Chapter VI

Sirhowy Tram Road Locomotives — Upper Ty Trist Pit — English Wesleyan Chapel erected — Adulam erected — Ebenezer, Mount Street, erected — Bursting of Bryn Bach pond, Bridges demolished, An old woman drowned — Wombwell's Menagerie — Cook's Circus — Mr. J. Bevan killed — 20 per cent, reduction, strike, office clerks, colliers — Pottery — Pipe shop — New Mill erected, its starting, festivities — First Coke ovens — Cholera, a family dying in one day — Foreign Ores introduced — Bedwellty Pits — Chapel Grave Yards closed — Cefngoleu Cemetery — Theophilus Jones' funeral — First Eisteddfod — Singular accident — Majority of Master George Homfray — Closing the top of Furnaces — Hot blast Stoves — Failure of Bank, excitement in the town — New Workhouse opened — First Guardians — The Old Workhouse — S. Homfray, Esq., retiring — Mr. R. P. Davies, manager — Differences arising between officials — Narrow escape of two agents — Elim Chapel erected — Yard Incline — Buildings operations at George Town — Bedwellty pits' houses erected — A large fire in the Pipe Shop — Town Clock — First Building Society — Vale Terrace — Cheap Jack and "Mind your No. One" — Temperance Hall — Teetotalism — Largest Blast Engine in South Wales — New Gas Works — Rifle Volunteers — Death of Mr. R. P. Davies — Mr. J. Reed, manager

We have now arrived at the time when the railway mania was at its height, which lasted for the following thirty years. Several locomotives were running between Tredegar and Newport, each engine designated after some renowned person or place, &c. The following were among the numerous locomotives on the Sirhowy Tramroad: Dispatch, Speedwell, Lord Rodney, St. David, Lady Mary, Lady Charlotte, Bedwellty, Tredegar, &c.

Steam navigation had also become an accomplished fact, and these mighty events created a great demand for iron and coal. Large "clumbers" were constructed,

Chapter VI55

capable of conveying about 5 tons each of coal with ease; three of these clumbers were deemed a suitable train for one locomotive. Small low carriages were also constructed for the purpose of conveying rails, &c.; two or three of these carriages were placed under a length of rails, and connected together with iron hooks. These low carriages were the cause of a great loss of life and limb; being low, incautious people would attempt to jump upon them for the sake of having a "ride with the engine" while the train was in motion; a large number fell victims to these rash acts. Rails were in great demand for home and foreign railways a contract was made to supply a French railway in the course of construction; also a great demand for coal existed. Pits, levels, furnaces and mills were in full swing; such a large quantity of coal being consumed at home, the demand for foreign coal could not be met, and 1841 appeared with bright prospects. Upper Ty Trist was sunk, and commenced raising coal this year, which was a great addition to the various pits that were working in full swing. Trade remained brisk during the year, and 1842 dawned smiling upon the commercial world. Several additions were made to the town; Park Row, and a portion of High Street, were erected.

The English and Welsh Wesleyans worshipped together at Ebenezer Chapel, North Lane, until this year, when the English brethren erected and opened a chapel in Chapel Street.

Activity prevailed throughout 1843 and in 1844, another place of worship, viz., Adulam, High Street, was erected and opened the same year. During this year also Church Square was erected; Church Street and Market Square were completed. No event or departure from the ordinary course occurred during 1845, either in works or town, with the exception of the erection of the English Primitive Methodist Chapel in Mount Street, which was completed and opened during the year. But 1846 appeared with a throng of scowling clouds hanging above the horizon of trade, and gloomy skies threatened the natural course of events. On January 19th a violent storm swept over the locality, rain fell in torrents, rushing down the hill sides and roaring as the distant sound of large cataracts, filling every pool and pond to overflowing. The deep current flowing swiftly onward in the streambeds as silent as "deep still waters;' created a feeling of awe and terror in the minds of those who resided near their banks. In the depth of the night, while the winds were rushing, approximating hurricane force, thereby adding to the awe of the terror-stricken inhabitants, the banks of the Bryn Bach pond, failing to resist the immense pressure, gave way, and the enormous accumulation of water sent forth its stores and deluged the Merthyr road near the Plymouth Arms, sweeping the mine floor of Bryn Bach pit, carrying away hundreds of tons of ironstone mine, making deep ruts

