Early in the century the first disruption occurred. Some difference arose on a question of personal discipline, one the result was, a few persons seceded and joined the Church, amongst whom were W. Jones, E. Evans, T. Davies, tailor, and others, well known men in their day.
The next and greatest was the celebrated schism of 1829. For a long time the train had been in preparation. David Williams was the principal; one of the leading men of the chapel, and unquestionably a man of great ability. But with his ability, which naturally placed him above the rest, he had also a strong inclination co rule. Some alleged that he liked authority too well, and hence, as there was strong yearning after equality in the old chapels of the district, each man thinking himself on a level with his fellow, unpleasant feelings arose that needed only a spark to cause sad mischief amongst the brethren. This soon presented itself. In the latter end of July, 1829, an eminent minister came here to preach in Pontmorlais Chapel, and in the course of his sermon gave utterance to certain views on the Redemption which caused a controversy. Two or three of the principal members, with David Williams, discussed the point after the sermon gradually the war grew fierce, neither would give in, and the end was that the dispute came before the monthly meeting. There it was decided that the question was simply one of terms but by this time the religious welfare had assumed a personal character, and so violent was it carried on that at the monthly meeting it was resolved to expel every member in the chapel, re-admitting them again on the distinct under- standing that the past conduct was not to be resumed if they wished to be once more enrolled as members. The expulsion, in fact, was to answer the purposes of purification; this it did to a great extent, as many of the untameable, restless spirits would not stoop to the ordeal of applying for re-admittance, and so remained excluded.
Chief of these was the prime mover, the restless, spirited, clever man, David Williams. These secessionists formed a gathering, and met at a place in Caedraw, where service was held for some time until they were enabled to build Adulam Chapel called “Adulam” as typical of David Williams’s escape from his enemies, just as David escaped from Saul. But with the building arose a subject of vexation. The seceders having dissented from the decision of the monthly meeting could not continue as Methodists. The Baptists and Independents take in the runaways, after a little probation, the Methodists never. So the Methodists seceders became Independents, and flourished under David Williams for many years. Eventually we find there were but few who did not return back to the old fold and the old shepherd; Adulam becoming replenished with a new race.
Since that time to the present the chapel has continued prosperous and progressive; many a son has arisen from its teachings nerved with great faith, great power, and has shone high amidst our eminent men. Every now and then its doors open to admit some of the most learned and eloquent of the sect; and in few towns, if any, in Wales, can there be seen at the present day such a religious institution, which has endured so many years with so few vicissitudes, and now, to all appearance, seems so likely to continue prosperous, when the worthy, gray-haired elders rest from their long and arduous, but pleasant duties.
Among the leading men of latter years we may rank Mr. Evan Jones, who died lately, after attaining the great age of 100; Mr. Parry, who is still left, the intelligent main-spring of the connexion, and one of the most amiable and pure-hearted of men, and our worthy townsmen, Mr. Rees Lewis, Mr. Morgan Davies, and others. The school still maintains its efficiency, and numbers many scholars. Services are held every Sunday and often in the week.
The Rev. Evan Jones
Sixty years ago, or thereabouts, in one of the Frwd farms, near the picturesque ravine of Cwm Frwd, Cefn- coed-y-Cymmer, well known to many a lad and lass of picnic loving memories, lived a widow woman named Jones, who had been left there years before to struggle with the world alone. She had a large family, and among them one son named Evan flourished, notorious as he grew in years, for his wild and wayward habits. Perhaps he was not so conspicuous then, as we are apt to think he was, in looking back from our more civilised era to the riotous times of 1800. He was just a sample of the Cefn youths, notorious for their tossing, racing, and fighting predilections.
As soon as Evan was old enough to work he did a little about the farm but as he became older there was evidently no alternative for him but to become either a workman in the iron works or a delver in the mines. Be chose the latter, and for many years laboured in the coal pit. An old friend of ours, to whom we are indebted for many reminiscences of the forefathers of the hamlet, remembers him at this period of his life, a strong tempered healthy young man, full of life from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot, and, with many good points, possessed in addition several very doubtful ones. These, in part, we may attribute to his strong animal spirits.
When Evan was a young man his mother married one David Williams, who kept horses in the works; but, so far as we can learn this did not improve Evan’s condition. He continued to work as a collier, and is remembered by more than one as figuring in a red coat. With the termination of the great struggle between Napoleon and England a vast quantity of army clothing was sent over all parts of England and as red coats which had been destined for a second Waterloo were to be had of the Merthyr Jews at a cheap rate, Evan, with many others, who cared little about looks, marched to work in uniform, rather pleased too, wo have no doubt, with the distinction.
The age was a martial one, and who knows how much the military spirit aroused throughout the country by the valour of our soldiers had to do in giving a military character to the memorable riots of Merthyr? The idea is not unworthy of contemplation, even though it breaks in on the continuity of our narrative. Evan attained the zenith of his wildness, and then over the youth of Cefn the great influence of Rowland Pugh broke, and many began to see for the first time that there were higher objects of life to be gratified than those of animal indulgence-paths to be trodden which would yield greater and more, unalloyed happiness thin ever were enjoyed before. Evan attended some of the Calvinistic Methodist meetings at Cefn Isha, and became a convert. His eyes were opened, his mind began to expand. He was a punctual attendant at Pontmorlais chapel, and soon became a member, and ere long a minister. After several years of a useful and active life had been passed in this town, he was induced to visit Newport, in Monmouthshire. There he remained some time, and the society built a chapel. But a dispute having arisen respecting the deeds, at the very time when he was in receipt of very pressing invitations to Lewes, he bade his friend good bye, and became the minister of the Independent congregation of that town.
It is evident that Evan must have had a very superior mind. No common man could have stepped from the ranks of the Welsh collier boys into the refined society of an English town. But in his case, as in a host which might be given, it is clear that Welshmen, with a natural bias towards theology, are fitted, when trained, for occupying the highest position in the religious world. They have the impassioned earnestness which evokes conviction, and sweeps down the petty barriers of unbelief, and the impulsive will which, if very irregular and of brief continuance, achieves great things when once exerted. There is an anecdote current respecting Evan’s powers as an orator which will give an idea of his ability. There happened to be a large Bible meeting at Abergavenny one day, and for some reason or other the proceedings were going of very tamely, until Evan Jones appeared on the scene, and at once changed the order of things, and infused fresh life by the vigorousness of his manner and the power of his elocution. At the close, a venerable minister approached Evan, and warmly thanked him for the treat enjoyed, and the spirited character of the proceedings, due entirely to him, adding, “There was every indication of its going off coldly till you came and I must say I admire fire even though it does come from the flesh!” Years ago, when Evan was in the prime of his life, King William the Fourth passed through Lewes, and lunched at the mansion of one of the deacons connected with the Independent chapel. Evan was invited to attend, and the once collier boy of our town had the distinguished honour of sitting down to the same table as his King!
A visitor to Lewes, which is one of the most fashionable of English towns, states that the worthy minister’s chapel on a Sunday morning presented one of the most striking of scenes. Without there were thirty carriages at least of the gentry of the district within a large and a most attentive congregation, listening with rapt attention to the earnest outpourings of one whose fiery eloquence the passing years affected not.
From that time until the close of last year he retained his position in that town, his family ranking well, himself with reputation for zeal and excellence undiminished; but he was becoming an old man occasionally he had visited his native place and sat in the old chapel, noting the absence of nearly all the familiar faces of the past,, and shaking hands warmly with the few old friends whom time had spared. But late, with old age came feebleness, and with the death of the old year, warning signs of dissolution gave their solemn notice to prepare. Be died Jan. 20th, at the ripe age of 73, having been the resident minister of his chapel upwards of 50 years And we are sure that although there are few men living amongst us who were his contemporaries and thus few who will mourn him; his loss in Lewes is a public one, and the town mourn, for him as for a common friend.
The life of such a man is noteworthy in the highest degree. That a collier should obtain such a position, held, it may be for certain believed, only by the possession of great mental powers and moral excellence, shows what may be achieved by perseverance and resignation of the temptations that beset youth, for a calm life of rectitude and goodness. Such a man’s life, more powerful than the ablest sermon, touches not the ear but the heart of man. The example he afforded should be like a monitor and a stimulant to our young men, for here is a man who has reflected credit on his native place, while hundreds of the young men of his time have been a discredit. He has gone down to his grave with honour on the memory of how many a lost one lingers the stain of dishonour.
We have stated, in a previous chapter, that in 1784 Mr. Richard Hill took possession of Plymouth Works, on the understanding that he should pay Mr. Bacon 5s per ton for each ton of iron that he made. This agreement was implicitly followed, but in subsequent years the works were purchased from Bacon’s heir and became the property of Mr. Hill. At first they were of small extent, and consisted of only one furnace and small out shops. Early in this century a second furnace was built, but even then there were only three colliers employed, of whom Mr. Harman was one. This shows the modest character of the works. In 1726 the total yield was 2200 tons only, but the rise was continuous and great, as will be seen from the following table:
Date Tons. Furnaces
1796 2200 1
1806 3952 3
1815 7800 3
1820 7941 Between these dates
1830 12177 Duffryn furnaces were built.
1845 29120 7
1846 35198 8
Subsequent average 40000
It was at Plymouth that the earliest recorded instance of an explosion in a coal pit occurred. In the parish registers we find the record:
Sept. 1806, Thomas Davies, and son, “burn,” by damp.
Mr. Hill brought into play an admirable acquaintance with iron making. At Cyfarthfa and Hirwain he had acquired considerable experience, and it is probable that had he been in possession of a larger capital, Plymouth Works would not have remained so long in the background. As it was they were fairly equal to Dowlais at the starting point, and continued so for several years, the relative yield being as follows:
Dowlais, 1796 2800
Mr. Hill was an unassuming, frank, and hospitable man, homely in manners and sociable with his people over whose happiness he watched with a careful eye. To his credit was due the better observance of the Sabbath day at Merthyr. When he became church- warden the church on the north side was a blank wall affording excellent facilities for ball play, and so on Sunday, even up to his time, the Sabbath pastimes of the Elizabethan time were observed, so far as ball playing was concerned. Mr. Hill tried entreaty and failed he tried force and failed also, for the moment his back was turned the ball was struck again. In this dilemma he adroitly had a door and several windows put on the north side, and at once prevented any more desecration of the place and the Sabbath.
An anecdote is related by an old townsman Harman. At the time when there were two furnaces at Plymouth, the motive power was water, and a large wheel did duly so fairly that the proprietors were not put to their wits’ end to search out for greater power. It happened that some repairs were required to the wheel, and it was taken down and placed on one side. Mr. Harman, passing by with a friend, and seeing this wheel, conceived the idea of carrying the axletree a short distance. It was of great weight, but Harman, in his prime, was a man of immense strength. He accordingly lifted the piece to his shoulders, and was walking away with it to a certain point on the road, when he met Mr. Richard Hill, who, alarmed at the man’s rashness, and not imagining for a moment that he was carrying it away, shouted out to him to put it down instantly. “I will directly,” said Harman, carrying the load a few paces further, and then, to Mr. Hill’s alarm, bringing it back to its old resting-place. The ironmaster was so astounded at the feat that he told Harman to follow him, and took him into his parlour and poured out a glass of something remarkably strong for his workman. When he had drank this Mr. Hill asked him if he would wet the other eye, pouring out at the same time another glass. The words were not understood, but the action was, and Harman drank No. 2 and disappeared. On leaving the house he met with the cashier, to whom, as he understood Welsh, Harman propounded the enquiry as to the meaning of wetting the other eye. “Ah,” said the cashier, did he ask you to have another glass; “Yes,” said Harman then that was the meaning of wetting the other eye and this was the first bit of English our old townsman learnt.
He had three sons, Richard, John, and Anthony, and two daughters, Betsy and Mary. When he died the works were left in the charge of the sons, Richard having the care of the mines, for which he had a special liking, and Anthony the management of the iron works. John having no distinct attachment to either branch did very little in the management. Richard, the eldest brother, died in 1844; John, 1S54; and finally the works came into the sole charge of Anthony Hill, un- questionably the most able and scientific ironmaster we have had in the district. A good geologist, chemist, and metallurgist, more at home in the studio than in society, he early applied himself to the improvement of iron making, and in 1814 patented the use of puddlers’ and heaters’ cinder in the blast furnace instead of coal, a course attended with marked success. Cinders produced in the various stages and containing 50, 60, and sometimes 70 per cent., instead of being made into tips, became re-convertible, and were bought up eagerly throughout the country, sometimes at rates equal to those of the best ores. Though he patented this invention, it gave him no special advantage over any other ironmaster, and the method slightly altered soon became common property.
Mr. Booker at the meeting of the British Association in 1848 was highly eulogistic in praise of this invention, and earnestly hoped that Mr. Hill would receive a more substantial award than public gratitude. But Mr. Hill was the student, not the enterprising and ambitious trader, and he shrunk from all honours and acknowledgments. When he became the managing proprietor the means at command were very small, and so curbed him to a confined track. It is related that when Mr. Wm. Thomas, Wernlas, was the cashier, he often came into the town to borrow from the tradesmen, for between him and the tradesmen, and also between master and man, there was ever the most kindly relation existing. Stern in the administration of justice, no heart was more open than his to the supplications of poverty or of suffering. Pledged from his youth to Conservative views, he was liberal in the broadest sense of the word whenever the wants, the pleasures, the moral enjoyments of his people were in question. His was a name associated with good deeds, generous measures for his people’s comfort, for their religious welfare, their education. When a trusted workman became too feeble, his was the hand which gave a generous maintenance when, by accident or illness, a family was left destitute, his was the beneficence which lessened their sorrow and provided for their wants. Old men who had grown up in his great establishment from boyhood were treated on the most familiar terms, and the Christian name of each would be used in conversation with a familiarity that brought neither into contempt. The salient epochs of his life were few and striking. About 1824 the iron trade became brisk, and between this time and 1825 he made one of the happiest speculations of his life this was leasing the Egremont mines, near Whitehaven. He had these for a very trifle, and to the end of the 40 years’ lease they proved eminently valuable. In 1825 the Duffryn furnaces were built, and from this date Plymouth works may be said to have crept from a bumble status to a position of note. His underground manager at this time and general factotum was Mr. Lancelot Steele, a fine sample of a Westmoreland man, who figured prominently in local politics at vestries, and was churchwarden for many years. Steele was generally liked by the people, but his family did not retain the esteem which the father enjoyed, and are now almost forgotten. In 1841 the new rail mill was set to work, and two or three years later steam power was largely used. Previously Mr. Hill had been wedded to his antique water wheels. This love of old methods was a defect of his character, and it is unquestionable that had he early adopted the appliance of steam and improved machinery, and obtained the aid of skilled men such as Sir John Guest surrounded himself with, Plymouth Works would have prospered to a still greater extent than they did. When these prejudices of his were finally overcome his success in life was assured. We must not omit to record that in his introduction of steam, attended with great expense, he was generously aided by Mr. John Bates, of the West of England Bank.
From that date, under the fostering care of Mr. Wolridge, Mr. Joseph, and others, the Plymouth Works became remunerative property, and its iron renowned for excellence and from the railway epoch, another great event in the iron history, an average of 40,000 tons of iron was annually made, and this at a profit of £1, or even 15s, per ton indicates an excellent revenue. Mr. Morgan Joseph, the father of Mr. David Joseph, was the successor of Steele as mineral agent, and to this day he is spoken of with respect. Indeed Plymouth mine pits and collieries have always borne a good name for careful management. Mr. Heppell senior, who then succeeded Mr Joseph, being like his predecessor, impressed with the necessity of making the safety of the men, and not the yield of coal and mine, the first consideration. In the engineering department Mr. Adrian Stephen did good service, and in this and other branches the Lewis family acquired that sound training, which, combined with ability and energy have given the mining district of Glamorganshire many eminent members, who now occupy important positions. Mr. Hill was the happy means of bringing forward many a worthy man, last but not least of whom we may name Mr. Roberts and Mr. Creswick.
In the evening of his life he decided on establishing a new church at Pentrebach, and of endowing the same with £200 per annum. This was done, and in addition to increasing the school accommodation at Plymouth with the last public efforts carried out, for the evening was drawing to a close, the life of usefulness ending. In August 1862 he breathed his last, to the sincere regret of the whole town, and the deep sorrow of all who knew and respected his virtues’. He was buried in Pontyrhun Church on the 8th of August, a day generally observed an one of mourning in the district, and few of the inhabitants were absent either from the procession or the grave. When the grave had closed over his remains the full extent of his generous dis- position was made known. He had left several thousand pounds to his agents and workmen, and there was not an old man who was not remembered.
