CHARLES WILKINS, F.G.S.,
Author of “Wales, Pat and Present”, Literature of Wales”, History of the Coal Trade”, History of the Iron, Steel and Tinplate Trades,” Etc.
JOSEPH WILLIAMS AND SONS, PRINTERS AND PUBLISHERS
“TYST” AND “CENAD HEDD” OFFICES
Ed. Chapter 17 excerpted from this source gives a non-technical history of the development of the Dowlais Iron Works, emphasizing the contributions of the owners – the Guests. JMcV, April 2008
DOWLAIS AND THE GUEST FAMILY.
ABOUT the middle of the 18th century, we have plain indications from parish documents that the Iron Era had begun. The old rate books show that amongst the Joneses, Wil1liamses, and Thomases, the aborigines of the valley, interlopers had made their appearance, and that in some cases even the native inhabitants were speculating a little in iron-making.
As we have stated, the earliest lease given was in 1696; but after more or less desultory efforts, we hear of no marked practical efforts until the year 1748, when the great mineral district was leased by the Dowager Lady Windsor to Mr. Thomas Morgan, of Machen Place, one of the direct line of the present Tredegar family. The lease was for a term of ninety-nine years, subject to an annual payment of twenty-six pounds sterling! and embraced an area of 2,000 acres of mineral property, extending from the northern part of Dowlais to the centre of the widely spread parish of Gelligaer. It was free from any restriction as to sub-letting and royalty, and empowered the lessee to work coal, iron-.ore, limestone, sand-stone, and fire clay for the period named over the whole estate, which at that period, with one small exception, was in the ownership of Lady Windsor. This exception was a portion known then, and now, as Penydarren.
For a few years Morgan indulged his taste in sporting and hunting, and, having either cleared the district or become tired of the amusement, he disposed of the lease to David John, of Gwernllwyn Isha, ancestor of Davis, of the Cwm; and John's representatives received an annual rent until the termination, in 1850 or '51. The lease was assigned by John to the Rev. Thomas Lewis, Llanislian, Monmouthshire, who paid £26 per annum. Two or three years passed, and one of the Lewises, of the Van, a descendant of the old Troedyrhiw iron-master, and a representative of Ivor Bach, made an application to the Bute family for a transfer of the abandoned lease, with its immunities and privileges, as granted to Mr. Morgan. This was conceded, with one important proviso-that, instead of the £26, it should thenceforth be £28. From the date of the lease, Mr. Lewis tried a little iron-making at Dowlas in connection with the small iron works he had near Caerphilly; and among the old people of a century ago at Dowlais there lingered traditions of great enterprises on the part of Lewis - of massive iron material for furnaces brought over the hills by long trains of mules, and of mighty shouts and exclamations at the difficulty of transport, of course given in voluminous aud undefiled Welsh.
Such was the condition of things when the pioneer of the Guest family made his appearance upon the scene. Who and what was he ? The question put to Mr. C. R, Guest, barrister, Westminster, elicited the following : --John Guest came from the White House, Broseley. He was the grandfather of Mrs. Bathurst and of Canon Thorne. He was the younger brother of Thomas Guest, and he married Penelope Furmstone, nee Guest; great-grandfather, Ralph Guest. My great great-grandfather John married Penelope Easthope. He died at Broseley 27th Nov., 1777. Alexander left several daughters. He was buried at Madeley. Of this three sisters, one married John Hartshorne, and became grandmother of the Rev. C. Hartshorne and Frances, who married Benjamin Wright, father of Peter Wright, who was the father of the second wife of Timothy Yate, Esq., agent to Lord Craven, and cousin to the Rev. Geo. Yate. Mr. C. E. Guest adds: " I cannot find any Wills or any means of identifying the parents of John, husband of Penelope Easthope, and I am afraid I never shall. They were evidently in a respectable position of life. I am quite certain that the pedigree has never been properly gone into, as I have evidence that the Guests married into county families, and were people of some standing. Our own enquiries, undertaken forty years ago, elicited the fact that about 176o John Guest, a freeholder lived at Broseley. He was a middle-aged man, and his wife's name was Wilmot. He had several children, and over the porch of his dwelling there was a large initial G. This was the old homestead of the Guests, a family located in Broseley for upwards of two hundred years."
When Sir John Guest, in the heyday of his fame, sought to learn the ancestry of the Guests, he found that the name was one of the oldest institutions of the parish. It was a good old Saxon family, and there generation had succeeded generation, like the elms of the hedgerows and the beech of the woodland. Our Guest flourished at the time when dabbling in iron-making became common in iron districts. There are remains to this day at Broseley of an old furnace known as Guest's, where he attempted, with what success we know not, to make iron. This fact becoming known to Lewis, of Dowlais, led to his joining him in his Welsh speculation; and about the year 1760 he started for Wales. The road was rugged, mountainous; difficulties and dangers were to be apprehended; but his plain habits and strong constitution enabled him to treat these trifles as of little account. He had a companion in his travels, and this companion was an old faithful servant of the family, named Ben, who rode on a grey mare; and when they set out to seek their fortunes, the master rode and the man walked behind. But there was not the distance then that now exists between master and man, and so it fell out that honest Guest could not ride in comfort while his old friend and servant trudged in the mire; so Ben was persuaded, very much against his wish, to mount the grey mare behind his master; and in this homely fashion, sometimes walking, and occasionally resting, for the sake of the poor animal, whom they treated with care and consideration, they jogged along in the direction of the distant, the unknown land of Wales. It was in this homely guise that they were seen in the falling shades of an autumnal evening to enter the obscure hamlet of Merthyr, by the Twynyrodyn Road; and being directed by a villager, the travellers stopped at length opposite the cosy-looking and inviting hostelry now known as the Three Salmons. Such was the entry on the field of the future of our Guest; the energetic worker out of his own fortunes, the ancestor of one who in our day amassed immense wealth, and linked his name in honourable association with the old nobility of the empire.
Guest built himself a house by the side of the Morlais, and took the furnace of Lewis into his special keeping; and soon, it would appear, there he lived, there he worked, quietly moulding his fortunes.