56History of Tredegar

as it swept along, and demolishing several bridges that spanned Nantybwch and Sirhowy rivers. A block of houses called Nantybwch were deluged, a large quantity of oats were swept away from Mr. D. Herring's stables, two horses were drowned, while several more narrowly escaped, and an old lady, named Ann Hopkin was found drowned in her bed the following morning. When dawn broke, hundreds of people collected together to witness the sad results of the destructive elements, deeply absorbed in the contemplation of the scene around them. Pits were idle for several weeks after this occurrence, but shortly the terrible thoughts relevant to the disaster subsided, and trade went on as usual. In the autumn of this year the inhabitants of Tredegar were gratified by witnessing the largest menagerie that ever visited the town, namely, "Wombwell's Entire Menagerie." Several menageries, circuses, &c., had visited the town previously; for instance, "Cook's circus," which was the great attraction when ever it made its appearance. Mr. Cook had made himself celebrated as the person who drove a carriage with 40 horses, and to the astonishment of the thousands who congregated to witness the "grand sight," he drove the horses with such skill and dexterity that the carriage wheels marked the figure 8 on the circle. Nevertheless, this "great wild beast show" was a greater attraction at the time, and its appearance in the town resulted nearly in a general holiday. In the evening, while the thousands had congregated to satisfy their curiosity, the news spread like wild fire that Mr. John Bevan was killed, and in a short time the rumour was partly verified by the sight of a tram conveying the gentleman homewards, who, although not dead at the time, succumbed to the injuries of the explosion shortly afterwards. The accident cast a gloom over the town. Mr. Bevan was a man who had won the affections of every workman under the Tredegar Iron Company. Although austere and rigid in manner and appearance, yet so beloved was he, that the inhabitants of Tredegar imagined that when he died the sun of Tredegar's glory and greatness had set. Even Squire Homfray remarked, "I would rather loose my right arm than lose John Bevan."

Yet in all these tribulations the town and works made a slow progress, and extended. Mount Street was in the course of erection and completed before the end of the year, and High Street was completed. With some few exceptions, for instance, Picton Street, George Street, Temple Street, and Collett's Place, for which we have no authentic dates, that portion of the town situated in the hamlet of Uwchlaw-y-coed, or the west side of Sirhowy river has been notified so as to require no further observation. The growth of this portion of the town has been traced so minutely, that the readers will see at a glance, casting aside alterations and re-construction of buildings, the aspect of the

Chapter VI57

town in 1846 by its present appearance. Therefore to enumerate the various dwelling houses added to the town since the above date will be more tiresome to the reader than interesting.

The iron and coal market had been fluctuating during the greater portion of the year, but towards its end a general depression of trade had taken place, and the masters were compelled to issue a notice of reduction in wages to the amount of 20 per cent., commencing from the first day of January, 1847. Great dissatisfaction prevailed when the notice was posted in the office, and at the expiration of the notice it was agreed upon by the workmen that a general strike was the only remedy against such an enormous reduction. As such a large quantity of coal was consumed by the furnaces, and all the collieries were idle, a scarcity of the article ensued, and agents, overmen, and clerks from the office volunteered to test their physical power in getting coal to "keep the furnaces going." The yard level was selected as the best and most convenient colliery to suit all purposes; being nearer to the furnaces than any other colliery, and also nearer to the town, it afforded facilities for the furnaces to be supplied with fuel, and the colliers with refreshments, &c., with the greatest ease. While coal digging, the chief accountant narrowly escaped a fatal injury, and deemed it more prudent and safe to be covered in future by the heavenly canopy, that by the dangerous roof underground. Vicious and inferior colliers who envied the position of these gentlemen, stated that the weight of provisions and refreshment conveyed to resuscitate and reinvigorate their energies while at their arduous task, was far greater than the weight of coal raised and conveyed for the supply of the furnaces. However, their services as coal miners were not required but for a very brief period, inasmuch as the dispute came to an end in a fortnight. In the course of the year a new trade sprang up in the town; Mr. William Spooner commenced erecting a large and extensive pottery and pipe shop, which was completed in the following year. These manufactories were situated in Charles Street; earthenware of superior quality was manufactured, such as stone jars of various dimensions and descriptions, jugs, pans, basins, &c.; and the trade was carried on successfully for many years under the control of the above enterprising gentleman. Eventually the pottery buildings were converted into dwelling houses, and the pipe shop was extended, in which pipes are manufactured to the present day.

