another "David Hopkin" were Burgesses of Neath, and Mansell adherents, during the Mansell-Mackworth disturbances of 1705. David Hopkins, gentlemen, living at Ynys-y-maerdy, is granted, for £100, a lease of that messuage and tenement for three lives by the Rt. Hon. Thomas Mansell of Briton Ferry [1699-1706]— Marg. MS. 5052. Leyson Hopkins signs the Corporation's List of Deeds which ends at 1742. David Hopkins, Portreeve, 1766-7; Churchwarden, 1792. Thomas Hopkins, Portreeve, 1770-1, 1786-7-8. Jenkin Hopkins of Tynyrheol, Llan Illtyd, leased in 1768 the lands "called Reeding and Lyros," to hold for the lives of Thomas Hopkins, son of Morgan Hopkins2 of Bristol, at a yearly rent of £65 and a couple of fat pullets.—MS. D.D.880. The same Jenkin Hopkins granted a lease on Glyn Castle farm (Resolver) in 1754 to the firm of Coles Lewis & Co. of Melin-y-cwrt Furnace for the lives of Eliz. Jenkins widow and Phillip Llewellyn {see Appendix); the "Willsons House" lease to the same firm gives his father's name as Thomas, and the Gwyn MS. states that he died in 1782. (Presumably his ultimate heirs were the Jones family of Clun-ycastell and Tynyrheol, near Neath). To the same company David Hopkins granted a "liberty" on Llest Banwen Tor-y-betol for the uses of the Furnace. Jenkin's brother, Thomas Hopkins—mentioned herein under Charities (Baglan) —became seized of Ton-Garwed and Ty'n-y-garn at his death, the former being held under a lease by Daniel Richard [whose great-grandson of the same name now occupies Ynys-Arwed]. After Thos. Hopkins's decease his widow Martha—living at Bristol in 1802—administered his estate. Daniel Benbow, Portreeve of Neath in 1796 and 1809 (acting with his sister and her husband, Henry James) had seized two-thirds of the said farms as customary heir of Mrs. Martha Hopkins's daughter; whereupon litigation ensued (1802 till 1810).


1The parish church memorials record that David Hopkins, Gent., married Catherine (died Ap. 9, 1743, aged 32) dau. of David Pralph, the ex;ecutor to the Will of Ald. Jno. Davies, 1719, that the said David H. married as 2nd wife Kesia, dau. of Evan Jones of Ynysarwed (see that pedigree) and Ilanfrechfa, Esq.—but she died, aged 22, Dec. 25, 1766. Both wives were buried in the Pralph ground inside the church, and David Hopkins (a son ?) was gathered there on April 24, 1805, at the age of 64.


2Who married Susannah Crookshanks at St. :Nicholas Cole Abbey, London.—Gwyn MS., p. 288.

434                                        HISTORY OF THE VALE OF NEATH


" Jany. 1809. A person of the name of William Hopkin from Coleshill near Birmingham, Warwickshire, having arrived at Neath with his Attornev (Mr. Chas. Earl) representing himself to be a Son of the late Morgan Hopkins, the younger Brother of the late Mr. Thomas Hopkins died seized, and the Attorney having examined sevl persons in the Town and neighbourhood . . . and having given out that this Wm Hopkin was ye right heir at Law and entitled to the Estates in question, and that he intended to bring Ejectments to recover the same unless the Tenants attorned to him, I considered it very prudent and adviseable to caution all the Tenants against attorning," etc.—p. 280.


Wm. Hopkin made three visits to Neath. For Mrs. M. Hopkins, who still owned the land and mansion of Ty'n yr heol,1 Mr. Serjt. Williams and Mr. Rich. Bevan, barrister, of Neath were retained. Mrs. Richards and Mrs. Williams of Portman Square were cited as material witnesses. Certificates of the marriages of Morgan Hopkins were searched for.2 On March 4-5, 1810, the Gwyn MS. records:

"Journey to Landiloe and attending at Mr. Lewis's with whom Mr. Leigh had deposited the Gnoll Estate Title Deeds and old Court Rolls of the Manors, to search the same if any of the Tynyrheol Estate Title Deeds were there, as one third of Tynyrheol had formerly been purchased by the late Sir Herbert Mackworth and to search the old Court Rolls, when I found some material old papers, useful to your defence as to the Copyholds wch Mr. Lewis permitted me to take away, but could find none of ye Tynyrheol Title Deeds.'


The trial was to take place at the Hereford Assizes 1810, but Hopkin of Coleshill made no further move and, therefore, the whole case fell through.



1 Then occupied by "Mr. Bowzer" of Hirwaev Ironworks.

2 The Rcgisters of St. James's Chlurch, Lewin's Mead, Bristol, were searched with some success.