Robert Thompson Crawshay – The last Iron Master of Merthyr (1817-1879)

Robert Thompson Crawshay

Robert Thompson Crawshay, fifth son of William Crawshay II, and elder of the two sons born to Isabel, was twenty-two when the heir, William III, was drowned. Robert became manager of the Cyfarthfa ironworks, but, for the time being, the mines were put in charge of Henry, who was still at Hirwaun.

Robert had been such a delicate baby that his parents never expected him to survive infancy, and, though he became stronger as he grew older, his father thought his health would not stand the rough and tumble of a large public school. He went as a boarder to a small academy for young gentlemen in Llandaff, kept by Dr Richard Pritchard, and William II was very pleased of the care taken of his son, as well as his education.

Penry Williams, a Merthyr artist, made a painting of Robert about 1826, which was cherished by Isabel and, following her death, it passed to Mrs Moreland, and subsequently back to Cyfarthfa Castle where it still hangs today in the museum. It was called “Boy on Pony,” and Crawshay descendants have identified the boy as William III, or James, as well as Robert, though there is no doubt that it is Robert Crawshay.

Robert’s relatives, especially those on his mother’s side, were very fond of him. Isabel’s sister Agnes Forest, wrote to William II on the 5th August 1829, referring to “little Robert’s recent illness,” though he was twelve at the time and could hardly be considered “little.”

Robert was fond of sport, and William II was very proud of his son’s skill. There is a tribute from Alderman Thompson, “Uncle William,” who had had Robert staying with him, and confessed, “Robert beats me though,” and records the number of birds they shot in two days. Swimming was another activity, and as a young man, he used to dive daily into the deep pool near the works, known as Pwll Walt. Later in life, he took up photography as a hobby, with intense enthusiasm, and produced some really excellent work, for which he won medals at several exhibitions, including a gold medal in 1873 at the International Exhibition of All Arts, Industries, and Inventions.

After the tragedy of the death of William III, in September 1839, Robert became the son on whom William II placed his hopes of Cyfarthfa’s future. Francis was too adept at carrying out the “Go Slow” slogan ever to please his father, while the marriage of Eliza Harris of Penderyn seems to have put Henry permanently under a cloud. Robert was industrious, clever, and loved the ironworks. They had been a major part of his life since childhood.

Though he was in the practical management of Cyfarthfa, Mr Robert Crawshay was still not in full authority until after the death of his father. From the first, he took not only a lively interest in iron- making, but in everything connected with Cyfarthfa. He worked with the men in every department, was to be seen at the puddling furnace labouring with the heat, had his little tin and can brought to him just like the others, and the only difference that a stranger could see was that while the old hands were dubbed by him with the greatest familiarity, Bill, Dick, or Jack, he was always Mr Robert. In his young manhood he was not susceptible to fatigue, and would face any danger. Yet with all his physical strength, he had one of the tenderest of hearts, especially for his old workmen. At one of the Gethin explosions he cried like a child as body after body of his old colliers came to view. And, again, should anyone want aid, or was poverty stricken, or laid low by accident or untoward circumstance, it was only necessary to state the case, and there was ready help afforded.

Robert Crawshay, who was once so distinguished in the trade in which he was engaged that he won the appellation of, “The Iron King,” has now, we regret to say, to be placed in the list of the dead. Mr Robert Crawshay of Cyfarthfa Castle, Merthyr Tydfil, who had been in a weakened condition for a considerable time, and whose more serious illness we announced last week, died at the Queen’s Hotel, Cheltenham, on Saturday afternoon last, closing a life of extraordinary energy and enterprise at the comparatively early age of 63. It’s probable that to no other man did the iron industry of Glamorganshire owe more for its successful development than to the gentleman who has just passed off the stage of life, while for some years no man exercised a wider influence upon our local iron trade as a whole than Mr Crawshay. Facts respecting the career of such a man must therefore possess an interest for our readers, and such facts we gather in an abridged form, from an article published in a recent number of the “Western Mail.” The writer of this article informs us that when iron-making was begun in Wales, Richard Crawshay, who had amassed wealth in the metropolis, came to Glamorganshire, and soon found it easy, not only to buy up the old farmers’ leases at a hundred pounds each, but to utilise the said farmers in hauling coal to the furnaces, and iron to the port. While Richard Crawshay worked in conjunction with others in establishing the iron trade in South Wales, his son William kept on the London business, and for a long time it was stated that whatever money was made in London was sunk in Wales. Eventually, however, the turn came, and fortune began to gild the monument of industry and perseverance. What the condition of the iron trade was then is well shown by Malkin, in his tour through Wales in 1803. Writing of Cyfarthfa, he states, “Mr. Crawshay’s works are now the largest in the kingdom. He makes upon an average 60 and 70 tons of bars every week, and has lately erected two new furnaces, which will soon be at work, when he will be able to turn out 100 tons weekly.”