Trade had revived greatly when 1848 made its appearance, and the enterprising company, under the guidance of the prescient manager, had commenced erecting one of the largest rail mills in South Wales, which placed the company on such a footing as to be able to compete with the largest rail manufacturers on the "iron line." On the day that the first bar was to be completed thousands

58History of Tredegar

of people, male and female, old and young, had congregated to witness the first rail undergoing the various processes, from the furnace to the blooming, again returned to the second heating furnace, from thence to the rolls, under the saw, and placed on the block of the straightener. The vast concourse of people, upon the completion of the rail, shouted in approbation, cheers after cheers rent the skies in exultation of the successful result. The town was decorated from one end to the other; brass bands paraded the streets, pouring forth their melodious strains, which added greatly to the gaiety of the event. Refreshments were abundantly provided in the market house, an enormous quantity of beef and bread was distributed; every family containing an employee under the Tredegar Iron Company was supplied with a certain quantity of beef and bread, according to its number; every aged employee was equipped with a new suit of pilot cloth, and the young men in the mills were each of them furnished with a suit of "blue." The deep booming thunder of cannon was heard from the distant hill, while the thousands marched in a body through the town. The Town Hall and Market House were illuminated at dusk by hundreds of gas jets, forming large letters with such mottoes as the following, "Success to the Tredegar Company;' "Excelsior;' &c., &c.

The increasing demand for coal stimulated the company to adopt all possible means to economise the consumption of fuel at home. Previous to this period, coke was manufactured in large "clamps" or "pits" as follows: the coal was placed in raised heaps, from 20 to 30 yards in length, about seven in width, and from four to five feet in height with this mode of coke making naught but large coal or "lumps" could be utilised. But in 1849 coke ovens were erected, by which method the small coal or "slack" became the chief item in coke making, and in a short time all the large coal previously used to make coke was sent to the market.

In August, 1849, another visitation of cholera was at our doors; and although medical skill and social science had made remarkable and rapid advances, since the previous outbreak, yet the terrible news of cholera being in the locality cast a gloom over the town. The first victim was an inland revenue officer, or, as generally termed, "exciseman," named T. Price, who resided at Charles Street, one of the healthiest localities in the town at that time. Before noon the same day, two stalwart and healthy men had fallen victims to the dreaded enemy in the same street; and in less than a month there was scarcely a street in the town that had not been visited by the king of terrors. The death rate rose so rapidly, the fatal cases were so numerous, and the symptoms so terrible, that the doctors were completely bewildered. A large number adopted the same course as many of the inhabitants did in 1831-2, fleeing to the country to evade

Chapter VI59

the scourge. Weeping relatives were to be met with from dawn until dusk. No sooner than the last tribute of respect had been paid to a departed friend than the news reached the ear of another being dead, who was quite healthy a few hours previously. As an instance of its severity, a whole family residing in Charles Street was swept away in a day. The mother died about eleven in the morning, two children about four in the afternoon. The father assisted an aged lady, who acted as midwife in the locality, to place the remains of his beloved ones in coffins as they were brought by the undertaker; before ten at night the poor man was a corpse; and ere the following day dawned the aged lady fell a victim to cholera and "was no more." When a funeral procession proceeded towards the cemetery, doors were closed, passers-by hurried out of sight, and scarcely sufficient number in many cases were found to convey the victims to their resting places. Camphor and various kinds of preventatives were worn by the majority of people day and night as an attempt at a prophylactic. The authorities were awakened to their duties, ditches and drains were strewn with disinfectants, ordinary laws for preserving general health were enforced, sanitary improvements were insisted upon, and every possible precaution was adopted. Nevertheless, the disease did not disappear until the following year, as will be seen by the dates on the headstones in Cefngoleu cholera cemetery. Places of worship were filled to overflowing, such an increase in membership had never been known at Tredegar; seriousness, solemnity, and devotion were engraved on all features, caused by the pestilential alarm. As in 1831-2 so in 1849-50, when the storm abated, places of worship began to be vacated, and the terrified converts "went their own way."

Trade was very brisk at the time, railway speculations were promoted, and large contracts for rails were made by all the ironmasters. Tredegar being among the foremost ironworks, large "orders" for home and foreign railways were executed. At this period foreign ores were introduced, which created an amount of ill-feeling.

Sinking operations had been carried on for several years at Bedwellty pits, and in 1850 one pit was completed and coal brought to bank, which was a great addition to the quantity of sale coal.

A notice was issued this year proclaiming that all graveyards connected with chapels in the town were to be closed, consequently a movement was set on foot for the purpose of having a general cemetery for the town; this was agreed upon, and Cefngoleu was selected as the site for the new cemetery. A temporary enclosure was constructed, and the first burial took place in June, 1850. The present walls were built shortly afterwards, and to defray the expenses a tea-party was held in the Workhouse, which was in course of

60History of Tredegar

erection at the time. An antipathetic feeling existed in the minds of a large number of people who had relations buried in the chapel graveyards, when Cefngoleu cemetery was opened, and a number of years elapsed ere these objectors were reconciled. In the autumn of this year the town lost one of its most revered and beloved inhabitants in the person of Mr. Theophilus Jones. Mr. Jones had been one of the most successful mineral agents in South Wales, one of the most noble, one of the most earnest and self-sacrificing, and one of the most honest in the long roll of mining worthies. As it was announced that the funeral would be a public one, thousands collected together to lay their last tribute of respect to their master, and followed his remains to the grave with throbbing and arching hearts. The funeral procession was over a mile in length and with regard to its depth, there were as many as could be conveniently made to walk side by side, filling the roads from hedge to hedge. His remains were interred at Bedwellty Church graveyard, the family resting place; and the vast concourse of people present to witness the melancholy proceedings were overpowered by the profoundly pathetic solemnities.