He was a plain, homely man. Mrs. Williams, of Penyrheolgerrig, the mother of Mr. Morgan Williams, remembered him well. She was born at Pant Coed Ivor, where her father, Mr. Nicholas, a descendant of Sir David Gain, pursued the trade of a smith. It was by their house that the old post-woman came once a week from Brecon to Merthyr with letters, in those quaint old days of pre-postal, rail, or telegraph times ; and as the old lady, mounted on a pony, was desirous of getting to the village with as little labour as possible, she left Mr. Guest's letters and papers in the care of Nicholas, to be sent on to their destination by his little girl. The post-woman brought only two newspapers in her bag weekly. One of these was for Mr. Guest, and the other for a respectable yeoman in Merthyr. This paper was regularly taken by Mrs. Williams, when a girl, to the proprietor of the Dowlais Furnace ; and for this act she received a weekly present of one penny, and on Christmas days sixpence. She invariably found Mr. Guest seated on a large stone opposite his furnace, which was very little bigger than a common limekiln; and when she came in sight, for he knew his messenger at a distance, he would hasten to take his newspaper, and reseat himself on the big stone, to read it with great attention. That solitary newspaper, which had travelled so far, and at length had only reached him by the little travelled route of the Brecon hills, was the Englishman's solitary link with the world he had left. In the Welsh dingle, amidst a strange people, he was as far from home and England as any emigrant of the present day is in Canada or the West of America; but the newspaper came, a bright pleasant messenger, the wandering friend who maintained the connection open between him and his country, and fanned his interest in those stirring times and strong minds which lent a marked distinction to that epoch in our history. For Pitt, like a caged lion, was then growling defiance in his retreat; the American Revolution had cast its forerunning shadows; and throughout England Wilkes, and liberty had become the signal for disturbance and riot. Guest was, of course, interested in these things; and so when the Cambridge Intelligencer, edited by that renowned and sometime imprisoned Radical, Flowers, was received, no wonder that the absorbing attractions of the one small furnace faded for the time, and mentally he was far away from the hollow of Gellifaelog and the strange voices of Welshmen, in his own home at Broseley
This is another of our pleasant retrospects, and one that lures the thoughtful mind to reflect awhile ere taking up the chain of events and wandering on. Our chronicle, Mrs. Williams, a lady of superior intelligence and most excellent qualities, liked nothing better than to refer to these and similar records of her youth. She described Mr. Guest as a tall, finely-built man, with eccentric habits, but much loved by his workmen. He had but few men; and as he applied himself to the study of the language with his usual energy of application, he was soon able to converse with them in their own tongue. The old rate. books give us a hint that assures us that he was " reverenced, as old Welshmen say; for, while the clerk entered wealthy yeomen as John Thomas or William Morgan, our iron-master is entered first on the list, and as Mr. John Guest.
This is no fanciful distinction. Last century the people of Aberdare were in the habit of recording that they had only three "misters " in the parish. One of these was Mr. Jones, of the Johns' family, of Vaynor, who lived on the estate afterwards held by Mr. Bruce; another was the curate; and the other Rees, of the Werfa. So it was an uncommon height of dignity for Guest to attain when he, an unknown man, was honoured with the prefix of "Mr."
Mr. Guest's labours were at first attended with considerable difficulty. Success dawned but slowly. He found that Mr. Lewis, with whom Mr. Thompson, father of Alderman Thompson, was in partnership, had tried various methods; so he had the benefit of his forerunners' experience, with only a moiety of their misfortunes. Amongst other means, Mr. Lewis was the first in Wales to attempt the manufacture of iron by means of pit coal; and an immense outlay was incurred to bring up the required new cylinder from Cardiff to Dowlais. This was achieved by a small army of men and twenty-four oxen over the mountain to Waun, and thence to the works in the track of the Roman road; but, on trial, the principle was attended with only partial success, and the weekly yield under Lewis did not exceed eighteen tons - another instance of the sluggish growth of great benefits, for Dudley had begun iron-making with pit coal in 1619!
Almost simultaneously with the arrival of Guest came a Mr. Wilkinson, the father of the late eminent iron-master of that name. This gentleman also came from Broseley, so the news of the venture in Wales was beginning to spread. Wilkinson built a furnace in Dowlais, the ruins of which can still be seen behind the old Vulcan steps. At a considerable distance from this there was a water-wheel, which acted as the motive power to a large bellows, supplying the furnace with blast. This blast was in turn conveyed through a clay pipe, so long and frail that it was no wonder the whole scheme fell to pieces; and all Mr. Wilkinson did was to blast his own fortune, and return to Broseley a disappointed man. John Guest must have smiled at this, though he was not one of those little-minded men who love monopoly and view with envy the appearance of a competitor. So far from this being the case, as soon as he saw reasonable hopes of success, he was the first to invite some of his old Broseley friends to come and join him; for he was a man of a large circle of friends, and a member of a very large family. As an interesting relic, we give a list of his brothers and sisters, the children of his father, Thomas Guest, of Broseley:
John Guest, the Dowlais iron-master-born August 3xst, 172.1 ; died at Dowlais. Elizabeth (Mrs. Onions)-born Feb. 27th, 1723; died at Dowlais, April 22nd, 1794. Sarah -born Oct. 27th, 1725. Mary - born Sept. 3rd, 1727. Thomas-born Jan. 21, 1729; died at Dowlais. Anne (Mrs. Corser)born Jan- 5th,,1731. Gertrude (Mrs. Evans)-born Feb-7th, 1733; died at Worcester. William borrn April 25th, 1736; died at Broseley. Robert-born March 3oth, 1738; died at Dowlais. Jane born April 29th, 1740.
Our iron-master was the ablest of the family. Nature had been kind to him, Well formed, strongly built, he was not one of those nonentities whom we often see-milliner men, who lack the sterling manhood that has given England its commercial successes, its victories of peace, and its long line of martial sons. We find that out of the whole family John alone rose to distinction. Thomas, his brother, was engaged in the works for many years, and died at Dowlais. He had two sons, Charles and George, both of whom returned to Broseley. Charles worked as a moulder, and George followed a similar calling for a little while at Dowlais. George had two sons, also named Charles and George, and a daughter. George became a clerk in the forge office (now the railway station), and Charles a moulder. Robert, a younger brother of John Guest, was employed in some inferior capacity in the Dowlais Works. He had three sons, Cornelius, Thomas, and William, and several daughters. Cornelius became a master refiner, and resided in Long Row. He also erected a number of houses in Horse Street. Thomas, his oldest son, married the sister of Mr. John Uvans. He subsequently left Dowlais for the Victoria Works. William removed to Broseley. He had two daughters, one of whom died early; the other became the wife of an agent connected with Penydarren Works. It would appear to have been a family characteristic that in one capacity or another the whole of the family devoted themselves to the birth, so to state, the growth, and the fortunes of Dowlais.
Mr. John Guest continued plodding onward at Dowlais, selling his coal and working the solitary furnace. His yield of iron increased from 500 tons annually to 1,500, but never exceeded this. His methods of getting mine, and even coal, were primitive in the extreme. The mountain streams would be damned up to a considerable height at such places as Twyncarno, and then suddenly cleared away, scouring out the mine from the sides, which, by its great weight, would sink to the bottom of the brook or stream, and be collected afterwards. This process was called scouring, and it was adopted at Cyfarthfa as well as at Dowlas. Near Cyfarthfa there is a place still known as Cwm Scaura, where the plan was periodically carried out. In connection with a Mr. Wilkinson, Guest leased a tract of land at Plymouth, and started a furnace there. (See Chapter on Plymouth Works.)
