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The Pioneers of the Carmarthenshire Iron Industry

Assistant County Archivist for Carmarthenshire.

IN recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in the county's early iron industry, more particularly concerning the activities of Robert Morgan of Carmarthen in the mid-eighteenth century.1 But our knowledge of the foundation and early history of the industry is limited, owing to the past scarcity of documentary evidence. The recent discovery of some such material does contribute towards a partial reconstruction of the story and it is the intention of this article to relate the development of the industry in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

The ironworks of the county, according to the lists of forges and furnaces compiled in the first half of the 18th century, were at Whitland, Cwmbran, Cwmdwyfran, Llandyfan and Kidwelly (Appendix A)2 It should be noted that these lists were not complete, as the furnace at Ponthenry can be added. The siting of all early ironworks was governed by two factors, the need of a regular water supply and the necessity of obtaining charcoal as cheaply as possible. Power for the bellows and the tilt hammers was provided by a water-wheel ; this meant the forge or furnace had to be placed on or near the banks of a swiftly running stream, which could provide a constant and regular flow of water throughout the year. The fuel used in the smelting and refining processes was charcoal. The ironmasters, mindful of the difficulties and expense of transport, were thus forced to site their works in the well timbered parts of the county. The combination of these two factors meant that several of these industries were sited inland and in places that, today, are remote from the main centres of population and industry.

Whitland Forge

The forge was situated in Llangan parish, some 2 miles north of the market town of Whitland. The actual site was near Whitland Abbey, at the junction of two streams, the Gronw and Nant Colomendy. All that remains today is the leat that once conveyed water to the forge ponds. This plentiful supply of water and the large acreage of woodlands in the vicinity clearly prompted the foundation of the works at this spot. The main disadvantage was the need to import pig iron and limestone, items which must have caused a considerable transport problem.

Evidence for the date of the foundation of the Whitland works points to 1636. Following a petition from the Company of Mineral and Battery Works, a commission of inquiry was appointed, making its report on 10 May of that year.3 The commissioners recommended that a licence be granted to George Mynne "to erect and employ two forges and one ffurnace" to manufacture "osmund iron", as well as "raw iron and merchant iron".4 The grant was to be for 21 years. It should be noted that no specific location of these iron-works was made by the commissioners, but Whitland was clearly in their minds, as they further recommended that Mynne be allowed to cut timber and convert it into charcoal within a 12 mile radius of Whitland Abbey.5 The report of the commissioners was confirmed on 26 July 1636, when Letters Patent were granted by the crown.6

George Mynne of Epsom was one of the foremost industrialists of his day. He was clerk of the Hanaper and a deputy governor of the Company of Mineral and Battery Works. In 1627, Mynne and his partner, Sir Basil Brooke, obtained the valuable ironworks concessions in the Forest of Dean, despite severe opposition from several interested parties.7 Their tenure at the Forest of Dean lasted until 1636; a commission of Gyre, held in that year, compelled them to relinquish their lease and pay a heavy fine. George Mynne appears to have been prepared for this eventuality, for he immediately acquired the Whitland concession. As well as his Carmarthenshire interests, he had ironworks in the Bristol area and in Monmouthshire.

Mynne's first task, after the granting of the Letters Patent, was to lease land for the construction of his works. From whom he obtained this lease is not known, though it is possible that the Brett family were in possession of the Whitland Abbey estate at this date.

Ten years later, in 1646, their ownership of the property can be established,8 and as early as 1605 Alexander Brett had purchased part of the possessions of the dissolved abbey.9 Whoever he dealt with, Mynne was clearly successful in obtaining the tenancy of the abbey. Nearby he built his ironworks.

The exact nature of the ironworks built at Whitland has yet to be ascertained. Undoubtedly a forge was built here, but was there more than one works constructed? It is noticeable that the 1636 commision of inquiry had recommended the construction of two forges and a furnace. Another source speaks of George Mynne being seized in his lifetime of "various ironworks and forges for iron in or near Whitland Abbey."10 Yet another factor that should be considered is the two ponds which are said to have existed at the site. Although the evidence is slender, it does seem possible that Mynne's concern at Whitland did consist of more than one works.