In 1850 the town of Tredegar had the honour of giving a reception to the Annual Moveable Committee of the True Order of Ivorites, Saint David's Unity, when a large number of lodges from surrounding neighbourhoods paraded the streets with banners and in full regalia; each section preceded by brass bands. In honour of the event an Eisteddfod was held at the Town Hall, under the auspices of Lady Llanover and other distinguished patrons. Several competitive meetings had been held in the town previously, neither of which could be considered an "Eisteddfod." This meeting, however, was a real eisteddfod, and its proceedings were carried on according to the manner and customs of the Annual Eisteddfod held by the "Cymreigyddion" at Abergavenny. This was the first Eisteddfod held at Tredegar, but since this period these beneficial entertainments have become every popular.

A very singular accident occurred this year in a Patch above No. 7 Pit. Although accidents are frequent occurrences in such large and extensive works as Tredegar, we have refrained from recording many; but the singularity of this occurrence claims for it a place of record. While three men were working on the above patch, each one at his own duty, and separated a little distance from each other, a stone fell, and, coming in contact with a projection in the strata, broke into three separate parts, each part went in the direction of each man's position, and the three men were killed on the spot!

In December, 1850, Master George Homfray attained his majority, and the town was the scene of unusual gaiety. The event was celebrated by thousands of persons, proceeding in a body to the upper gate of Bedwellty House park to

Chapter VI61

meet the young gentleman, who, upon making his appearance, was lifted upon the shoulders of stalwart men, and carried through the town beneath triumphal arches emblazoned with mottoes, "Success to Master George," "Long Life to Master George," &c. The whole business of the town and works ceased for the day, music lent her charming aid to enhance the lively scene; volleys of artillery boomed forth their deafening sounds, which were re-echoed by the distant hills. At dusk the circle was illuminated by ornamental figures, formed by hundreds of gas jets; the frontage of the Town Hall and Market House were illuminated as on a previous occasion, with mottoes formed by gas jets.

After the death of Mr. Theophilus Jones the mineral agency devolved upon the shoulders of his son, Mr. Alfred Jones, assisted by Mr. A. L. Homfray, the second son of the "old Squire," and Mr. John Bevan, junior; but in a very short period the whole control fell into the hands of the late Mr. William Bevan.

Trade in all its branches was in a satisfactory state, the production of coal and iron had increased immensely, each furnace producing a weekly average of 90 tons. Population increased rapidly, and a permanent class of tradesmen and shop-keepers, and shops of all kinds increased in the same comparative ratio as the population. Improvements and experiments were the order of the day at the works. A great and important change was taking place in the iron industry, but the foresight of the manager placed him in a position to advance with the times. Previous to 1851 the volatile components of coal used in furnaces were entirely useless. as they were allowed to escape at the top. All the furnaces were open at the top, their immense flames illuminating the roads and town in general at night, which gave a livid hue to the faces of those who travelled along the streets. But in 1851 an experiment was made to economise fuel by the utilisation of waste gases. No. 4 blast furnace being repaired, its top was closed by a large pan and bell, and the gases were carried through large tubes, and ignited under the steam boilers of No. 4 blast engine. The experiment proved successful, resulting in economy of fuel, and with greater heat to the furnace. Shortly afterwards the hot blast stoves were heated by these gases, thereby generating additional heat for the furnaces, which was beneficial and conducive to the saving of fuel.

Tredegar can boast of contributing a little to the great (Crystal Palace) Exhibition of 1851; models of engines and machineries of various description were sent to be exhibited among that wonderful collection of curiosities; but, probably, the greatest interest was evinced in the getting of a large lump of coal, which was intended to be sent to the Exhibition. When the project was under consideration, it was intended to get a lump of coal to weigh about 20 tons, but it became obvious that such a massive lump would require more

62History of Tredegar

space to be brought to the surface than the Yard level afforded. At length a lump weighing about 15 tons was got, and loaded safely upon low carriages that were made for the purpose of conveying the "big lump." but, unfortunately, it broke, and the idea of sending it to the Exhibition was abandoned. The remainder of the lump, which weighs about 10 tons, is carefully preserved in the Bedwellty House park. The hewer of the coal was Mr. John Jones, generally known as "John Jones, Collier Mawr."

