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A History of Carmarthenshire

Lloyd, Sir John E., (Ed.). 2 vols., Cardiff, London Carmarthenshire Society (1935, 1939).

With the kind permission of the publishers sundry snippets from this book have been extracted by Gareth Hicks onto some parish pages.

Here is a list of the book's contents and contributors.

See the county page for a general introduction to The Early Iron and Coal Industry

The Carmarthen Ironworks

"Robert Morgan came to Carmarthen in 1748 and built the Carmarthen works. They were erected just outside the built-up area of the town to the north-east on a site near a small stream flowing from Tanerdy into the meandering Towy river. The Towy is liable to floods here, but the ironworks were raised slightly above the flood-level. They were also situated on the main highway to Llandilo and West Wales, where small ships could reach the works with coal and iron-ore. These raw materials were also transported by road.

Some years after 1748, Morgan owned a furnace, forge, rolling-mills and tin-mills, and the product of his works bearing the stamp M.C. (Morgan, Carmarthen) became famous throughout many parts of Europe. Morgan rented his land from Lady Trevor, and started building the works towards the end of 1747. They started producing in 1748, and in 1750 about 150 tons of bar-iron were produced; 400 tons were made in 1788, but the figure fell to 290 in 1796.

Sometime between 1750 and 1777 Morgan erected a tin-mill near the furnace. Between 1777 and 1800 his son, John Morgan (senior), managed the business very successfully, and in 1800 he leased the tinworks to his nephew John Morgan (junior) for twenty-one years, and during the few years he was in charge, they went into 'a ruinous state'. The works finally passed to Morris Morgan.

In 1771, a few years before his death, Robert Morgan bought the mills and furnace from Lady Trevor for £3000. The Carmarthen leadworks were not far off, built by John Campbell, of Stackpole, Pem, MP for Cardigan borough. The lead-ore came from Campbell's estate near Llandovery. The ore was smelted , run into bars, and manufactured into tinplates. In 1805, the tinworks were still producing, and there are important references to the processes of manufacture at this time.

'A little distance away from the deserted premises  (Campbell's leadworks) are the tinworks of Mr Morgan. The machinery of the smelting work is on the old construction, a large double pair of bellows worked by a common water-wheel, being found to possess all the powers requisite to keep the blast upon the fuel while the ores are smelting. These works employ a number of persons, girls and women, as well as men. The men are engaged in the various laborious departments of smelting, milling the plates, and tinning; the females in preparing them to receive the tin, or in cleansing them afterwards with bran.'

The only illustration available of the Carmarthen tinworks is to be found on the side of the metal coins issued by Morgan, the Carmarthen works being on one side and the Cwmdwyfran works on the other.

Messrs Reynolds & Smith succeeded the Morgans at Carmarthen before moving to Aberavon; they erected tinplate works there, taking their workmen with them. They also leased the Cwmdwyfran forge , and there are numerous references in the Morgan letters which show the character and extent of the industry at this time.

The Carmarthen tinworks at this time were exporting tinplates to Glasgow and London, and in 1823 there is a reference to 'Capt. Roberts who is going with 500 boxes of tinplates to Glasgow'. Reynolds & Smith were kept very busy, and the works were working at full pressure to meet the increasing orders for tinplates.

In 1826 they moved to Aberavon, and Philip Griffith Jones of Carmarthen was alarmed lest this important Carmarthen industry should die out;

' All the work-men are removed, and the M.C. brand-mark, which has brought these works into such repute, is used by Smith at Aberavon. If Mr Davies refuses the offer of the lease of these works, hundreds will be on this parish, and Carmarthen as a trading and manufacturing town will sink into insignificance.'

Reference has already been made to the trade in bark between Carmarthen and Ireland. In 1829 Mansel Phillips of Swansea inquired of Charles Morgan where he sent the bark which he obtained at Cwmdwyfran. Morgan was at this time sending his bark to Glasgow, and he informed Phillips that he had 100 tons of bark to sell.

In 1800 an inventory of stock at Carmarthen tinworks was drawn up, and from this may be gleaned many important facts;-

  • (a) Blackplate (iron-sheets without a coating of tin) and rolled bars were the chief products of the works;
  • (b) Run-coal (bituminous) was imported from the 'Llanelly Coalfield';
  • (c) Coal was also imported from Kidwelly in barrels;
  • (d) The coal came in three small sloops -- the 'William', the 'Dragon', and the 'Mary Ann';

A stock book of the works in 1808 shows that ;-

  • (a) The total value of stock was over £8,000
  • (b) Mineral acids were used in the manufacture of tinplates
  • (c) The works were organised in departments which remind one of modern tinplate works. The following were the fixtures; upper rolling mill, lower mill, rough turning machine house, scouring room, wash house, acid house, cold rolls, scaling room, rinning house, casings store.

(In the book are drawings of the inside workings of Carmarthen and Cwmdwyfran Ironworks in 1790) "

Gareth Hicks