For many years Mrs. John Hill also resided at Plymouth, aiding the worthy ironmaster in his human projects, and having a sphere of her own characterised by the same philanthropic views. After the death of Mr. Anthony Hill the works were sold to Mr. Fothergill, and Mrs. Hill retired to Clifton, thus sundering the last tie between the town, and one of its oldest benefactors.
Dowlais Works and Sir J.J. Guest
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 be 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 were 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 light name was few if any knew. She was commonly known as Mary Abertify, having come from the wilds of Cardigan to this part when the iron-age attracted from near and afar. She lived at Gellyfaelog, 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 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 new 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 to rattle, balls of fire to be 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 gray in colour, and this 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 rev. 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-educed 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 where his commanding person, Lis powdered wig, keen quick eye induced, we are told, every man to be be un- usually sharp in his respective duties.
Mr. Tait insisted that Josiah Guest should accompany one of the agents underground every day, and Philip Powell was selected for the duty of instructing his future master on the mystery of mining operations. The lad’s uncle, too, in a variety of ways, guided his steps in a thorough excellent and practical tract. 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 be 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 small 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 fit Dowlais had increased to five, making yearly 15,600 tons of iron at a weekly average of little more than 50 tons each. In 1817 Mr. 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 in our county to this day. Amongst these may be named Mr. Fowler. At this period, in addition to the house then occupied By Mr. Guest, and now used for offices, he held Troedyrhiw arm, and frequently resided there until Dowlais House was built. One pleasing anecdote is related of his wife. and her husband were riding to church one Sunday morning on horseback, when, without a word being said, 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 of January, 1818, at the early age of 23. This was a terrible blow. The poetry of life serried destroyed. Harshly had the bright anticipations and hopes been shattered, but Mr. Guest here it like a philosopher. He plunged with keener zest 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. Quest 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 promissory notes were issued at Dowlais. Furnaces No. 687 were built in 1822, 108 was erected in 1823, and by that time the average yield of each furnace was increased to 60 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 resent residence of T. J. Evan, Esq., and issued £1 notes, surviving well in his new capacity of banker, until that citing era of commercial disasters, 1825. He saw the alarm 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 from hero 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 be 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 as the representative of 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 be 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 of 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 130 of the electors dined with Mr. Guest at the Bush, and general 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, squandered in libations of bear to the people. On the 11th of December, the same year, he met his constituents at the vestry, when he spoke at length and with 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 cast, him 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 the Clergy, who have a vested interest in their property let them have a pro- per commutation of tithes. No man can doubt that the present system of tithes is one which I will net call shameful, but one under which the country cannot pros- per. With regard to the Church, I believe i’s 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 taxes on knowledge. Knowledge is power, and I wish that power to be extended to all ranks of society, in 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 band 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. 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 begin 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 Lindsay. In 1833 he married that accomplished lady, and from that time we date the beginning of his best and happiest projects. We should rather say their projects, for in all that he was deficient she excelled; and while credit him with the honour of founding the greatest ironworks in the world, and giving sustenance and substantial comforts to twenty thousand souls, it is chiefly to her influence 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 sums 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 0th of January, the former representative was chaired j 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, Lis 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 Pryce Bruce, Esq., of Duffryn, and ex-police magistrate of Merthyr, when the numbers stood as follows:
Dowlais 108 0
Merthyr 164 67
Aberdare 87 68
So that out of 444 voters Mr. 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 Aberdare and C. M. Talbot, Esq., and was only defeated by a small majority. The returns showed Adare 2009 Talbot, 1791 Guest, 1590. In the 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 reply, that during the last seven years I am the only person who has stopped working the furnaces at Merthyr 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, and 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 1833, that auspicious event was rendered more illustrious by her Majesty’s conferring a distinctive mark on her subject, Mr. Guest. Accordingly in that year he was elevated to a 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, 300 persons on horseback and several thousand’s 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 having 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 favoured 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 and 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 a day and night school at Dowlais which did good service, though insufficient for the growing population. He also erected in 1827 a church at Dowlais, at an expense of £3,000 and in latter days, gave £250 towards a new church at Merthyr, and contributed largely towards the support of the clergyman. 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, and at the time he held shares to the amount of £100,000. 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 in the Bush Assembly-rooms, held in order to devise means for establishing in Merthyr a Literary and Scientific Institution, when at this and other meetings 91 subscribers enrolled their names; and Sir John, besides a donation of £10 10s, placed at the disposal of the newly formed society, a number of specimens which, he had accumulated tinea 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 re-payment of principal as well as interest.
In 1845 he founded a Workman’s Library, now, 1866, one of the most attractive in the Principality, though the additions and conveniences introduced by Lady 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 ten teachers in our National Schools. Year after year the persevering industry of the iron king had continued to develop the immense resources of the Dowlais mineral districts, so that in the year 1842 the number of workpeople employed numbered 5000, 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 40 acres, i 10 acres of which were occupied by the different buildings. The consumption of coal was 1200 tons; 18 furnaces in blast made nearly 1600 tons of iron weekly, or an annual produce of 74,880 tons, being an average of more than 80 tons per week for one furnace. The quantity of finished iron manufactured monthly was equal to 1,800 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 are the largest carriers of iron on the Taff Vale Railway, the average is about 70,000 tons per annum, and in one year this Company paid the Taff Vale Railway £25,641, a sum equal to months 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 seam of coal for 24 hours that half an acre would have been cleared, producing 1600 tons of coal, and that the produce of miners and colliers in that year was 80,000 tons of ironstone 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 other rates £1618, making a total of £4,195. The basis was in coal at 7 1/2d, and each blast furnace was rented at £363. The 18 furnaces were worked by seven powerful steam engines two of which have 12ft. blowing cylinders and 9ft. stroke. The steam power in operation was equivalent to 2000 horses, besides 20 water balances for raising coal to the surface, and of locomotive engines with 500 to 600 horses in constant employment. The tram roads below and above ground; if placed in a continuous straight line; would extend over a distance of 1000 miles. The average wages of colliers and miners was then 25s, per week, finers’ and puddlers 35s, rollers and heaters 40s, carpenters and smiths 21s.
The population had more than doubled in 24 years, and in 1842 it was computed that no less than 4,500 men, 3,000 women, 3,000 children, were dependent on these works fur subsistence. And uninterruptedly this great establishment was carried on, the only falter 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 a 100 a year. From the Pendarren Company they received £10,000! Eventually the new lease was granted for £30,000. For some time prior to the year 1852 Sir John had been a great sufferer, and as days and months passed by it became evident to his friends equally as to himself that his 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 this with dread. His life seemed a necessity to them, on which their social progress and their prosperity alike depended. With his death they feared that the creation of his vigour and his intellect would be scattered to the winds, and the bleak mountain side tell only by lofty mounds and ruins of the deeds that had been done. If prayers and hopes could have shielded Sir John he would be amongst us now but it was not to be. With the chill winds and the gloom of November he faded, and on w the 26th of that month lay stricken, dead. We well remember the universality of the woe in our district. The place seemed to have but one great heart; men and women spoke in the streets with subdued voices, for the hush of death, instead of being confined to chamber and mansion, seemed to pervade the whole valley. On the day of burial the sorrow and gloom were intensified. Though it was Saturday every place of business was closed even the market remained silent until the evening, and from an early hour the streets were thronged with expectant crowds, all who could wearing a little mourning, and some with a simplicity that was not destitute of genuine pathos. He was buried, according to his wish, in the scene of his birth, his childhood, his career, and his success. Dowlais church was crowded at the ceremony, and never had the worthy 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 mathematician, 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 months 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 be never figured as an orator he was reputed to be a most valuable man on committee. In fact was one of those who do the real work of the House behind the scenes, while men of slighter parts and readier flow of speech amuse the crowd from the stage. To him is due the credit of having first suggested the feasibility of the electric telegraph, for science claimed him for a son, and a faithful one. In committees, societies, directing vigorously the great establishment, and, with a large family to overlook and train, and their future welfare to guard, he must have been so thoroughly engrossed as to be literally unable to take personal interest in the men he had attracted to his side. Thus he has been blamed for shortcomings, for not elevating his workmen higher; seeing them better housed, supplied with better food, water, and the like. But there is a limit to human capacity. It was his destiny to create a busy hive of industry, and that of others succeeding him to refine and elevate. Towards the close of life he became very anxious the people trained and educated, and the school for which Dowlais is now celebrated is as much the expression of his dearest wish as it is his memoriam. His great success was due as much in part to his own ability; and in part also to his sagacity. While Mr. Hill was experimenting in his laboratory, he selected the best engineers that could be had, and it was by their labours and the full development of mechanical arrangements that Dowlais obtained its pre-eminence. Amongst the men who stand out conspicuously in his era, we note prominently the Rev. Canon Jenkins, who laboured zealously at Dowlais, when discouragements of all kinds abounded, and who finally triumphed in a most remarkable manner. The testimonial recently presented, and the expressions it called forth, are alone sufficient to indicate his worth and achievements. Sir John was so pleased with his exertions that he bought and presented him with the succession to the living of Abergavenny. Mention also must be made of Mr, Kirkhouse, the able mineral agent of Dr. White; one of the most skilful and successful in the Principality, Sir John would have no second-rate talent around him, and the brothers, Messrs. Thomas and John Evans. Notice of Mr. Thomas Evans will be found in the chapter on Vaynor. Of Mr. John Evans it may be said that the Guest family owed him much. Impetuous, choleric to a degree, he had that irresistible physical energy which sweeps everything that blocks up the avenue to success. He rose from the ranks to enjoy the confidence both of Sir John and Lady Guest, and was a material aid in the creation of the great iron works.
The magnificent school (probably the largest in the kingdom) was designed by Sir Charles Barry, the architect of the new palace at Westminster, and consists of 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 35 feet wide; and 50 feet high. The boys’ school at the South end is 100 feet long by 30 feet wide, and 30 feet in height; and there are two class-rooms, one 25 feet by 21, and the other 45 feet by 24. 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. E. Jenkins, and finally under the beneficent sway of the Trustees, H. A. Bruce, Esq., and G. T. Clark. Esq., the school has become an institute of which even Wales may be proud.
Sir John left behind him immense wealth. Dowlais was his. He held also large estates, chief of which was Canford Manor, now the seat of Sir Ivor, who, when he came of age in ’58, sat at the head of a festive throng of friends and tenants, 1,000 in number, and received at their hands a magnificent silver flower stand, with an affectionate dedication from the tenants of Canford.
Lady Charlotte remained some years at Dowlais after the death of her husband, and when she left, the inhabitants lamented her loss as that of a laud unaffected friend, for she had always taken a strongly marked interest in the affairs of her people, their home comforts, their education, their morals. She had also a wider world of admirers than Dowlais could afford. Gifted with considerable literary 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 some considerable merit. With her departure from the scene of her husband’s greatness, and finally her marriage to Charles Schreiber, Esq., M.P., the connection between her ladyship and Dowlais seems to have been nearly severed. Under the management of Mr. Clark as resident trustee of Messrs Edward Williams, Wm. Jenkins, and M. C. Harrison. Dowlais has prospered exceedingly, and great would now be the astonishment of the first Guest could he see the vast proportions which the old scene of his labours has attained, and note how science has made manual strength of secondary account and character. Since Mr. Clark’s residence the coal seams have been better developed and turned to marketable account the waste gas from the furnaces bas been utilized to the saving of coal a fine mill has been built, and the Bessemer Steel Patent worked with great success. Socially too the place has prospered, the schools are managed by emphatically one of the best school-masters of the country, Mr. Hirst; and though it will be long before Dowlais becomes loveable, still in these later and more vigilant Board of Health days it has wonderfully altered.
Press Gang Days
Our lamented friend, Mr. Robinson, related that some years ago (1858) he met an old gentlemen who journeyed here for the first time as a commercial traveller in the year 1806. He put up at the best hotel, the Crown. His mode of travel wa3 on horseback, carrying his samples in a pair of roomy saddle bags, as travellers were won’t to do. He well remembered being taken by a friend to see the Castle Hotel, which was then in course of building, and most of the shrewd men of the place thought the speculation a very hazardous one for Merthyr, which was then about the present size of Cefn. His route was from Merthyr to Abergavenny, nor did he make a single business call on the way, for there was no shop in the whole distance, and the present road was not then made. Leaving Merthyr he went up Twynrodyn, crossed to Waun Mountain, passed near Rhymney, crossed the present road about a mile this side of Tredegar. again above Sirhowy, diverting towards Ebbw Vale, crossed it again by the Beaufort gate, and made northward, but making a turn came out by the Heath- cock Inn, at Brynmawr; again he left the present road, and passing through Nantybwch and Twyn Blannant reached Abergavenny. Such was the old road, now in great part swept away.
The first entry of commercial travellers to Merthyr preserved; by a humorous incident that occurred in the early part of the century. It happened at a time when the necessities of war led to the institution of that abominable system, the press gang. Throughout England, and especially in sea ports, no man was certain of his liberty.
Wales was not exempted from these forays. All around the sea coast the gallant Cymry were seized and made to serve the “good King George.” The inland villages fared better the more remote they were from the coast, but as Merthyr was known to be a spot that was attracting the strong-limbed Welshmen from all parts, the subject of press gangs found many gossipers, and every day were expected to make their appearance.
One sunny afternoon, towards the close of the last century, two suspicions looking travellers rode down through Twynrodyn, then the direct-road from Cardiff, passed the Court house, where lived old Rees, the great man, and entered the village. Each rode on horseback, and each carried a pair of large saddle bags. They were strange, determined sort of men, and as travellers were rara ares, and mounted ones like these still more rare, great was the sensation caused in every little house they passed, and greater still among the little crowd who watched them dismount and enter the Crown Hotel.
In the queer old hostelry, then the principal inn, or at least equal rival to the Star, the excitement equalled that without. The host of pipe and fireside loving fame was bewildered, and got in the way incessantly of the astounded bustling hostess, and was driven hither on a multiplicity of errands, while the servants, confined probably to one old girl and one equally antique “boy” of all work, were terrified by the strangeness and variety of orders given. For once in their lives they heard among other mandates. Turn the pigs out of the parlour, two gentlemen is come and hurriedly, and with all possible noise, was the command obeyed. While these matters were occurring within a stealthy whisper was borne out to the assembled crowd that the travellers were no other than the press gang, as Merthyr men would soon know to their cost!
Coming at such a time the rumour appalled them it spread like the flame on the mountain heath terrified children hid themselves in med hutches: one young fellow found a refuge in a large chimney at the Blast Furnace public-house, where, for twenty-four hours, he kept out of harm’s way, and another, an unfortunate cripple, a well-known notoriety, called “Yr Hen Sparden,” anxiously enquired if they took lame ones, and being told there was a strong likelihood they did, took himself off at a rate the crutches never went before to Scubor Newydd farm, where he remained in doubtful safety for three days.
That evening Zoar Chapel was attended for prayer-meeting purposes; devout men and women were kneeling, and the voice of supplication alone was heard, when, somehow or another, the starting news that the press-gang had arrived was communicated from one to another, and in a most indecorous but natural haste a general “scattering” took place towards their several homes. At Penydarren forge a “runner” brought the same tidings, and without concert, and as if “Auld Nickey Ben,” with the traditional three-pronged instrument was after them, they darted away over heaps of iron, around corners, down tips, up heaps, never resting till the door was safely placed between them and their dreaded foes. Never had such an alarm been caused before. A veritable panic seemed to have seized everybody, and the most ludicrous errors ensued.
Some fled with a stocking,
Some fled with a shoe,
And everybody tried to be first out of view, of the press gang.
While all this commotion was going on in the little village our two travellers sat in the parlour quite at their ease, and enjoying the Crown’s best ale. They were in close debate, there was no doubt, but instead of contriving the plan of assault against the liberty of Merthyrians, they were cogitating how to attack the pockets of Merthyr men and women, for instead of his Majesty’s men they were riders, bagmen, commercial gentlemen as we now call them, the pioneers of a host, numerous as a Jewish tribe, who, that day, by their blandness, depth, commercial sagacity, have riveted a commercial chain between this town and Bristol, which, cracked now and then, rudely shaken here and there, yet holds fast, and will for many a long day to come. Yes, veritable bagmen, big burly men, more like Bow street runners than the bland race of modern commercials, carrying their wares; on their horses, not samples in neat oilskin cases, and quite in keeping with the time when long and dreary mountain roads had to be travelled over, a rough uncultivated people traded with, and some sagacity as well as hardihood required in penetrating into the mountain districts, where the Saxon had neither earned nor obtained the friendship of the Cymry. This startling event in Merthyr history was not suffered to die away, a local poet having made the incident a theme for a bar lie effort, which we transcribe as a curiosity worth preserving:-
YCHYDIG hanes, ar fesur Can, am y braw a’r trallod fu ar drigolion Twynyrodyn, o achos dau ddyn dyeithr ddaethant i lettya i arwydd y “Goron,” yn mhentref Merthyr Tydfil, yn Sir Forganwg. Rhai gwragedd synwyrol a ddychmygent mai dau o’r Ffrench oeddynt. Hyn a barodd i’r t-rigolion ffoi: rhai wrth y naill hosan, eraill wrth y naill esgid, &c.,
Cydneswch yn ddifrad, mewn bwriad ‘rwy’n barod
I adrodd fy nghyffes. mae’r hanes mor Hynod;
Gerllaw pentre” Merthyr, gwybydder, bu byddin
0 ddynion yn ‘hedeg oddiar Dwynyrodyn,
Rhag ofn eu pressu a’n gyru ar ger’ed
Oddiwrth eu teuluoedd yn Iluoedd mewn lludded,
A myned yn filwyr i’r frwydyr, trwy bryder.