In 1806 the establishment was doubled, and the wages paid out weekly amounted to £6,000. When Richard Crawshay died, 1810, he was the possessor of £1,500,000. This was the result, not of finance and airy speculation, but of sterling perseverance, skill, and energy. Upon this basis the Crawshay family was started into history and fame, for Richard was the founder of the family. Richard Crawshay was buried at Llandaff in almost regal state, and William his son reigned in his stead. But William Crawshay never took a strong personal interest in Cyfarthfa. This was delegated to his grandson, the late William Crawshay, who carried the iron trade to its greatest height of prosperity. William Crawshay, senior, had three sons, William, George (from whom George Town is called) and Richard. William, as we have said, devoted all his energies to Cyfarthfa, whilst George, who assisted him for a time, eventually went to France, married the daughter of a French nobleman, and, returning to England, established a large iron establishment at Gateshead. Richard became an extensive brewer in the county of Norfolk. William, in a few years, made his mark at Cyfarthfa. In 1819 the works produced 11,000 tons of pig iron and 12,000 tons of bars, and by the year 1821 the works turned out more pig and bar than had been produced in the whole kingdom between 1740 and 1750.

William II, had every confidence in “Roy,” as he affectionately called his fifth son, and it was only very rarely that he was displeased with Robert’s management. One such occasion arose when he paid an unexpected visit to Merthyr from Caversham House, during a severe frost, and found Cyfarthfa works at a standstill because the water that drove the machinery was frozen and Robert had given the men a holiday.

William flew into a terrible rage, and insisted on everyone returning to work. Somehow, in spite of weather conditions, water got flowing again, and the machinery restarted. He declared vehemently, that such a thing must never occur again. So long as there were orders to be met, then production must be maintained. Later he calmed down, forgave his son, and listened to Robert’s plea for the erection of a large new mill. This was to be so big that it would take a year to build, cover 34,800 feet, and have twenty puddling and ten balling furnaces. Isabella laid the foundation stone in the spring of 1845, and great preparations were made for its opening in March 1846. William Crawshay, his wife and unmarried daughters came to stay at Cyfarthfa Castle for the ceremony, and they brought three Caversham friends, Mr and Mrs, and Miss Yeates.

Rose Mary Yeates

Rose Mary Yeates was eighteen and had met Robert the previous Christmas when they danced a quadrille together at the Reading county ball. He was tall, gay, and handsome. She was tall, slender, very pretty, and with a charming soft voice. They found they both loved music, while Rose told him about her fondness for poetry, and Robert described the Cyfarthfa ironworks that he managed for his father. Rose knew nothing about industry and had never seen an industrial town, much less ironworks, but she was enthralled by Robert’s fascinating accounts of all that went on there. The parents on both sides watched the growing attachment with pleasure, and the love affair proceeded so rapidly that there was at least an “understanding,” if not an actual engagement, between Robert and Rose when the Yeates were invited to Merthyr for the mill opening ceremony.

The wedding of Robert Thompson Crawshay and Rose Mary Yeates took place St Peter’s Church, Caversham, on the 15th May 1846. Unlike another ironmaster, John Guest, who made a point of delaying his first post-nuptial arrival with Lady Charlotte until late at night so as to avoid fuss, Robert was only too pleased to show off his beautiful bride. Shops and works were closed, and a large crowd lined Merthyr Streets, while Cyfarthfa employees went a few miles down the valley to a village called Troedyrhiw to greet the couple. Rose, accustomed to English restraint, was amazed at these Welsh working-men who stopped the carriage, took away the horses, and proceeded to drag the vehicle along with ropes wound around their waists, while Robert greeted them by name, there was laughter and jollity on all sides, and his special private band began to play festive music.

After another two miles they reached the Plymouth ironworks belonging to Anthony Hill, and here a proper procession was formed before going to Merthyr. At the head was Francis Crawshay’s Treforest bandsmen dressed in their special green uniform and playing “lively airs.” Next came the members of the Firemen’s club; then the local friendly societies, Oddfellows, wearing white trousers, white rosettes, and white gloves: Afredites, Ivorites, and Druids. All walked four abreast. Next came “Gentlemen on Horseback,” tradesmen who owned horses or had been lucky enough to hire them, but many were disappointed, for the demand for mounts was overwhelming. Behind the riders marched Robert’s Cyfarthfa band, with bandsmen clad in their special uniform and playing more gay music. Then came the carriage with the bride and bridegroom.

William Crawshay was still at Caversham Park when the dinner was held, but he arranged a series of balls to take place in Merthyr during the winter, all in honour of the young couple. There was no room large enough at Cyfarthfa Castle, or in the town. So William Crawshay converted a wagon shed in the ironworks. The change from a wagon shed into a ballroom was fantastic, and there was much talk and tales of its fabulous splendour that some of the puddlers begged to be allowed inside.