The successful experiments of 1851, and the healthy state of trade bode good to the future of the town and works, but, alas, before the end of the year the inhabitants of the town and the surrounding neighbourhoods were stunned by the news that the bank had been closed. The news spread with lightning speed, hundreds of persons collected around the bank doors, eagerly waiting better tidings; but, to their dismay, the news proved to be too true, and the financial position of many respectable and worthy families was doomed. Industrious people, who had risen to a state of affluence by arduous labour and economy, were reduced to poverty, and before the close of their career were recipients of parochial relief. The banking company, being an unlimited one, no end of "calls" were made upon the shareholders, who, in addition to the loss of their shares, had to pay 120 per cent, per share, to make up a composition of 15s. in the pound to the numerous creditors. Very many friendly societies had their whole capital deposited in the bank, and sustained serious loss through the failure. Tradesmen who were struggling against adversities, had been overtaken in their enterprises, and became bankrupts; individuals who regarded the "Monmouth and Glamorganshire Banking Company" with the utmost confidence and had deposited their little savings in the bank, supposing it was a safe speculation, stood before the closed doors moody and uncertain, waiting with a forlorn hope for any better intelligence that might be forthcoming but, alas, their hope was vain. It was a dreadful financial disaster to the town. Such, indeed, were its consequences, and its effects upon the inhabitants were as if the town had been devastated by an earthquake. The failure of the bank disclosed in what a reckless manner dangerous speculations and large important enterprises were conducted, which, when they became known, prevented any assistance that would be an effectual remedy to the disaster. The burden was borne by the shareholders, the majority of whom were nearly ruined. Although the Tredegar Company sustained a serious loss, yet its effect upon the works was not perceptible, for activity prevailed which proved beneficial to the tradesmen of the town. In 1852 the "New Workhouse" buildings were completed, and opened in a formal manner. Also the Britannia Inn was completed, whose proprietor has made himself noted in connection with parochial affairs.

Chapter VI63

The first Guardians of the Union of Bedwellty and Aberystruth parishes were appointed in April, 1849, consisting of ten members for each parish; S. Homfray, Esq., was elected chairman, and T. Ll. Brewer, Esq., and T. Brown, Esq., vice-chairmen. The following minute is entered on the minute book of the Board: — "Possession of the New Workhouse was formally tendered by the Contractor to Mr. Adams (of Ebbw Vale), the chairman of an adjourned meeting of the Guardians, held at the new buildings, on the 17th August, 1852, by handing Mr. Adams the key, which was accepted, and afterwards handed to Mr. Keogh, the newly-appointed Master, who was directed to remain in the building." Samuel Homfray, chairman, Thomas Brown and Charles Davies, vice-chairmen. Previous to the formation of this union of the parishes paupers were kept at the "Old Workhouse," at present part of Queen Square. At what date these buildings were erected we cannot state, but probably about 1820. Originally the Old Workhouse was termed "Twyn y Ddraenen" (Thorn Hill), and we have authority to state that paupers were kept there in 1822. A free-school was opened in a portion of the buildings, where children, not being paupers, as well as paupers, were instructed. Vestry meetings and parochial transactions were held and transacted in the Kings' Head Inn and at the Workhouse monthly, on Saturdays, from 1822 until 1847, when the paupers became too numerous, and were removed to Abergavenny. After the appointment of the first Guardians their meetings were held at Abergavenny until the opening of the New Workhouse.

During I853, S. Homfray, Esq., laid before the company his intention of retiring from being a manager. His wish was reluctantly acceded to, and the career of the "Old Squire" in connection with the works as manager terminated on September 30, 1853. This distinguished gentleman, whose departure cast a gloom over the locality, had won his reputation through self-sacrifice, exertion, ability, and noble deeds. His efficiency as a manager was unquestionable, his endeavour to promote the success and prosperity of the town and its inhabitants in every sense was proverbial. Being of a very hot temperament, his actions oftentimes were eccentric, but in an instant the storm was over; and those who had been the victims of a most violent reproach were more warmly beloved than ever. As a token of respect and esteem, a banquet was held in honour of so distinguished a character, whose laborious career had won the affections of all classes; and although the entertainment was one of unusual splendour, yet the greatest solemnity prevailed during the proceedings.

Mr. Richard Powell Davies was appointed successor to the "Old Squire," who, being a very energetic and high-spirited person, commenced to officiate by introducing sweeping changes. The system previously in practice

64History of Tredegar

was thoroughly revolutionized. Truck system was abolished; the payment of workmen's wages was taken from the hands of overmen, and paid at the office; contracts were swept away; and all things made new. The powers of the "company's shop" were withdrawn, and those who had been "born and bred" under the truck Regime were taught how to distribute their capital, or wages, the produce of their labour, by letting it fulfil its proper functions. The works were further extended this year, two cupolas had been completed before the end of 1853, thus making the number of furnaces nine, and all working successfully.

