RISCA INDUSTRIAL HISTORY MUSEUM & OHIHS

The development of Pontymister

Tony Jukes

Pontymister Works

The Pontymister ironworks began in 1801. First it was connected by a tramroad to the canal, but when the tramroad from Newport to Sirhowy was opened in 1805, the ironworks tramroad was connected with the Sirhowy tramroad. In the 1830’s much pig iron was received from the Cwm Celyn and Blaina ironworks near the head of the valley and bar iron sent to Newport.

Advert All of the various owners of the Pontymister ironworks for the first forty years were in financial difficulties, and most were bankrupted. This sale notice from an 1806 newspaper following the first such bankruptcy reveals that there were 19 workmen’s houses within the works site.

The 1843 tithe map of Risca shows that the Pontymister ironworks had not brought growth, housing development and prosperity, in its 40 years existence. What little housing there was had developed along the tramroad.

Tithe Map

Pontymister Works 379-382 Owner - Sir Charles Morgan (Tredegar Est.), Occupier - John Lewis & Co.
Ty Isha 354, 356-359, 376, 378, 389-91, 401, etc Owner - Sir Charles Morgan (Tredegar Est.), Occupier - William Rosser.
Duffryn Clyd 392, 480-482 Owners - William Treharne Rees and Phillip Rees, Occupier - William Davies.
Ty Mawr (Risca House) 326-333, 402-406 (330 Farm buildings 329 House) Owner - Charles Phillips Esq., Occupier - Charles Phillips Esq.
Ty Mawr Farm 318-325 Owner - John Rosser, Occupier - John Rosser.
413-415, 428 Owner - John Rosser, Occupier - Edward Duffield Senior (of Bridge End Inn).
397 Public House, Malt House, etc. Owner - Charles Phillips Esq., Occupiers - Charles Phillips Esq. and William Giles. This is the “Masons’ Arms”.
399 Cottages - This is now Mill Row Owner - Charles Phillips Esq., Occupier - Thomas Cross.
407 Mill House, cottages, etc. Owner - Charles Phillips Esq., Occupiers - Joseph Sottle and Edward Jenkins.
408 Warehouse & cottage Owner - Charles Phillips Esq., Occupiers - Joseph Sottle and Edward Jenkins. These persons also held from Charles Phillips fields 412 and 429 on which the Pontymister foundry was built, and field 427 through which the works tramroad must have run en route to the canal.
387 The “Risca House” public house Owner - William Duffield, Occupier - Daniel Phillips.
388 An adjoining garden held by William Duffield from Mary Thomas.
441a Public house & garden Occupier - John Phillips. This unidentified public house alongside the tramroad was the “New Inn”, long since demolished.
387 The “Risca House” public house Owner - William Duffield, Occupier - Daniel Phillips.
388 An adjoining garden held by William Duffield from Mary Thomas. The land around Duffryn Clyd was held by four different owners, very much split up, under five different tenants.
417 Cottage & garden Owner - Charles Phillips Esq., Occupier - Edward Duffield Senior (or his under-tenants, as he was owner/occupier of Bridge End, Risca).
431 Cottage Owner - Charles Phillips Esq. (at entrance to Duffryn Clyd).
442 Cottages & gardens Owner - Charles Phillips Esq., Occupier - Edward Matthews.
443 Cottage & garden Owner - Charles Phillips Esq., Occupier - Lewis Edwards.
445 Cottage & garden Occupier - Thomas Phillips.
416 Cottages & gardens Owner - Thomas Morris, Occupiers - William Gimlet, Thomas Beard.

Fields Road Mill House

Rolling Mill Pub Eventually, the works was purchased by the Banks brothers around 1845 and became a tinplate works. They prospered, and Pontymister as we know it today began to grow. Beerhouses, public houses, commercial hotels, shops and houses grew up around the entrance to the works (note some of the names - the Rolling Mill, the Forge Hammer). More development took place along the main road to the north. The Monmouthshire Canal Company’s tramroad was converted to a railway in 1850 and the Britannia Foundry opened by Charles Jordan in 1854 alongside the railway line.

Some of this development can be seen on the following OS map of 1883.

Risca Road

OS Map

Crossing

P.S. Phillips, owner of the Abertillery tinplate works, purchased the Pontymister tinplate works in 1880, trading as the Pontymister Tin Plate Company. He added a steel works, erected at a cost of £30,000, to make 1,000 tons of steel per week by the Siemen’s process to supply Pontymister and his other works. His wife was the daughter of Edward Robothan of Risca, surgeon, whose house, The Grove, is the present Oxford House. They lived at Crumlin Hall. In June 1891 Congressman William McKinley, later the 25th President of the United States, brought about the imposition of a tariff on imported tinplate to enable the U.S.A. to build up its own tinplate industry. This led to a demand for tinplate at a lower price to compensate for the tariff, all works producing to full capacity, new mills being erected everywhere, and a glut of tinplate. By 1893, the Pontymister tinplate works comprised 12 mills.

Pontymister Works 1890

Pontymister Steelworks The year 1893 was a poor one, dogged by industrial disputes. In the coal industry, this year was marked by a long strike over the Sliding Scale, and brought a lot of industry dependent on coal to a standstill. When this dispute was resolved, Phillips summoned his men back to the steelworks on the proviso that they accepted reductions in wages. This they refused to accept and were locked out. Phillips laid off all the men in the tinplate works related to the steel men, thus cutting off all financial support to the men and their families. To break this deadlock over wages and get the works back in production, Phillips engaged a Scottish strike breaker, Graeme Hunter, to bring in men to operate the steelworks. On Christmas Day 1893, a deputation of two men asked permission of the police to enter the works and talk to the strike breakers, but permission was refused. Incensed by the attitude of the police, stones and clinker were thrown as the men rushed the police lines in an attempt to enter the works. The riot act was read, and a fierce baton charge drove back the men. Twelve men identified as ringleaders were arrested, and committed for trial at the Monmouthshire Assizes. Five men appeared in court with bandaged heads. It was said that 13 police batons were broken in the charge. They were found guilty and received prison sentences from six to nine months, but after great public protest the men were freed after serving four months.

Pontymister Last Tap The company was bankrupt in 1896 and eventually purchased by Henry White and Company, who owned the Pontymister foundry. In 1921 this company amalgamated with Messrs Partridge, Jones and John Paton, Limited. The last ingot was rolled on 20th January 1962, some mill employees also in the local Territorial Army unit bringing their bugles to sound the last post. The works completely closed with the opening of Llanwern steelworks.

With the closing of Broad’s foundry in 2004, so ended 200 years of iron-making in Risca.

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