I ymladd a’r Ffrancod. llwynogod llawn ager.
I’r Star fc ddaeth bagad, gan ofyn i Begi:-
“0 wragedd,” dan gwno ac ddigelu.
“Pa Ie mae’r press fyddin. rhai gerwin. sy’n gyru
Cynifer i drallod. trwy bynod dnrueni”
A hithau attebai’n dra geirwir ei geiriau,
Na chredwch. rhag gw’rauwydd, fath gelwydd faith golau;
Does yma ddim milwyr, ond dau o drarachvyr
A’r rhain yn eu gwely yn esmwyth fe’u gwelir.”
Hwy aethant yn ddigllon yn union oddiyno
Yn fawr iawn eu trydar, mew galar heb goelio.
I dy Morgan Lewis. i’w holi e’n hwylus,
A hwn ydoedd swyddog, wr enwog o’r Ynys:
Doedd dim allai dyccio i’w sydyn berswadio
Nad oedd rhai yn Merthyr yn brysur yn presso.
Gan ddweyd yn ddisynwyr, “Y drwm sydd yn swnio,”
A’r gwyr yn ddigalon yn awr oedd yn cilio.
Rhai wrth y naill hoson yn gyfan mewn gofid,
Ac eraill yn ysgafn oedd wrth y naill esgid:
Y gwragedd yn gwaeddi, a’r plant yn dychrynu,
A’r gwyr hyd eu torrau oedd yn y cwtteri;
Rhai mewn mwyngloddiau yn en wyr croesion
Rbag ofn eu gyru i wasanaeth y goron;
Ac eraill trwy nentydd a gelltydd yn gwyllto,
I gyd yn wyr prysur, rhag ofn eu prosso.
Pob un yn dych’mygu rhyw ffordd i’w diogelu,
Rhai mewn pydewau, a’u haelodau mewn c’ledi;
Rhai yn y cistiau a’u gwythenau”n gaethiwed,
Aeth rhai dan y gerwyn rhag myned ar ger’ed
Un a ymlusgai i’r simnai i’w siomi,
Mewn gwres ac amhuredd, mewn agwedd bron mogi;
Rhai aeth dros fynyddau. o’u aneddau’n anniddan,
Sydd etto heb ddychwelyd mewn gofid yn gyfan.
Aeth pymtheg o’u lluoedd dros dtooedd Penderyn,
Gan rhedeg yn hoyw mewn garw fodd gerwin
Ac yno’n cyhoeddi y dirfawr drueni
Yn awr oedd yn Merthyr – gwaith prysur oedd pressu;
Rhai eilwaith yn hwylio a newydd gwaeth eto,
Gan ddwedyd, “Gwae ninau. mae dau o’r Ffrench yno;
Mae rhai’n a byddinoedd, hwy’n lladdan’ ni’n lluoedd;
Gwae ni’r fath aflwyddiant, hwy’n torrant o’n tiroedd.”
Yr oedd yn a capel, neu’r deml, bryd yma,
Rhyw nifer o bobl, wyr dethol o’r doetha
Mewn dirgel gyfarfod, wedd hynod oedd yno,
“Ffydd” oedd eu testun, am hyny ‘rwy’n tystio
Ond cyn cael meddiannn un rhan o’r ffydd hynny,
Hwy rhedson yn ystwyth i maes drwy’r ffenestri.
Am hyny hwy dd wed sant, “Gwell par o draed buan
Na ffydd y proffwydi yn hyn o frau fiwdan.”
Mawr ydoedd y gofid, Och! ennyd, a chwyno,
Y gwyr o’u gwelyau mewn nwydau oedd yn neidlo;
Pob un yn rhoi ffarwel i’w gymmar hoff hynod,
Heb noddfa na lloches yn gynnes i’w ganfod;
Rhai dranoeth gan synu a welai’u camsynied,
Pan ddaethant fel doethion dwys tirion i ‘styried
Mae dau o wyr rhadlon. dawn union diniwed,
Fu’n achos i gantoedd i redeg mor gynted.
William Walters, a’i cant.
We have stated in previous chapters that in order to carry out the great discoveries of Curt, Homily en- listed the services of a body of men from Pengored Tin Works, Cardigan, and a number of Yorkshiremen, for “how specially he built a row called Row y Saeson.” There they lived, mixing little with the people for years, who regarded them as intruders, and, but for their, steady character, might have them driven away. As it was Yorkshire vigour was developed occasionally in a street fight in the old constable days, but the strangers generally took care not to visit the Crown too often, or even the village, except in a body. During the earlier part of their residence at Penydarren, and before they became blended with the people, a curious incident occurred suggestive of animal instinct or even of the dreamy notioua of Pythagoras and the transmigration theory.
Far and wide went the tidings of the Saeson incursions among the old inhabitants, but such was the influence of the great moneyed Englishmen, who were then beginning to look to Wales as an excellent scope for speculation, that the intrusion “was put up with.” There was, however, an exception. Up among the bills, with an unbounded range, boasting a fair harem, and no peer to dispute his title, was a veritable lord of the manor, in the form of a large buck goat, known and feared as the Bwch Gafr o Cethin. Large of size, bright of eye, nimble of foot, and strong of horn was he. Woe betide the incautious rustic that insulted him, or the careless stranger who ventured within his domains
How the intelligence of the Saeson inroad reached this monarch of the hills is unknown to us. That his keen scent could have snuffed a Yorkshireman so far off is doubtful; that his bright eye could have discovered the strangers is problematic. Perhaps, in coming years when our Gosse’s and Lewes’s turn their attention from the molluscs on our shores to the higher developed animals inland, and learn the language and methods of arriving at information possessed by these, some light may be thrown upon a now “vexed£ subject.
That the Bwch Gafr did learn of the intrusion is however, certain, for one fine day he left his fair nannies to protect themselves, descended Penlan, putting to flight all opposers, and by short cuts known only in his goatish directory entered the village. Curs put their tails up and scampered off when they saw him, and little boys, as well as big ones, gave him a clear road. With the inquisitiveness of a rustic first visiting the town he put his head in at a door or two, and then out and near the old church, tempted by some savoury matters displayed in a shop, would have charged home, and taken them by right of conquest, hut for an active and pretty strong shopkeeper. These little bits of playfulness, however, did not take his mind off the object of his journey, for with little hesitation he passed through the village and made direct for Penydarren. Arrived at the works, he reconnoitred the spot with the eye of a general, and leaving unharmed the various knots of his countrymen, who were employed there, bounded towards a portion of the works, the forge where the Englishmen worked. These looked around, what could that be? Those glaring eyes! The large beard The Bwch Gafr gave them time just to see their strange assailant, and then with a mighty bound rushed in upon the foe. Down they went like rows of nine-pins before a ball directed by a muscular arm, they sank now one, now another. Strong men tried to grapple him, other strongman seized hold of iron bars, legs cased in sturdy boots kicked as only Yorkshiremen can kick, but it was of no avail.
Animated by the spirit of Caractacus, fired with all the remembrance of long centuries of wrongs endured, and evi13 suffered, the heroic Bwch Gafr bore down all opposition, and bruised, wounded, half maddened, as well as frightened, in most inglorious haste the Saeson cleared the forge, and like so many Mercuries with winged feet never drew breath until they were in security. But when the forge was cleared the Bwch was satisfied he had performed his duty; won his laurels. He would not deign to make war on a flying foe. He had shown his countrymen how to avenge themselves, told them that the old war fire still lurked among his tribe, and now he would go. And so he went, first with antics expressive of his satisfaction, then with gravity, through the village and up to his mountain home.
This is no fancy picture. The incident, however strange, is a true one, and for many a long day it formed the staple subject of mirth in the little village. “Gwilym Tew, o Glantaf,” composed a humorous poem on the occasion, which may be seen in the little volume left behind him, and was often sung like that on the “Press Gang” by the grandsires and granddames, who sleep in the old graveyards of the district.
John Davies, father of D. Davies. Esq., rolled the first bar at Penydarren. The second furnace was built 1796, in which year Penydarren fairly eclipsed its neighbour Dowlais, for while 4,100 tons were turned out at the former, the latter only made 2.100 The comparative state of the works at that time may be seen from the parish book.
Penydarren rated 13.000
Dowlais rated £2000
Plymouth rated £750
In 1803, the average weekly yield was 50 tons of bar iron. In 1811, there were three furnaces and two rolling mills in full work. In 1812 five furnaces producing weekly 312 tons, or an average of 62 tons each. In the same year, 45,758 tons of mine were used which at an average cost of 10s 5 1/2d, amounted to £23,785 15s. 5d.
In the matter of coal, Dowlais, placed on the crop, could get, its supply to the furnace for Is. per ton, but it cost the Homfray’s 3s. In 1822, this was their price. In 1828 89,959 tons were raised at a cost of 5s 2 1/2d per ton, on £21,139 10s, 3,212 of which was paid for royalty. As the Homfray’s paid but 10,000 for Penydarren, it is evident this was a good paying year.
Samuel Homfray was the leading man in connection with the canal movement. His shrewd eye detected the want of means of transit. Tie saw that the valley was literally a vast bed of wealth, and yet they were hampered in driving a brisk trade by having no means of communicating with the nearest seaport, but that which n poor road afforded Mules and packhorses were continually on the road, relay followed relay, but the quantity taken by each was insignificant. A Penydarren man, worthy of ranking as one of the old athletic, actually wheeled a barrow of iron occasionally to Cardiff, and had an ovation when he arrived there and when he returned. From the limestone quarries the flux was brought on II one-horse sledge, as primitive M the mode still used on the Gelligaer hills by the farmer when taking home his load of oats or fern. The canal movement was soon set on foot. Tait and Homfray gave evidence before the House of Commons showing the necessity for a canal and the net was obtained, the length to be 25 miles, and the “fall” 611 feet. In 1791 it was begun, and in four years, 1795 it was ripen, having cost of which Homfray subscribed £40,000.
Eventually most of the shares were purchased by Richard Crawshay.
In 1805, 9,906 tons of iron was sent down the canal. In 1853 the revenue for tonnage amounted to £150,000, or £50,000 more than the whole cost of construction 60 years before. No wonder that in the anxiety not to allow any of the revenue to go to government, that the Merthyr shopkeepers were occasionally gladdened with cargoes carriage free, and this sometimes for a whole quarter of a year.
It was from this fine revenue that Meyrick received many a nice little sum. Jokers called it his milch cow. It “should seem,” as the great, departed historian of England says, that near Cardiff lived a litigious gentleman who was continually “putting law” on the canal, and of course this necessitated a recourse to the admirable legal skill of Meyrick, who invariably won his case and, charged for it. One time the bill was so long that Richard Crawshay exclaimed, you, Meyrick you are coming it rather strong!” This little was about £20.000 we have heard, but possible it was a chancery suit of au expensive character.
Up to 1819, Penydarren consisted of three furnaces, but in that year a great stride was made, and the 4th and 5th were built.
We get a glimpse of Homfray from another side, adding to our knowledge of a time when matters and morals were rather of the looser kind.
A rare tract has been placed in our hands by a friend, which gives a truthful picture of social times seventy years ago, and supplies a glimpse of Samuel Homfray, from a point of view which would not be likely to come within the scope of Smiles, or other biographers of his class.
The tract is entitled: “The Traverse of an Indictment Hereford, before Mr. Baron Perryn, on Saturday. July 31st, 1790, between Mr. Samuel Homfray, of Merthyr Tydfil, in the county of Glamorgan, ironmaster, and Mr. Richard Griffiths, of Cardiff, in the county of Glamorgan, surgeon. Take” in short hand by William Blanchard, short hand writer. Clifford’s Inn, London.”
The copy of the affidavit gives the following information That Mr. Samuel Homfray, Mr. John Richards, Mr. Blannin, and Mr. Griffiths dined at Mr. Wrixon’s, on the 6th of September, 1789, and each gentleman having had his pint and a half of wine, and being somewhat excited thereby, resolved to have a game of cards, so they sat down to play at “Lazarus” for small stakes. The luck soon ran against Homfray, and as the stakes were increased from a small to a large amount, our ironmaster found himself loser to Mr. Wrixon, 90 guineas and a half; and to Mr. Griffiths, surgeon, of Cardiff, 251 guineas. Towards the end of the game, one of the company (Richards) noticed what he thought to be foul play, and drew Homfray’s attention to the circumstance. This led to high words, after which Homfray apologised, and play was resumed. At the close our ironmaster observed that he had lost more money than he found it convenient to pay. Griffiths replied by saying that he could pay as he could, and in small sums if convenient, meanwhile giving him a memorandum of the debt. lint Homfray would not listen to any such proposition, adding that as a tradesman it would injure his reputation if it were known that he had lost such sums at play. This led to another altercation, when allusions were again made to marked cards, and broad hints were thrown out of “sharp” play.
Homfray seems to have been confirmed in his belief that he had been cheated; and hence the indictment of Griffiths for, in the first “fraud,” and in the second, “illegally winning above ten pounds sterling.” The case was tried at Hereford, and it would appear great was the excrement then canned amongst the gentry of the district. From the evidence given, it appeared that our ironmaster was a social, good-natured man, fond of his wine, and extremely fond of hunting. It was this passion for the sports of the field that took him to Cardiff, and at the time he played this remarkable game of Lazarus he had two valuable hunters with him. Evidence was tendered to show that Griffiths was jealous of Homfray’s hunters, and that prior to the dinner, and, of course, before the game of cards, he observed in the speech of the time to one of the party, “D- e 1 Bob, we will do Sam for his horse tonight.’ Homfray was equally free with his expletives, and whimsically accused an unlucky deuce of being his special foe, towering up continually as if the embodiment of some provoking imp.
Several gentlemen of high repute in Cardiff were called to give Griffiths a character, and after a most lengthy hearing, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty.
In connection with the works there was a company’s shop, or one of similar kind, kept in Merthyr, opposite the Angel. (See notice of riots in 1800.) In 1815 the manager issued silver tokens of the value of Is. each on behalf of the Penydarren Company, and copper, valued at £1., 1s., and 1s. 6d. But a great trial soon awaited the firm. The currency having become deteriorated, about 181S it was called in, as well as tokens issued by private companies, and new coin at standard value was issued to the holders by government. It followed that though the company did well with the tokens at first, yet when they only received the actual value they were involved in very serious loss. Spurious tokens too had crept in, and made the matters worse.
Merthyr in 1816
At this time wages were low and work scanty. Over the hills the same state of things existed, with the awkward addition that there men were not inclined to take it so easily as ours were, and talked unreservedly of physical force. One reduction of wages had occurred; an another was to take place. This was the great grievance, and so the Monmouthshire men arose, stopped all the furnaces in their route, and marched towards Merthyr. The news of this proceeding roused the worst characters of the place, and a riot became imminent, In this emergency the military were again sent for. Special constables were sworn in, and at Penydarren a villainous looking iron pike was ordered to be made in large quantities, and to be served out amongst the managers, agents, and sub-agents of the works. On Friday information was brought to Merthyr that crowds of armed men had been seen lingering about the hills, and evidently waiting for night to march in and attack. So in the evening the pike-men and special constables from Cyfarthfa, Merthyr, and Penydarren marched up, and. meeting in Dowlais, formed into order, and with a great appearance of discipline proceeded to Dowlais. It was in the gloaming. Soon a dark mass of men was seen approaching, but the valiant heroes hesitated not. At this juncture a hot was fired, wounding severely a woman named Mary Morgan, wife of Morgan, engineman at Penydarren, and who, it appears, knowing her son was amongst the rioters and her husband one of the pike-men, had gone up to try and prevent father and son meeting as foe? The moment the gun was fired the mob poured down on the pike-men, sending a withering volley of stones, but the pike-men did not wait for the charge, fleeing ingloriously, and never halting until a place of security was reached. Many who were overtaken had their pikes taken away and some were treated with great contumely. Big Jem Ashton, as he was call d, manager at Penydarren, w is tossed into a gutter, others soundly beaten. Dr. Thomas used to joke Kirkhouse and others soundly on the affair, and vow that even Crawshay fled from Gwaelodygarth when he heard of the pike-men’s defeat, and was discovered by a friend in hiding at Penycoedcae. On Saturday the masters agreed to meet a deputation at the Castle Inn. The terms were to maintain the wages and not make the second reduction. While deliberating, the crowd became more dense, ominous-looking bludgeons and many pikes figured in the mass, and here and there faces were seem marked with the firm lines of a determined and, if needed, a cruel purpose. But brain is more than a match tor muscle. Meyrick suggested a ruse. Going outside, he said that while the deputation and the masters were settling matters, he and his friends would provide the crowd with refreshments if they would only fallow him. Everybody shouted “hurrah!” as they left, the cavalry and constables closed in all the windows were guarded and as the rioters came back in detachments their arms or bludgeons were taken away. To assist a peaceful settlement-, the rain fell heavily, and the people, satisfied with maintaining the wages, even though they could not regain the past reduction, quietly dispersed. It was some time before the workmen fell into their old track. Considerable drinking had to be performed, and the humorous or pathetic incidents of the riot to be detailed ere they could settle down, but from the Saturday all fear of an outbreak passed away.