He was a good master, and, amongst other benefits and privileges, gave his men a dinner every year on the Waun Mountain ; but they indulged so excessively in drinking, as well As eating, that is was at length abandoned. His growing infirmity, too, had something to do with this, for just when Penydarren Works were opened, and the Hornfrays were beginning to exhibit their skill and energy, Mr. Guest drooped and died. The date of his death is the 25th November, 1785, and his remains lie in the chancel of our Parish Church. During the latter years of his life his son, Thomas, relieved him from many of the arduous details of management; and, after his father's death, he at once stepped into his place. We learn, from the course of things that followed, that Lewis, of Pentyrch, had retained an interest in Dowlais Furnace; for, in 1785, Thomas Guest was publicly announced as taking the direction of affairs, and also receiving his appointment as one of the firm, which, froin that time, became known as the Dowlais Iron Company. The company consisted of Guest, Lewis, and Mr. Tait. Guest held 2-16ths; Tait, 8-16ths; and Lewis, 6-16ths. Tait had been a traveller for the firm, and it was currently reported had gained his promotion by diplomacy. The statement is, that in his capacity of traveller he had succeeded in getting a large number of orders, and these and his influence, he submitted, entitled him to be one of the company. In the event of the partners refusing, a transfer to Mr. Bacon, of Cyfarthfa, was imminent. We cannot endorse this statement, but believe that Tait purchased Thompson's share. Thompson afterwards had works at Tintern. Mr. Lewis resided at Pentyrch, where he also had a furnace, and was the representative in Parliament for Cardiff ; subsequently he sat for Maidstone; and at his death his interest in the works fell into the hands of his two nephews. From thence until the termination of the lease, in 1848, the family of the Lewises held their share in the works.
Thomas Guest, in taking the control of the works, displayed eminent capacity for the post, and proved that the keen worldly prudence necessary in dealing with a large number of men, and in carrying out, comparatively, very large transactions, was compatible with a devotional mind. He was a thorough man of business and a thorough Christian, ready at any moment to give practical evidence of his belief, not by lip unction, but by honest aid, either of hand or pocket. As the works increased, and the people thronged more on that bleak hill-side, building houses with a single aim to keep from the keen north wind, and having no idea of natural drainage, or metalling, or even of sewers, Mr. Guest noticed many a promising man, and gave him assistance in struggling with the world. One of these was the father of that eminent Merthyr man, the Rev. Daniel Davies, D.D. In our Chapter on Penydarren we show that Mr. Guest was associated with the English Wesleyans. He not only gave £50 towards the building, but took an active part in the details, going to Bristol, for instance, to see the pillars turned for supporting the gallery. As a local preacher, also, he occasionally officiated, not only here, but in the Aberdare Valley, taking his two boys, Thomas and the late Sir John, with him on his journey; and every Sunday morning Thomas and his sons, the late baronet and his brother Thomas, attended the early prayer meeting at five o'clock; and twice a day the boys punctually appeared at the Sunday School. He overlooked with rare ability the Works that were growing under his hands, and showed a studious interest in the welfare of the people he had brought together. In 1790 the Dowlais Works were assessed to the poor at £2,000 only; yet they were on a large scale for the time.
In the year 1795 steam power was first introduced to the, district, and this was at Dowlais. The engine was one of Watt and Boulton's. In 1797 a company shop was opened, for the first time, and proved a great convenience to the workmen. In 1804 a corps, called the Dowlais Marksmen, was formed, under the auspices, but not the captaincy, of Mr. Guest. The period was one of considerable depression in the iron trade, owing to the war which was then raging, and the startling rumours of the approaching French invasion; for the people at Dowlais seemed to think that Napoleon had his eye fixed on their district in particular, and that the Government had decided on blowing up the blast furnaces, rather than they should fall into the hands of the enemy! In 1807, after a fife of energy and usefulness, Mr. Thomas Guest died, on the 28th of February, and was buried in St. Tydfil's Church. The disposition of the Works at his death was as follows: --- Mr. J. J. Guest, 9-16ths; Thomas Revel Guest, 1-16th; Mr. Lewis, 6-16ths; Mr. Tait retiring. Dowlais Works; under Mr. Thomas Guest's management, had increased remarkably. By the beginning of 1800 it had three furnaces at work, and the annual product was about 3,000 tons. Dowlais Forge had been erected, and achieved wonders; and though, according to Malkin, the traveller, the Works were secondary to Penydarren, yet great strides were being made that would soon bring them to an equal footing. By the kindness of Mr. Kelly, of Pontypool, we learn that the man who first worked as a roller at the forge in 1860 was living, and was ninety years of age. His name was Hugh John, a native of Llantrisant. He was a Penydarren workman, but " borrowed by Mr. Guest until a roller could be had." The first bar of finished iron at Dowlais was three inches by a half in size. The first heater's name was Corns, an old Merthyr family; the cashier's name was Edmonds; Preece was gaffer over the mill; Thomas Lees over the puddlers; and John and Richard Brown were the master mechanics. Most of these names are now no longer represented amongst us; but the son of Richard Brown was no other than James Brown, late Mayor of Newport; and another, named Thomas, was well known as the late owner of Blaina and Cwmcelyn, and partner in the works of Ebbw Vale, which he bought for Darby Brothers from the old owners, Harford and Co.
Such, then, was the condition of Dowlais when the father of Sir John Guest died. He was a worthy and a remarkable man. With an intellect more solid than brilliant, he always exhibited the gravity and strong religious convictions which characterised the brethren in the early epoch of Wesleyanism. We might with proopriety say with Aristides, "To be, and not to seem, was this man's maxim." Honest, generous, unaffected, with no courtly etiquette or fastidious manners, he seems to us a relic, which time had spared, of that stern Cromwellian age, when Englishmen made themselves respected in every part of the world. His son, Sir John, though he had always a kindly bearing to the class his father loved, showed less of sectarian influences than his brother Thomas, who, though rather wild in youth, became, like his father, a local preacher, and to the end of his life exhibited a character uniformly pious and amiable qualities which endeared him to all with whom he came in contact. He troubled himself little about iron or iron-making, took more pleasure in giving than in getting, and sagely thought that there was something else worth living for besides amassing wealth ; though it is evident that a man of his gentle and thoughtful character was not the one to develope the wealth of a mineral district, or to bring a swarm of contented inhabitants where not long before there was a solitude. He was in the habit, every year, of dividing £300 between three of the religious institutions of his neighbourhood. On one occasion, a Wesleyan, of Dowlais, solicited a donation, and his reply was, " Get as much as you can, and I will add an equal share." Some thought him too rigid. By the servants at Dowlais House his appearance was the signal for a discontinuance of all frivolity. Once a servants' ball was on the eve of taking place; Thomas arrived, and, to their great disgust, all the preparations were put aside. He died when on a mission of friendship and benevolence; for, hearing that an old friend of his in Ireland had become reduced in circumstances, he hastened thither, and, alas ! fell a victim to fever.
