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National Library of Wales journal


Cyf. 7, rh. 1 Haf 1951

The uncrowned Iron King : (The first William Crawshay) /

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Fortunately, we have in the Cyfarthfa Papers, deposited in the National
Library of Wales by Captain Geoffrey Crawshay, an almost day-to-day record of
the part played by the first William Crawshay in the destiny of Cyfarthfa and the
vicissitudes of the iron industry as a whole over the entire period, 1810-1834. The
extremely rich correspondence which passed between himself and his son, and
between himself and Benjamin Hall, or Anthony Bacon, to name the more imp-
ortant correspondents, reveals every aspect of his personality and every turn of
his policy. Whether for the historian or for the novelist, or again for the psyc-
hologist, this close and full portrayal of personalities in the Cyfarthfa Papers offers
a magnificent hunting ground for research.
There can now be, in consequence, not the least excuse for the continued
neglect of the most statesmanlike of the Crawshay iron kings. In the following
pages is given a brief survey and evaluation of his career and policy as an iron mag-
nate from the date of his father's death to that of his own.
When Richard Crawshay died on 27 June 1810, leaving a fortune of £ 1,500,000,
his son, William, already rich in his own right, inherited £ 100,000 and major shares
in both the Cyfarthfa ironworks and the London House of Richard and William
Crawshay and Company. In the Cyfarthfa enterprise the partners then were
William Crawshay (three-eighths share), Benjamin Hall (three-eighths share), and
Joseph Bailey (one-quarter share). Bailey's connection with Cyfarthfa almost
immediately terminated, in January 1813, to the immense relief of his partner and
cousin, William Crawshay, who now became controlling partner with a five-eighths
share against Hall's three-eighths. So powerful a personality as Bailey was wel-
comed neither as a co-partner by the first William Crawshay, who desired sole
proprietorship, nor as a co-manager by the second William Crawshay, who desired
sole management.
With Bailey's departure and the formation of the firm of Crawshay and Hall
the ambition of the younger Crawshay was satisfied. It remained to satisfy that
of his father by the elimination of Hall from partnership. This was desirable
not only to satisfy the pride of ownership, but also because as long as Hall remained
a partner in the venture an irritating and unsatisfactory system of relationships
existed. Hall was also owner of the Rhymney Iron Works, which, according to
Wilkins, had been purchased for £ 100,000 by Richard Crawshay and presented
to Hall on the occasion of the latter's marriage to Richard's daughter, Charlotte
Crawshay. Rhymney, or Romney, as the Crawshays called it, had never fared
well as an iron works, and was extensively in debt to the Cyfarthfa enterprise, upon
which it depended for the disposal of its 'small' pig-iron. The Glamorganshire
Canal, in which Hall had a main interest, was also in Cyfarthfa's debt.
There was a natural temptation on Hall's part, therefore, to use Cyfarthfa for
the convenience of Romney. When sales were difficult, he depended upon Cyf-
arthfa to take the 'Romney metal'. He expected, moreover, a somewhat prefer-
ential price. Cyfarthfa, on the other hand, desired the Romney metal to receive
no preferential treatment, and to be taken, not for cash, but in liquidation of Rom-
ney's debt. In these circumstances lay a continual source of friction.
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