The soldiers who came here were chiefly from Newport one regiment, the 55th, composed of mere lads, for Waterloo had been won and the name only of regiments remained to tell us of the brave fellows who had fought so gloriously. But there was one regiment of light dragoons which caused a great sensation, were all Waterloo veterans, with eyes that flashed like their own swords with the cruel gleam that is won only where blood flows like water. The villagers were also struck with theirs bearded faces, for it was the first time they had seen moustaches. These were drilled daily in the field where in subsequent years St. David’s church was built, and old men living amongst us can remember their own boyish delight in seeing the grand exercises, and ad-miring the fiery manner of the officer who led them, and who could not apparently forget but that he was always going to lead his well to battle against the Frenchmen.
1804 Samuel Homfray made a bet of £1,000 with Richard Crawshay that he would convey a load of iron by steam power from his works to the Navigation, nine miles distant. The man selected to accomplish this feat was Trevethick, and the course chosen the present tram-road crossing Thomas Town, which was made in 1803, and was the first railway in the United Kingdom for which an Act of Parliament was obtained. Trevethick was materially assisted by Rees Jones, of Penydarren, an ingenious and self-taught mechanic, whose homely features are now enshrined in the Art Exhibition of Kensington. The Cornish genius brought most of his materials to Merthyr, and by the assistance of Jones, the locomotive, known as Trevithick’s High Pressure Tram Engine, was in readiness on the eventful day. And such a day Merthyr had rarely seen before. Great crowds assembled at Penydarren, and along the line of route all the population gathered in expectation on the eventful 12th of February, 1801. The locomotive was a curiosity. With a tall clumsy stack, it had a dwarf body perched on a high framework and large wheels. The cylinder was upright, and the piston worked downwards. Attached to the engine were trams, laden not only with 10 tons of iron, but with 70 persons also, each of them had a yearning to distinguish himself amongst his fellows. On the locomotive, stern faced but hopeful, was Richard Trevethick his fortunes hung on the venture the puffing steed might soar with him to immortality. And there stood honest Rees, doubt and hope amusingly blended, and William Richards, the driver, anxious fur the signal; and the Homfray’s and the Crawshay’s too were there, and managers and agents. The signal was given a jet of steam burst forth the wheels revolved with hideous clang, and slowly the mass moved, and Richard Crawshay the same instant felt his thousand pounds take wing But it was not a smooth ran. Just below the village the stack, which was made of bricks, came in collision with a bridge, and away went bridge and slack. Trevethick was not the man to be daunted, and though not one was allowed to move hand or foot to help him, he soon built up the stack and steamed away at the rate of five miles an hour, reaching Navigation with ease, and winning the wager; though it did not settle the question of the possibility of these locomotives being used for transport, as it failed utterly on account of gradients and curves to bring the empty trams back again.
In the Cambrian of that time a brief account of the eventful day and description of the engine appeared, as follows:
“Yesterday the long-expected trial of Mr. Trevithick’s newly-invented steam engine, for which he has obtained his Majesty’s letters patent, to draw and work carriages of all descriptions on various kinds of roads, as well as for a number of other purposes, to which its power may be usefully applied, took place near this town, and was found to perform to admiration all that was expected from its warmest advocates. In the present instance the novel application of steam by means of this truly valuable machine was made use of to convey along the tram-road ten tons, long weight, of bar iron from Penydarren Iron Works to the place where it joins the Glamorganshire Canal, upwards of nine miles distant; and it is necessary to observe that the weight of the load was soon increased from ten to fifteen tons, by about seventy persona riding on the trains, who, drawn thither, as well as many hundred others, by invincible curiosity, were eager to ride at the expense of this first display of the patentee’s abilities in this country. To those who are not acquainted with the exact principle of this new engine it may not be improper to observe that it differs from all others, yet brought before the public, by disclaiming the use of condensing water, and discharges its steam into the open air or applies it to the heating of fluids as conveniencey may require. The expense of making engines on this principle does not exceed one-half of many on the most approved plan made use of before this appeared. It. takes much less coal to work it, and it is on)y necessary to supply a small quantity of water for the purpose of creating the steam, which is the most essential matter. It performed the journey without feeding or using any water, and will travel with ease at the rate of five miles an hour. It is not doubted but that the number of horses in the kingdom will be very considerably reduced, and the machine in the hands of the present proprietors will be made use of in a hundred instances never yet thought of for an instant.”
Trevethick lived when here at the house of Mr. Jones, Pontyrhun, and as much liked for his amiable character. His engine, after serving a long time on the tramway, was removed to a pit near Plymouth Works, and finally taken to the top of the incline owned by the Penydarren Company, at Cwmbargoed, and here it was “restored,” as the years crept by, until only the original cylinder remained. Long since even that relic has disappeared. A few years ago some gentlemen came from London to hunt up a portion for a relic, but failed in their mission.
He tore about Cornwall with a traction Engine and as there was not-sufficient control over it, played fine doings with Garden walls and turnpike gates. One night he drew up at a turnpike gate and knocked the man up, and soon the gateman appeared, not see a demure gentleman and a quiet horse, but a strange fiery dragon belching flame and smoke, and apparently resolved to flee or destroy. “How much have to pay? roared Trevethick as the gate flew open,” “n – nothing to p — pay good Mr. d — devil,” quavered the man, naturally thinking his visitor was from the lowermost regions and away flew the engine amid the roar of wheels. To his dying day the gateman believed he had seen the devil. Trevethick went to Spain, rose in the world became a man of note, a noble in fact, and then one of the thousand revolutions of that strange country arose, and Richard fled leaving honours and wealth, and when he died in obscurity only a silver spur remained of his Spanish fame.
This locomotive trial brought Penydarren prominently before the world, and for a long time the works prospered under the able direction of Mr. Homfray. It was here that the first rail ever made in Wales was rolled, the rail being for the first railway, that between Liverpool and Manchester. Here too the cable for the bridge which spans the Straits of Menai was made, and in these and numerous minor undertakings the establishment retained its good name.
The energies of the Homfray’s were not devoted entirely to this district. They built the first furnace at Ebbw Yale, the first at Sirhowy, the first at Tredegar, and at one time were connected with Abernant works. Both brothers were men of skill and energy, but comparatively poor. Hence it was that the capital supplied by Mr. Forman and Alderman Thompson enabled them to achieve great things, though great wealth obtained, fell to the lot of those who furnished them with means. Immense fortunes were realized by Mr. Forman and the Alderman, but the Homfray’s were not so enriched. The Alderman took little interest in the place. If he saw a nail on the ground, or a lump of coal lying waste, he would pathetically lament at his approaching ruin.
John Rees, the bard, used to relate an amusing anecdote of this penuriousness. The bard sat in his little lodge one day. It was a time of inspiration, and as he was not disposed to go out in the cold he drew the cinders up with his hands and replenished the fire. At that very moment the Alderman looked in, and, seeing this frugality, exclaimed, “Ah! You are the man for me!”
Samuel Homfray married a sister of Sir Charles Morgan, of Tredegar Park, the widow of one Captain Ball, and an easy lease was shortly after given to him of the Tredegar Works, in connection with Messrs. Fothergill and Foreman. 3000 acres of mineral property were given for 2s. 6d per acre for 99 years. Jeremiah Homfray married a widow of Capt. Richards, of Cardiff, and for a long time lived at the Court Llandaff. For many years Penydarren House was the residence of Samuel Homfray, the house of the village. Up the avenue dashed the buff and red liveries in the golden days of its history, and in rooms now deserted once rang the sound of song and revelry. Samuel Homfray presided at the bench, and overseers of the poor obeyed his directions to relieve old workmen and “foreigners” as strangers were called, and in all respects be was the great man of the village. An anecdote is related of his juridical life, when the play house was in the zenith of its career on the tramroad. The players then lodged with certain members of Pontmorlais chapel. David Williams objected to this and had then turned out. The players applied to Homfray and took out a summons. On the ease being heard, Homfray said that Government permitted acting, and many a good lesson might be had from the stage and he did not see why players should be treated so. David Williams (Adulam) rejoined that the advice given by players was only in keeping with their character. That as members, and consistent, they did not wish to have anything to do with them for fear of pollution. The summons was dismissed, and Homfray, patting David on the back, said, “Well done, David Williams, preacher.” On his departure to Tredegar, Mr. William Forman came to reside at Penydarren House and remained there several years in quiet gentlemanly state. His son Edward lived at Gwaelodygarth Tach, or the cottage a place he built with great care, and laid out with taste. The pillars of the gateway to this day are cited as marvels of masonry. At the rear the ponds by the side of the tramway indicate the great designs he had in view. But he met an early and a lamentable fate by drowning at Pontsarn.
The cottage then became the property of Mr. William Davies, and after Mr. Forman had retired, Penydarren House was left to solitude and decay, and the occasional visits of the Alderman. The connection of the Forman’s with Penydarren continued until a late date and, indeed, so far as generous consideration extends, is not closed yet. For many years Mr. William Forman has been an active donor in all charitable works and the schools and church at Penydarren and an army of old pensioners remains to hand down the memory of his connection with the place. Many years ago, amongst the steadiest of the workmen, there was a quiet thoughtful young man who had first been life in a farm house on the Penydarren estate. This was David Davies, who here began his career of industry and success. At Penydarren, after some years of persevering application, he became roll cutter, and it was by his skill and energy that the works bad a great reputation for the excellence of their burnished rod iron. The art was first known in Staffordshire, and it was only by travelling considerable distances and working in various works in the humblest capacity that he learnt the method, which he then introduced at Penydarren. There, by his industry and frugality, he acquired considerable wealth. Gradually he rose in the world, and soon his energies demanded greater scope, which he found at Llandaff, where he won the lasting affection of his men, and afterwards at Gadlys, Aberdare.
These places were but stepping stones to a still higher position, for in a few years after our esteemed friend read the youth of Merthyr a sterling practical lesson on industry and its reward by becoming the proprietor of the Penydarren estate, and of the works in which he had first laboured when a boy. But though he holds the estate, and the site of the works, the works themselves are no more, and ruin meets the eye in the place of the old picture of active life. Moss gathers where the fiery tongue of flame lapped greedily around the heated iron, and the track of the wheel and the rail is marked by weeds. Once it was a solitude, loved by the tranquilly flowing stream of Morlais it had its epoch of life, and babel voices, and sounds, and flash, and din, and the whirring wheel gave it prominence. This is gone; the Homfray’s are gone; the Fore- mans, Alderman Thomson, managers, agents even meu scattered to the four winds of heaven, and the lichen and the moss are again gathering on the rock, and weird voices whisper to the dreamer of man’s glory, his decadence and decay.
At the beginning of the century a few members of Ynisgau Chapel seceded from the rest on discovering that Arminianism was too strongly preached there, and formed themselves into a separate church. To this end they hired a convenient room behind the Crown Inn, which, up to late years, was remembered by a few relics of the past as the “Rhwm y Crown;” and here, in their early days, their step was sanctioned, and they had the hearty assistance of the elders and pastors round the neighbourhood. Their first minister was the Rev. Howel Powell, who removed to Merthyr from Newport, Mon., and afterwards emigrated to the United States. Under his ministry there was a considerable revival of religion the room behind the Crown was constantly thronged, and many who simply came from curiosity were added to the members. In fact, so abundant was the success met with, that very soon it was thought advisable to erect a commodious chapel. Mr. Powell was entrusted with the commission, and procured an eligible site in a district at the upper of the village, called Pontmorlais. As soon as this was secured they at once began to build, but long before the walls were up difficulties arose, of which we glean no more than they were painful and harassing, so much so that Powell left them, and, as we have stated, sailed for America. The infant church, thus left destitute, was long in building, and its walls arose in c, troublous times.” In the meantime, the members became embarrassed as to their choice of a minister, for Powell had been a man of great and varied talents, and it was long before anything like unanimity was exhibited.
At last the members decided on choosing the Rev. Daniel Lewis, of Cwmmawr, near Swansea, and once again the church seemed in a fair way to become a prosperous congregation. Daniel Lewis was a holy and. amiable man, and in his pastoral manners there a great deal of Christian suavity and gentleness. He had scarcely settled himself with his young congregation before he felt the painful annoyances and tribulations of a chapel debt. The Principality, unfortunately supplies a long list of instances in which poor and young churches proceed to choose a pastor, which process, simple verily must own, that the leading motive is to obtain a person to go about the country with the chapel case,” to beg towards the debt. This practice has proved as destructive to the peace of such churches as it has been awfully ruinous to the reputation, usefulness, and piety of such ministers.
Mr. Lewis was immediately entangled in the meshes of this I, pernicious begging machinery.” He was obliged to go to England, to leave his church and his large and increasing family, and wander through London and else- where on a kind of clerical scamper to collect money. The church at that time consisted almost to a man of colliers, miners, &c., who, though, we have no doubt, devout, and, in many respects, worthy men, were by no means competent judges of the outlay and charges of the expedition on which they had hurried their minister. And thus the result was that when the accounts came to be settled these members challenged his expenses. naturally took the minister’s part, having full belief in his integrity, and the consequence was a division, or, as it is more commonly known, a split,” the seceders, who had throughout exhibited a bitter and unrelenting spirit, forming themselves into separate churches. Thus matters remained, thus they continued sometime, and it was in the very heat of the unchristian-like turmoil that the Rev. Samuel Evans appeared on the scene, and pouring around him the oil of good works, and infusing his own large-hearted sympathies and broad beliefs into the minds of the people, awoke them to a proper sense of the exhibition they were showing to the spectators. By his powerful talents he gathered around him the majority of the old members of Zoar, and by indefatigable exertions succeeded, in a short time, in adding considerably to the strength of his congregation. Every Sunday Zoar was crowded to excess, and all saw that another chapel on a large scaler scale must at once be raised. As the accession of converts soon amounted to hundred, it was arranged to take down the old chapel and build another on a large scale. Then Mr. Evans’s generosity was shown in a remarkable way, for he not only contributed £70 out of his own pocket towards the erection of the chapel, but also paid the workmen, as they carried on the building, the successive charges they made until the amount so paid had risen to £500. And for this he charged the church no percentage. Besides Zoar chapel, he had also the pastoral care of Bethania chapel, in Dowlais, then a thickly peopled district. This chapel he attended regularly for five years gratuitously; but with that shrewd notion such as is gaining converts at the present day, that a religion which costs a man nothing is worth nothing, he insisted that the members of Bethania should make their regular monthly collections in aid of the ministry, and the sum so collected he returned to them as regularly as it was paid, giving it, not for their personal benefit, but as his contribution towards liquidating the debt on Bethania chapel.
It is a remarkable truth that the brightest and the fairest things fade the quickest, and the best and most gifted men the soonest pass away In May 1832, symptoms of cancer appeared on the rev. gentleman’s tongue, and though the best medical skill the district afforded was at once obtained, it was, alas, soon discovered that all human aid was worthless. For a long time he lingered, hopes and fears alternately rising in the ascendant, gradually the mist of the shadow of death gathered, and on the 27th of June, 1833, when in his 56th year, his labours and his affliction ceased. He was buried on Tuesday, July 2nd, in the burial ground attached to a chapel in Dowlais, erected at the expense of Sir John Guest, and the funeral procession well evidenced the greatness of the sorrow felt for his loss, comprising at lei at 5,000 people and nearly thirty ministers.
From the same source as that from which we have obtained these particulars, the following estimate of the minister who may be properly called the founder of Zoar Chapel is given.
Mr. Evans was a man of strong natural abilities, which he improved by the strong discipline of reading and meditation. His reasoning powers were of no common calibre. We have often admired the shrewdness, alertness, and versatility of his mind in an augmentative discussion, yet never could ascertain that he had ever read any if our writers on logic and metaphysics. Very few indeed that knew him would venture to wrestle with him in argument.