The one-sixteenth share he held in the Dowlais Works he left to his nephew, Mr. Hutchins, late M.P. for Poole, who sold it to Sir John, and retired before the lease expired.
Sir Josiah John Guest, Bart., was born on the 2nd of February, 1785, nine months before the death of his grandfather, the first Guest, whom he so much resembled in sturdy independence of thought and energy of action. His mother, whose maiden name was Phillips, died when he was very young, and his early years severe thus passed in the care of one of those homely old nurses who rub through life in happy ignorance, and equal contempt, of its elevations and luxuries. What her right name was few of the place knew. She was commonly known as "Mari Aberteifi," having come from the wilds of Cardigan to this part when the iron age attracted from near and afar. She lived at Gellifaelog, and occupied her time partly in feeding turkeys, and in part nursing young Guest. Once a year she drove a flock of her choice fat birds before her to Bristol, and came back to her charge with her knowledge of the world expanded, and her purse heavier. In after years, when the nurse had become a very old woman, and young Guest had attained wealth, dignity, and honours, she would occasionally clamber up the dingle and meet him as he rode up to Dowlais House, and to her jocular advice, not to be proud or to forget his old friends, he would respond with kind words and weighty gifts. We very much fear that Mary, like many of her class, imbued her charge with superstitious notions, for Master Guest was a timid boy, and did not care to go out after dark. Where the Central. Schools now are, a dense plantation grew in his day, with an uncanny reputation about it. A white shade had been seen to roam about, chains heard to rattle, balls of fire seen, and men, much less little boys, scrupulously avoided the spot after nightfall. Sceptics say that the work horses were turned into the adjoining fields at night with their harness on, and that amongst these was a young and restless animal, rather grey in colour, which is concluded to have been the spirit that terrified the men and boys. But young Guest grew out of his timidity. In his youthful years he always accompanied his brother and father to the Wesleyan Chapel, Merthyr; was a constant attendant at the Sunday School there, and also went with the revered gentleman on his periodical journeys to Aberdare, where Mr. Guest, senior, preached, and his son sat amongst the pleased listeners. But he was not a studious or melancholy lad-one of those who, lacking vigorous stamina, naturally fall aside out of the road of life, and become the scholar or the preacher. He liked few things better than a good hearty game, and many a workman was seduced from his heavy labours, in past time, to play with him. Possibly his great flow of animal spirits might have led him into mishap, but for his uncle Tait, who was the actual soul of the growing iron establishment. Mr. Tait lived at Cardiff, and periodically journeyed to Merthyr; but the manager was Mr. John Evans, senior; and this gentleman had also the duty of instructing Mr. Tait's nephew in the management. The lad's uncle, too, in a variety of ways, guided his steps in a thoroughly excellent and practical track. As an encouragement, he received £50 a year long before his father's death, and when that sad event took place, in 1807, though he was only twenty-two, he had become so conversant with the details of the Works, that he was at once appointed manager, in connection with a Mr. Kirkwood, another nephew of Tait's. This nephew rode to Cardiff every Saturday, and reported progress to his uncle, returning on the Monday. In 1813 this young man was taken suddenly ill and died, and the whole management at once became vested in Mr. Guest, who, at the time, held one-sixteenth share in the Works. In 1815 Mr. Tait died, and, with the exception of several legacies, left all that he had to his nephew, including eight-sixteenths shares in the Dowlais Works. It is related that when Mr. Tait was on his death-bed, the question of the future management of Dowlais became the subject of conversation, when Guest honestly admitted that the undertaking was too mighty, and suggested that he might look out for a fresh field, and try and open other paths to fortune and honour. Happily for Dowlais he decided otherwise, and, armed with his good father's admonitions, his uncle's wise and more worldly counsel, and his own practical knowledge, he entered on his great task.
In 1815 the number of furnaces at Dowlais had increased to five, making yearly 15,600 tons of iron, at a weekly average of little more than fifty tons each. In 1817 Mr. Guest married Miss Maria Rankin, a lady of Irish family, who had emigrated from Ireland during the Rebellion of 1798. She was well connected, and allied with families who hold important positions to this day. At this period, in addition to the house then occupied by Mr. Guest, and now used for offices, he held Troedyrhiw Farm, and frequently resided there until Dowlais House was built. One pleasing anecdote is related of his wife. She and her husband were riding to church one Sunday morning on horseback, when, without a word being said, she abruptly wheeled the horse round, and rode back in the direction of home. He quickly overtook her, and enquired the motive for so strange a course. "Josiah," she replied, "I cannot go to church while so many of your own workmen are breaking the Sabbath." This incident led to the discontinuance of all employment, but that which was absolutely necessary. Mrs. Guest's career was brief, but happy. We see for a moment the early married life, with its sunshine, and its genial, unstemmed flow of happiness; and then the storm falls. Nine months only of wedded life, and this truly excellent lady, endowed with so many virtues, lay numbered with the dead. Her death took place on the 14th day of January, 1818, at the early age of twenty-three. This was a terrible blow. The poetry of life seemed destroyed. Harshly had the bright anticipations and hopes been shattered; but Mr. Guest bore it like a philosopher. He plunged with keener zest into trade, and tried to drown his sorrow in its whirl and turmoil. Thenceforth we find him assiduously employed in developing the mineral resources of the Dowlais estate. The field was a fine one. The coal cropped out on the mountain side, and could be worked at less cost than in any other part of the district. The ores were good, and the rental insignificant. Never was there a fairer scope for a persevering, able man; and Mr. Guest soon proved that he was competent to the work before him. To us, reviewing his life, it seems easy to pen the chronicle of progress, to note the stages taken by the Dowlais Works, in their advance from comparative insignificance to their greatest magnitude; but it was thoroughly exhaustive work, both physically and mentally, for the founder, and many years had to pass by before the fruits of his labour were visible to the world. In 1815, £1 promissory notes were issued at Dowlais. Furnaces Nos. 6, 7, and 8, were built in 1822; No. l0 was erected in 1823, and by that time the average yield of each furnace was increased to sixty tons, the whole producing in that year 22,287 tons. In 1823 he opened a bank at Cardiff, managed by a Mr. Dore, and a branch at Merthyr in the residence of the late T. J. Evans, Esq., and issued £1 notes, thriving well in his new capacity of banker, until that exciting era of commercial disasters, 1825. He saw the storm brooding, and hurried up to consult his London Agents, Messrs. Roberts and Co., who met his application for aid with a blank refusal. Instead of gold they wished to give him advice, which he as decidedly rejected, and, taking his hat, withdrew, and closed all connection with the firm. By dint of great exertion he gathered funds, and, returning to Cardiff, was just in time to meet the great run on the bank. This was manfully met and he had the happiness to know that thousands were saved from ruin by his foresight. From that date, Messrs. Glyn and Co. became his London bankers.