As well as the construction of the iron works, George Mynne began to acquire and cut the numerous forests and woodlands in the district. But the zeal with which he conducted his business soon brought complaints. In May 1638, a protest was made to the Privy Council regarding the wholesale deforestation of the countryside; over half of Whitland wood, described as the stock timber of the area, had disappeared.11 Despite the request for an order of restraint, nothing appears to have been done. Mynne continued his activities, in the following year, 1639, appointing William Rutland as his agent at the works.

A Chancery lawsuit shows that Rutland managed the Whitland forge during the civil war period.12 Local tradition has always asserted that the forge produced cannonballs for Cromwell, hut this is the first documentary evidence that proves conclusively that the works were in operation in the 1640s. There can surely be no doubt now, that Whitland was one of the Carmarthenshire forges and furnaces that Oliver Cromwell was referring to, when he wrote to the County Commissioners in 1648, requesting ammunition.13

These years of civil war brought some measure of prosperity to the Whitland works, but to the owner, George Mynne, the decade brought financial loss, deprivation of personal freedom and finally death. In 1643, the crown confiscated property valued at £40,000, and in the same year, wire belonging to the Mynne-Brooke partnership was seized by the Parliamentary side. Charles I imprisoned him for compliance with Parliament: Parliament declared him a delinquent and levied a fine. Mynne was caught between two fires. Even after his death, in April 1648, his estate was not free from the penalties levied earlier. Despite the losses to the crown and £16,000 advanced to the Parliamentary cause, Anne Mynne, his widow, had to beg for an abatement of the fine of delinquency in 1649.14

George Mynne also suffered severe financial losses at the Whitland works. In 1654, his widow began an action in Chancery, alleging the embezzlement of £11,600 by William Rutland between the years 1640 and 1648.15 The bill of complaint stated that Rutland's annual accounts had been inaccurate and that money was due on several other counts, including the rent of the Abbey in 1643. In his answer, Rutland admitted that there had been a deficiency over the years, but stated that all his debts had been made good and that a general acquittance had been obtained in June 1647. His answer also stated that Mynne mortgaged the premises to a Mr. Barlow and sold the iron stock at the forge to Thomas Foley of London. Although the outcome of the case is not known, several interesting points are revealed. What is surprising is that Mynne, a City merchant and an eminent industrialist, should have allowed Rutland to accumulate this huge debt. The troubled nature of the times and Mynne's personal difficulties may partly explain this. Another significant point is the large amount of capital involved in the iron business. Sums of well over £10,000 are mentioned. Rutland's debts were in this region. Mynne, in 1643, valued his Carmarthenshire property at £17,000 and his widow in 1654 stated that the works were worth £10,000 per annum.

Finally, an examination of Rutland's position in the early 1650s shows that there might well have been some truth in Anne Mynne's accusations. By 1653, he was in a position to lease part of the Whitland Abbey estate16 and at some unspecified date had sufficient capital to engage in the construction of a new forge at Kidwelly. He was involved in financial and legal transactions with with the Stepneys of Pendergast and Owen Brigstocke of Llechdwnni17 and acted as the agent for the local County Commissioners in their dealings with the Committee of Compounding in London.18 His social and financial position had advanced considerably in the decade following his appointment as agent in 1639.

From April 1647 the rents of the Whitland Abbey estate were received by the Carmarthen County Commissioners; this followed the sequestration of the lands of Robert Brett. Four years later, in 1651, Richard White appealed against this, stating that in a judgement obtained against Brett in December 1646, the site of the abbey and a moiety of the estate were conveyed to him. In October 1653, the local commissioners admitted that this was the case, but they had already contracted with William Rutland for a lease of part of the estate; in August a draft lease of lands in Llangan and Llanboidy parishes had been prepared and sent to London for approval. A reply from the Committee of Compounding, dated 11 November of that year, disallowed the contract to Rutland as "not let according to instructions."19 Whether this meant that White was granted the property is not known, but Rutland was still described as "of Whitland Abbey" a year or so later.20 His continued presence at the abbey indicates his possession of the forge as well, but there is no evidence to show whether he was operating the works in the 1650s. How long he stayed at Whitland is not known, but he was still active in West Wales in 1662, being involved in a lawsuit against Arthur Owen of Orielton in that year.21