The problem was that their heavy boots would ruin the polished floor, but when this was explained, they offered to take their boots off and leave them outside if only they might see the ballroom. In a contemporary drawing of one of the balls, the shed has shrubs on either side of the room, while masses of greenery are draped in rows and hang from the ceiling; also white, pink, and blue squares, and pennants. Huge gas-lit chandeliers illuminate the scene where some couples are dancing, and others sitting on low seats, with men wearing evening suits and women low-cut elaborate frocks. At one end was a box , as in a theatre, where it is said the family sat, and on the front was the Crawshay crest, the plough which formed part of the coat-of-arms, and the word “Perseverance.” The ballroom was dismantled in the spring of 1847.

End of Rose’s life

To the end of her life Rose remembered this tumultuous enthusiastic welcome, and spoke of “the kindly Merthyr folk.” She left Merthyr after Robert’s death in 1879 and wrote, “Among the sorrows of widowhood came the regret that my life would no longer be spent among them; for, though on many lines my thoughts and ways were not theirs, still they did not hate me, and I loved them.”

By 1845 the furnaces had been increased to 11; and in that year the total yield was 45,760 tons. This year a new mill was erected, and in March the next year, was opened with great rejoicing. In March, 1847, the 18 balling furnaces and 20 puddling furnaces attached to this mart turned out no less than 6,144 tons of rails, and in the same month at Cyfarthfa there was rolled out the largest bar ever known. It weighed 2,9411bs, and measured 27 feet in length.

William Crawshay, it will thus be seen, had brought his works to a high state of perfection just at the time when the railway era began to dawn, and soon had practical proofs of his foresight. A huge trade sprang up, and first Turkey, Russia, and then America became purchasers to an enormous extent. Cyfarthfa bar was to be met with in every port of the Mediterranean, and as a proof of how largely Cyfarthfa depended upon Turkey, the following illustration is given:- Penydarren imitated the “combe” mark of Cyfarthfa as their own bar iron, and with so much success that William Crawshay, seeing his trade failing, made inquiries, and, finding the reason, brought an action against Alderman Thompson, won it, and had the trial published not only in English, but in Russian and Turkish. When America began to lay down its extensive lines, Cyfarthfa reaped golden harvests. In 1866, five thousand men were at full work, eleven furnaces were going, seven iron mine pits, and eight coal pits regularly in operation. The weekly yield of pig iron was 1,300 tons, and of rails 1,000 tons, and fully 20,000 people were dependent, more or less directly, upon the immense establishment of Cyfarthfa.

Robert Crawshay was very musical and started Cyfarthfa workmen’s band when in his early twenties. Francis Crawshay advised him, “Bob, if you are going to have a band, get the best band possible.” So Robert went to London to find an expert, and engaged the leader of the orchestra at Her Majesty’s Theatre, a Mr Berriman, and had to pay lavishly to induce this man to give up such a good job and come to Merthyr. Soon afterwards Francis started a band at Treforest. This was managed by a Mr Gratian, previously one of the musicians who played at performances of Wombell’s Menagerie, then a great touring show. Gratian left Treforest in 1844 and conducted Robert’s Cyfarthfa band until he retired in 1844. He was then succeeded by a Ralph Livsey, and Ralph in his turn by a son, George Livsey.

A special uniform was designed by Robert for the band. It was made of blue cloth, with white and red facings, heavily braided gold, buttons of real gold, and in front of the cap was the Crawshay crest, “a mastiff dog standing over a pyramid of cannon ball.” Often Robert’s pieces of music required re-writing to suit the instruments available, and to do this he had a Frenchman called D’Artney, whom he used to invite to Cyfarthfa Castle, give him a good dinner with plenty of wine, and then sent him to work on the scores. Robert’s band became famous throughout South Wales, playing at all kinds of social functions, as well as for his own private entertainment. It was also very successful in competitions, even winning prizes at the Crystal Palace London.

Robert Thompson Crawshay

Cyfarthfa Band 1905

In 1859 Robert Thompson Crawshay suffered a paralytic stroke, as a result of which he lost his hearing. This led him to take up photography, a hobby at which he excelled.

From 1867 until 1873, Cyfarthfa Works, in respect of the extent of its trade, was maintained in vigorous condition. Robert Crawshay kept up well the traditions of the family, stocking when trade was dull, and restarting full make when it revived. In that last decade, in fact from 1846, when he married, the dual sway at Cyfarthfa was exercised benignly, he taking active interest in the works, and she, his wife, Rose Mary, giving to Cyfarthfa Castle those gleams of intellectual and social life, which, with memories of famous visitors, will long be associated with the brightest period of its history. We may be excused a brief digression from the dry details of iron history in dwelling a little on the social aspect. Very conspicuously was she identified with the ameliorating labours of men and women who worked for the moral and mental benefit of the community. She established seven libraries in many parts of the district, and revived the long drooping pursuits of the Old Philosophical Society of Cyfarthfa.