In 1825 he entered Parliament for Honiton as a moderate Conservative. Honiton was then looked upon as a close borough, and it is generally believed that he was indebted for his seat to a London club, and to the energies of Meyrick and other Merthyr men, who went to assist him in this, his first contest for Parliamentary honours. Mr. Guest was subsequently returned for the same place, but at the election of 1831, he was opposed by Sir G. Warrander, and defeated.
In March, 1832, Merthyr was enfranchised, and on the 16th of that month a meeting was convened at the Castle Hotel, Merthyr - William Crawshay, Esq., in the chair-when Mr. Guest was invited to come forward to represent this newly constituted borough at the next election. Mr. Guest, in responding to this request, heartily expressed the natural anxiety he felt to represent his native town, and the happiness he should derive in the event of their mutual wishes being carried out.
In November, 1832, Parliament was dissolved, and then Merthyr became entitled to exercise the privilege granted; and, on the 6th December following, the returning officer, Mr. James Stephens, received the first writ ever issued for this borough. On the following Tuesday, December 11th, Mr. Guest was unanimously returned as the first representative for the borough of Merthyr Tydfil to the House of Commons. The first hustings were erected in a field opposite the Bush Hotel, now the site of a row of handsome and spacious shops; and it was computed that 20,000 persons were present, when the newly appointed member was carried, in a handsomely decorated chair, through the principal streets of the town. In the evening of the same day, one hundred and thirty of the electors dined with Mr. Guest at the Bush, and great was the enthusiasm when it was announced that he had placed £500 in the hands of his committee, to be laid out in the purchase of blankets, clothing, &c., and not, as was customary in other towns, to be squandered in libations of beer to the people. On the 11th of December, the same year, he met his constituents at the Vestry, when he spoke at some length and with excellent effect. He said -"Another question, on which I wish to say a word or two, is the question of slavery. I think he is not deserving the name of a man who claims to himself liberty of action, and does not wish to extend that boon to all mankind. Let us do justice to all parties. It is a national stain and a national sin, therefore let the nation suffer for it. I am disposed to consider the claims of all parties. I am unwilling to claim anything for the slave, which will count on resources that he cannot command, and I would look to the interests of the slave himself, and to the interests of the planter also. Gentlemen, I always professed to be against monopolies of all sorts, and I still adhere to that opinion. I want free trade of all descriptions. One of the next questions which will come before the House will be the East India Charter, and my wish would be to throw open the whole of that trade to all the world. With regard to the question of tithes, let justice be done to the Clergy, who have a vested interest in their property; let them have a proper commutation of tithes. No man can doubt, that the present system of tithes is one, which I will not call shameful, but one under which the country cannot prosper. With regard to the Church, I believe its best friends - and I profess to be a good, or, at least, an honest friend to the Church-wish for a reform, for the sake of that Church itself. When I say reform, I mean, not spoliation, but reform in the general sense of the word. With regard to the question of taxes, great stress has been laid, by many strong friends of liberty, on the impolicy of the taxeson knowledge. 'Knowledge is power,' and I wish that power to be extended to all ranks of society, id order that they may become better and happier men. I will do all in my power to procure the removal, or amelioration, of those taxes which press hard upon industry, and place them, instead, upon those who are better able to bear them. Speaking of Free Trade, I am sure that when the United States of America and France think properly on the subject, they will extend to us the right hand of fellowship, and we shall have more trade than by acting on the old and exploded system of bounties and protection."
It is interesting to note how these advanced thoughts were afterwards worked out in the life of the nation. In 1831, at the time of the Merthyr Riots (see Chapter on Riots), Sir John's decision and courage alone saved us from a terrible scene of bloodshed. He tried argument, then entreaty, and when the decisive moment arrived, stood between the infuriated mob arid the no less excited soldiers, and begged, urged, even to the shedding of tears, the dispersion which happily followed. He now became, in and out of Parliament, a prominent man, and one thing only seemed needed to complete his happiness. The world prospered with him. In political parties, amongst literary and scientific societies, he began to take a position ;but his home life needed a presiding spirit; one who should direct his energies and abilities into gentler paths, for the welfare of the great community he was gathering around him. Such a one he found in Lady Charlotte Elizabeth Bertie, sister of the Earl of Lindsey. In 1833 he married that accomplished lady, and from that time we date the begriming of his best and happiest projects. We should rather say their projects, for in all that he was deficient she excelled; and while we credit him with the honour of founding the greatest iron works in the world, and giving sustenance and substantial comforts to twenty thousand souls, it is chiefly to her influence that we must look for all that was done in the way of moral and mental elevation. And if, after the lapse of many years and the expenditure of large sum of money, the results were not in harmony with her hopes and the means employed, we must deem the ruggedness of the material operated on as the cause. In 1834, their union was blessed by the birth of a son and heir, and the future Sir Ivor was ushered into the world amidst general rejoicings.
At the general election in January, 1835, Mr. Guest was opposed by Mr. Meyrick, the nominee of Mr. Crawshay; but after an active canvass, that gentleman declined the hazard of a contest, and withdrew at the eleventh hour. On Thursday, the 9th of January, the former representative was elected amid the enthusiastic congratulations of an immense concourse of people. In the evening, 350 of the electors dined together at the Bush and Castle Hotels, the re-appointed member presiding at the former house, while his brother. Thomas R. Guest, occupied the same place at the latter; and, as a fitting termination of such rejoicings, balls were held both at Dowlais and Merthyr, at each of which 400 persons were present.
