Tagged with: Industry

Posts (21)

  1. On 20 April 1961 the BP oil terminal on Milford Haven opened for business. The terminal was not a refinery, merely a pumping station that took oil from in-coming tankers and then sent it via a pipeline to the refinery at Llandarcey outside Port Talbot. Nevertheless it was an important part of a ...

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  2. Pioneering translator, industrialist, linguist, collector, and mother of nine, Saturday 19 May marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Lady Charlotte Guest. Born on 19 May 1812, she was christened Lady Charlotte Elizabeth Bertie and grew up in Lincolnshire. Her father Albemarle Bertie, the ninth Earl of Lindsey, died when Charlotte was just six years old, and three years later her mother married a man whom Charlotte disliked. Although Charlotte had two brothers she had quite a lonely childhood. She was passionate about literature and language, and taught herself Arabic, Hebrew and Persian. From a very early age Charlotte was also fascinated by medieval history and legends. A lifelong diarist When Charlotte was 10 years old she began to keep a diary, a practice which she doggedly continued until she was 79, even though she was nearly blind by that time. Her journals were published after her death in two large, illustrated volumes by her third son, Montague Guest. Marriage and Merthyr Tydfil Charlotte left Lincolnshire for London when she was 21. Here she met widower and wealthy ironmaster John Josiah Guest (later Sir John Guest). The pair were married within three months of their first meeting and settled in Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil. John Guest was 48 years old, and they seemed to belong to two very different worlds. She was the daughter of an earl and he was a "man with a trade" - even though his enterprise would become one of the largest ironworks in the world. The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales captures the global importance of John Guest stating that: "His 5,000-strong workforce probably meant that he had more employees than any other individual on earth." Powerless women Charlotte lived in a time when women were expected solely to devote their life to the role of wife and mother. Women had no vote, and no right to own their possessions. Generally powerless, they were not expected to hold any aspirations outside of the home. Charlotte, however, immersed herself in the business of the iron works, as well as practically pursuing methods to improve the education and living standards of the workers and their families. Although London society remained dismayed that Charlotte would leave the cultured life of the capital for industrialised south Wales, Charlotte embraced living in Merthyr. She had a happy life with John Guest and the couple had nine children - not unusual for the time. In 1838 Charlotte became a baroness, and in 1846 the Guests bought the Canford estate in Dorset, where they built Canford Manor, a grand, gothic mansion. It was designed by the famous architect Sir Charles Barry, who is probably best known for his role in the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster. Cymreigyddion y Fenni Charlotte lived in a time of Romantic revival, when there was a renewed interest in medieval life and Celtic history, and the Guests were founder members of the Society of Welsh Scholars of Abergavenny (Cymreigyddion y Fenni). She naturally combined her life-long interest in medieval literature with her passion for Wales. Charlotte had learned Welsh, and combined her love of language with Celtic legends by translating the Mabinogion tales. The first volume was published in 1838, and by 1845 the tales had appeared in seven parts. She also wrote a Boys' Mabinogion which comprised the earliest Welsh tales of King Arthur, and translated (and often censored) a number of medieval songs and poems. Charlotte's translations of the Mabinogion tales remained the standard for nearly a century. They were influential enough for Tennyson to base his Geraint and Enid, in The Idylls of the King - the most popular poetic work of the era - on her writings. Sir John Guest died in 1852, and Charlotte took over the running of the business. She had a clear understanding of the operation of the iron works but it was deeply unconventional for a Victorian woman to hold such power. Ultimately it led to clashes with workers and other foundry owners. Collector and campaigner In 1855 Charlotte fell in love with and married her son Ivor's tutor, Cambridge academic and MP Charles Schreiber. She stopped running the iron works, and instead travelled widely and focused her efforts on amassing a world-class ceramics collection. When she died the collection was bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum. She also donated fans, board games and playing cards that she had collected to the British Museum. Charles Schreiber died in 1884, when Charlotte was 72 years old. She dedicated her remaining time to cataloguing her collections and putting them on public view. In 1891 the London Fan Makers awarded Charlotte the freedom of their company. She was, along with Baroness Coutts, one of only two freewomen of Victorian England. Charlotte remained active and campaigned for diverse causes including Turkish refugees and shelters for London hansom cab drivers. She died on 15 January 1895 aged 83. During the regeneration of Dowlais in the 1980s, a public house was named the Lady Charlotte in her honour. The Guest Scholarship fund started by Lady Charlotte Guest for the education of the steelworkers, and boosted by money saved by workers, at the Guest Keen Ironwork only closed in spring 2012. Find out more about the Mabinogion.

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  3. A new exhibition at the National Wool Museum called Strikes and Riots, offers an in-depth look into troubled times throughout Wales' industrial history. The free exhibition, which runs from Tuesday 6 March until 29 June, highlights five strikes and riots relating to work and employment in Wal...