The Abbey Estate eventually returned to the Brett family. Robert Brett, by his will of 15 June 1689, bequeathed the property to his daugther, Margaret, who later married Charles Bludworth. The tenancy of the forge in the late seventeenth century has yet to be revealed; the papers of the Brett and Bludworth families might possibly disclose this information. In the early 1700s the forge was clearly in operation, being accredited with a production rate of approximately 80 tons in 1717 (Appendix A). Five years later, on 1 October 1722, Peter Chetle of Furnace in Llangendeirne parish obtained a lease of the property from Thomas Bludworth.22

Cwmbran Forge
The forge called 'Combrayne' in the 1717 list of forges has been identified as an ironworks on the banks of a stream called Nant Ring in Abernant parish, half a mile south west of Clawddgoch.23 The evidence for this identification was based on 2" Ordnance Survey maps published between 1809 and 1836, the area in question being surveyed in 1811 and 1812. The relevant map shows a farm named Cwmbran on the brow of the hill overlooking the Nant Ring valley. By the time of the compilation of the tithe map of the parish in the early 1840s, this small farm had disappeared, although the field on which the farm had stood was still called Cwmbran. Today, Blaenbran farm stands in or near the site of the old Cwmbran.

Apart from this identification, there is no other evidence to show that an ironworks was operated in this valley. The Thomas Kitchin and Emmanuel Bowen maps of Carmarthenshire, compiled in the first half of the eighteenth century, make no reference to the forge, although they show the other local ironworks. The same is true of the Ordnance Survey maps mentioned above. There is no evidence of any ruins on the banks of Nant Ring and nothing to indicate the existence of a dam, which must have been constructed there, if a forge had worked nearby. Furthermore, there is no known local tradition of an iron forge and what is most revealing, no place or field name can be found to indicate such a works. At all other forges and furnaces in Carmarthenshire, place names have survived, archaeological evidence can still be found and local people still speak of former industrial activities — but not at Cwmbran in Abernant parish. Until further evidence is forthcoming, one should treat the identification of 'Combrayne' at this particular spot with a great deal of care.

Wherever the forge was sited, it was clearly not a large undertaking. From the evidence of the lists of forges (Appendix A), which are the only known documentary proof of the existence of this works, Cwmbran was one of the smallest iron works in the United Kingdom, producing only 60 tons a year in the boom days of the mid-eighteenth century. Questions such as who owned the property, who built the forge and when, how much rent was paid and by whom, can only be answered when the manuscript material is discovered. As far as is known, the forge never became part of the network of industries in the possession of the Chetle family, and later of Robert Morgan of Carmarthen.

Cwmdwyfran Forge
The forge was sited on the banks of the River Gwili in Newchurch parish, some 4 miles north of the town of Carmarthen. Originally, a water corn grist mill called Cribbyn Coch Mill stood here, but the availability of a good water supply and the abundance of timber in the area obviously influenced the transformation of the premises for iron production. When this occurred is not known, but the conversion had certainly been undertaken by 1717. In the mid nineteenth century the forge reverted to its original purpose, that of a corn mill. Today a small farm stands on the site, but it is possible that some of the farm buildings were used as part of the ironworks. Other visible signs of previous industrial activity are the mill leat that still brings water some 800 yards from the River Gwili, and the tokens which are occasionally discovered at the site.

Like Cwmbran, the earliest known reference to the forge will be found in the 1717 list of forges (Appendix A). This evidence clearly refutes the suggestion that Robert Morgan of Carmarthen started the works,24 as he was only 9 years of age at this date. The free-hold of the premises was presumably vested in the Lewis family of Cwmdwyfran and Barnsfield, who are known to have leased the works to Robert Morgan in the 1750s.25 Any earlier tenancies have not yet been ascertained. No reference has been found to the Chetle family in connection with Cwmdwyfran, and it is not yet clear when Morgan obtained his lease. The forge like many others in Carmarthenshire and South Wales was forced to close down in the depression of the mid 1730s. This closure was merely a temporary setback by 1750 the plant was in operation again, producing 120 tons of iron annually (Appendix A).