On the accession of Queen Victoria to the throne, in 1835, Mr. Guest was opposed by John Bruce Pryce, Esq., of Duffryn, an ex-police magistrate of Merthyr, when the numbers stood as follows :
Merthyr 164 67
Aberdare 87 68
So that out of 444 voters, MA Guest polled no less than 309. At this election, while Mr. Guest was proposed for Merthyr, on the one hand, he contested the County of Glamorgan, on the other, against Lord Adare and C. R. M. Talbot, Esq., and was only defeated by a small majority. The returns showed Adare, 2,009; Talbot, 1,791 ; Guest, 1,590. In th6 course of a speech delivered on that occasion, he said, in reply to some taunts thrown out by his opponents I am also charged with not having supported Sir A. Agnew's Sabbath Bill. That I am favourable to a religious observance of the Sabbath, I can give a practical proof during the last seven years, for I am the only person who has stopped working the furnaces at Aferthyr on a Sunday. I am a friend to the Church, but an enemy to bigotry and intolerance. I am reminded that I am not of high birth; my father and grandfather .raised themselves, and I have done the same, by the labours of my countrymen ; but I have paid them for it; and we have gladdened the hearts of thousands." How much one is reminded by this of the bluff independence of William Crawshay.
At the coronation of Queen Victoria, in July, 1838, that auspicious event was rendered more illustrious by her Majesty's conferring a distinctive mark on her subject, Mr. Guest, who, in that year, was elevated to the rank of a baronet.
On the 21st of July, it was known that Sir Josiah John Guest would arrive in Merthyr, and it was decided to give him a warm and hearty welcome. Accordingly, three hundred persons on horseback, and several thousands on foot, awaited the arrival of the newly created baronet and his lady at Troedyrhiw, where their congratulations made the welkin ring again and again. By this numerous and warm-hearted throng he was escorted to Dowlais House, where a congratulatory address, numerously signed, was presented to the baronet. In reply to that welcome address, Sir John (for as such he was ever afterwards known) said:- "The dignity with which her Majesty has been pleased to honour me receives additional value from the knowledge that you, my constituents and neighbours, consider it not unmerited. But it is chiefly prized by me as ha-,.-ing been conferred for my successful efforts to advance the commercial interests of this great country. It is gratifying for me to think that a large portion of my public life has been spent in the service of a constituency of whose worth and independence I have so much reason to be proud, and 'With whom I have been, from my earliest youth, so naturally connected ; and that I have been enabled to assist in raising to wealth and importance a town which has fayoured me with its confidence, and, in so doing, contributed to the comfort and welfare of so large a portion of my fellow-countrymen, to whose laborious energy aud perseverance I am mainly indebted for my present position, and it is to me a source of the highest satisfaction."
Let us now note his achievements in our little world. Early in his career he had started day and night schools at Dowlais, and in this respect was the pioneer of Free Education, which did good service, though insufficient for the growing population. He also erected a church at Dowlais, at an expense of J3,ooo, which was consecrated in November, 1827, by Dr. Sumner, the late Bishop of Winchester; to which Lady Charlotte added the Communion Service; and Sir John continued to contribute largely towards the support of the clergyman. This liberality was not confined to Dowlais; he gave £250 towards a new church in Merthyr. In the conduct of his Works, Sir John enlisted the ablest men. Early in the thirties, Brunter was the head engineer, and one of his achievements was a blast engine which embodied all the latest principles, producing steam at high pressure, and condensing again. He was the first to ventilate pits by the exhaustion of air. In 1834 he occupied the chair at a large public meeting at Merthyr, convened for the purpose of starting a town hall and market house; and the result was, the building of the largest, even if the ugliest, market house in the Principality. He was the first appointed chairman of the Taff Vale Railway Company, and held that post in its critical era, when it was a question if that corporation could weather the storm. At the time he held shares to the amount of £1oo,ooo. He was a warm advocate for constituting Merthyr a corporate town, and presided at one of the largest meetings ever held in the place, when he pledged himself to support the strongly expressed views of the meeting. In the same year he presided at another meeting, at the Bush Assembly Room, held in order to devise means for establishing in Merthyr a literary and scientific institution. At this and other meetings, ninety-one subscribers enrolled their names, and Sir John, besides a donation of ten guineas placed at the disposal of the newly formed society a number of specimens which he had accumulated since his boyhood, consisting of a large and valuable collection of mineral fossils, appertaining to Italian, German, American, and English series, from the primitive rocks to the tertiary formation, all of which occupied several cases. And, later, he founded a savings' bank at Dowlais, for the purpose of encouraging thrifty habits among the workmen, and made himself responsible for the repayment of principal as well as interest.
In 1845 he founded a workmen's library, one of the most attractive in the Principality, through the additions and conveniences introduced by Lady Charlotte Schreiber and the trustees; and, as if to indicate that no worthy movement at Merthyr was beneath his regard, he gave an entire suit of clothes to each of the tea teachers in our National Schools. Year after year the persevering industry of the iron king had continued to develope the immense resources of the Dowlais mineral districts, so that, in the year 1842, the number of. work-people employed numbered 5,000, to whom there was annually paid £250,000 in wages.
In 1845 these works employed 7,300 men, women, and children, and covered an area of forty acres, ten acres of which were occupied by the different buildings. The consumption of coal was 1,200 tons weekly. Eighteen furnaces in blast made nearly1.600 tons of iron weekly, or an annual produce of 74,880 tons, being an average of than eighty tons per week for one furnace. The quantity of finished iron manufactured monthly was equal to1,800 tons of railway bars, and 1,800 tons of bar iron, and one mill alone in that year made 400 tons of rails in one week. The Dowlais Iron Company were the largest carriers of iron on the Taff Vale Railway - the average was about 70,000 tons per annum; and in one year this Company paid the Taff Vale Railway Company £25,641, a sum equal to 8-10ths of the whole iron carried by this railway company during that period. It was computed when these Works were in full operation, in 1845, that, if the colliers employed had worked one continuous scam of coal for twenty-four hours, half an acre would have been cleared, producing 1,600 tons of coal; and that the produce of miners and colliers in that year was 80,000 tons of iron-stone and 140,000 tons of coal. In one year these Works paid to the poor's rate alone £2,577, being double the sum collected in the whole parish for this same rate in 1806; and to other rates, £1,618, making a total of £4,195. The basis was, in coal, at 7-1/2d., and each blast furnace was rated at £363. The eighteen furnaces were worked by seven powerful steam engines, two of which had twelve feet blowing cylinders and nine feet stroke. The steam power in operation was equivalent to 2,000 horses, besides twenty water balances for raising coal to the surface, and locomotive engines, with 5oo to 6oo horses in constant employment. The tram-roads below and above ground, if placed in a continuous straight line, would extend over a length of 2,000 miles. The average wages of colliers and miners were then 25s. per week ; refiners and puddlers, 35s; rollem and heaters, 40S.; carpenters and smiths, 21s.
