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Upper Swansea Valley
The Story of Iron 2

by Len Ley


Mr Parsons' tenure
The Iron Master Richard Parsons was born at Clydach. He lived with the Gough family at first but later moved to his own house. He was reasonably successful at Ynyscedwyn but did little to develop the art of smelting iron. He produced quantities of crude pig iron much of which was sent for ships ballast and some taken by donkey over the Black Mountains to the forge at Llandefaen. He built his own forge at Clydach in 1790, and from then on transported iron by packhorse along the banks of the River Tawe.
In those days an industrious workman was paid a shilling a day and iron cost between £13 and £18 per ton. Charcoal had become expensive and Parsons began to use coke obtained from Craig Oleu. By 1796 Ynyscedwyn was producing 800 tons of iron a year with coal brought from the lower valley, the local anthracite being unsuitable for the furnaces in use at that time. Mr Parson's won goverment contracts for munitions and cannonballs made at Ynyscedwyn have been found at the side of the Farteg and in the Tarreni area.
  The Ynyscedwyn furnaces were now an important iron producer, the limestone and iron ore was still obtained locally with the coal or coke being hauled as economically as possible from a few miles away. This reliance on pack horse transport continued to limit the growth of the industry in the district.

The line of the tramway on Cribarth (indicated by arrows) as visible in the 1970's

From the
collection of
the late John Morris

Tramway over Cribarth
  New developments
The building of tramroads allowed for easier access to limestone and the completion of the Swansea Valley Canal linking Ynyscedwyn with the lower valley and the port of Swansea and new markets in 1798 meant that from then on, the problem of transportation of heavy materials was effectively overcome.
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