She was one of the first members of the Merthyr School Board. For three years she held the Chair of Vaynor Board, encouraged lectures, readings, and in many ways stood aloof from the run of society women in striving to bring the classes together, and purifying the domestic life as the true fount from whence came the healthier moral tone of the people. The servant girl aspect was one she sought very earnestly to improve, and, in after life, founded in London, at considerable expense, the Lady Help Association. Cyfarthfa Castle was, in its halcyon days, for nearly 30 years visited every now and again by the distinguished thinkers of the country. The list of her intimate friends included most of the brilliant men who gave distinction to the Victorian Age. Let us name a few:—Darwin, Browning, Owen, who could build up an ichthyosaurus from a bone; Spencer, Justice Grove, Lord Aberdare, G. T. Clark, Emerson, and not the least esteemed, Thomas Norbury, the astronomer. She established the Poetic Memorial Fund, and for years prizes were distributed in accordance with the genial arrangements of its founder.

Narrow escape of the Bishop of Llandaff and Mrs Robert Crawshay 08.06.1870

Yesterday afternoon, directly after the consecration of Vaynor Church, the Bishop of Llandaff was driven down to the Vale of Neath Station, Merthyr, accompanied by Mrs Robert Crawshay and Mr. W. T. Crawshay. Being rather late for the 2.20 p.m. train, the horses of the carriage were driven down the High Street at a great pace. Unfortunately the turning into the Vale of Neath yard is a very abrupt and rather steep one, and in driving round, the off horse fell, and was dragged some yards, the carriage remaining in imminent risk of being upset. Fortunately this did not happen, but the occupants of the carriage were very much alarmed, although not at all injured. Assistance was at once rendered by several persons present in extricating the horse, which was not much the worse for his fall. The carriage was slightly damaged. The bishop proceeded by the train, and Mrs. Crawshay and Mr. W. T. Crawshay returned to the castle. XXX

Merthyr and the South Wales Choir 20.06.1873

Yesterday, this now celebrated choir paid their last visit to Merthyr before going up to London to compete again for the magnificent prize which they so gallantly carried off last year. Two concerts were given at the Drill-hall, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. The whole choir of 500 voices was present, and was accompanied by the Cyfarthfa band, which Mr R. T. Crawshay, with his accustomed liberality, has again lent to give effect to the entertainment. The thousand pounds trophy was on view, carefully guarded by the Rev. Dr. Price, and Caradog wielded the Australian baton. In the afternoon the attendance was not so large as might have been expected, but in the evening the hall was crowded. Unfortunately the stage was not large enough to accommodate the choir, and they were therefore compelled to sit in the body of the hall, while the audience sat on the platform, which somewhat detracted from the appearance, although in no way interfering with the singing of the choir, which was, as usual, grand and magnificent. Between the parts, the Rev. Dr. Price gave a brief outline of the programme laid out for the choir previous to their final departure for Lon- don. The last rehearsal in Wales will be in Aberdare, on the 7th of July, and on the following evening the choir will appear for the first time in the Colston Hall, Bristol. Dr. Price also dwelt upon the fact that, although they had worked hard themselves, and managed to put by some money besides the subscriptions, which had been liberally given, they were still rather short of funds to enable them to make the trip satisfactorily. He mentioned the sum of £400 as being the amount of deficiency, and urged upon the public to assist the undertaking by increased donations.

Robert Thompson Crawshay

The Australia baton (Museum of Welsh Life, Cardiff)

Next he aided most materially in the establishment of horticultural exhibitions. He encouraged his workmen to cultivate their little plots of land, to pay attention to flowers, endowed several schools, Tydfil’s Well, Georgetown, and the Old Office School, prior to the advent of the new system, and, in fact, was, as regards his workmen and their families, a just and kind master, even within the town.

Though antagonism at length begun to appear between trade and works, he was for many years on a most familiar footing. Unfortunately, unjust suspicions as to selfish aims in promoting the flower show first alienated him from the town, and then the unionistic feeling amongst the men began to alienate him even from them. What the impulsive self-willed, but kind old baron was to his retainers in the days of old, thus Mr Crawshay was, in his manufacturing and commercial kingdom, with his men. He held certain broad notions of right, fair play to man and man, and could not for his life transgress them. He knew that one dominant ruling power was essential in management. In that school he had been trained, and that so rigidly that nothing could swerve him, and so when the time came for one of those periodical throbs of discontent or assertion of men’s rights, Mr Crawshay could but oppose his stern antagonism, and the old tranquil character of Cyfarthfa life changed abruptly, and for the welfare of town and trade, fatally.