The population had more than doubled in twenty-four years; and in 1852 it was computed that no less than 4,500 men, 3,000 women, and 3,000 children were dependent on these Works for subsistence. And uninterruptedly this great establishment was carried on, the only fatter being when the old lease expired. It was then thought that it would not be renewed. The " Company" had prospered beyond all conception, and the Marquis of Bute was known to be resolved on getting a rental more adequate to the worth of the estate. The Dowlais Company paid but £100 a year. From the Penydarren Company alone they received £10,000! Eventually, the new lease was granted for £30,000, As the Rev. Canon Jenkins truly observed in Sir John's funeral sermon:---!'The renewal of the Dowlais lease, considering his state of health and time of life, was an act that greatly astounded most of his friends. God had blessed him with abundant means, and he might have retired, in the enjoyment a princely income, from the immense responsibility of carrying on such large works. Had he done so, I believe it would have added, not merely to his worldly gain, but greatly to the comfort, peace, and tranquility of his declining years. But in mercy, more especially to this populous district, he acted otherwise; and in so doing he was influenced by strong feelings of compassion and kindness to the thousands he had collected together from north and south, east and west; and who looked to him as the only one likely and able to carry on the largest iron works in the world."
On the occasion of his last election, as representative of Merthyr in 1852, the annexed communication was sent by him to the electors. This is inserted as showing the very kindly feeling existing in the old fashioned day of the Paternal Ironmasters, prior to the era of limited liability companies, and of companies generally.
Elected Without opposition. LONDON, 5TH JULY, 1852.
To the Electors of Merthyr-Tydfd, Aberdare, and Vaynor.
MY DEAR FRIENDS,
I have this moment received your affectionate Address, assuring me of your intention to return me your Representative at the approaching Election, and excusing me from undertaking the fatigues of a personal Canvass, and even from appearing at the Hustings on the Day of Nomination.
I hasten to return you my most heartfelt acknowledge. meuts for your kindness and consideration, and to assure you that no event of my life has more deeply affected me than the receipt of this Testimonial of your feelings towards me.
I cannot sufficiently thank you for your expressions of personal regard, and for all the kind wishes you have so feelingly addressed to me ; but I trust; with restored health, to have the opportunity of proving to you that this mark of the confidence you repose in me, has made an impression on my heart never to be effaced.
Your grateful and obliged Friend,
(Signed) J. JOHN GUEST
Old inhabitants never forgot that at one contested election Lady Charlotte appeared upon the hustings, and spoke with considerable power, and throughout was much applauded.
For some time prior to the year 1852, Sir John had been a great sufferer, and as days aA months passed by it became evident to his friends and to himself that the span of life was drawing to an end; that the great iron king, the statesman, would soon share the common lot. The good people of Dowlais heard it with dread, and, shall it be added, with astonishment. He had been so prominent a figure in their lives. They had known his childhood, and noted. his advance to the prime and the robustness of life, and could scarcely imagine the strong man cast down like an ordinary mortal. With his death, too, they feared that the creation of his vigour and his intellect would be scattered to the winds. If prayers and hope could have prolonged his life, it would have been done. But it was not to be. With the chill winds and the gloom of November he faded; and on the 26th November, 1852, aged 67, he lay stricken, dead.
We well remember the day, and the universality 6f the woe in our district. The place seemed to have but one great heart. Men and women spoke in the streets with subdued voices; and the hush of death, instead of being confined to the chamber, pervaded the valley. . . . All business was dosed, though it was Saturday. He was buried, according to his wish, in the scene of his birth. Dowlais Church was crowded at the ceremony, and never had Canon Jenkins been so eloquent and impressive as when he preached from the text, "The Lord God has made a breach upon us." He was buried in a vault in the Church; and for many a long day the sad loss and the funeral ceremony were vividly impressed on the public mind.
The obituary notice in the Gentleman's Magazine was as follows:
"Sir John Guest was a man of great mental capacities, a good mathernatician, and a thorough man of business, not without a taste for the refinements of literature. The creation of Dowlais, and its material prosperity, was not his only merit, for he differed from his compeers in being a man of generous instincts, and of enlarged sympathies. His care for his workmen did not end with the payment of their daily earnings; he took a comprehensive view of his social duties; he recognized, in precept as well as in practice, the principle that property has its duties as well as its rights; and he extended his care beyond the present generation into the next, beyond the race of men that now is, to their descendants, destined to replace them in the lapse of time. It is a great thing to be a supporter of twelve thousand men; but it is a greater, nobler, and holier thing to be their guide, philosopher, and friend."
Though he never figured as an orator, he was known to be a most valuable man on committee. In fact, he was one of those who do the real work of the House behind the scenes, while men of slighter parts and readier speech interest the crowd from the stage. To him is due the credit of first suggesting the feasibility of the telegraph.
He was a born mechanic; and together he and Adrian Stephens, the engineer, invented the locomotive steam whistle, which was first applied on the first locomotive at Dowlais, the " Lady Charlotte." Sir John's great success was due in part to his own ability, and also to his sagacity. While 'Mr. Hill was experimenting in his laboratory, he selected the best engineers, saw to the minutest details, and could practically aid in all. It was no wonder that, under his directions, so well followed by the management, that Dowlais became the nursery of engineers.
Sir John left immense wealth. Dowlais was his. He held also large estates in Glamorgan, one, Boverton, the seat of Iestyn ap Gwrgant, the native lord; but chief of all was Canford Manor, now the seat of Lord Wimborne, who, as Sir Ivor, when he came of age in 1858, sat at the head of a festive throng of friends and tenants, one thousand in number, and received at their hands a magnificent silver flower-stand, with an affectionate dedication from the tenants of Canford Manor. This gathering, as described to us by visitors from Dowlais, was a most enthusiastic one, and was a fitting initiation to a life which ever since has been one of the most harmonious in relation to the tenants, and the people of the county generally. But we must here digress a moment, and note another striking epoch in Lord Wimborne's career, which was associated with his iron kingdom when he brought home his bride to Dowlais. Accompanied by his wife, Lady Cornelia Churchill, they came by special train to Troedyrhiw, where bride and bridegroom alighted, and from that place to Dowlais, five miles distance, the carriage was literally seized upon by sturdy ironworkers, and a huge procession was formed-in all respects the event of a century. The whole distance was a scene of a gala character - tens of thousands thronged the route; flags, mottoes, and all kinds of decorative emblems of "Welcome" in English and Welsh, greeted the happy pair, while music and vociferous shouting sounded everywhere. In the memory of old men, now nearly all at rest, long lingered the recollection of one decoration. From a cord stretched across the road was a huge likeness of Sir John, a fitting testimony, not only to the respect held for the father, but the affection extended to the son.
