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Abernant Iron Co

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Abernant Iron Co

One of three early ironworks in the Cynon valley - the others being Hirwaun, which had the oldest furnace but production had not been continuous, and Aberdare Iron Co between Abernant and Hirwaun.

Produced pig-iron for local and export markets (as did Aberdare). The re-capitalised Hirwaun produced bar iron.

1801 Jeremiah Homfray and James Birch, formerly manager at Penydarren, were recorded as partners at Abernant in April. Later that year the Tappendens, bankers from Kent and London became involved with them when the Aberdare Canal Co contracted them to build a tramroad.

1802 A new partnership agreement was drawn up between Homfray, Birch and 3 Tappendens, who between them owned 50%. The Tappendens invested £40,000.

c.1802 A second furnace was built

1802 Lacking access to a canal to transport their products to the sea, the Tappendens started to build a tramroad to the Neath Canal but this suffered from dispute with Samuel Homfray at the Aberdare Iron Co who blocked its path.

1804 the Neath Canal Company agreed the final route for the tramroad; long-term agreements were made with the Aberdare Iron Company and the Hirwaun Company about use of the tramroad, witnessed by Richard Fothergill

1804 the firm tendered for the supply of iron bridges for Bristol Dock; installed the engine for Bristol dock and one at Bath. Built a steam engine for Hirwaun and advertised themselves as being able to build engines to Richard Trevithick's and Boulton and Watt's plan, or other scheme.

By 1805, Abernant had two furnaces making a total of 80 tons per week

1807 Abernant's third furnace was built

1807 Due to losses from the uneconomic tramroad to the Neath Canal, the partnership was dissolved; Jeremiah Homfray and James Birch withdrew from the partnership; Francis Tappenden took over management of the ironworks; witnessed by Richard Fothergill.

Richard Fothergill's knowledge and ability were utilized by the Tappendens. Fothergill acquired great influence in the management and welfare of the Abernant works. He prepared the way for his son, Rowland Fothergill, to acquire the control and later the proprietorship of the works at Abernant.

1811 The iron bridge at Robertstown bears the name 'Abernant' and the date 1811 (see Robertstown Bridge).

1814 The Tappendens installed a new rolling mill at Newbridge (now Pontypridd) to make bar and plate iron and possibly had other sites there; this may have been a site belonging to the Crawshays at Ynysangharad for making nails.

1814 Abernant Iron Co was declared bankrupt on 17 December, a few days after the Tappenden's Faversham Bank, but continued operating until, at an auction the following year, there were no bids.

1819 Came under the direction of Rowland Fothergill,and grouped with the Aberdare Iron Works under the title Aberdare Iron Co. Both works were offered for sale under Chancery proceedings in 1846. The particulars included three blast furnaces, three blowing engines, waterwheels, forges, rolling mills. Two of the blast furnaces had hot blast apparatus, one in 'full work', the other not in a state fit for current use.[1]

1861 'SHOCKING ACCIDENT.— On Tuesday a most shocking and fatal accident occurred to a young woman employed at the Abernant Iron Works. It appears that her occupation was to remove the cinders from the furnaces, and that during a temporary stoppage of the machinery a young man stole her shovel and hid it behind the rolls. In going to look for it she stepped upon the rollers, at the instant they were put in motion, and was dragged between them, her body coming out one mass of mangled flesh and bone. Of course she met with instantaneous death.'[2]

The Abernant Works were resurrected after the Tappendens left and continued into the 1860-70s. Rowland Fothergill (1794 - 1871), son of Richard Fothergill, gained control and later the proprietorship of the works and those at Llwydcoed.

1867 Advert: 'Abernant Iron Works, Glynneath, Glamorganshire
THE STEAM ENGINES and other moveable Plant and Effects, will be offered for SALE BY AUCTION, at the Works, by MR. J. W. LEEDER, THURSDAY, the 8th of AUGUST, and following days. Catalogues may be obtained on application to Mr. HENRY ALLEN, Neath Abbey, Neath, or of the Auctioneer, 16, Caer-street, Swansea.'[3]

1874 'MISERABLE THEFT.— At the Police-court on Tuesday, before Messrs. David Davies and R. N. Rhys, a girl aged 14, named Margaret Daly, was charged with stealing nine bricks, the property of the Abernant Iron Company, and her mother, also named Margaret Daly, was charged with receiving the same, knowing them to have been stolen. Mr. Simons (Simons and Plews) appeared for the prosecution. From the evidence of Sergeant Parry it appeared that on the previous day he watched the girl taking the bricks from the yard at Abernant, and followed her to her house, where he found a younger brother breaking up a number of similar bricks into sand, and this was afterwards sold about the town by the children. Mr. Simons expressed a desire not to press the charge against the mother, but the Bench, considering that these thefts were encouraged by the parents, inflicted a fine of £2 upon the child as the best way of punishing the parents, and animadverted strongly upon the conduct of the mother, who insisted throughout that she merely wanted the bricks for the purpose of repairing her grate.'[4]

1875 'Another hopeful sign is drawn from the increased number of employed at the Abernant Ironworks. Of late, additional hands have been engaged in putting the works in order so it may fairly be expected, considering all the circumstance, that these large and extensive works will shortly be in operation.'[5]

1870s As a result of the introduction of the Bessemer process, and owing to coal strikes, Fothergill's companies failed, as did so many others; Llwydcoed and Abernant iron-works closed.

In 1969 the ruins of one blast furnace and an engine-house chimney remained. About 50 years previously a three-storey engine house was still standing, adjacent to which was a most unusual ellipsoidal air reservoir, resembling an upright rugby ball, the top of which was level with the eaves of the engine house.[6]


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 'Mines, Mills and Furnaces' by D. Morgan Rees, National Museum of Wales, HMSO, 1969, p.73
  2. Cardiff Times - Friday 8 February 1861
  3. Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, Glamorgan, Monmouth, and Brecon Gazette - Friday 19 July 1867
  4. Cardiff Times - Saturday 3 January 1874
  5. South Wales Daily News - Friday 31 December 1875
  6. 'Mines, Mills and Furnaces' by D. Morgan Rees, National Museum of Wales, HMSO, 1969, p.73 & Plate 46
  • Morgannwg, Vol. 40 1996 The Tappendens and the Abernant Iron Company, 1801-1815 [1]
  • Welsh Biography Online [2]
  • Biography of James Tappenden, ODNB