Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Difference between revisions of "Cyfarthfa Ironworks"

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[[Image:1891 London i0973.png|thumb|London 1891]]
 
[[Image:1891 London i0973.png|thumb|London 1891]]
 
The '''Cyfarthfa Ironworks''' was a major 19-century ironworks located in Cyfarthfa, near Merthyr Tydfil, in Wales.
 
The '''Cyfarthfa Ironworks''' was a major 19-century ironworks located in Cyfarthfa, near Merthyr Tydfil, in Wales.
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[[Image:Cyfarthfa01.jpg‎|thumb|  Samples of cold-bent steel made by Crawshay’s, now in display case at Cyfarthfa Castle]]
  
 
The Cyfarthfa works were begun in 1765 by Anthony Bacon, who in that year built the first blast furnace there. The smelting of iron ore was originally accomplished with charcoal, but diminishing supplies soon forced Bacon to use coal instead. Bacon directed activities at the works until his death in 1786, when the small but prosperous works were taken over by the owners of a small operation in Carmarthenshire. These owners maintained the modest capabilities of the Cyfarthfa works until Richard Crawshay gained sole ownership in 1794.
 
The Cyfarthfa works were begun in 1765 by Anthony Bacon, who in that year built the first blast furnace there. The smelting of iron ore was originally accomplished with charcoal, but diminishing supplies soon forced Bacon to use coal instead. Bacon directed activities at the works until his death in 1786, when the small but prosperous works were taken over by the owners of a small operation in Carmarthenshire. These owners maintained the modest capabilities of the Cyfarthfa works until Richard Crawshay gained sole ownership in 1794.

Revision as of 21:57, 4 May 2009

The Cyfarthfa Ironworks was a major 19-century ironworks located in Cyfarthfa, near Merthyr Tydfil, in Wales.

Samples of cold-bent steel made by Crawshay’s, now in display case at Cyfarthfa Castle

The Cyfarthfa works were begun in 1765 by Anthony Bacon, who in that year built the first blast furnace there. The smelting of iron ore was originally accomplished with charcoal, but diminishing supplies soon forced Bacon to use coal instead. Bacon directed activities at the works until his death in 1786, when the small but prosperous works were taken over by the owners of a small operation in Carmarthenshire. These owners maintained the modest capabilities of the Cyfarthfa works until Richard Crawshay gained sole ownership in 1794.

Under Richard Crawshay, the Cyfarthfa works rapidly became an important producer of iron products. England was involved in various naval conflicts during this time, and the demand for cannon and other weapons was great. The Cyfarthfa works became critical to the success of the war effort, so much so that Admiral Nelson paid a personal visit to the works in 1802. The Crawshay family crest included a pile of cannon balls in token of the crucial role of their ironworks. Richard passed on the responsibility for the works to his son, William Crawshay, but the latter was less committed to the business than his father.

William Crawshay II was appointed by his father William Crawshay to manage the works after Richard's death in 1810.

By 1819, the ironworks had grown to six blast furnaces, producing 23,000 tons of iron. The works continued to play an enormous role in providing high-quality iron to fuel the voracious appetite of the Industrial Revolution, with the tsar of Russia sending a representative to view the production of iron rails. During this time, the Cyfarthfa works lost its position as the leading ironworks in Merthyr Tydfil to its longtime rival, the Dowlais Ironworks.

It was also during this period that Crawshay had built a home, which became known as Cyfarthfa Castle. The buildings were erected in 1824, at a cost of £30,000. They were solidly and massively built of local stone, and designed by Robert Lugar, the same engineer who had built many bridges and viaducts for the local railways. It was designed in the form of a "sham" castle, complete with towers and turrets, in Norman and Gothic architectural styles, and occupied by William Crawshay II and his family. It stood, and still does, amid 158 acres of landscaped parkland, and overlooked the family-owned iron works just across the river.

Robert Crawshay was the last of the great Crawshay ironmasters, as foreign competition and the rising cost of iron ore (much of which had to be imported as local supplies were exhausted) exacted a heavy toll on the Cyfarthfa works. Robert was reluctant to switch to the production of steel, but by 1874 the works was forced to close for a long and costly changeover that was not complete until 1884, five years after his death.

The Cyfarthfa works did not convert to steel production nearly as early as many other Merthyr Tydfil works, and the Crawshay heirs were unable to guide it back to its earlier commanding position in the market. By 1910, the steelworks had been forced to close again, and while it was briefly reopened in 1915 to aid in the production of materials for World War I, the works closed for the last time in 1919. It fell into disrepair until it was dismantled in 1928. The failure of the works was a devastating blow to the local community, as it had depended heavily on the works for its economic livelihood.

Portions of the enormous complex that formed the Cyfarthfa works remain intact today, including six of the original blast furnaces.

Cyfarthfa Ironworks was one of the four main ironworks in Merthyr, the other three were Dowlais, Plymouth and Penydarren.

  • 1891 Advert. ]]Crawshay Brothers]]

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