One of Sir John's memorials, which will long be associated with his memory, is the magnificent School at Dowlais. It was designed by Sir Charles Barry, the architect of the new palace at Westminster, and consists of several school-rooms--one for infants, and three each for boys and girls. The building is 235 feet in length, by 100 feet in the centre. The infant school is 100 feet long, by thirty-five feet wide, and fifty feet high. The boys' school at the south end is 1100 feet long, by thirty feet wide, and thirty feet in height; and there are two class-rooms, one twenty-five feet by twenty-one, and the other forty-five feet by twenty-four. The girls' school-rooms at the north end are three in number and of the same dimensions as those of the south end, and the whole structure is stated to have cost £7,000. The school was publicly opened with great ceremony, and was thronged with delighted people from all parts of the hills. Since that time, first under the fostering hands of Lady Charlotte and the Rev. Canon Jenkin , and then of the trustees (the Right. Hon. H. A. Bruce, M.P., and G. T. Clark, Esq.), the school became an institute of which even Wales was proud.
Lady Charlotte remained some years in Dowlais after the death of her husband; and when she left, the inhabitants lamented her loss as that of a kind, unaffected friend; for she had always taken a strongly marked interest in the affairs of her people. She also had a wider world of admirers than Dowlais could afford. Gifted with considerable literary and artistic talent, and persevering to a degree, she had plunged with ardour into the study of the Welsh language, and became not simply an amateur archaeologist, but the translator of the Mabinogion, a series of twelfth century tales of considerable merit. In this she was aided by Tegid, by Taliesin Williams, and by Thos. Jenkins, all accomplished Welshmen, who, admitting her ability, yet rendered when necessary, those little technical aids which, had she been a native-born Welshwoman, might not have been required. Upon the merits of the translation, however, Thomas Stephens, the author of the Literature of the Kytnry, is the best authority. In his work he pays a high compliment to her ability, adding: --- “Her version correctly mirrors forth the spirit of these antique stories, and is as much distinguished for elegance as fidelity."
With her departure from the scene of her husband's greatness, and finally her marriage to Mr. Charles Schreiber, M.P., the connection between her ladyship and Dowlais was nearly severed. Only on one or two occasions did she revisit the district to which she had been so good and great a benefactress in all senses of the word. She died 9th January, 1895.
In association with Dowlais there have been many men to whom more than a line of historic significance is due. As one surveys the long list who come mentally before as the lieutenants, as they may be termed, of the great captain of industry, we note John and Thomas Fvans; M. C. Harrison; Doctors White and Cresswell; the Hirst family; Thos. Jenkins, of the Schools; William Jenkins, afterwards of Consett ; Edward Williams, of Middlesboro'; Wm. Evans, in later years general manager; the Messrs. G. Martin, B. P. Martin, and H. W. Martin; David James; Messrs. Houlson; Thos. Jones; Messrs. Richards; H. Roberts; B. R. Jones. Few are remaining at this time (1907) even of the staff, and less of the rank and file. Their names are engraved on the column of success, and many of those who axe dead will be remembered as long as the generation remains, as having aided, either in building up the great establishment, or rendered useful aid to education, or the general welfare of the people.
Sir John's death was only a little before the ending of the iron age. He did not live to see the early indications that steel would in time supplant iron. It was in 1856 that the Dowlais Company was one of the first to take out a license from Bessemer for working Bessemer steel, and it was at Dowlais Works that Bessemer steel was first rolled into rails. (See details of the process in History of the Iron and Steel Trades, page 290.) Still, iron rail make was by no means abandoned. Up to 1882 they were made in large quantities; the change, however, in the structural arrangements of the Works was beginning to be noted. In 1882 instead of 255 puddling furnaces, Dowlais only possessed 15 ! In that year Mr. Menelaus died, at the age of 64. His life had been one of marked variety and unceasing energy. He was born in Edinburgh 10th March, 1818 ; died at Tenby 1882. Trained in the fitting shops, and expert; his first visit to Wales was to rectify defects in connection with a water wheel at Hensol, the residence of Rowland Pothergill, owner of Abemant Works.
DOWLAIS AFTER THE DEATH OF SIR JOHN.
At Sir John's death the entire management fell to the care of Mr. John Evans; he died at Sully in 1862.
Sir John was succeeded in his estates by Sir Ivor, afterwards Lord Wimborne, the Works being for a time under the control of trustees: Mr. G. T. Clark, resident, and Lord Aberdare; chief manager, Mr. Menelaus ; deputy, Mr. E. P. Martin. In the momentous period when Bessemer inaugurated the steel era, the Dowlais management gave fullest aid to experimental efforts. See History ol the Iron and Steel Trades. Lord Wimbome by this time had come into full direction, and not only was a great outlay incurred in establishing Dowlais-Cardiff, but also over a quarter of a million sterling expended on sinking the deepest colliery in Wales at Abercynon. This seam is of the first quality, containing 87 per cent. carbon, 6,000 acres in extent. Full notice of this also is given in the History of the Iron and Steel Trades. This was the final success of the Guest family. In 1901 the works were sold to a limited company called Guest, Keen, and Company, Limited, which was formed of a combination of Guest and Company and the Patent Nut and Bolt Company, and with which Nettlefolds, Limited , was shortly afterwards amalgamated.
One of the leading features carried out at Dowlais after the adoption of the Bessemer process, has been the association with the Consett Iron Co., and with Krupp of Essen, in acquiring large iron-ore deposits in the Bilbao district, upon which they have since chiefly depended. The next step begun about 1887 was the securing of land at Cardiff for the construction of Dowlais-Cardiff Works, a great and notable enterprise. This was the outcome of negotiations entered upon between Lord Wimborne, Sir W. T. Lewis, Mr. Clark, and Mr. E. P. Martin. On February 2nd, 1891, after a world of difficulty in placing the foundations, the Works were built, and first lit by Sir W. T. Lewis and Mr. E. P. Martin, and blast put on by Lord Wimborne. An inaugural banquet was given in Cardiff on the occasion.
Lord Wituborne was not content in bringing the Dowlais iron and steel industry level with the greatest of home and foreign works, but he also entered upon a task of much difficulty in the renovation, as it might be termed, of Dowlais, where ancient freeholds and leaseholds, and, it may be added, prejudices, barred the road to necessary changes. In this he did good work, aided by Mr. E. P. Martin and Mr. W. Evans, and in the intellectual and social life of the place by Lady Wimborne. From that date their influence was felt in Schools, in Library, and Reading Room, for a little time, though it was a most difficult task to alter the old course of things, and so the completion was not to be; and it was with great regret that the old homestead was transformed into offices, and that a severance took place. But the increasing burden of a district equal to a small kingdom, with its forty thousand souls, made the task of governing too laborious, and the end of the paternal rule came to Dowlais, as it came to all the works of the old pioneers, or, as they way justly be termed, the paternal ironmasters, and Lord and Lady Wimborne, to the sorrow of all, bade the place farewell.
Rev. November 2009