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  4. The old copper mines at Parys Mountain - Mynydd Parys in Welsh - lie just south of Amlwch at the north east coast of Ynys Mon. The old ship building yards, Parys Mountain They remain the best (or worst) example of industrial devastation in Wales. Anyone visiting the site cannot fail to be impressed at the deep gullies and crevasses that have been gouged into the land and the overall impression is not of Wales but of the surface of the moon. There had long been stories of the Romans and even people from the Bronze Age mining in the area but nobody really knew where. From 1764, when Charles Macclesfield was granted a 21 year lease to work the area, some desultory attempts to find copper were made but it was all very low key and half hearted. It was not until 2 March 1768 that a miner by the name of Rowland Pugh stumbled across what was to become known as "the great lode" and, as a result, serious mining began on Parys Mountain. As a reward Pugh was given a bottle of whisky and a rent-free cottage for the rest of his life - no small gift in those days. The copper was fairly low quality but its great advantage was that it lay close to the surface and therefore did not require deep mining. It was also present in great quantity. Thomas Williams, a lawyer who originally from Llandinam, was the man who saw the potential. He was a businessman of great acumen. Acknowledged as the country's first "copper king," over the next 40 years he came to dominate the world copper market. Once extracted from the ground, the ore was broken up on site by hand, most of the work being carried out by the famous 'copper ladies'. These doughty women worked on the surface using large hammers, smashing the lumps of ore to extract the copper and separate the good metal from the bad. Michael Faraday wrote about them as follows: "a large group of these, about 8 or 9 women, were working on the ground in the midst of heaps of ore, large and small; their mouths were covered with a cloth to keep the dust of the ore from entering with their breathing." Working in long timber sheds, the 'copper ladies' were usually seated in long ranks, each of them with a block of iron - the knockstone - alongside them. On their left hands they wore a heavy gauntlet, the fingers protected by iron bands, and usually wielded their hammers with a rapidity and a strength that amazed everyone. The port of Amlwch The port of Amlwch - originally a tiny fishing port - quickly developed to keep pace with the production of the ore. At first the ships from Amlwch simply took the ore to places like Swansea where it was smelted but once furnaces and kilns were developed at Parys Mountain they began to transport the finished product. The village of Amlwch also expanded into other trades. Brewing and tobacco processing were just two of these while there were numerous by-products, such as ochre and sulphur, of the copper smelting process. What had once been a tiny fishing village soon developed into a thriving town that eventually grew to be the sixth largest community in Wales. Parys Mountain also produced its own coinage for a while, about 12 million copper Anglesey pennies being issued to workers in the mines after 1787 when coins were in short supply. The practice did not last long and the use of private coinage was made illegal in 1821. What developed at Parys Mountain was a sophisticated and complex industrial process. The ore was kept in purpose-built ponds along with copious amounts of scrap iron to speed up the chemical process. The port of Amlwch was extended in 1793 and soon dozens of heavily laden sailing ships were leaving the place every day. Parys Mountain dominated the world copper market during the final quarter of the 18th century and by the 1780s it was the largest mine in Europe. In particular, the copper mined here was used to sheath the hulls of wooden warships, thus making Nelson's battleships the fastest in the world as well as protecting them from barnacles and other sea creatures. The bubble bursts It was a a bubble that was almost inevitably bound to burst and, coinciding more or less with the death of Thomas Williams in 1802, there was a sharp decline in copper production at Parys Mountain. The more easily accessible deposits of ore had been worked out and now, if they wanted to stay in business, the mine owners had no option other than to dig deep. It was a process that was begun but it was both costly and difficult. As early as 1799 production was down to 484 tons a year - in 1787 it had been as high as 4,000. John Vivian from Swansea took over Parys Mountain in 1811 and did, for a while, manage to revive its fortunes but by the 1830s, in the face of further difficulties extracting the ore and cheap foreign competition, the mines were just a shadow of their former selves. Closure was inevitable. There have been various schemes and plans to begin copper, zinc, lead, even gold and silver mining once again. In the main, however, the place has become the domain of cavers, historians and explorers. When the Parys Footway Shaft was opened in the late 20th century it made several early Bronze Age workings suddenly available. From this it was seen that pre-historic mines like Parys Mountain included shafts going as deep as 100 feet. These days it is the almost mind-blowing sight of the old craters that impresses most, the vast canyons that have been carved from the earth. The ground's rich colours - red and brown, purple, orange and black - dominate the eye. They remain an incredible and lasting tribute to what was once the major copper mines in the country.

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  5. The Coal Exchange is now one of the largest entertainment venues in Cardiff. But in past times this elegant and distinctive building operated as one of the economic centres of world trade.