Though modest and unpresuming, he was as gentle and playful as a lamb; but to consequential pretenders, and would-be theologians, he was verily a lion, and Was regarded by pedants with an apprehension that approached to something like dread. His sermons were well studied-lucid in their arrangement, and always redolent with the cross of Christ. He had some tact at versification, and was often exceedingly happy in composing a hymn on the subject of his sermon, to be, at the close, immediately sung by the congregation. He preached with great animation; and very often the loud amen” sounded throughout the whole congregation amid many cries and tears. Then he preached on a point of theology, he discussed his subject with great distinctness. The only sermon he ever, published was one On the Trinity.” He discusses this subject in the light of divine revelation only, and shows no mean theological acumen in developing the principles, and illustrating the practical bearings of this profound mystery.
“The conflicts which he maintained with in dwelling faults here, and the honours which his spirit made “perfect,” ascribes to saving grace, forbad the supposition that he was a faultless character. To dwell on his in-dwelling faults here is unnecessary. His friends know them, and in company of his own soul prayed against them, but never had the honesty or the courage to tell him of them and probably these very faults will be much hotter sketched when the memoirs of his traducers themselves come to be written.” Mr. Evans was sincere and steadfast in his friendship. The confidence reposed in him was never betrayed. He had great energy of character, and he found need for it all to maintain due discipline in his church. From the iniquitous and demoralizing practice of paying workmen in public-houses, and on Saturday nights the barbarous scenes around the temple of Juggernaut, quaintly states our biographer, can scarcely exceed the shocking impurities, the beastly drunkenness, the horrid blasphemies, and the barbarous noises and yelling’s of a Merthyr Saturday night. If Robert Burns’ Cotter’s Saturday night is none other than the house of God, and the gate of Heaven, a Merthyr Saturday night would be a fitting scene for the Hell” of Dante. Into this vortex of drunkenness and impurity members of Christian churches are often borne headlong and painful cases for church discipline are constantly rising. To maintain any discipline amid such scenes; requires all the nerve and muscle of the pastor’s arm, for if be he let down his hand, Amalek prevails.
These impieties affected Mr. Evans in another way. The pastor of these churches is supported by monthly contributions, which are called “The ministry money.” Though his church consisted of many hundred members; yet their contributions amounted but to a very scanty pittance. This was not because the people could not give more, but because they would not. They preferred to spend their money on their lust. When they brought their money to the table, Mr. Evans’s eye could not fail seeing many a member leaving for his minister a penny, who on the previous Saturday night had wasted in drink half-a-crown or more. This cruel and unjust treatment Mr Evans endured with great patience and magnanimity, determining, nevertheless, to spend and be spent” in the cause of his gracious Master. He closed his ministry with a striking sermon on Proverbs i., 33. “Whose hearheneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.” This, his last sermon, he preached in August, 1832. He now dwells safely, and is quiet from fear of evil.
The successor to Mr. Evans was no other than the late minister, the Rev. B. Owen. When a young man; he came here from the West, and took the reins which had fallen from the once vigorous of Mr. Evans. His name was a good one. “Griffith ab Owen,” the friend of Ebenezer Morris, was an uncle, and Griffith’s name was a household word in Cambrian houses. There was a younger brother, too, of the Rev. B. Owen’s, who began life auspiciously. Clever beyond his years; but, alas, death, with that greedy love it bears for the young, the good, and fair, plucked him from his home and hurled him into a narrow grave.
Mr. Owen was ordained in the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist chapel, Zoar chapel being too small for the great occasion, and at the impressive ceremony, rendered still more so by the presence of many eminent men, his uncle amongst the number, the moral power of a great and increasing congregation was given into his hands. The Rev. Mr. Evans left four daughters, one of whom became Mrs. B. Owen. Another became Mrs Charles, the wife of a respected townsman the third, Mrs. Roderick Morgan the fourth, Mrs Parkes. From the opening of until Mr. Evans’s death there bad only, been one secession, namely, the one to Bethesda, and for a long time after Mrs. Owen’s ordination the course of events ran in the same smooth channel. But one day that eccentric, rolling-stone kind of a man, Jones, of Llangollen a man of great industry, fairly stored brain, and gifted with a shrewd observant mind, came to Merthyr, and leagued himself with the people of Zoar. And the end of that leaguing was that Jones soon after found himself very coolly ejected, and a band who had been allied with him, and who believed in Jones and thought him wronged, also placed outside the walls. This band sought shelter in Ynyscoy chapel. Jones’s fortunes were of too varied a character to be here slightly dealt with.
Then for some years the active, and, as some imagined the too independent spirits removed. Zoar went on in its old, quiet way, men of eminence springing up from the ranks, and going forth from Zoar, their ‘alama mater,’ to the world, winning names of eminence and attaining positions above the ever-waging strife for place and bread. Among those who may be said to have been educated in the Sunday school of Zoar were no less than twenty-two who became ministers of the word, some of them Doctors of Divinity; and in the strange land of Brittany, where, with some slight difference, the mother tongue is spoken; in Australian cities, that yesterday were not in busy American towns; and in many a corner of the Globe where the English tongue has strayed to civilize and to bless, there, old children of Zoar Sunday school may be found, pastors in the new laud, but with the old love of the motherland cleaving to them still. From the small number that once assembled in the room of a public-house the change was now most marvellous. Upwards of 600 members, like faithful brethren and sisters, were to be found connected with Zoar, and besides these, there were great numbers who attended the services and did not partake of the communion. The church of Zoar had, in fact, attained its highest point (upwards of 4.000 attended the annual tea parties!), but the time was at hand when in obedience to laws, perhaps, in which man only plays the actor, it was to exhibit a strongly marked change and to be divided. Zoar chapel had done great things. Schools had been planted on the bare hill sides, and under earnest, vigorous tuition had become no mean aids in the great and ever blended principles of religion and morality. But, alas, that it should be recorded, the blow came. Penydarren Works were stopped; far and wide many of the members of Zoar, and the children of the schools, were scattered, and just at this precise time there came a member to Zoar who was destined to add still greater to its decadence. This was Robert Parry, better known Robin Ddu, a man of keen, vigorous intellect, shrewd, well read, and naturally gifted with the power to influence the people, to win their affection and their admiration.
The rest of Zoar history is too well known. Robin Ddu was solicited to preach, and to this be objected, his vocation lying he thought, in a more secular, though decidedly a moral direction. The question was put to the members by the Rev. B. Owen; out of 600 all but three voted for Mr. Parry to preach. He still held out. Then a proposition was made to raise the minister’s salary, but without success. Afterwards a letter appeared in the ‘Diwygiwr’ advocating the views held by Mr. Owen and his friends. This was opposed by another letter in the Merthyr Telegraph, signed by six members, and the speedy result was the exclusion of these members. This fanned the flame; another letter, signed by a still greater number, appeared, and when the minister refused to take any proceedings against them, these insisted upon the return of the others or their own expulsion. The principals had now become firm and decided, an arrangement was out of the question, and so, in one body, nearly 500 members left Zoar, some joining the Church of England, and the rest, with Robin Ddu, founding a chapel called Salem. With this event the history of Zoar, up to the present, ends. We have refrained from entering minutely into the causes of the disruption. They are involved, unpleasant, and if paraded would only arouse those party feelings, which, it is to be hoped, time, with its softening hand, has somewhat allayed. Salem, the vigorous offshoot, promises to be a flourishing community, but whether Zoar will ever become the important chapel it once was, is one of the problems the future only can solve.
The Welsh Independents now possess Ynysgau (see notice of Cwmglo) Adulam built in 1831, Bethesda built in 1811, and rebuilt in 1822, and a small chapel at Penheolgerrig. The English Independent or Market Square chapel was built in 1840, and since that time it has been the scene of many an earnest and many an able man’s advocacy. We may note a Mr. Johnson, Mr. J. O. Hill, Mr. J. Warlow Davies, and Mr. Sonley Johnstone all distinctive men who have maintained the high, moral, and social standing of their sect with zeal and power. Of Mr. Davies, now a pastor in New Zealand, we retain a lively remembrance and annex the description of a visit in memory of one, who, with failings that were to be regretted, yet was a minister of remarkable promise.
The Independent chapel was more than usually thronged by the announcement that the Rev. J. T. Davies would preach. We attended, and a glance around showed us that considerable expectation had been aroused in consequence. For a while the rustle of entering was heard, then came a hush and suddenly a pale slightly built young man rose up in the pulpit, and stretching forth one arm said, Let us pray We have heard prayers before, some that seemed interminable, others terse and brief; the Churchman’s prayers full of imploring’s for health to her Majesty, prosperity to the country, and success to all our efforts, both in peace and war; the Unitarian’s prayer full of calm thought; the Wesleyan fervent; the Calvinist full of strong feelings but one more eloquent and fervent than this on Sunday evening we never heard before. It is related of Chalmers, the great souled, that one night on a certain journey, be traversed a mountain range, wrapped in his plaid, and throughout gave vent to one long impassioned prayer, listened to with awe by the shepherd sentinels on his track, and quite in keeping with the dark heavens, unlit by one pale star, the gloomy night, the strong wind, and the grand rugged scenery around. The prayer listened to on Sunday night was such a one full of passionate appeals, strong nervous language and a very torrent, so to state, of earnest, vigorous supplications.
The text selected was from Ecclesiastes “He who observeth the winds shall not sow, and he who regardeth the clouds shall not reap.” And without preface or sententious parade, the hearers in a few moments were put in possession of the plan and scope of the rev. gentleman’s argument, a purely simple and attractive one, namely, that the inspired writer referred to the spiritual labours and rewards, and to strike the thought well home made use of an illustration familiar to all men.
This naturally opened out a broad and general description and expatiation on the analogy perceptible between the physical and the spiritual, those physical cravings, desires, and gratifications, and these innate spiritual yarning’s which nothing earthly can ever appease or satisfy. The pleasing and simple manner in which the minister’s ideas were given, unstrained, and just those which would be the inferences suggested by the perception of natural objects to every intelligent mind, was most effective, and appeared to gratify every one.
The final division was devoted to warning all not to heed the false interpreters and false representatives of Christ, but from the living model, Christ, to draw our stimulant and example. The description of Christ, gifted with every attribute of the Godhead, and endowed with every virtue man possessed before his fall, was as fine and as eloquent a picture as we have ever listened to, and with a few earnest and devout remarks and supplications, formed a fitting conclusion to a most admirable discourse.
It is rare to meet with ministers who, with the youth of Mr. Davies, possess also his mind and elocutionary powers. Some defect or another mars their semi perfection one has a horrible facility for discovering all the S’s, and offending one’s ear thereby another possesses a nasal twang which thwarts the success of his logic, another has a provincial burr, which, coming in every now and then, mars his oratory, but Mr. Davies is just the educated Welshman, having no provincial burr whatever, but a plain forcible voice, capable of pleasing modulation, and of considerable power. He has an infinite amount of imagery at command; his illustrations are striking from their simplicity the flower blooming in yonder hollow, the “burnie” wandering downward, the tide creeping up to the inert mass and sweeping it away, a thing of life and beauty. His anecdotes are telling, and they are new and, better than all, he stands before a congregation impressing them by voice and gesture and harangue that he has a natural call to be a minister of the gospel. There is in him, we take it, the emotional power, fervid piety, and strong faith of the old Covenanters, with the intellect and advanced research of the Independents. And thus, if the “clay scabbard” be not worn away by the “fiery soul” enclosed therein, we foresee a position of eminence for the rev. gentleman, who cannot fail, as he unfurls his banner, to gather around him a host of impulsive spirits, and lead them through a stormy warfare to the regions of calm conviction and piety.
Joseph Edwards, the Sculptor
In the beginning of the present century there lived a worthy but humble family at Penlan, who contrived, by dint of industry, to rub along in a quiet unpretending track of life. They were poor, but few in the vale could aspire to better connection. Fifty years before a romantic episode had occurred in the family. At the head inn of Llantrisant there lived one of the fairest maids of Glamorgan. To the district a sportsman came, who very soon fell in love with the maiden, and neglected his sports for this more interesting pursuit, he won her affection, and they were married but the happiness of the young wife was brief, and her husband, after plunging her and her parents into difficulties, decamped, and was seen no more. Who he was is known. He was one of the Lewis’s of the Van, and a descendant of Ivor Bach.
The wretchedness into which this unworthy scion of a noble race had plunged an estimable family was in some measure ameliorated by the kindness of Wyndam Lewis, who repeatedly aided them. Two children were the issue of this marriage one son and a daughter. The descendants of this were represented in our valley in the year 1800 by the family living at Penlan, the head of whom was John Edwards, better known as Shon Penlan. The daughter is represented by the Hunter family, of Tredegar. The family connection was represented by five cousins at Llanwonno, two of whom in 1762 were set up in business several times by Wyndam Lewis another was put into a farm at Cymmer and a shop; another lived at Tir y Gwraidd farm. His name was David, and married the daughter of the Graig Five children were the issue of this marriage, who became, by change of name, the Morgan’s of Graig, and heads of other respectable families.
But we must not become entangled in pedigree labyrinths; sufficient that Edwards of Penlan, a descendant of one branch of the Ivors’, became by marriage connected with most of the leading families of the valley.
And at the white-washed farm of Penlan he lived, partly farmer, partly stone cutter, and as the years passed he forsook agriculture stone cutting, and in order fully to carry out his trade left the hill side for the village, and dwelt at Ynysgau. Here a son was born, who early exhibited proofs of uncommon genius, and that great quality without which genius is of little worth indomitable perseverance. This was Joseph Edwards, the sculptor, whose biography we have elsewhere given in detail. It is studded with excellent lessons to youth as given forth by the ability and the determination with which he has struggled with fortune. His annals from the brief years of his Merthyr life to his career in London are amongst the most interesting and instructive that ever a self-made man has bequeathed to his descendants.
These annals we can only epitomize here. He left Merthyr for Swansea, and with increased skill left that town again for London, his mind expanded with learning and self-communion. His early London life was a pathetic strain, but it was also the beginning of a noble song. We see poverty, and yet self-denial; neglect shown by the world towards him, but a determined purpose indicated, that would be stemmed by no obstacle; we note city attraction, temptations, and yet throughout his mind retained the purity and simplicity of the mountains, and twenty years of earnest striving found him as unworldly and as guileless as ever. No common man was this, who could have soared above vice and fashion and folly, to regions of purest philosophy. But our wonder is lessened when we learn who were his teachers and associates. In that poor home of the students youth his fellow-craftsman Socrates was to be found blind old Milton sang, Shakespeare taught, Plato reasoned with him while the roaring city life swept by intent on commerce, ambition, and pleasure. For a long time the clouds hung thickly above him, but by degrees these broke, and he began to enjoy the sunshine he so well merited. Even then it was no sudden bound from obscurity to prosperity. He had to carve his way in a path that was harder and sterner than his own marble. Honours, however, began to fall upon him; one by one he executed important commissions for some of the noblest families in England, and eventually he took his position as one of the most chaste and expressive sculptors of the land only needing a little worldly ambition to stand in the front rank, and win the admiration of his countrymen. A few years ago we visited his studio, and for the first time sat in the company of this remarkable man. Wo were struck at the first glance with the power shadowed forth by the truly Shakespearian brow; and the resemblance was not simply in appearance, for Mr. Edwards soon indicated a thorough knowledge and appreciation of the great bard, whose choicest reflections he had stored in his memory. And not Shakespeare alone. In the course of a lengthy conversation we were literally astounded by the range of the sculptor’s reading, over positively a European tract of learning, and equally delighted with the originality and poetry of his comments. Yet with very superior powers, such as would have made a brilliant reputation for a literary man, there was great diffidence and almost a feminine modesty. Estimable traits, equally with the great range of the sculptor’s mind, are found strongly portrayed in his works. In fact his works are representatives of the sculptor’s mind, and the fine and noble lessons we read carved in marble and beautified with the grace of poetic thought, and elevated with the true glow of Christian aspiration, are nothing more than radiations of his intellect, of his taste, of his conceptions. Never before, and never since, have we met a man who was more calculated to win equally admiration and affection strange to state, the diffidence, which is so characteristic of his mind, keeps him behind the scenes, and it will only he when the brave heart has ceased to beat and the generous hand that he will be justly estimated. To his biography we refer for a full, even if unworthy, attempt at tracing his career. But the extent of his sculptural labours, the capacity of his mind, his moral, equally with his mental deserts his benevolent actions will never be known while he lives. Such then is one of the worthiest of our Merthyr men. \Ve might expatiate on his lineage, and show how he could not only claim lineage with our old warriors, but with members of the British peerage, and with an author at least of European celebrity; but in so doing we should depart from one of the noblest of his teachings, to soar above these little distinctions, and rightly and philosophically estimate human praise and distinction. The nobility that one earned in warfare has been far outshone by the lustre of the glory Joseph Edwards has won in the world of sculpture, and the latter glory is like his character, more chaste and pure, and more befitting our age. Thus has he then taught us how the poorest of our youth can attain eminence by a life of moral purity and determined purpose, and when the pinnacle has been gained how rightly to estimate the honours of the world.