One of the closing acts was described to us personally by Mr Crawshay. He had a large order in hand, and wished it pushed on. The men, acting on the advice of the union agent of iron-workers, signified their wish to reduce the number or heats by one. This Mr Crawshay pointed out was unfair, as if the men only worked so many turns a day he should still have to keep the engines and horses in full exercise, and the cost of day labour would be maintained to the full, while results would be shorn off fully a third. The men listened to his objection, and went away, stating that they would again see their agent. This they did, but the agent was immovable, and the men returned a negative. This was the beginning of the end.

Robert Thompson Crawshay

Picture of R.T. Crawshay

It became necessary that a reduction should be carried out, and the whole of the ironworks had arranged to exact it. A fortnight before this reduction would come into operation; Mr Crawshay asked his men to consent to an immediate reduction, so that he might secure an order and thus keep the furnaces going. The men refused, the order was lost; from step to step things fell into stagnation, and the issue, as all know, was the stopping of the finest ironworks in the world. There is one man now working at Dowlais, who used to earn, at Cyfarthfa, from £4 to £5 per week. His wages now are from 10s to 12s. “Bill, my boy,” said the ironmaster, ”you were a fool.” Bill knows it. “It was a great misfortune to stop the works,” we once observed to Mr Crawshay. “It was the fault of the men,” was his reply, after he had carefully scanned the note put before him. “I would have kept the furnaces going until the park was filled with puddled bar before I should have stopped them.”

From the time when the ‘last’ furnace was blown out, Mr Crawshay, partly from the action of the men, and partly from his incurable deafness, retired from the world, and the active mind which had once been riveted on the make of iron, was directed to other objects. Deafness was followed by partial blindness, and twelve months ago the indications were painfully manifest that the human citadel was sapped, the signs of dissolution certain. Lately he went to Clifton, and from there retraced his steps to Cheltenham, a place visited some time ago, and there on Saturday, at a little after four in the afternoon, died Robert Crawshay, the last of the iron kings.

His reign was characterised by many innovations upon old rule. The Band he collected was one of the finest in the country. His inducements to cottage gardening, and to the cultivation of flowers, were many. The closing days of Mr. Robert Crawshay were preceded by long illness and great infirmities. He became deaf, and was almost blind; and throughout all, with true devotion, his wife remained near him, his unwearied secretary, his untiring reader, keeping him in touch with the world, of which he had so long been an active part. In 1875 he died, at the age of 58, amidst the sorrowing of his people, with whom from his boyhood he had been closely associated. He had worked with his men at forge and furnace; he had shared in their merry-makings, in journeying to the watering places, in many an outing at home; and as long as his generation lived, they never forgot the old master and friend.

One arrangement concerning the funeral was so characteristic of him that it cannot be omitted. As all know, he was an ardent sportsman, never happier than with gun or rod. It was often his practice to start in the morning with his gamekeepers and a friend or two. The brake would be brought to the Castle door, then rods, guns, and hampers placed thereon, and away the shooting and fishing party would go. On the eventful morning it was brought as usual, just as if a day by the Usk were again intended; but instead of rod, and gun, and hamper, it bore an oaken coffin, and the bearers. The goal, instead of the salmon stream, was the grave at Vaynor. His benefactions were numerous: hospitals in various towns were largely benefited; Swansea, Brecon, and Bristol in particular; and he had decided to endow a hospital at Merthyr, but Penydarren House, which he had selected, was not to be purchased, and the gift was distributed.

Marriage of Miss Crawshay of Cyfarthfa Castle 08.12.1877 (from our Special Reporter)

On Wednesday morning, at St George’s Church, Hanover Square, London, was celebrated the marriage of Mr Arthur Williams, barrister-at-law, of the Temple, with Miss Rose Harriet Thompson Crawshay, eldest daughter of Mr Robert Crawshay, the “Iron King” of Cyfarthfa Castle, Merthyr. For a December morning, the weather was very favourable, and long before the arrival of the wedding party, the church was well filled by a numerous body of spectators. St. George’s, Hanover Square, is remarkable for the “dim religious light” which in all seasons pervades it, and the spectacle, when a wedding party stands in front of the altar, is very much the same, no matter what may be the climatic influences outside. It may be safely asserted, however, that seldom has a wedding party presented a more attractive sight, even within this sacred edifice, which seems by general consent among the fashionable world to be set apart for marriage ceremonies.