At the beginning of 1854 a misunderstanding arose between the manager and Mr. W. Bevan, the mineral agent, which resulted in the latter tendering his resignation. A mining engineer from the North of England was appointed a successor to Mr. Bevan, who brought with him a whole staff of officials. The sequel is evident. All the old officials were cast adrift, who went their way, some to Blaenavon, others to Rhymney, &c., and the place was left destitute of the old hands. Mr. Sinclair was an amiable gentleman, and an acknowledged skilful and accomplished mining engineer; nevertheless, this sweeping policy, did not prove itself advantageous and successful either to himself or his employers. In the course of twelve months, or a little more, Mr. Bevan and all the old officials were reinstated.

In the summer of 1854 two of the agents under Mr. Sinclair and several workmen narrowly escaped fatal injuries in No. 4 Pit. A heading was being driven to meet old workings, in which a large quantity of water had accumulated. These gentlemen, aware of the perilous position of the workmen, were taking all precautions thought necessary they kept a keen watch over the proceedings, and bored holes in advance in every direction; at last a hole was bored through, and instantly the great pressure of water forced a large quantity of coal from the solid strata. The water rushed down the heading, the gradient increasing its momentum, and swept everything before it. Iron trams were carried as chips of wood, a horse was swept as a feather, and carried to an old clip heading; fortunately the workmen had fled to a place of security. Mr. Tate, one of the agents, was thrown into a stall, after being carried by the flood a short distance; Mr. Robert Williams, another agent, was grasped from the flood as it rushed by, by one of the workmen who stood in a stall road. A man with a wooden leg was making his way towards the pit bottom when the water overtook him on the level, but being in possession of good presence of mind, turned to the side, clinging to a pair of timber, his head thrust into a small cavity in the roof, keeping the water away from his mouth and his nostrils with his hand, and thus miraculously escaping a watery grave. The two agents,

Chapter VI65

although rescued from the waters, were for several days in a very critical condition, their mouths, nostrils, eyes, and ears were filled with mud, restoratives were immediately procured and applied, and under the diligent care of the doctors they were soon announced to be in a state of convalescence.

In the course of 1854, Elim Chapel, Queen Street, was erected and opened. A great project was under consideration when "Squire Homfray" left, viz., the construction of an inclined plane as a shorter route for conveying materials to and from the yard. Up to this date all materials conveyed from Newport were discharged in the most inconvenient places and manner. Ores were conveyed through the works and discharged in large quantities on the side of the tramroad from the Miners Arms to the bottom of Charles Street, thence refilled into trams and conveyed by horses through Church Street into the yard, and down to the furnaces. A coal bank had been erected behind the Miners' Arms for the purpose of loading the "clumbers" with coal. Goods, &c., were left in the vehicles until the tradesmen were able to clear them away; hence the practical eye can see at a glance the necessity of a more feasible plan.

The inclined plane was completed in 1855, and a large shed was erected on the yard for the convenience of the tradesmen of the town. This scheme proved beneficial to the Company, but a great loss to small contractors, who had some horses conveying materials along the old circuitous route. Another important scheme had been completed about the same period, that of Bryn Bach inclined plane, which conveyed materials from Bryn Bach pit and the patches, &c., to the road at Nantybwch. The site of George Town at this period was covered with wood and as the production of the works had so vastly increased in the quantity of iron, coal, and ironstone mine — an evident proof of the increasing population — it was deemed necessary to remove the wood preparatory to building operations, which were commenced in 1856, and carried on through successive years until George Town was completed as it appears at present, with very few exceptions.

Few houses had been erected at Bedwellty pits about the time that S. Homfray, Esq., retired; but in 1856 Bedwellty colliery, being greatly extended, Bedwellty levels opened, and such a number of colliers and others employed at these collieries, that additional houses were erected, and the two rows at Bedwellty pits were completed in 1857, for the convenience of those who were desirous of residing near the collieries.

At the end of 1857 a large fire broke out in the pipe shop of Mr. Spooner, in Charles Street, which gutted the whole building, causing a great loss to the owner. The alarm was given out, and the inhabitants of the whole district were quickly on the scene, rendering all aid possible, but to no avail. A daring act

66History of Tredegar

was accomplished by Mr. John Spooner, who rushed into the middle of the burning mass, rescuing a quantity of valuables, such as securities, &c. Such a fire has not been seen in the locality — the flames of the conflagration illuminating the atmosphere above the whole surrounding district.