Again I find him leaving the Aberdare valley, and returning to Twynrodyn, but instead of becoming a miner, under the Plymouth Company, he worked in one of the Dowlais pits near his home, still a poor miner, but now become tolerably well-educated for a poor self-taught man, and with more than a notion of poetry. He had tried his hand by this time at odes and englynion with success, both at the Abergavenny Eisteddfod and the Cymrodorion Society held at the White Horse. His friends and contemporaries, in speaking of these efforts, award him considerable praise, and say, with truth, that he was more-fond of writing, for the love of writing, than for prizes. Nathan Dyfed, no mean critic, states that great numbers of prizes were awarded at Abergavenny and the White Horse for efforts much inferior to those Cawr Cynon was capable of producing. He excelled in minuteness and care, and, to the utmost of his ability, essayed to do a thing
While pursuing the toilsome labour of a miner, an election dawned, and Sir John Guest, as was returned member for Merthyr. Evans thought this was a fitting occasion for his pen, and accordingly composed a poem in honour of Sir John, which was so able, and so complimentary to the member, that Lady Charlotte made inquiries after the author, and Son learnt that he was a Dowlais miner. This was the fortunate flowing of the tide, the decisive point of his career. Unsought, unsolicited, but not undeserved, Evans as placed in a better position in life and as a “gaffer” won a sphere where his excellent disposition was better appreciated, and his abilities brought out more fully into play. After holding this post for some years, with credit, he resigned his gaffer-ship for that of mine agent at Plymouth, which post, as we all know, he held meritoriously to the last. “Cyfaill,” an old friend, states that the introduction of Cawr Cynon to Sir John and Lady Charlotte, was in consequence of a poem he composed to their son Ivor, now Sir Ivor, but as our previous informants maintain that it was through his election song, it will be advisable in this dispute, as it is in the generality of disputes, to take a. middle course and give the two versions.
It is a fact, learnt from experience by the great body of workers, that men who rise from their ranks to govern them are too often more tyrannical than the born gentleman. It is another fact that men who bear the character of quiet amiable men in private life, are the reverse in public duties, and reversely, as if demonstrating that as most men are gifted with a certain quantity of tamper, it must be exhibited either in one capacity or the other.
Evans was an exception to both rules. In his private life he was amiable and domesticated, and in his public position was a true workman’s man; governing well, so gently as not to lose the respect of his men, and still so firmly that his employer’s interests were not neglected.
As a prose writer he was respectable, but rather “tame.” He had a fair acquaintance with the kindred subjects of geology and mineralogy, theoretically and practically, but in other branches of science he does not appear, though a discursive reader, to have been proficient. In polices be was versed, but it was rather the politics gleaned from the weekly newspaper than from keen observation and profound thought. Poetry was his true empire, and in this he took a high second class position among the bards of South Wales. North Wales always insists on a priority to South in bardic skill and lore, in fact the literary magnates of the North say that there are no poets in South Wales, a statement quite at variance with the truth, and only indicative of the prejudice entertained towards their Southern brethren, Cawr Cynon cannot be ranked with Caledfryn or Eben: Fardd, with Nicander, Dewi Wyn, or R. ap Gwilym Ddu; neither can he be placed by the side of his Southern brethren loan Emlyn, Dewi Wyn o Essyllt, or Cynddelw but a position may be claimed for him, in the bardic scale, with Gwilym Mai, Nathan Dyfed, and Ieuan Dda. We add our old friend John Thomas, though the difference must be kept in view when drawing a comparison, that he is a free metre poet, but the rest were confined to the orthodox 24 metres, Cawr Cynon was superior to the general run of our bards, who seldom rise above a pennill or an englyn. He aspired to the highest position of a translator, a writer of odes, and poems, and was noticeable for the quiet vein of sarcasm, and happy display of humour which characterised his efforts. He was also superior to the majority by his greater care and polish, and the different and superior method of composition he practised in the treatment of his themes.
These were many. As a born poet he may be said to have lisped in numbers, and from an early to a late period thrown off from his active mind many a worthy offspring. Among these may be enumerated a spirited. translation of “Caractacus’s Address to the Army,” probably from Tacitus; an Ode on the prophet Jonah; a Poem on Pride; six Englynion to the celebrated clock- watch of David Jones, a very able, though “second best” production on the Prophets of Baal: &c., and this list might be greatly lengthened, but sufficient are here given to show the variety of subjects his muse selected.
Finally, though neither a scholar nor a genius, in the highest acceptation of the terms, Cawr Cynon may honestly be regarded as one of those men who rise now and then from the ranks, and by the name they win, the position they attain, and the uniform good qualities they exhibit, act as examples to their fellows, which were both well and wise to follow.
We close this brief memoir with a poetic tribute from the pen of another Merthyr man, of whom we may well be proud.
(Deigryn torch ei Fedd.)
DAGRAU serch f’o gwlith ei feddrod,
Adenydd engyl fyddo’i gysgod
A thyner suedd yr awelon,
Uwch argel wely’r barddâ” Cawr Cynon.”
Mor llawn o siomiant ydyw bywyd!
Er chwilio’n ddyfal am ddedwyddyd,
A thybio’i gael – eheda ymaith,
Fel cysgod huan yw ei ymdaith.
Plith awenyddion llawn uchelgais,
Yn nyddiau maboed tirf a llednais,
Brwd oedd ein serch at feirdd a’u doniau.
At feirdd. at genedl, a gwlad ein tadau
Meithrinem decaf addewidion,
Am gyrhaedd bri yn mhlith llenorion
Gwyllt Walia; a meddu eu hedmygedd,
I’n bryd oedd pinacl clod a mawredd
Ond buan defiwyd teg obeithion,
Gan ofal byd a’I groesawelon.
Adchwela’n cof at nawn Nadolig,
Pan frysiem gyda bryd sychcdig,
I arlwyedig wledd lenyddol,
Gynysgaeth cylchwyl Gymreigyddol;
A charwyr addwyn awenyddiaeth,
Ddoent i fwynhan y bur ddarpariaeth
Wrth ben y bwrdd, mewn gwedd lywyddol,
Eisteddai henwr doeth, urddasol;
Ein hathraw medrus – “T. ab Iolo,”
Feddylgar wedd, ddysgleiriai yno
Y tyner, tlws. gwladgarol “Cawrdaf,”
“Cawr Cynon” hynaws, fardd teleidiaf
Ond heddyw preswyl yr enwogion,
Yw mangre lonydd – bro marwolion
Er hoffi sylwi ar brydferthion,
Y’nt flodau tryfrith hyd gynyrchion
Beirdd hoff ein gwlad, en holl felusder,
Yn fynych. angau dry yn chwerwder:
Dolefwn am ein cyfaill “Cynon,”
Oedd dlws ei wedd a thlws ei weithion;
Blodeuyn oedd fu’n hyfryd sawru,
Yn mheraidd ardd farddonol Cymru
Gwir arlun ydoedd 0 ddillynder.
Tlysineb oedd ei benaf hoffder;
Oedd engraff deilwng o deleidrwydd,
Corpholiad trylawn o onestrwydd
Ei glod oedd uchel fel dirwestwr,
Ac ef a gerid fel dyngarwr
Bu fyw yn Gymro gwladgar, ffyddlon,
Bu fyw rinweddol oes y Christion.
Dagrau serch f’o gwlith ei feddrod,
Adenydd engyl fyddo’i gysgod;
A thyner suedd yr awelon,
Uwch argel wely’r bardd “Cawr Cynon.”
The Riots of 1831
In the summer of 1831 the times were excessively bad. The demand for iron was small, the price low, and amongst a population who were notoriously improvident and had made no provision for the future, great distress prevailed. At one pit near Penheolgerrig sixty or seventy were employed, and all but three or four of these, working at Tom Shon Griffiths’s, were in receipt of parish relief, and this may be taken as an example of what others suffered in more or less degree. Miners were only paid 12s a week. At such a time it was but to be expected that the Court of Requests then held at Mr. Coffin’s, in George Town, should press heavily on the people, just as in our own bad times the county court becomes a source of trial to those who are un- able to their way. Politics had little to do in the matter, though it was natural that a suffering people should attribute their condition to many causes, and think that Reform would bring them better times. As it was Reform cries were occasionally heard, and in the sack of Coffin’s house women carrying away sides of bacon and other things, cried out in Welsh, “Here’s Reform,” thus misleading some to think it a political riot. We have gleaned a mass of details respecting the riot from intelligent eye-witnesses amongst our old tradesmen, and these with some modification of the cause of the riots fairly bear out the account given by Mr. Crawshay in defence of the charge brought against him in the leading paper of the day, the Observer. The editor of that paper, commenting on the disturbance, accused our ironmasters of being the cause of the outbreak. This called forth a spirited reply, and, in addition, an impartial account of the riots from the beginning of the disturbances. We give these documents in full, adding at the close a few details and notices of the principal leaders of the riots. The first document is the letter to the Observer:
“Cyfarthfa Iron Works, 15th June, 1831”
“To the Editor of the Observer Newspaper”
“Sir, In your article of Sunday last, on the subject of the riots at this place, my name is so prominently held up as the cause of the unfortunate circumstances which have occurred, and my conduct so arraigned and libelled that I cannot hesitate to notice openly the statement you have made, as well that the public mind should not be misled as to the cause of the late disturbances, as to vindicate my own character from the odium you would cast upon it; and I trust, as an impartial journalist, you will give equal publicity to this letter (to which my name is affixed, and for the correctness of which I stand answerable before the world), as you have done to a statement so vitally affecting me and so deceiving to the public mind, unaccredited, and unfounded in the most material points.”
“You state that the rioters commenced their lawless proceedings by destroying the house of the Clerk of the Court of Requests and other unimportant excesses.”
“These were the destroying the houses of the bailiffs of the court, and burning their and the clerk’s furniture, and the books of the court; publicly defying the entire civil power, insulting the magistrates, and forcing shops for whatever they thought proper, and compelling the four large works of this place to stop working driving the whole of the men employed in the fireworks, who were anxious to continue working, by force to assist in the further destruction and tumult contemplated.”
“Now, sir, if such acts as these are to be held up by the public press as I ask where is the security for property or life? Or at what period of tumult would you consider the civil power justified in calling in the aid of the military? Would you consider the destruction of the office of the Observer by a lawless mob, the burning of your furniture and books in the open street, the plundering of your coffer, the attempt at firing the remaining wreck of your house, while a sick wife, incapable of leaving her bed, lay in the only remaining room, ‘excesses so unimportant’ as not to require that assistance which could alone arrest the violence and fury of a lawless rabble?”
“At this period, sir, and not until then, did the magistrates, in consultation with myself, deem it necessary to send for the party of the 93rd Highlanders from Brecon, and not until twelve hours after, say the next morning, did they arrive; giving time for the subsidence of the excitement occasioned in the minds of the rioters by their proceedings of the former night, had it been of the unimportant’ nature you term it.”
“I shall now leave the rioters and soldiers at this point, and lay such facts before you as will enable your readers to see how justly or otherwise, you accuse me as the original cause of the disturbance, and how fairly you attribute the consequences of this riot to my rashness and timidity, and with what propriety you contrast the patient and forgiving character of the workmen with the despotic and avaricious conduct of the master.”
“The Iron trade, as it is known to the whole kingdom, has for nearly two years past, been in a most ruinous state, so much so, that there is not one iron master in the kingdom who has not lost money by carrying on his works. Reduction of the meu’s wages was not resorted to until twenty-months since, and every possible economy, as the only source of meeting the depressed price of then produce, until master and man felt that those sources were exhausted, though not overdone, and for the last nineteen months no reduction whatsoever of wages in any department had been made by myself or any other iron master in this parish.”
“When the reduced price of labour was completed, I was not raising sufficient iron stone to carry on my works without importing the richer ores from Cumberland and Lancashire, but from circumstances of which yourself and the public shall judge, no sooner had the miners in general arrived at the minimum price of their labour, than my getting’s of iron stone so much increased as to gain upon my consumption from 1,500 to 2,500 tons per month, and on the 31st day of march last, I had accumulated in actual stock above ground 78,000 tons of iron stone.”
“I never, Sir, had a remonstrance from my miners as to the lowness of their wages. They saw and knew that while I was by their labour accumulating an increasing stock of iron stone each month to so heavy an extent, while my neighbours were losing stock, that the prices paid for working in my mines were higher than those paid in other works, or the men would not flock to mine, and that though their earnings were low in comparison to those of years since, still they had no cause of complaint against the particular prices paid by me.”
“Between the 31st day of March, 1800, and the 31st day of March, 1831, I had acquired an increased stock of iron stone of 20,000 tons and with a stock of iron in its different states of manufacture and finished of nearly 50,000 tons, unsaleable to any extent, without a ruinous sacrifice of price with bar iron publicly quoted at £5 per ton, and pig iron proportionally low, I felt anxious to stop any further increase in the quantity of iron stone my miners were getting, and in preference to discharging them, and knowing from the facts that I have stated, and of the truth of which the public can judge, that my prices were still better than my neighbours, I gave notice on the 28th day of March last, of a reduction of from one penny to 7d per ton on the prices of some only of the veins of iron stone, according to the quantities got in the different mines and veins, taking off the one penny only where li tie was got, 21, where more, and 3d, 4d., 5d., 6d., and 7d, where the quantities raised by the men monthly, shewed the better work existed and in many cases making no reduction at all where I considered the prices lowest. These different rates of reduction amounted on the average to less than 3d per ton upon the whole getting of iron stone, or 3d in every 6s, or 7s earned by the men, or at the outside to one penny per day to each man working. On the 25th day of April last, my notice expired, and my miners continue I working without interruption, and on the 23rd day of May had worked one whole month at this trifling reduced rate of remuneration, and received the settlement of their monthly account, and not a murmur or remonstrance was made, nor did one man leave my work to work elsewhere, although the next iron works, viz. the Penydarren Iron Works, belonging to Alderman Thompson, were actually running out of stock of iron stone each month, and are still doing so, while I am increasing to an extent I can no longer pay for and consequently proving that the trifling reduction in price I had given notice of so long since, had in no hostile way influenced my men against me, or interfered with their work.
“I must, now sir, leave for another point of this subject. On the 9th day of May last, my miners had heard that a Mr. Stephens, a most respectable shopkeeper in Merthyr Tydfil, would not join me in supporting a Reform Candidate for the county of Brecon, and such was their attachment to me, and such their feeling upon the subject of Reform, that on that day, they, and other men to the number of about 5,000 persons, met in the town of Merthyr, opposite the house of Mr. Stephens, and commenced speaking on the subject of Reform. One of the orators, Thomas Llewellin by name, proclaimed with a stentorian voice, that everyone who was an enemy to Reform should be hung on the gallows, and he would be the man to do it free of expense.”
After a great deal of tumult, and threat against Mr. Stephens, the mob left that place until about nine o’clock, when they again assembled opposite Mr. Stephens’s house and commenced an attack on his windows with stones and other missiles, Mr. Stephens remaining in the back of his house expecting plunder and murder to follow. Some squares of glass were also broken at the Court, the residence of Mr. Thomas, who was also considered to be inimical to Reform. On the following day Thomas Llewellin and another ringleader of the mob were apprehended upon Mr. Stephens’s deposition of the violence already committed upon, and feared by, him, and were examined, and committed to gaol for want of bail, by Mr. Bruce, the stipendiary magistrate of Merthyr Tydfil, who sat in the Bush Inn. The mob finding their companions were about to be sent to gaol, assembled round the Bush Inn, to the extent of about 3000 in number, and openly stated to Mr. Stephens in Mr. Bruce’s presence, that unless Mr. Stephens would forgive, and consent to the release of, the men in custody, they would rescue them, and burn his house and murder him. Mr. Stephens fearing that the threat would be instantly executed, consented to their release, upon which the mob declared they would not be satisfied unless they had a paper to that effect in writing from him, which Mr. Stephens also consented to give them, Mr. Bruce saying that he did not know what else Mr. Stephens had to do under the circumstances existing. On receiving the paper from Mr. Stephens, the mob harrassed, and carried the two prisoners away on their shoulders with shouts of triumph, and subsequently dispersed. Here, sir, was the commencement of the first overt act, and tumultuous proceeding of the mob. But from this moment until Thursday, the 2nd day of June, no further outrage of tumult was known in Merthyr, but a general meeting of all the labouring classes many miles round this extensive and populous mining and manufacturing district, was called to take place on the top of a mountain, central to all parties, and at this meeting, most numerously attended, no direct measure could be ascertained to have been determined upon by the men as its object. Petitioning the King for Reform, the abolition of the Court of Requests, the consideration of their own state of wages, were equally attributed as the object, but those who attended on our behalf, could not ascertain any particular point to have been considered, and the meeting dispersed without any resolution come to, or any disturbance committed. From this moment, I can bring you without interruption of any kind to the points at which I left the rioters, the soldiers, and my miners, and the following statement which I myself drew up and put in the Cambrian newspaper, will give you an accurate account of the whole of the ulterior proceedings; and requesting your insertion of it in this place, I shall after that proceed to my observations upon the statement of your paper of Sunday last, and the cause of the riots and the lamentable consequences which followed, and I shall trust that the inferences drawn by yourself and e public from the facts which I have stated, and am ready to prove on oath if doubted, will be such as to relieve my character from the odium you have so unsparingly attempted to shed upon it.”