Shortly after 11 o’clock, the bridegroom, his best man, and friends, took up their places in front of the altar, and precisely at half-past eleven the bride, leaning on the arm of her brother, Mr William Crawshay, and attended by her bridesmaids, slowly approached the chancel, the splendid organ pealing forth in hue style the “Bridal March” from Lohengrin. Each of the eight bridesmaids carried a magnificent bouquet, the gift of the bridegroom. The ceremony (which was not choral) was performed by the Rev. Hugh P. Haweis, of St James’s, Westmoreland Street, London, assisted by the Rev. H. Kirkhouse; vicar of Cyfarthfa, South Wales. The bride was given away by her eldest brother, Mr William Crawshay, of Vaynor House, Merthyr, in the absence of her father through illness. There were eight bridesmaids, namely; Miss J. Crawshay, of Montague Street, London, Miss Sandimore and Miss Sweetland, cousins of the bride, Miss Constance Williams; Miss Clark and Miss Buckton, nieces of the bridegroom; and Miss Taggart and Miss Wood. The bridegroom’s best man was Mr H. D. B. Dillwyn, son of Mr Dillwyn, M.P. for Swansea. Amongst the general company present at the ceremony were Miss Williams, Mrs Clark, Mrs Sweetland, aunt of the bride, Mrs Buckton, aunt of the bridegroom, Mrs Sandiman, Mrs Taggart, Mrs Yeates, Mrs Price Williams, and Mrs W. Crawshay; Mr Morgan Williams, Mr Richard Crawshay, brother of the bride; Mr S. J. Clark, of Dowlais, Mr Clark, Mr Bond, Mr Rawlins the Hon. A. D. Rydier, Mr Walter Buckton, Mr Frank Edgeworth, Mr Soelterg Wells, Captain Ralston of Pontywall, Mr Price Williams, Mr Sweetland (uncle of the bride), Mr Yeates, Mr Morgan Williams, Jr., Mr Taggart, Mr Buckton, &c. The dress of the bride was composed of brocaded cream velvet, trimmed with silk, Duchesse lace, and real orange flowers, her head-dress being a wreath and veil. She wore a valuable set of diamonds, the gift of her father, besides gold ornaments. The bridesmaids wore rich white Cashmere silk dresses and silk mob caps, trimmed with real geraniums, and each a very handsome gold locket with a pearl star, the gift of the bridegroom.

On the conclusion of the ceremony, the bride and bridegroom, accompanied by some of the bridesmaids and a few friends, retired to the vestry, where the ceremony was registered and signed by several gentlemen. On the party leaving the church, the organist, Mr Treffry (in the absence of Mr Pinsey, the organist of St. George’s), performed Philip de Soyer’s “Festive March.” The bride and bridegroom, on entering the carriage in waiting for them, were loudly cheered by the crowd that had assembled outside the church. The numerous members of the company were conveyed in carriages to the Great Western Hotel, Paddington, where the wedding breakfast was served. The bridal party started from 18, Nottingham Place, W.C., the residence of Mr John Park Sweetland, uncle of the bride.

The wedding presents were so numerous that it was found impossible to get a list of them, many being received up to the last moment, and, therefore, it has been deemed advisable to mention only those of a special character and of local interest. Many articles of virtue received at the residence of Mr Sweetland on Tuesday were as chaste in design as they were costly. The household servants of Cyfarthfa Castle presented, through the head gardener, a remarkably handsome dining-room clock, with ornaments to match, while the clerks and heads of department at the Cyfarthfa works testified their interest in the happy occasion by subscribing a superb drawing-room clock. There were other valuable presents from the various persons employed by the father of the bride.

The wedding breakfast was, as already stated, served in excellent style at the Great Western Hotel, Paddington. The apartment in which the company assembled was the drawing-room of this well-known establishment, and everything that was necessary to make the entire festivity pass off with éclat was arranged by the efficient superintendent, of the Hotel Company, Mr G. A. Millar. The tables, which were artistically laid, were decorated with a fine collection of green-house plants and flowers, and when the company had taken their seats the scene was one well in keeping with the auspicious occasion. At the head table the bride and bridegroom were supported by their immediate relations, namely, Mr W. Crawshay, Miss Williams, and Mr I Richard Crawshay, Mr Sweetland, Mr Morgan Williams and Miss Sweetman, Miss Buckton and Mr Dillwyn, facing each other from the ends of the same table. The rest of the general company, numbering about thirty-five, sat on either side of the second table, at the end of which, facing the happy pair, were seated Mrs Taggart and Mr Sweetland. The menu itself was printed in remarkably fine style on beautifully embossed cards of various colours.

The toast of long “Life and Happiness to the Bride and Bridegroom” was proposed in suitable terms, and responded to before the party broke up.

