Evidence: Merthyr's early iron production

 

The table below is derived from a number of sources including H. Scrivenor's History of the Iron Trade written in 1854. Any figures from this period will be suspect because of the many ways in which production was measured.

These figures indicate the shipments of finished iron sent to Cardiff along the Glamorganshire Canal between 1803 and 1840. All figures are in tons per year.

Figures for the earlier period are rare but some estimates indicate that 36,000 tons of pig iron was produced across South Wales in 1796. and 6,000 tons of this was produced at Cyfarthfa.

 

Date

Dowlais

Cyfarthfa

Penydarren

Plymouth

1803
Total Merthyr production was about 10,000 tons
1817
9,936
14,191
8,275
7,095

1818

9,694

15,706

8,834

7,377

1819

10,796

16,646

7,549

7,633

1820

11,115

19,010

8,690

7,941

1821

12,571

18,070

10,018

9,943

1822

14,557

17,137

9,924

8,833

1823

14,025

19,452

10,240

10,920

1824

12,594

20,399

10,358

9,499

1825

15,851

23,063

10,611

11,269

1826

16,601

20,206

8,691

7,836

1827

20,726

29,312

10,369

12,907

1828

23,575

30,011

10,223

12,976

1829

23,352

24,768

10,085

13,534

1830

27,647

19,892

11,744

12,177

1831

22,075

15,465

11,819

10,498

1832

29,395

24,688

10,582

9,200

1833

35,072

37,380

12,150

12,093

1834

33,477

34,952

12,752

12,073

1835

39,145

35,090

12,834

12,631

1836

39,286

34,654

12,537

13,573

1837

38,914

33,580

12,834

15,353

1838

39,361

36,986

12,707

16,143

1839

40,495

37,009

15,540

15,762

1840

45,218

35,507

16,130

12,922

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This is not a local history book and Mark Kurlansky is a journalist not a local historian. Nevertheless he has produced a fascinating history of one of the world's basic commodities. I first came across Kurlansky with his book about the history of Cod. I think anyone who wants to know about the history of the Bristol Channel has to be familiar with the fish and how it encouraged Bristol fishermen to discover the Grand Banks. Salt is another offbeat yet fundamental bit of our history. We've had a popular web page on salt for ages and Swansea had a Salthouse Point at the mouth of the River Tawe for centuries. Kurlansky takes you on a journey across space and time to discover the importance of salt for mankind. From Jericho to Gandhi, salt has had an important part to play. This is a lovely book that enhances the quality of history for it adds depth and value to something we use every day. (Nigel Robins)

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