The Riots of 1831
On Thursday a large number of riotous persons assembled at Merthyr, and went over the hill to the residence of Mr. Rowland Fothergill, managing partner, of the Aberdare Iron Works, and with clubs and menaces compelled him, under penalty of his life, to sign a paper, stating that he had not declared that the miners of Mr. Crawshay were getting five shillings per week more than his own.
Mr. Fothergill’s resistance was highly creditable to him, but to save his life, he was compelled to sign the paper. They then demanded bread and cheese and beer, which were divided to them, to the extent of all there was in the house. They next proceeded to the Aberdare shop, where Mr. Scale also resisted, but the shopkeeper more prudently threw out of the windows all the bread and cheese he had. The mob then came back to Merthyr, and proceeded to the Bailiffs of the Court of Requests, whose houses they destroyed, and burnt their furniture; after which they went to the house of Mr. Coffin, clerk of the Court of Requests, and after demanding the books of the Court, which, with all the other books in the house, were given them, and burnt in the street; the rioters then broke into the house, and dragged out and burnt every particle of furniture belonging to Mr. Coffin, and left the house a complete wreck.
The same persons then proceeded to the iron works of Mr. Crawshay, and compelled all the men, except those employed in the blast-furnaces, who were very few in number, to desist from working, and stopped the fineries, forges, and mills. After this they proceeded to the Penydarren and Dowlais Iron Works, where they did the same. On the following morning a parry of the 93rd regiment of Highlanders arrived opposite the Cyfarthfa Iron Works, at ten o’clock, where Mr. Crawshay joined them, and very soon after they were met by Messrs. Bruce and Hill, acting magistrates for the county of Glamorgan. The soldiers thus accompanied, proceeded towards the town of Merthyr, followed by a large and tumultuous mob of rioter3, armed with bludgeons of the most formidable description. At the Castle Inn, the Highlanders were drawn up in front of the house, where the High Sheriff and other gentlemen were met, and the mob immediately hemmed the soldiers in on all sides, so close that the soldiers and rioters were in actual contact, and the most hardened and ferocious threats and defiance were uttered on all sides by the rioters to the soldiers, and bludgeons held up throughout the whole mob, and close to the faces of the soldiers. The High Sheriff mounted a chair, addressed them, and cautioned them in the most earnest and feeling manner as to the consequences of their illegal proceedings, and implored them to desist from violence. Mr. Guest followed in the same strain, and was answered by a speech from a most daring rioter. Mr. Crawshay followed, and added the most determined defiance to their attempts at extorting by force and violence any increase of their wages, while in a state of tumult, but promised that if they would return to their homes and work, and send a deputation from each mine level to him in fourteen days after, he would investigate their complaints of distress, and do everything in his power to relieve them. All was vain.
A most resolute villain, alluding to what had been stated, that the soldiers were brought there only for the protection of persons and property, said that the soldiers were not enough for protection, that if all the men were of his mind, they would take the soldiers’ arms from them, and he did not clear if he was the first man to begin and upon these words leaped from the shoulders whereon he was carried, and the arms of the front ranks of the soldiers, amounting to thirty, were seized by the rioters, and wrested from the soldiers, and the most terrific fight ensued, in which, from the impossibility of the soldiers using the remaining arms, from the excessive density of the crowd, they were nearly overcome; the major and many men being wounded and knocked down by bludgeons, and stabbed by the bayonets taken from them; and the rioters had actually driven back and forced the guards from the door into the passages, and appeared to have carried all before them, when the soldiers, who had been placed in the windows, seeing the number of their comrades wounded and trodden under foot, and their arms taken from them and being used by the mob, and the destruction of their force certain if they longer refrained, fired upon the mob in the street. Three were killed dead upon the spot at the first fire, and the alarm occasioned by this gave room for those soldiers who were driven into the passage, and against the walls, to act: and after the most determined and resolute fighting on both sides for a quarter of an hour, the few brave Highlanders, reduced by the loss of their arms and wounded to only fifty, succeeded in putting the rioters to fight, but not until a most lamentable slaughter had been made, amounting in the whole, by subsequent accounts, to nearly sixteen persons. The firing from the mob at intervals into the Castle Inn continued for a considerable time after, and one ball entered the back passage and passed close between the High Sheriff and Mr. Crawshay against the wall.
The fewness of the soldiers rendered the situation of the gentlemen in the Cattle Inn extremely precarious; but the discipline and the valour of the Highlanders were beyond praise. Major Falls was most severely cut about the head, and was covered with blood; two of the Highlanders were carried in nearly lifeless, with contusion of the brain and the streets and house were deluged with blood from the dreadful wounds in the heads given by the bludgeons of the mob to the soldiers sixteen of the latter were most severely wounded, one stabbed through the larger part of the thigh by one of the bayonets taken by the mob, others in the breast and arms but we rejoice to say they are all convalescent, and, except the two so severely injured about the head, are capable of duty again.
Nothing could exceed the forbearance of the magistrates, officers, and men indeed, had the rioters been kept at a distance, although by the force of the bayonets, the lamentable and dreadful consequences which occurred might not have taken place; but the workmen of Merthyr have for some time-past exhibited a very dangerous aspect, and, at a general meeting of many thousands from Merthyr, and all the iron works and collieries of Monmouthshire, held on the Waun Hill, on Monday week last, this plan of destroying the books of the Court of Requests and the house of the Clerk, was no doubt arranged, and the stopping of all the works, to obtain by terror, from the masters, an advance of wages, which the extremely depressed state of the iron trade renders it impossible to give without absolute ruin to the masters.
The military and gentlemen deemed it absolutely necessary to remove from the Castle Inn before night, as it would have been totally unsafe to remain in such a situation, where the mob would again attack them, and at five o’clock the whole proceeded to Penydarren House, escorting the wounded men in four coaches, which had just brought up 50 of the Glamorgan Militia, with Captain Howells; Major Rickards, with the Llantrisant Cavalry, had also arrived, and it was utterly impossible any situation could be more advantageous or commanding than Penydarren House, the consent to occupy which was kindly given by Mr. Richard Forman. Every possible precaution was taken to pre- vent an attack by the mob, and the night passed off in tolerable quiet; but at no less a distance than half-a-mile, the house of Mr. Crawshay, which was threatened to be pulled down, was fired at for some hours during the night by parties of the rioters, who took their station in the turnpike-road. Any attempt at protection by soldiers was deemed impossible with the small force which they had, and it was considered prudent to await the arrival of further assistance in the favourable position which the military and gentlemen were in at Penydarren House, before any attempt could be made to disperse the rioters. On Saturday morning information was received that an immense body of the rioters, armed, had taken up a position in the ravine, about two miles from Merthyr, on the Brecon Road, beyond Coed-y-Cymmer, and another body was posted on the rocks above, so as totally to command the road from Brecon, and thereby to intercept all further troops, and the ammunition and baggage of the Highlanders, which were coming. Captain Moggridge was ordered out with 40 of the Cardiff Cavalry to escort the ammunition, and arrived without much molestation at Crew.
Intelligence was brought to Col. Morgan that Capt. Moggridge and his troop and the ammunition were coming; and that on his return he had found the road completely blocked up with immense stones, and that he and his troop and the ammunition were wholly intercepted. The utmost feeling was excited for Captain Moggridge and his men but that gentleman’s known activity and the gallant readiness with which he had undertaken the escort, gave hope that he had not been taken. Major Rickards, Captain Morgan, and Lieutenant Franklin, were instantly despatched with 100 more cavalry to endeavour to rescue or assist Captain Moggridge, but upon their arrival at the spot, they found the rioters so numerous, and so strongly armed, and the roads so wholly blocked up, and such immense stones rolling from the rocks by the unarmed rioters, that it was considered no better than a sacrifice of the entire troops to have attempted a passage.
The rioters immediately opened their fire from the ravine, stones were rolled from the hills, and nothing was left but an immediate retreat, which was effected without loss of life or wounds, except to four of the horses, and they arrived safe at Penydarren House. During the whole morning another numerous detachment of the rioters had i taken the position on the Swansea road, near the finger-post, and intelligence was received by Colonel Morgan, about two o’clock, that Major Penrice and a detachment of the Swansea Cavalry had been surrounded by those rioters, and wholly disarmed, and had retreated back to Swansea. The shouts and firing of the rioters from one position to the other, filled the air so as to be continually heard at Penydarren House; and a considerable alarm was excited as to the consequences of such a number of arms being now in the possession of such desperate characters, flushed with the success of having, in two instances that day, disarmed and cut off strong forces of the cavalry. It was continually reported among the men who remained quiet about the works, that an attack would be made in the evening by the combined mob upon the soldiers at Penydarren House, and a proper look-out was kept up, as both their positions could be clearly seen from Cyfarthfa Castle, and at five o’clock, the rioters on the Aberdare side were observed to cross and join those at Coed-y-Cymmer.
About this time a deputation of 12 of the rioters were persuaded by Mr. Guest, Mr. Perkins, and others, to wait upon the iron-masters at Penydarren, and it was hoped that they had been induced to disperse, and go to work on Monday peaceably; but before the deputation could have arrived back with the rioters, messengers announced the starting of the combined mob, in arms, towards Penydarren, in immense multitudes, and they were seen approaching, filling the entire of the road from Coed-y-Cymmer to Cyfarthfa, firing and shouting, and brandishing the sabres they had taken from the Swansea Cavalry. The whole of the troops were instantly under arms, and the cavalry mounted in front, and at the back of Penydarren House, and the moment of attack looked for under the certainty, if it took place, of the most dreadful slaughter and loss of human lire; but fortunately, the treaty of the deputation had effect upon some portion of the rioters, and the formidable appearance of the soldiers upon others, so that the dense mass of rioters became loosened some lagged behind, others went to the town of Merthyr, thousands remained in the Brecon road, and gradually dispersed, and in about one hour firing was heard in all directions, which continued for about another hour from such parts of the mob who were retiring towards Hirwain and Aberdare, and at half-past nine o’clock the soldiers were sent to quarters to refresh, leaving strong patrols and guards in all points. The officers and gentlemen took refreshment also, for the first time that day, but at 11 o’clock again the most tumultuous shouts, close to Penydarren, caused an immediate turn-out of the whole forces to arms, where they again remained until 12, and the rest of the night passed in quiet.
On the following day, Sunday, all remained quiet, and Captain Moggridge bad returned with his men and the ammunition across the mountains, and too much praise cannot be given this gentleman for his gallant and able conduct.
On Monday morning a general meeting, not only of the Merthyr, Aberdare, and Hirwain men, but of all the works and collieries of Breconshire and Monmouthshire, was to take place on the Waun Hill, by Dowlais and it was more than probable that 20,000 persons would have assembled. At an early hour, men were seen drawing towards that spot in every direction, and a t ten o’clock it was announced that there were thousands in the road coming down to Penydarren, armed with bludgeons. The troops, now consisting of 110 Highlanders, 50 of the Glamorganshire Militia, and 300 Yeomanry Cavalry, under command of Colonel Morgan, accompanied by the magistrates, proceeded to meet them, and at Dowlais the road was found filled with dense masses. Mr. Guest ably addressed them, but to no purpose, and the Riot Act was read; still no disposition to disperse were manifested, but a determined resistance was shown and maintained. The Highlanders were, at length, ordered to level their muskets, but the coolness and forbearance of all parties allowed the words of command to be given so slow that the considerations intervened between them, and the last word “fire” became unnecessary, to the great satisfaction of the gentlemen present; for dreadful would have been the consequences of it in such a mass of resolute and determined rioters. They now gave way, and many returned home; some parted on one side, others on another, but the greater part crossed the hill to the ravine in the Brecon road, where, by regular concert, all the arms were collected under the most determined and hardened of the rioters, and they were observed from the tower of Cyfarthfa Castle exercising in line, with the sabres and pistols taken from the cavalry, and with the muskets of the Highlanders, and their own fowling pieces, to an immense extent all the morning; and at 12 o’clock the rioters at this place had collected to a most alarming extent, and firing was continually heard, and two black flags were flying on the High Brecon turnpike-road.
On the Saturday red flags were used; and such was the ferocious feeling of the mob, that at Hirwain a large basin of calf’s blood was obtained, and the flag actually washed in it, and borne to Merthyr by the flag-bearer, with his hands imbrued and covered with blood. The military had been engaged in clearing the town of Merthyr of the immense masses of people, which had collected there, and at two o’clock returned to quarters. At this time a movement was observed in the rioters’ camp from Cyfarthfa tower, and despatches were sent by Mr. Crawshay to urge the military to surround and attack them, as so large a number had separated that the worst only remained, and those in arms; but from some increasing differences among themselves, or from the fear of the increased number of the military, the whole of the armed men disappeared gradually, and by six o’clock in the evening very few remained and those without arms. During Monday evening the most active measures were taken by Mr. Guest and other magistrates, to capture some of the ringleaders in the night, and 14 of them were taken in their beds others have since been taken, and to the great satisfaction of all parties, the man who first led on the attack of the soldiers at the Castle Inn was, brought from Penderrin, on Wednesday night at half-past one o’clock, by Captain Franklin and a troop of cavalry, guided by Mr. William Crawshay. He had been taken in a wood that evening by two men, and was lodged in the Lamb, a lone public- house there, until a troop of horse could be sent to escort him. Nothing now can exceed his hardened ferocity, but the generality of the prisoners express their penitence, and in no way deny their guilty conduct, and attach all the blame of the lamentable bloodshed to their own attack upon the soldiers. Such has been from the first moment the just feeling upon this point in the minds of the whole of the working classes at Merthyr, that the dead have been buried in the most quiet and silent way by their friends and the wounded scarcely applied for assistance until pain and inflammation compelled them, a sure proof that their consciences convicted them of guilt and lawless crime.
Every portion of the men returned to their work on Tuesday, and have remained so in the most tranquil and orderly state, and the conviction of all parties of the workmen is that the loss of life and blood is alone to be attributed to the rash conduct of the desperate fellows who excited and led on the mob to the excels of Friday last. A great many of the arms have been restored, and it is expected that in the course of the week the whole will be given up, as the holders are only anxious to get rid of them without danger to themselves. Mr. H. Crawshay, of Hirwain, has received and restored 14 sabres, two muskets, one carbine, and six pistols; Mr. Crawshay, of Cyfarthfa, four muskets, two sabres, and one pistol; and various persons have received or found and brought in others, and there is little doubt of the whole being delivered up immediately. Many of the musket-barrels are bent, evidently in the grappling for possession when the wresting took place others broken in the small of the stock with the violence of the blows inflicted upon the soldiers. The instances of particular atrocity in the mob, and of determined courage in the Highlanders, are most interesting; but it is due now at only to say, that no men ever conducted themselves with higher discipline, more determined valour in the field, or more orderly conduct in their quarters, than these brave Highlanders; and it is a matter of the greatest satisfaction to all who have witnessed their conduct, that, though 80 deeply and seriously injured as they were, not one of their lives has been or will be sacrificed. Dreadful is the reflection that other blood has been shed, but it is to be remembered that it has flowed from the guilty in the far greater proportion, and been provoked by their own admitted lawless aggression upon the military and civil power of their country, without the palliation of want of employment or distress.”