Mrs. R. P. Davies promoted a bazaar, the proceeds of which were to defray the cost of erecting an illuminated clock in the centre of the circle. The bazaar proved a success in every sense of the word; a large sum of money was realised; excavation for the purpose of laying the foundation was commenced without delay; the pillar, cylindrical column, and clock were erected and completed in the early part of 1858. The clock and column combined is a pretty ornamental structure, an adornment to the town, and a credit to its designer, Mr. Jordan, of Newport. Upon the base of the column is the following inscription: — "Presented to the town of Tredegar from the proceeds of a Bazaar, promoted by Mrs. R. P. Davies. Erected 1858."

During 1858 a building society was formed, promoted by Mr. W. Bevan, which resulted in the erection of five rows at Vale Terrace, or Cinder Tip, in 1859 and succeeding years. By this scheme a large number of workmen became owners instead of being rentpayers. The functions of the society were carried on in a most economical manner, each member having his house in his possession £20 less than the cost of erection. The site was granted free of ground-rent until the completion of the houses. A certain number of houses were to be completed previous to the commencement of operations on another block. The completed houses were occupied while others were in course of erection, and the rent received therefrom added to the capital of the society. Officers were appointed by the society to inspect the building operations, &c. whose services were rendered gratuitously. Thus every action and every item was utilised for the benefit of the members, with the foregoing result.

"Mind your No. 1" was the motto of 1859, and never in the annals of the town were words chronicled or uttered which electrified the inhabitants of the town to such an extent, and created among them such a stir, which ended in such important results. These few words were the utterance of a "Cheap Jack" named Richard Rees, while praising from his rostrum the valuable articles he offered on sale to the public. "Gentlemen, mind your number one ," was his expression at the commencement of each sentence, and "Fellow workmen, mind your number one," at the end of each sentence. This remarkable "Cheap Jack," although not possessing great oratorical abilities, was, like the majority of the same craft, fluent in speech and eloquent in expression with the words at his command. Every word uttered was clear and distinct, pithy and homethrust; and such a command had he on the large and eager crowd that collected

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to listen to him that were he but to utter "mind your number one," their voices would rend the skies. Such an influence had he in describing the "worthless and spurious articles sold for extortionate prices" by tradesmen, compared with the "cheap but superior articles" sold by himself, that the eager crowd purchased every article without hesitation, and in many cases unnecessary articles were purchased. His vehement denunciations of the "tricks of trade," his popularity, surrounded every evening by an immense throng of ardent admirers, created an envy of him in the tradesmen of the town in general. He was also a temperance orator, every evening discussing the ruinous effects of drink and denouncing the trade. In striking this chord his popularity was further increased, and men of high social standing began to listen and admire his eloquent "mind your number one." Allusions were made in every speech to illtreatment and insults given him for teaching the public to "mind their number one," rotten eggs, he said, were thrown at him, and menaces fell upon his ears in the streets. Whether these statements were correct or not we cannot say, but one thing is certain, they were believed by the eager crowd of listeners, and whatever he uttered was received as truth. These statements created a great amount of sympathy with him, and increased the number of purchasers immensely every evening. He arranged with his numerous customers to close the sale every evening at an appointed time, and afterwards devote an hour or so to deliver temperance orations. This arrangement was publicly announced, and received with the greatest satisfaction. The result was astonishing, hundreds signed the pledge, temperance societies sprang into existence, temperance choirs were established, and temperance meetings were held every evening in the open air, in places of worship, and under the Cheap Jack's rostrum. Ministers of the gospel, leading members of every denomination, agents, overmen, in fact all grades and classes advocated his teaching. Large processions were formed every evening, parading the streets, singing temperance verses adapted to some well known tune. On a certain evening one of these processions marched over Cefngoleu towards Rhymney, and after passing through Rhymney, returned to Tredegar through Tavarnaubach, &c. This procession was preceded by a cart containing two well known characters, viz., Mr. Thomas Howells (Twm Ffald Geryg), and Mr. David Jones (Dai Tinker); suspended to a pole fixed in the centre of the cart was a small cask with both ends taken out; a naptha lamp properly fixed at one end, and a large placard at the other end of the cask, with the following witty inscription: — "We can see through, you now." Public-houses were deprived of customers, seldom could an inhabitant of the town be seen entering their doors; and even of those who were compelled by business to call at at public-house, very few