Llandyfan Forge
Home The ruins of this forge are very similar in outline to the layout of the site in 1789,26 and it is possible that what can be seen at Forge Llandyfan today are the remains of the original ironworks. The forge was sited on the left bank of the upper reaches of the River Loughor, about 3 1/2 miles north east of Ammanford. As with other ironworks, the proximity of raw materials led to the location of a forge at this particular spot. Iron ore was mined on the Black Mountain, and the number of disused quarries in the vicinity testify to the amount of limestone that was found locally. Timber was in plentiful supply, especially lower down the valley. A good supply of water was obtained by the construction of a large stone structure across part of the valley and by diverting the river into the lake that formed behind the wall. A sluice gate fed water to the forge located immediately below the dam. The site is now greatly overgrown, but the ruins of the wall and of some of the buildings are still to be seen.

There is no indication that Llandyfan Forge was in operation as early as the Civil War period. A mid seventeenth century rental of the estates of the Vaughans of Golden Grove, on whose lands the forge stood, makes no mention of the industry.27 Another rental of November 1669 again contains no reference.28 But from an additional entry in this latter rental we obtain our first glimpse of Iskennen Forge, as Llandyfan was sometimes called. Unfortunately, no dates are given and there is no indication whether this marks the construction of the works.

The first known lessor of the Llandyfan Forge was William Davies of Dryslwyn, presumably taking up his lease in 1669 or soon afterwards. William Davies was a man of some considerable wealth. He held property at Dryslwyn from the Vaughan estate, leased other property in Pembrey parish and was at one time the lessor of the lordship of Vairdre. He acted as an agent for part of the Golden Grove estate and from 1669 to 1692 was tenant of Kidwelly Forge. His activities at Llandyfan are not known, beyond that he paid an annual rent of £60 and one ton of iron, and that at an unspecified date assigned the lease of the forge to a Mr Ashey or Astrey;29 the activities of this gentleman have likewise to be discovered.

The next tenant of the ironworks was William Spencer of Carmarthen. On 23 December 1702, he leased the Forge, the Forge Mill, and other lands, now part of Llwyndewi Farm, his tenure running for 15 years from Michaelmas 1700.30 The lease shows that the works were in need of repair and that the value of the property had dropped considerably. The Earl of Carbery allowed £30 towards repairs and the agreed rent of £33 per annum was a substantial reduction on the £60 paid by the previous tenant. William Spencer remains a person of mystery. Although described as 'of Carmarthen,' no other reference to him has been found. He obtained no official position in the borough of Carmarthen and is not even described as a burgess of the corporation. The scope of his activities at Llandyfan are likewise unknown; by 1712, the premises were in the possession of Thomas Chetle of Walhouse, Worcestershire.

Ponthenry Furnace
"Haiarnwr o Sweden a ddaeth ar anturiaeth,

Mewn ysbryd brwdfrydig a byw am waith ha'rn,

Ond arno'n amheus y Ilygadai'r gym'dogaeth, Nes iddi gael sylfaen i newid ei barn ;

Yn rhoddiad bodolaeth y Ffwrnes, a'r Tawdd-dy, Dwfrolwyn dwy fegin, yn llanw eu lle,

A chloddfan ar gyfoeth o fwyn wedi'i soddi—Y Ffwrnes gyneuodd mewn taran `hwre'."31

This stanza, taken from a poem published in the first decade of this century, tells of the foundation of the furnace by a Swedish ironmaster. The poet speaks of the construction of the furnace, a smelting house, a water wheel and two bellows and the sinking of an iron ore mine. He dates these events sometime in the reign of Elizabeth I. In his next stanzas, he states that the Swede built a small mansion and that his venture was a successful one, especially when the crown ordered the manufacture of cannonballs for the war against Spain. But in the midst of this prosperity the owner died and the furnace stopped production.