In the course of the afternoon the happy pair, amid the congratulation of their relatives and friends, left town for Dover, en route for the Continent, where they intend to spend the next few weeks

The Health of Mr R.T. Crawshay 10.05.1879

According to a telegram which reached Merthyr on Thursday, Mr R. T. Crawshay is in such a serious state that the members of the family, Mr W. T. Crawshay and Captain R. Crawshay, who are at Cyfarthfa, were telegraphed to travel to Cheltenham, where the suffering gentleman, attended by one of his medical attendants (Mr Deronald), has been staying for the past few days. Mr Crawshay left Merthyr for Clifton, and after a short stay there, proceeded to Cheltenham. Mr William Crawshay and his brother left Merthyr by the 8.40 Taff Vale train.

It is stated that so serious was Mr Crawshay’s condition that Sir Wm. Gull, M.D. London, had been telegraphed to travel to Cheltenham.

The Late Mr R.T. Crawshay, the funeral, Merthyr 17.05.1879

Today the remains of the late Mr R. T. Crawshay, the last of the “Iron Kings” of South Wales, were interred at the burial ground surrounding the picturesquely situated church at Vaynor.

Robert Thompson Crawshay

Vaynor Church (St Gwynno’s)

The late Mr Crawshay was so popular a master that it was to be expected that his employees, both old and young, though prevented from joining the cortege, and thus showing their respect for one whose loss they sincerely mourned, would either see the procession leave the Castle grounds, or witness its arrival at Vaynor. Not only did the deceased gentleman’s workmen flock up through Cefn and Vaynor in hundreds and thousands, but there was an equal number of towns-people from Merthyr and Dowlais, curious and anxious to attend the interment of the last of the “Iron Kings.”

The funeral was announced to start from the Castle at 11.30, but it was some time after that the body of the deceased was carried out. From the turret of the Castle, a Union Jack, half-mast high, was flying, and long ere the time mentioned, hundreds of persons had assembled at the upper or Cefn side entrance to the Castle, along which the general procession was to proceed. Along the whole route to Vaynor, and especially perched on every piece of vantage ground, were scores of people, whilst on the field (rising above the road), through which a path runs to the church, there were hundreds of people, many old Cyfarthfa workmen, with tears in their eyes, being observable here and there. Surrounding the church there was a very large crowd, but which gave the police, under directions of P.S. Flye, Cefn, very little trouble in keeping back.

In accordance with the wish of the deceased, the funeral arrangements were of the simplest description. The missive coffin was made of larch, an immense tree having been cut down especially for the purpose in the Graig Wood some 12 months since. It had been nicely polished, and with the beautiful wreaths of flowers which it bore, looked exceedingly well. The coffin was not hid out of sight in a hearse, but, as we understand, in accordance with the express directions of the late Mr Crawshay, it was conveyed from the Castle to Vaynor Church in a large brake, the same as which took the shell encasing the body from the Great Western Railway Station to the Castle. Immediately following the body was the family carriage, containing Mr W. T. Crawshay, Mr Robert Crawshay, Mr Richard Crawshay, and Mr William Jones. The deceased gentleman was opposed to any ostentatious display, and as we stated today in his written instructions, he only desired the above gentlemen and his son-in-law, Captain Ralston (since deceased), “and any of the old agents who wish to attend. There were some 16 agents who came under this designation, and all who attended, with one exception, who, like his honoured master, had breathed his last, attended the funeral. They were attired in silk hatbands and scarves, and were as follows: Messrs Bedlington Kirkhouse; Cope; Pearce; T. Hullett; Wm. Jones (Pandy); John Davies; smith, R. Maliphant; mason, David Lewis; block- layer, John Eynon; colliery manager, Wm. Jones; engineer, Wm. Bevan; moulder, Dd. Rees; colliery overman, John Jenkins; pit carpenter, John Wm. Evan; traffic manager, John Morgan; and David Daniel, mine agent.” Walking alongside the brake which was carrying the coffin, and were acting as bearers, were the deceased gentleman’s personal attendants, viz., Messrs Thos. Lewis, Edward Price, Thos. Jones, Roger Williams, Daniel Jones, and Dd. George, Mr G. F. Livesey, and G. G. Lucas being in the brake with the coffin.

Just outside Cefn a pleasing and mournful incident was witnessed. Near the Brecon and Merthyr Company’s railway-bridge on the Vaynor road, the children attending the Vaynor School Board school for many years controlled and supported by the late Mr Crawshay, were drawn up on the side of the road. Each little one held in his or her hand flowers of every description, which they strewed the road with, throwing them underneath the brake conveying the mortal remains of the late Mr Robert Crawshay.