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had the pluck to enter boldly, without casting a sneaking glance around, lest some person or persons who knew them should have occasion to be suspicious of their temperance sincerity. In the course of one of his speeches Cheap John made the following observation: — "Gentlemen, mind your number one, you squander your money to fatten monopolists, why not join and have a public building, a building you can call your own, where you can spend your leisure hours to divert yourselves, to edify each other, to chat over matters pertaining to your social and moral conditions, where you can indulge in a beverage that will not injure you, fellow workmen, mind your number one." The effect was electrical, a meeting was convened, and a resolution passed unanimously that a deputation should wait up on the manager, seeking his favour in granting a plot of land as a site for a Temperance Hall; the request was granted without hesitation. Being a public building it was deemed prudent that the capital required to erect the structure should be raised by public subscriptions. The estimated capital was divided into so many shares, each share to be one pound (£1), and every member to have the privilege of paying for any number of shares. The scheme was warmly advocated, agents, overmen, and others set to work assiduously collecting the names of those who were willing to become shareholders. The majority of workmen who had reached mature age took at least one share, which was deducted every pay from each shareholder's earnings to the amount of two shillings per month per share. Sufficient shares had been taken, and a committee was selected to arrange matters and to commence operations without delay.

Activity and excitement was not limited to the town alone — works were full of life; coal was in great demand for steam navigation, a large quantity supplied to the Admiralty; also large orders for rails were in hand to supply French and Russian railways. Nine furnaces in full operation, producing an increasing quantity of iron weekly, the pressure of blast was found insufficient to meet the increasing demand, which necessitated the erection of another engine to increase the blowing power. The engine-house and "Big Blast engine" were in course of erection in 1859, and completed in 1860. This engine at that period was the largest in South Wales — its steam cylinder measuring 57½in. in diameter; blowing cylinder 12 feet in diameter; and its beam weighing 62 tons!

Sufficient supply of gas could not be manufactured at the old gas works; and its situation in the centre of the town rendered it dangerous in case of an accident and being in an elevated position, experience had proved that descending gas was not so pure as ascending gas. Hence the necessity of erecting gas works on another site became evident from the above various reasons. The present

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gas works were erected in 1859-60, but gas was not manufactured for a long time afterwards.

After the decision of the Government to organize the Volunteer force, immediate interest was taken in the organization of a Volunteer Company at Tredegar, and among the chief promoters was Mr. R. P. Davies. An excellent company was formed, and in a short time it was well drilled, many of its members possessed a remarkable skill with the rifle, and the manager took a personal interest in all its movements. When the company made its first appearance in the streets in military costume, great excitement was created among the inhabitants, and the multitudes who flocked to see the Volunteers marching through the streets gave evident proof of the hold the movement had upon them.

Early in 1860 excavating operations for laying the foundation stone of the Temperance Hall had commenced, and were carried on vigorously. Mr. Davies' health at this time had failed, and he was scarcely able to leave the house, yet the committee prevailed upon him to be present, and to perform the ceremony of laying the foundation stone. The ceremony was performed in the presence of a large concourse of people, when several eloquent addresses were delivered introducing the good omens of the auspicious event.

Shortly afterwards Mr. Davies was confined to his bed; dangerous symptoms made their appearance, and all hope of his recovery had vanished. On the 13th of April, 1860, he expired, leaving in his death a host of sincere admirers, weeping on account of the (to them) irreparable loss. And it will be readily admitted that society at large in the town suffered, and felt the loss keenly. Friendly societies received many good admonitions while he presided over their meetings in the Town Hall on their feast days, or when parading through the park exhibiting themselves in full regalia. Sunday schools were encouraged by annual donation; and, indeed, it was during his time that Sunday school processions became popular, and began to be held annually. On the day of his funeral a large multitude had assembled to witness the solemn scene; Volunteers had mustered in full force, and he was buried with military honours, as a last token of respect.

On the demise of Mr. Davies, Mr. T. Reed, cashier at the time, was appointed as his successor.

Mr. Reed was an amiable, inoffensive, and unassuming person. Very little alteration was made during his managerial career; trade was exceedingly steady during the whole period, and with the aid of the able staff of officials, especially Mr. William Bevan, the works were carried on successfully.

As stated, the "Big Blast Engine" had been completed at this period, and had commenced blowing. The additional pillar, or pressure of blast produced

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by this colossal machinery, and the various improvements in heating the blast by utilizing the furnace gases, &c., were the means of a great increase in the quantity of iron; each furnace producing a weekly average of over 200 tons of iron. The large mill manufactured on an average between twelve and thirteen hundred tons of finished iron weekly. Coal was sent away in large quantities for foreign consumption; and as the works were so prosperous the town appeared full of life and activity.

Teetotalism was rife, and nearly every person who had signed the pledge had become a public, if not a proficient, orator. "Cheap John" made his second appearance, stimulating the movement with "mind your number one," and at the same time doing an immense trade. Rumours were abroad that he had clandestinely broken his pledge, and that he was at that very time "drinking on the sly;" but if true no person came forward to support the rumours, and Cheap John went on successfully with minding his own number one.


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