This is the only known reference to the foundation and early life of Ponthenry Furnace. Whether the poem was based on firm evidence or on local tradition is not known. The latter is the more likely, as very little in the poem can be verified, although a number of half truths can be discerned. In all probability the furnace was a Tudor foundation, as there is definite evidence of its existence around 1611, and it is not inconceivable that a Swedish ironmaster operated here. Continental influence was well known in the Tudor iron industry, Dutch and German workers being employed in the Glamorgan works at this time.32

The furnace was established on the left bank of the River Gwendraeth Fawr in Llangendeirne parish, to the south of the present day village of Ponthenry. The ruins of the furnace that can be seen today are not necessarily those of the original works, as there is strong evidence to suggest that the site of the first furnace was some 50 to 100 yards nearer Ponthenry bridge. The water supply used by the works came from a small stream flowing into the Gwendraeth, and not, as one might suspect, from the river itself. A leat conveyed the water from the stream at a point just below the present Red Lion Inn across a field called Rhace or Tyr yr Efel to the furnace buildings; the outline of part of this leat can still be seen. Iron ore, as the poem shows, was found near the site and there was a ready supply of timber in the locality.

The poem states that a Cornish gentleman reopened the furnace some 20 years after the death of its Swedish founder. The Cornishman must be a reference to Hugh Grundy of Llangendeirne, who worked the furnace in the early seventeenth century, although nothing has been found in Tudor or early Stuart records to indicate whether he came from Cornwall. The surname Grundy occurs most commonly in Lancashire and also appears in Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Herefordshire.33 Further research into the archives of these counties might well reveal more about Hugh Grundy.

The earliest reference to his Carmarthenshire activities is dated around 1611. An examination of witnesses before a Duchy of Lancaster inquiry on 23 September 1615 revealed that Grundy, three or four years previously, had purchased 200 cords of wood for his iron furnace from Lewis Morgan of Forest and had been working iron ore pits in the locality for at least 2 years.34 The commission of inquiry had been ordered to investigate the franchises of the Duchy in the area, including mineral and timber rights. This led to the examination of Hugh Grundy's activities and the temporary closure of his mines and the furnace. Grundy evidently vindicated himself, as the furnace was in production again in the following decade. His industrial interests were not only confined to the production of iron. In 1620 the crown granted a patent for "chalking earth fuel" to be used in the smelting of iron. The invention of this process was attributed to Hugh Grundy.35 As well as foreseeing future developments in iron Grundy engaged himself in the small coal mining industry in the Llanelli area.36 This may have caused the antagonism that existed between him and Walter Vaughan of Llanelli, another local industrialist and coal magnate. This animosity led to the closure of the furnace yet again. Around 1629, a lawsuit between Vaughan and Grundy concerning the lands called Rhace, and later called Tyr yr Efel, went in favour of Vaughan. The leat which "went over this Ground to turne Mr. Grundy's Iron furnace....was then turned out by Mr. Vaughan. And the furnace wrought noe more."37 This closure of Ponthenry Furnace clearly illustrates the importance of water to the industry.

The history of the furnace for the remainder of the century is rather uncertain. It is not known whether Hugh Grundy reopened the furnace; the poem implies this by stating that ammunition for Cromwell was manufactured here. Although there is no firm evidence to support this view, there is every possibility that this did occur. Both Hugh Grundy and his son, Ralph, were ardent Cromwellian supporters, though personal vendetta against the Vaughan interests in Carmarthenshire seems to have motivated their actions more than any convictions for the Parliamentary cause.38

The furnace property eventually descended to Lucy Grundy, daughter of James Grundy and granddaughter of Hugh Grundy. She married Anthony Morgan, a descendant of the Morgans of Plas in Llandeilo Abercywyn parish.39 Several references have been found to the Morgans of Furnace in the latter half of the 17th century, but nothing that definitely connects them with the production of iron. Anthony Morgan and his son, John, did however lease the lands called Rhace or Tyr yr Efel and this might well indicate their interest in the leat and the working of the furnace.40

This same land with its watercourse was again in dispute at the end of the century. Elizabeth Morgan, the widow of John Morgan of Furnace, and Thomas their son were involved in a law-suit with Margaret Vaughan, the widow of John Vaughan of Llanelli41. The case was settled out of court and an agreement was drawn up on 5 January 1697, whereby the Morgan family gave up their claim to the property and in return were granted a 99 year lease of the watercourse.42 The necessity of a regular supply of water was all the more urgent at this particular time, as a few months previously, on 10 July 1696, Thomas Morgan and his mother had leased their furnace property to Thomas Chetle.43

Kidwelly Forge
Home The site of this industry was on the east bank of the River Gwendraeth Fach, a mile and a half north east of the town of Kidwelly. The proximity of iron ore and limestone deposits on Mynydd y Garreg and timber from the woodlands of Wenallt and Coed y Brenin clearly prompted the foundation of the forge here. At a point where the river flows into a small ravine, a stone dam with two sluice gates was constructed. That there were two sluices indicates the existence of two waterwheels, which would explain the description of double forge applied to this particular iron works in the seventeenth century. The forge itself lay directly beneath the dam wall and was bounded on either side by the two streams flowing from the sluice gates. A small reservoir now covers the site of the forge building, though some of the outbuildings are still to be seen.

