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British Industrial History

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Anthony Bacon

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Anthony Bacon (baptised 1717-1786) merchant and ironmaster

c.1717 Born the son of William Bacon and his wife, Elizabeth Richardson, in Cumberland.

Raised in Maryland by his maternal uncles

Trained as a merchant and as a mariner.

1738 Master of the York, a vessel in the Maryland tobacco trade.

c.1742 Moved to London; operated as an itinerant merchant mariner until 1747 and then as a resident merchant. In the 1740s he traded primarily with Maryland, but in the 1750s added Virginia and the Spanish wine trade.

1757 Anthony and Elizabeth's only child, Anthony Richardson Bacon, was born in 1757.

1764 Elected MP for Aylesbury

1765 Leased lands and mining rights at Cyfarthfa, Glamorgan, stretching for about eight miles down the Merthyr or Taff valley; this district contained some of the best seams of coal in South Wales, with rich beds of iron-ore, as well as limestone and with an abundant supply of water for power. He and a cousin by marriage, William Brownrigg, of Whitehaven, Cumberland, built the coke-using (sic) Cyfarthfa Ironworks.

A blast furnace was soon erected at Cyfarthfa

1766 Purchased a share in the nearby Plymouth works from Isaac Wilkinson and John Guest

1770 His son, Anthony Richardson Bacon, died

1770s Owned a coal mine in Workington

1777 The Cyfarthfa partnership was dissolved

Bacon acquired further land and erected another blast furnace at Cyfarthfa

1780 Purchased the balance of Plymouth plus the the lease of the nearby Hirwaun Ironworks. At that point Bacon owned three of the four significant coke iron furnaces in the Merthyr Tydfil area.

Bacon secured a contract for the supply of guns and cannon for use in the American War of Independence but he could not manufacture them directly manufacturing because a 1782 Act disqualified members of Parliament from holding Government contracts.

Bacon persuaded the Board of Ordnance of the superiority of the John Wilkinson's method of boring cannon and obtained large orders. These were at first manufactured by Wilkinson at Brosely, Shropshire. After Wilkinson's patent was declared void, Bacon negotiated with Francis Homfray of Stourton, Staffordshire, granting Homfray a lease to a mill for boring cannon at Cyfarthfa. Bacon would supply Homfray with the necessary metal made at his blast furnaces at Cyfarthfa, Plymouth and Hirwaun.

1784 Homfray complained that he was not receiving sufficient metal and tapped Bacon's furnace at Cyfarthfa. A quarrel ensued and, in October, Homfray assigned his lease to David Tanner of Monmouth.

Bacon had five children by Mary Bushby, his mistress; he died in 1786 leaving his estate to Mary's children:

  • Anthony Bacon II would receive the Cyfarthfa estate;
  • Thomas would receive the Plymouth furnace, etc.
  • The Hirwaun furnace and collieries became the joint property of Anthony II and Thomas.
  • Robert would receive the mines, etc., at Workington.
  • Elizabeth would receive an annuity.
  • William would receive the remainder of the trust funds.

Richard Crawshay took over the Cyfarthfa Ironworks from Anthony II. The Plymouth works were also sold by Thomas Bacon to Richard Hill.

1799 the brothers Bacon took over the interest of Mr. Glover in the Hirwaun works; Anthony II sold his interest to Thomas.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • Bacon Family Biography [1]
  • Biography of Anthony Bacon, ODNB [2]