In the notice of Rhys Howell’s life mention was made of a certain philosophical society, of which he was, for some years, the presiding genius. The history of the society is a brief one: On December 15th, 1807, sixty persons, living in Merthyr and its neighbourhood, met together and subscribed a guinea each towards buying such apparatus as was deemed suitable, but that sum proving inadequate, it was augmented by a good many of them subscribing another half-guinea. The instruments were had, a code of rules drawn up, and a few books on astronomy purchased. It gives us a tolerable notion of the capacity of the members when we learn that the list of instruments composed of a good reflecting telescope, a pair of globes, a microscope, a planetarium, an orrery, an equatorial, and other philosophical apparatus. The society continued to flourish for some considerable time. Amongst the original subscribers were J. Bailey, Esq., an M.P. and a large ironmaster; the poet and stone-cutter, Rees Howell Rees John Griffiths and William Williams, afterwards famous as engineers and mechanicians; William Aubrey, the mill constructor Thomas Evans, the philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician, of Cyfarthfa Benjamin Saunders, the ingenious moulder Henry Kirkhouse, the mineral agent, and several others more or less able in their respective callings. Owing to the deaths and removals of many of the members, it became nearly defunct; but about ten or eleven years ago, an attempt was made to resuscitate it by the framing of a new set of rules, and giving admission to members at 10s. 6d each. It held its meetings at the Dynevor Arms, and an addition was made to the instruments, and about 30 volumes of useful scientific books purchased. From time to time lectures were delivered on the use of the globes, by the Rev. Owen Evans on the history of astronomical discovery, by Mr. Morgan Williams; on astronomy, by the Rev, John Jones, Aberdare, and on other subjects by other gentlemen. But this lasted only a short time, and a few years ago the Society became incorporated with the Merthyr Library, and its instruments are now stored in the reading-room of that institution.
In the days of its infancy the members were exposed to considerable sarcasm by the ingenious efforts of Rhys, who, in order to exercise himself in mechanical ingenuity, constructed a duck “that did everything but quack.” Good but foolish people inferred from this that the society aimed at rivalling the deity and condemned them, while others made it a theme for constant raillery. The members were deep thinkers, astute politicians, and though debarred from discussing any polemics in their society hours, yet were only too happy to tread the debateable tracks of religious politics and philosophy and some even indulged in opinions which led the Cyfarthfa School of philosophers to become rather unjustly associated with positive Atheism. Paine and Voltaire had their admirers, and when it was a punishable offence to read the works of the former a few who thought highly of his” Rights of man” and I, “Age of Reason” would assemble in secret places on the mountains, and, taking the works from concealed places under a large boulder or so, read them with great unction. But if Paine had admirers he had also enemies for at the Same time religions men had the nails in their boots, arranged to form T. P., that then they might ^figuratively tread Tom Paine underfoot.
It is interesting to note, that amongst our farmers and iron-workers, mechanics, and the like, men of intelligence could be found, more akin to the Scotchman than the English yokel or artisan. Most of these liberal-minded men were connected either with Cefn Unitarian chapel, which we have stated was founded from Cwmglo, or in after years associated with the Merthyr Unitarian chapel.
The Strike of 1831
About the stirring, unruly time of 1831, the Saxon Introduced the Trade Union Society principle amongst the workmen. It is to Englishmen we are indebted for most innovations; and to this in particular. Week after week the principle spread men began to think that, as wealth was a monopoly, as ironmasters clubbed together, and were thus enabled to make their own tenn3 with the workmen, so they, too, ought to baud themselves in defence. Acting on this reasoning they decided upon a strike. This took place in the autumn of 1831. The workmen, who took part in the strike, were principally those of Plymouth and Dowlais. Cyfarthfa and Penydarren men refused to join in the coalition, and to this steady adherence on their part is to be attributed the eventful return of all classes to work.
The turn-outs began to work with unanimity and fire. Secret societies were instituted in many public- houses, which drove in consequence a magnificent trade, and at these a password, as in the Whiteboy time of Ireland was demanded before admittance could be gained. To these secret societies well paid spies were in the habit of proceeding, and under the guise of one of themselves gaining all the information possible as to the ironmasters’ agents. The agents, however, were not disposed to take as gospel all they heard from men who, being rogues, could not be entitled to credit even in the business of their roguery so they listened to all, put that to what they knew, and then by skilfully placed queries elicited the truth.
The strike was maintained for eight weeks, the men who were out being in part supported, by those who continued working at the neighbouring works, a tax freely paid in the foolish belief that they were maintaining those who were fighting for a principle. After all was over, and the men with enfeebled frames had returned to work, much worse than when they left, the absurdity of their resistance began to dawn upon their minds, and with it another truth was revealed. To themselves alone was to be attributed the cause of the comparatively low wages they bed. They had been in the habit of introducing large numbers of men from every shire in Wales to the full acquaintance with the details of iron and mine working, and thus making labour cheap they had rendered wages less. Hence it was observable after this strike that men guarded more secretly the know- ledge gained by a long, stern apprenticeship in the caverns of the earth, or near the blinding heat of the forge; and old workmen tell us that the knowledge gained by that strike, and the experience bought by long-suffering, greatly benefitted and improved the working men of Merthyr Tydfil.
The oldest eisteddfod of which we can find any record was held at the Patriot, where many liberal minds, com- prising most of the respectable tradesmen of the place, used to meet, and in the genial society of Mr. Howell, discuss the politics of the day, and advanced subjects of thought in the religious and scientific world. It was at the time when the society held its meetings there, that we find the worthy host engaged with others in a memorable excursion to the Giant’s Grave. Afterwards the place of gathering was removed to the Vulcan, then at Lamb, subsequently at the Boot, then at the Bush, and finally at the White Horse. It was at its highest point when held at the Bush and the Boot. Then occasionally Ab Iolo presided as chairman, and the best products of its members were printed. We have seen a volume of poems that was printed after one of these gatherings on subjects of a most varied character, and some indicating poetic capacity. The oldest chairman of this eisteddfod, which was known as the Cymrodorion, was David Jones, watchmaker, a man of most ingenious mind and sterling good sense. The earliest members and founders were our respected townsmen Mr. Rees Lewis, Mr. James Williams, Mr. Joseph Edwards, sculptor, and, in later years, Nathan Dyved, Tydfilyn, and others.
When at the Boot the meetings were associated with drinking customs, but moderation always prevailed. No one was allowed to drink more than a pint of ale, and this rule was adhered to so strictly that for many years not one instance of drunkenness was known to take place.
One noticeable feature of these eisteddfodau was that for several years in connection with their society the members held weekly meetings, in which were discussed sundry topics relating to the language and literature of the Cymry. The ordinary meetings of the Cymrodorion were the means of giving an impetus to many young men in reading, research, and competition in prose, music, and verse, and estimable meu now amongst us, such as our friend Tydfilyn, look back to those gatherings as powerful in their influence for good, though to some weak minds their association with public-houses may have been injurious. This society, as they constituted, belongs to the past. The name is still retained, but it is now the name of an institution which every year supplies a great moral attraction, not only to the place, but to the district around. The object of the present founders was to dissever eisteddfodau from all connection with drinking habits and customs. This it has done, and done well, and the committee of our flourishing institution can honestly take credit for having done much in weaning the people from indulgences, and trained them towards a better moral and social standard. We see throughout, as in tracing a useful life, a gradual progress from one step to another, and so the present Cymrodorion is without a doubt a long way in advance of its predecessors. The old view was “Let us conserve our old institution, it is an ancient relic of our forefathers; it was established for the preservation of our language and our old manners and customs.” The new view is “Eisteddfodau constitute the best means we have of educating the people. By its aid we can give them amusing entertainments and instruct at the same time. We can prompt them by rewards, and honourable badges of merit to put aside vices and slothful habits, and become worthier of our own country’s renown.” This would appear to be the opinion indicating the new course things, and if carried out in an earnest manner, Merthyr may be proud of its Cymrodorion Dirwestol.
The Merthyr Library
This institution was founded in the winter of 1846 by a few thoughtful men of the town, prominent amongst whom were Mr. Thomas Stephens, Mr. Lumley, Mr. Thomas Howells, and others. These started first a discussion class or conversational club in the old Temperance-room, behind the market, and the library consisted of about a dozen volumes of Knight’s shilling series, which were duly carried to and from the secretary’s home in one of Warren’s blacking boxes. This has been considered mythical, but as we happened to be librarian, we can of course substantiate the incident. Then from the Temperance-room the library was removed to the Glebeland, and there opened with about fifty or sixty volumes. We well remember on the night of opening hearing some of the committee express their fears that all the books would be taken out the first night, leaving a collection of bare shelves for the next comers. From that date it began its progress, and 6ve years ago, 1861, commodious premises in Thomas Town, were purchased, and now it has reached a most hopeful condition. Instead of the twelve volumes of Knight nearly three thousand volumes of the gems of English literature grace its walls, magazines and newspapers cover its tables, maps around indicate the generosity of men connected with the town, fossils, specimen of natural history, remain there as memorials of old members now in distant parts of the world. It has been the school of many men, and the ripe judgment; the sound counsel; the sparkling wisdom of our sages have lived again amongst us in practical life, in action, or expression. Even the stores of lighter reading have not been without a good tendency, and the gentler minds, which could not grapple with the stern moral purity of such as Socrates, have yet been strengthened by the innocent and sometimes noble teachings of our better class of novelists.
Many of the gentlemen connected with the library have endeavoured from time to time to make it of a more attractive character, and bring the knowledge lining the shelves in closer connection with the people by means of lectures, readings, &c. Principle amongst those and earnest supporters of the library from the beginning we must note: Messrs. T. J. Dyke. C. H. James, F. James, M. Williams, and F. Allday. Of late another feature has been introduced, annual picnics. The members and friends gathering near the ruins of Morlais Castle in festive and innocent enjoyment. These features are illustrations of its progress and in its old age, as in its youth, and its prime, when its founders are represented by memories, may it cast around us, from a cheery and noble old nature, kindly and beneficial influences, tending to make youth more innocent, manhood more wise, and age more resigned to the disappointments and fallacies and unrealised anticipations of life.
Our Chartist Days
It was but natural that a considerable number of Merthyr men should early join in the Chartist movement. for the forefathers of the village had been of a liberal and thoughtful turn of mind; were tolerably read in the details of progress, both of the arts and science, and liberal measures; and yearned to see mankind advanced by quicker strides to an upper position, and to greater equality. Their descendent’s shared their views and held them even more firmly and so, as a Radical tide swept over the land, this valley became the theatre of active political discussion. However futile the movement proved to be, it must not be forgotten that the aim was a great one. Sever the degenerate associations from the name of the Charter, and we are reminded of the great boon which the Barons wrested from King John. A similar boon, and one more adapted to the age the Chartists aimed, some by moral, others by physical force, to wrest from the English Government; and, reviewing the effort dispassionately as an historical event of the past, we note a stride in the march of human thought, and of more expanded and liberal Government, even though associated with its blending’s of human weakness, of folly, and of misdirected power.
It was in 1836 that the ultraliberal element here first found expression, and men from simply thinking and talking to one another began to meet and discuss. An attorney, of Carmarthen, one Hugh Williams, came down and first aided in the agitation, and a large meeting was held at Penheolgerrig with a view of choosing a man to represent Merthyr at the convention. The choice of the meeting fell upon Mr. Hugh Williams, but as his professional avocations and some other causes prevented his going to London to the convention, Mr. Frost was shortly chosen instead of him. From that date the movement gained strength. Meetings were held in a schoolroom, near David John’s smithy, and here first began as speakers Mr. David John, jun., his brother Matthew, Mr. Morgan Williams, Mr. William Gould, grocer, Mr. Henry Thomas, and Mr. David Ellis. No one was selected specially as the chairman, but one was elected every meeting, and this took place once a week. At the same time the movement gained force all over the hills. From Merthyr it extended to Dowlais, Tredegar, Nantyglo, Blackwood, and other places; but it was noticeable that here men talked more of moral force. The physical force party increased in each district, from hence to the hills, and acquainted its most formidable aspect at Blackwood, thus being strangely identical with the bituminous or fiery character of the coal strata which has precisely the same characteristic. From Merthyr leading members occasionally went to modify with their moral force arguments the violent opinions of meu at Dowlais, Tredegar, and elsewhere. This task often fell to the lot of our townsman, Mr. Morgan Williams, and he found a valuable colleague in Mr. Richmond. These meetings had nothing to do with the subject of wages, but were purely for political discussion, though outside the camp the most exaggerated rumours were current and the good folks of the town believed that drilling and organising were going on, and preparations being made for a sanguinary revolution. In connection with the Chartists there were several men who would have ruined any cause. These carried gossip and invented reports, and did much to create a distrust of the Chartist body, and a belief that treason on a large scale was fermenting above the George Town smithy.
The nearest approach to a formidable organization was shown when the editor of the Merthyr Guardian ex pressed his opinion that Chartism was dead. A Chartis uniform, a peculiar design in Welsh flannel, had been invented at Penheolgerrig factory, and on the next Sunday the old church was filled with Chartists wearing their “uniform.” Never had the church been so filled before. Every seat and every standing point had its occupant; and to the credit of the Chartists, it must be observed that they were satisfied with a simple demonstration of their numbers. One of the leading men was Mr. David John, the younger, a man of good parts but of fiery nature. While the rest were advocates of firm but peaceable measures, it was he who strenuously argued a bolder course, and, perhaps, but for the efforts of the peace party, Merthyr men might have been found identified with the disastrous riots of Newport, or in a similar revolt in this neighbourhood. As it was we have not been able to discover that any of our men took part in these riots. The day even for the demonstration was not known here, though when the report of the strife was received there is no biding the fact that we were on the edge of a volcano, which might have swept away the peace party and all who stood in the way of the strong arm. Special constables were sworn in, and all that prudence could dictate was done by the ironmasters and leading men of the plf.ee, and happily the storm swept over and left the village untouched. At the time the suspicions of government were strongly aroused respecting Merthyr, and Sir J. Graham, of letter opening notoriety, sent as agent down to the post office with instructions to open all letters between certain suspected persons. It is also possible that the government went a step further than this, and employed spies to glean the secret movements of this place. Certain disorders of the human system are cured by expediting the life of the disease, as it were, and so with the body politic, it may be one of the efforts of governments at times to prevent by secret agency in cases of di-affection and then crush. One spy went into David John’s, smithy, and talked about casting bullets by an easy plan but David threatened to put his head under the hammer and he decamped. It is thoroughly believed that paid agents lived here at the time, and names of men might be given who received hire for keeping the authorities on the alert in regard to every movement of the Chartists; but it is wiser to let the veil drop over these, and the era in which they flourished. Monster meetings, powerful speaking, characterised the Chartist epoch, and the meetings proved an admirable school of elocution for many a working man, and not only of elocution but a stimulant to mental improvement; he was prompted to read, to observe, to think for himself; and thus even as the object for which they contended faded like the mirage, they found themselves when the charm had ceased, and the spell was ended wiser, better, even if less hopeful men. The effect too amongst the moral advocates of Chartism was perceptible in home improvements. Women have related in later days that their husbands were far more-steady, and their lives more happy. There was less drinking, for the mind was directed to the objects of the association, and in all respects, amongst those who sought, simply by moral efforts, to gain a better political condition, there was a higher class of working men than we now possess.
It was in the same year, 1839, as the Newport riots took place, but three months later that the Chartist newspaper was started here, Udgorn Cymru, a powerful advocate of liberal views, and well and vigorously edited by Mr. M. Williams and D. John. This was issued monthly and printed in the Glebeland. An amusing incident occurred when the type was received from London. At the canal warehouse the box became loose, and a busy body made the discovery that it contained lead and was fur the Chartists. This of course, caused a sensation, but the bullets made from this same lead were more adapted for mind and morals than the body, and better calculated to improve than destroy. At the same time as the Welsh newspaper an English one was also published called the ‘Merthyr Free Press,’ but it noon died out, and the “Trumpet” of Wales became the sole slogan.
We remember the time when Mr. Morgan Williams represented Merthyr at the last convention. His return was an ovation. Thousands of stalwart men lined the highway, and he was almost literally borne on the shoulders of his friends like the hero of a Roman triumph, to the Market Square, to relate the doings of the convention. These were the grand days of Chartism, when the Star of Fergus O’Connor was in its meridian, and the land scheme was a substantial reality. The convention ended, the land scheme like a beautiful bubble was dissolved; Fergus became insane and died, few men have been worse maligned and less deserved it, then the Star sunk below the horizon and gradually the fervour of the Chartists cooled as enlightened measures of Government were slowly introduced, and man saw that the car of progress must advance by easy and peaceful stages; the foundation of freedom be slowly and surely laid, so that the structure it bears may be the more enduring. And so Chartism died out at Merthyr. At some of our great meetings we have looked around to see if we could distinguish some of the old frequenters but with the exception of a few, now ranking amongst our esteemed townsmen, they have disappeared. Merthyr knows them no more. They felt the scope of the island to be too small, its progress too tardy, and so in America, in Australia, in Mexico, and in many other distant lands, our old Merthyr Chartists and their descendants can be found; and we believe that past experience has been a rich mine to them; that some have attained wealth, others greatness; and that not a few of those thunder pails of passionate outburst in defence of Independence, of freedom for the Negro, and great measures for the White can be traced to formerly despised impulsive rash, over-zealous, though probably somewhat foolish Chartists of Merthyr.