The forge was built on part of Macs Gwenllian farm, owned by Owen Brigstocke of Llechdwnni. A lease of the property at an annual rent of £7 was made to William Rutland of Whitland Abbey.44 The tenure of the lease was for three lives, namely John Rutland, Elizabeth Rutland and another, as yet unknown, but possibly William Rutland himself. The exact date of this indenture and the subsequent construction of the works is not known, but these events probably took place sometime between 1648 and 1658.

By this latter date, William Rutland appears to have left Kidwelly. There is no actual proof of this, but a lease of the Wenallt Forest, made at Michaelmas 1658 to John Rutland and John Moorer, two ironmasters, indicates that new tenants had taken charge of the forge.45 This partnership definitely held the lease of the forge in 1665; Owen Brigstocke, in that year, records the payment of the £7 rent by Rutland and Moorer, a rent which they paid regularly until Michaelmas 1669.46

Sometime in the following 12 months, Rutland and Moorer resigned their interests at the forge. By November 1669 they had surrendered their lease of the Wenallt47 and in a letter written in January 1670, John Moorer indicates his intention of leaving the district.48 The forge lease was assigned to Sir Henry Vaughan of Derwydd, but he appears to have reassigned it almost immediately.49 A Thomas Taylour, who remains unidentified, paid the half yearly rent to Owen Brigstocke in May 1670, and William Davies of Dryslwyn paid the Michaelmas rent.50

Behind these moves can be discerned the influence of the Vaughans of Golden Grove. In a rental compiled in November 1669, John Rutland and John Moorer are recorded as paying £66 13 4 for Kidwelly Double Forge.51 An earlier rental of 1665 makes no reference to such a payment52 and no other evidence has been found to indicate why such a payment was made. It must be assumed that some legal transaction took place between the forgemasters and Richard Vaughan, Earl of Carbery, involving the Kidwelly iron works. What is significant is that the Golden Grove estate clearly had some measure of influence at Kidwelly Forge. This might explain the assignment of the lease to Sir Henry Vaughan of Derwydd and the eventual transfer of the property to William Davies of Dryslwyn, who at this same time was active at Llandyfan Forge, itself another example of the new found interest of the Vaughan family in the local iron industry. Undoubtedly, the high rents attracted the Golden Grove estate, but of far greater importance was the realization that timber sales held a high profit margin. The Wenallt woodlands, previously leased to the Rutland-Moorer partnership, were in 1669 retained in the hands of the estate. Presumably the cordwood was then sold direct to the Kidwelly ironmasters, as was done in the eighteenth century.53

William Davies' tenure at Kidwelly began sometime in 1670 and he held the lease until 1692, paying the Brigstocke family the annual rent of £7, as set down in the original lease to William Rutland.54 On 1 October 1692, William Davies sublet the forge to Henry Lewis of Kidwelly; this was the first action in a remarkable series of events which were to culminate in a Chancery lawsuit in 1700.55 The lease was for 21 years, dependant on the lives of John Rutland and Elizabeth Rutland, then the wife of John Skyrme, at an annual rent of £37. Henry Lewis' tenure was not a happy one; by 1697 the forge was in need of repairs and Lewis had acquired certain debts, especially for iron bought from a Gloucestershire furnace owned by Benedict Hall. In December of that year, he sought a partnership agreement in Kidwelly forge with Zachary Downing of Hales Owen, Shropshire, who at this time was operating the Ponthenry works. In March of the following year agreement was reached, and £100 and 14 tons of pig iron were advanced by Downing to restart the Kidwelly concern.

