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Gwent local history


54 Spring 1983

A history of the British Ironworks, Abersychan

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A History of the
British Ironworks, Abersychan
by Kim Colebrook
The industrial history of Gwent owes a great deal to the Eastern
Valley, on the edge of the coalfield. The two great centres of Blaenavon
and Pontypool have been well researched and documented. It is often
forgotten that the rest of this area was also deeply involved in the
industrial revolution; and as a result they have been ignored in terms
of research.
The British Ironworks Abersychan, is one such ignored development.
As a result I decided to look into its history for my third year college
thesis. It cannot be said to be the definitive work for several data
sources were neglected due to the pressure of time.
This article is taken from the full project with the exclusion of several
figures and plates.
The British Iron Company was attracted to the area, as were many
other companies, by the prospect of making a great deal of money
through the use of the area's natural resources. Abersychan was one of
the areas they selected for development, some of the others being Aber-
crave, Ruabon, Neath Vale, Newbridge, Corngreaves and Brierley Hill.1
However, the Abersychan works were the most important to the British
Iron Company and had a checkered history.
It can be assumed that the Company were investigating the Eastern
Valley from the early part of the 1820's. By 2nd August 1825 the location
had been decided upon and the Directors of the Abersychan works,
namely Small, Shears and Taylor, and the Lords and Ladies of the
Manor of Wentsland and Bryngwyn had signed the sixty year lease
which entitled the British Iron Company to raise coal, limestone, iron-
stone, building stone, clay and sand over 1236 acres (500 hectares) of
their land near Abersychan. It also allowed them to use the water
which passed over and through this area. For these rights an annual
surface rent of £ 401.5s.6d. ( £ 401.27^) and a mineral rent of £ 5,625 had
to be paid as well as a galeage (royalty) of 4/6d. (221p) per tonne of
pig or plate iron produced.
This was a very high rent as the majority of the old concerns paid
very little or no mineral rent.2 There appears to have been a fourth
director involved in the original negotiations but because of his financial
background he was not acceptable to the other party; this held up the
signing of the contracts. The Company also purchased nine small adjoin-
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