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  6. Visitors to the seaside town of Barry, six or seven miles to the west of Cardiff, might be forgiven for thinking that the place held nothing more important than a pleasure beach, a fun fair and a few empty docks that seem to have little or no purpose. Yet there was a time when Barry was the largest coal exporting port in Britain, possibly even the world. That may have been a long time ago and the town's days of glory may be gone, but what a glory they were. Barry Docks (from the Eric Williams collection) The development of Barry as a port was down to two things - the rapid growth of the south Wales coal trade and the dynamic personality and business acumen of David Davies, the first Welsh millionaire. The area around Barry has been occupied since earliest times, Mesolithic flints having been found at Friars Point on Barry Island and the remains of an Iron Age fort having been uncovered on the promontory at Porthkerry. The Romans knew the area well, one of their retired soldiers building a villa at nearby Llandough. The raiding Norsemen named the two islands out in the estuary - Steep Holm and Flat Holm - while the Normans (themselves of Viking origin) came to settle and stay, erecting a castle at Barry itself. The town - if it can justify such a title - was badly hit by the Black Death in the 14th century and, while the place continued to function as a small port and trading centre, as late as 1871 the population was no greater than 100. Barry Island, just off the coast, was popular with locals and visitors alike who would make their way out to the island by boat or, at low tide, via a series of stepping stones. And that was it - until the coal trade arrived. By the second half of the 19th century Cardiff, the main coal exporting port in Wales, had become something of a bottleneck. The docks, created by the Marquis of Bute, were large enough to cater for his own exports but other coal owners found themselves having to wait - as well as pay - not only to use the docks but also to ship their raw product down the valley. The Taff Vale Railway, the main means of shipping coal down to Cardiff, became a single line track after Pontypridd and, because of the shape of the valley, there was no possibility of extending or developing the line. Many mine owners found themselves seriously hampered by what was, in effect, a monopoly in favour of the Bute concerns. In 1883 a group of these mine owners, headed up by the enormously wealthy and dynamic David Davies, owner of the Ocean Collieries, formed themselves into a cabal or group and sought permission to build a dock at Barry, serviced by a new railway. The Taff Vale promptly opposed the bill and the proposal was dropped but Davies was nothing if not persistent. The following year the group was successful in gaining parliamentary permission for their enterprise. Work began on the new dock at Barry on 14 November 1884, along with the construction of the new railway link. Everything was completed in double quick time and the dock opened for trade in 1889. In due course, further docks were added and while exports in the first year were just one million tons, by 1903 they had multiplied to over nine million. By 1913, the year before the outbreak of World War One, Barry had surpassed both Cardiff and Penarth to become the largest coal exporting port in the country. The docks themselves were surrounded by dozens of business enterprises, everything from repair yards and cold storage facilities to flour mills and shipping agents. Even in the 1920s, as a world-wide depression began to bite into the Welsh coal trade, there were still over 50 independent companies trading out of the docks area. The town of Barry developed along with the docks. And, after 1884, with Barry Island connected to the mainland by a causeway, Barry became a unique combination of industrial centre and tourist destination. From the 1890s P and A Campbell ran their White Funnel paddlers from a pier in the docks and, realising the value of such an enterprise, the Barry Railway Company soon decided to run their own cruise ships from the area. From the Eric Williams collection Of course, it did not last. The inevitable collapse of the Welsh coal trade after the war left Barry and its docks stranded, without purpose or plan. The port struggled on, the arrival of the Geest Company in 1959, importing bananas from the West Indies, gave some degree of job security but when they moved out in the 1980s Barry, as a port, went into terminal decline. Gavin and Stacey was filmed in Barry These days the old waterfront has been revamped and redeveloped, like so many other dockland areas. Parts of the old docks have been used in the filming of TV shows like Doctor Who and Torchwood and, of course, the television series Gavin and Stacey was both set and, in no small degree, filmed there. Barry Island struggles on - the old Butlins Holiday Camp, centre of so much entertainment on the island, closed at the end of the 20th century but the funfair and beach remain. Barry has a glorious history, of which its people should be proud. It faces severe challenges in the years ahead but, with fortitude and the occasional backward glance, it should be able to pull through. It is no more than the town deserves.

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  7. Most people are familiar with the name Marconi and the position it holds in the history of radio transmission and communication. How many people know however that Wales played a crucial role in revolutionizing the way in which we communicate over large distances? And in particular, relaying m...

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  8. Swansea's copperworks are set to play a role in Swansea's Council's redevelopment strategy, helped in part by Channel 4's Time Team programme. The history programme, fronted by actor Tony Robinson, features a team of specialists carrying out an archaeological dig in an area of historical inte...

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  9. Modern visitors, people from places like the USA and the Far East, men and women who know little or nothing about Welsh history, heritage and culture, might be excused for thinking that many, if not most, of our valleys were never industrialised at all. Welsh miners at Tylorstown Pit, Rhond...

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  10. Iolo Morganwg remains one of the most intriguing characters of Welsh history. Many people remember him as the eccentric moving force behind the modern day Eisteddfod and, certainly, during the 79 years he was alive he was regarded as the leading expert on ancient and medieval Welsh life. Io...

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