Soon afterwards William Brigstocke, who had been receiving the annual rent of £7 from William Davies, came to a secret agreement with Henry Lewis for the surrender of the lease. Zachary Downing and William Davies were unaware of these activities. An ejectment was served out of Great Sessions in the late summer of 1698 and possession of the forge was granted to William Brigstocke. On 5 November a fresh lease of the Macs Gwenllian Lands and the forge was granted for 21 years to Henry Owen of Glassallt at a rent of £40 per annum.56 Henry Lewis became a partner of Henry Owen in the new lease, receiving a one third share of the profits. Both William Davies and Zachary Downing were understandably annoyed at these actions, the former losing £30 profit annually and the latter having lost the capital he had invested in the forge. Davies immediately began proceedings in the Court of Great Sessions, but came to an agreement out of court, whereby he obtained a share of the £40 rent. Zachary Downing brought a suit in the Court of Chancery in 1700; he maintained that the original lease, granted by Owen Brigstocke to William Rutland, was still valid, John Rutland and Elizabeth Rutland being alive and he alleged conspiracy to defraud on the part of William Brigstocke, Henry Owen, Henry Lewis and William Davies. Brigstocke on the other hand maintained that his father only held the property for life and could therefore only grant leases for his own lifetime. Downing evidently lost the case, as Henry Owen was still tenant in 1702-3, when sued for £20 arrears of rent by William Brigstocke.57

Thomas and Peter Chetle Thomas Chetle and his son, Peter, were descendants of a well established Worcestershire family, living at Walhouse in the parish of Hanbury. The family's connections with West Wales dated back to the early seventeenth century and probably account for their interest in Carmarthenshire. In the early 1670s, Thomas Chetle was involved in a lawsuit against Mathew Prynne concerning the Priory Mill at Haverfordwest58 and 30 years later he fought a law-suit against Carmarthen Corporation over lands at Llanllwch.59 His industrial interests in the county lay at Ponthenry and Llandyfan.

The lease at the latter works was probably assigned to him by William Spencer, who held the tenancy from 1700.60 The date of the transaction has not been discovered, but occurred sometime between 1702 and 1711; the 1712 rent was paid to the Golden Grove estate in Chetle's name.61 Chetle did not reside in Carmarthenshire and, in all probability, the Llandyfan concern came under the general supervision of his son, Peter, though no actual proof of this has been found. The day to day administration was conducted by an agent; in 1713, John Steward acted in this capacity and was particularly concerned in the purchase of cordwood from the Golden Grove and Edwinsford estates.62 Thomas Chetle died in 1714, although the rent for the forge was still paid in his name, until the lease lapsed at Michaelmas 1715.

The Ponthenry Furnace was leased to Thomas Chetle on 10 July 169663 and is the first known contact of the Chetle family with the iron industry in Carmarthenshire. Chetle was granted a 50 year lease at an annual rent of £3, with liberty to make a new water-course and to repair the earth dam. He was granted land for the storage of raw materials, the erection of buildings, the burning of iron ore and the tipping of slag. In addition land was provided for the construction of a new furnace, should the old building prove unsatisfactory. Evidently this was so, as a new furnace was built at the site. This building programme must have necessitated a considerable financial outlay and would explain the very low rent on the premises. The three year partnership agreement with Zachary Downing of Hales Owen, Shropshire, made around 1700, and the £200 advanced to Chetle by Sarah Oldfield in 1709 in return for a £20 annuity, again suggest the need for more capital.64 As at Llandyfan there is no evidence to suggest that Thomas Chetle managed the furnace himself. In the early years of the lease Zachary Downing had charge of the premises,65 but by 1704, his son, Peter, had taken charge of the works.