The funeral cortege wended its way slowly to Vaynor Church, where, as we have already said, were hundreds of people. A short time previously the following relations of the deceased arrived in carriages at the church, viz., Mrs Ralston, daughter of the deceased, Mrs Alfred Crawshay and Miss Crawshay, of Dan-y-Park, near Abergavenny, Mrs William T. Crawshay, Mrs Sweetland, and Mr Gray, London, a gentleman who, it was stated, had been the executor of the will of Mr William Crawshay (father of Mr Robert), and who, it was expected, would be the executor of the son’s will also. Besides the above, the coffin was met in the churchyard by the following friends of the deceased gentleman: Colonel Stevenson, Mr Alfred Crawshay, Mr Sandeman, and Mr A. Walling, solicitor, London, a gentleman who was reported to have drawn out Mr Robert Crawshay’s will. The body was carried into the porch of the beautiful little church, having been previously met by the Rev Rees Williams, rector of Vaynor, an old gentleman of venerable appearance, as may be imagined from the fact he has been rector of the parish for 39 years. This reverend gentleman alone read the burial service, the Rev. H. Harris, curate, Rhymney, acting as clerk. The other clergymen present (but who took no part in the service) were the Rev T. P. Rogers, Taf Fawr, and the Rev J. E. Jenkins, curate of Cefn. It should be stated that the deceased had himself selected the spot for his grave, and the details were even so minute that he left written directions, so we are informed, as to its depth, 14 feet. The grave, it was also stipulated, was to be dug by old workmen, a direction which was faithfully observed, the digging of the grave having been carried out under the directions of Mr Elias Maliphant. The grave, a bricked one, was 13 feet deep from the surface, eight feet long and four feet wide. The coffin bore the simple inscription, ”Robert Thompson Crawshay; born March 8, 1817 died May 10, 1879. This inscription was skilfully engraved by Mr J. P. Jones, painter, Merthyr.

Robert Thompson Crawshay

Grave of Mr R.T. Crawshay, Vaynor Church

Though the body was not encased in a leaden coffin, it was so heavy that no less than eight stalwart Cyfarthfa men had to lower it to its last resting-place. The service having been concluded at the grave, and the sons, daughter, and other relations having taken a last farewell look at the coffin, the public were allowed to enter the burial ground and look at the coffin which bore the renowned ironmaster who is now no more. Here there were many sorrowful faces, mourning unperceived the loss of an old and dear master. The general arrangements, which were mostly complete, were under the personal direction of Mr David Phillips, of the firm of Messrs Phillips and Evans, drapers, High Street, Merthyr.

The late Mr R.T. Crawshay 19.06.1879
Proving of the will
The Disposition of the Estate
The Future of Cyfarthfa

The will (dated June 24th, 1877) and six codicils (dated November, 1877, and January, 1879) of Robert Thompson Crawshay, Esq., of Cyfarthfa Castle, Glamorganshire, who died on May 10th, 1879, at the Queen’s Hotel, Cheltenham, have been proved by the sons William Thompson Crawshay and Robert Thompson Crawshay; John Park Sweetland, William Gray, and William Jones, the executors of the personal estate being sworn under £1,200,000.

The testator, to his wife, Rose Mary Crawshay, for whom he had made an ample provision, by settlement in his life time, bequeaths his carriages, carriage and saddle-horses, and a pecuniary legacy of £1,000.

He gives to each of his younger sons, Robert Thompson Crawshay and Richard Frederick Crawshay, £12,000 free of legacy duty, he having given the like sum to his eldest son William Thompson Crawshay on his marriage.

He gives to William Jones, formerly cashier at Cyfarthfa Works, and one of his executors, £1,000; to his executor John Park Sweetland, £700; to his executor William Gray, £500; to William Jones, his farm bailiff, £100; to Capt. Charles Richard Macnard, £500; to Alexander Sutherland, £100; and also legacies to some of his domestic servants.

He bequeaths to trustees £100,000 sterling, upon trust, for the benefit of his son Robert Thompson Crawshay; the like sum of £100,000 sterling, for the benefit of his son, Richard Frederick Crawshay the sum of £100,000 consols, upon trust for the benefit of his daughter, Rose Harriette Williams and the sum of £130,000 consols, upon trust, for the benefit of his daughter, Henrietta Louise Ralston.

He devises and bequeaths his mansion of Cyfarthfa Castle, with the gardens and pleasure grounds, and all the household furniture and effects therein, and all his works at Cyfarthfa, and all the lands, buildings, machinery, plant, and effects belonging thereto, and all the book debts and floating capital, and the farm at Cyfarthfa, to his three sons William Thompson Crawshay, Robert Thompson Crawshay, and Richard Frederick Crawshay, in equal shares. He directs that during the minority of either of his younger sons, his son William Thompson Crawshay shall, so far as concerns the shares of such minor, have the exclusive right of carrying on and managing the works.

He devises and bequeaths all the rest of his personal estate to his said three sons in equal shares.

Information has come from:
The History of the Iron, Steel , Tinplate and other Trades of Wales, by Charles Wilkins 1903.
The Crawshay’s of Cyfarthfa Castle by Margaret Stewart Taylor