Peter Chetle was born in 1681, the third son of Thomas Chetle. He came to live at Carmarthen when in his early twenties and soon became involved in both the industrial and public life of the area. Despite the lawsuit between his father and Carmarthen Corporation, Peter Chetle took an active interest in the affairs of the borough. There is no record of his admission as a burgess, but he had evidently obtained the freedom by 1704; in this year, he and John Lewis were elected sheriffs of the county borough.66 In the following year he obtained the freedom of the borough of Kidwelly.67 Peter Chetle's position in Carmarthenshire society was a strong one; 17 years later, he was elected to the Common Council of Carmarthen Corporation, a body which guarded its privileges zealously and in whose ranks stood many of the most powerful men in the county. Chetle was elected Mayor of the town for the year 1723-1724 and a Justice of the Peace for the following year.68

Peter Chetle was involved in the iron industry as early as 1700, being then only 19 years of age. In this year his father was in partnership with Zachary Downing at Ponthenry Furnace; Peter Chetle was the third partner.69 Although Downing ran the business during the three year term of the partnership,70 on its dissolution, Peter Chetle took over the management of the works. On 28 August 1704, he negotiated a 99 year lease from Anthony Jones of Carmarthen for a new watercourse from Cilcarw Fawr farm.71 In the following year, he obtained a lease from Dame Mary Williams of Rhedoddin of the old watercourse crossing Tyr yr Efel;72 this much disputed leat had been leased in 1697 to Thomas Morgan, the owner of the furnace, but evidently he had surrendered the lease by 1705. Water had always been one of the problems at the Ponthenry works and it is clear that the young Chetle was ensuring the safety of his power supplies.

The success of Thomas and Peter Chetle at Ponthenry in this decade can only be surmised. The £200 granted to Thomas Chetle in 1708 in return for a £20 annuity suggests the need for more capital, but for what purpose, whether to infuse life into a dying works or to develop a thriving industry, is not known. Two years later, Thomas Chetle surrendered his lease and a new one was granted to Peter Chetle on 11 January 1710;73 this is an indication of the confidence the younger Chetle had in the enterprise. Unfortunately the furnace is not listed in the 18th century lists (Appendix A), though this does not necessarily mean the works had closed. An inventory of Peter Chetle's goods in 1729 includes the raw materials and implements used at the furnace,74 indicating the continued working of the furnace.

Peter Chetle's other iron interests in Carmarthenshire were at Whitland and Kidwelly. The Whitland forge came into Chetle's hands on 1 October 1722.75 Included in the 22 year lease from Thomas Bludworth were the lordship of Llangain and lands and tithes in the parishes of Llangain, Llangan and Llanboidy. The annual rent was assessed at £550. Two years later, Peter Chetle gained possession of the Kidwelly Forge. On 2 November 1724, for a rent of £50 15 0, Chetle leased the forge, the paper mill built alongside and 80 acres of land near present day Pontyates.76 The lease was for three lives, namely his own, his wife Alice and Louis XV of France. The scale of his operations in the 1720s is not known, but judging from the amounts of cordwood purchased his works were kept busy. Between 1718 and 1729 he bought well over 600 cords of wood from the Golden Grove Estate; he also purchased timber from the property of the Williamses of Edwinsford, the Earl of Ashburnham and doubtlessly from other landowners as well.

Peter Chetle's attempt to expand his interests were shortlived. In an Exchequer lawsuit in 1728, John Campbell was awarded £324 11 0 damages and costs against Chetle; this resulted in the enforced sale out of court of the Tyr yr Efel watercourse to John Herbert of Court Henry.77 In the following year another case in the Court of Exchequer went against Chetle. Lewis Hughes of Carmarthen obtained a judgement relating to a bond of £95 1 O. To pay this debt and in consideration of a further £800, Peter Chetle sold all his iron interests to Lewis Hughes. This transaction, signed on 25 October 1729, included the leases of Whitland Forge, Kidwelly Forge, Ponthenry Furnace and the Cilcarw Fawr and Tyr yr Efel watercourses.78 Peter Chetle died a fortnight later and was buried at St. Peter's Church, Carmarthen on 5 November.79

The development of the early iron industry in Carmarthenshire, as in the rest of South Wales, owed a great deal to the activities and capital of English ironmasters, as names such as Mynne, Rutland, Moorer, Downing, Grundy and Chetle indicate. But by the second half of the eighteenth century, a local man, Robert Morgan of Carmarthen, was to dominate the county's iron industry. Peter Chetle was in fact, the last of the immigrant ironmasters. The significance of his activities lies not only in this, but also in that he began the process of amalgamation. By doing this and by transferring his interests en bloc in 1729, he presented Robert Morgan with a firm base for future expansion and for the ultimate unification of the industry under one head.
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