Cefn Iron Works
The 19th century saw the Industrial Revolution and, as the word ‘revolution’ implies that meant great change for the people of Glamorgan and Kenfig. Although it is true to say that Kenfig remained an agricultural area the Industrial Revolution did create new opportunities and some people decided to leave their cottages and farms to become ironworkers, coalminers or copper smelters.
The new industries of iron, coal and copper led to the creation of a transport network and new employment could be found constructing railways, turnpikes, tram roads and docks. An ironworks had been established at Cefn Cribwr by the Birmingham industrialist John Bedford in 1780 with the building of a blast furnace. Bedford was a great designer and experimenter; furthermore, he also founded a forge and brickworks as well as establishing coalmines.
Unfortunately, John Bedford was not a great businessman and his ironworks failed to make a substantial profit, closing for long periods of time. By the 1830s the ironworks had fallen idle; however, coalmining and brick making continued into the 20th century, coming to a close after the slaughter of World War One. Today, the ironworks is protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
The Rebecca Riots
The dirt tracks and trails of the 18th century became the roads of the 19th century as industry created a new transport network. Roads were built by the Turnpike Trusts who charged tolls to pay for improvements. Those tolls were deeply unpopular with farmers and agricultural workers and they soon created a vast amount of resentment; between 1839 and 1843 that resentment spilled over into violence.
Taking their inspiration from the Bible (Genesis 24:60 ‘And they blessed Rebekah and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them.’) men dressed as women and in the name of Rebecca they took violent action against the toll-gates.
In Kenfig, on the 26th October 1843, a crowd of over 500 angry farmers and freeholders gathered at Groes-y-Ddadl (the Debating Cross) to vent their fury at the Bridgend Trust and their toll-gates. Groes-y-Ddadl was a traditional meeting place and for centuries men and women had congregated there to resolve disputes. The source of the protestors’ anger was threefold: a toll-bar erected in 1834 and located above the Dyffryn Llynfi tram road, a gate at Pyle Cross erected in 1840, which blocked the road to Mawdlam, and a chain that barred the road to Taibach.
In many places troops were sent in and the protests rumbled on. By 1844 a combination of increased troop numbers, a desire by the protestors to avoid violence and criminal gangs posing as the rioters led to a resolution of the conflict. In the same year a Parliamentary Act was passed to amend the laws relating to the Turnpike Trusts and as the dust began to settle on that Act thoughts turned to a new force in the land with the coming of the railways.
If industry brought a revolution to the daily lives of the working man and woman then the railways brought a revolution to industry and to the way people spent their leisure time.
In 1825 an Act of Parliament was passed paving the way for a harbour to be built at Porthcawl and for a horse-drawn tram road to link that harbour with the coalmines and ironworks of Dyffryn Llynfi. The tram road ran through Nottage, South Cornelly, Pyle and Cefn Cribwr and its success led to the creation of a railway. That railway opened on the 18th June 1850 and the Kenfig Corporation received £249 14s 6d as compensation for land acquired by the railway company.
The building of the Great Western Railway was overseen by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who stayed at Pyle Inn during a period of its construction. In 1845 it took six hours to travel from the coalfields of the valleys to the port of Porthcawl. On the return journey limestone, an essential component in the iron and steel industries, was transported to the valleys from the quarries of South Cornelly.
Meanwhile, Pyle Station opened in 1850 and as well as serving commerce the station also became a vital cog in the burgeoning leisure industry as the introduction of Bank Holidays combined with the rail network to ferry passengers to seaside resorts, like Porthcawl.
Horace A. Ford
Horace A. Ford was born in London in 1822. The son of a solicitor he moved to South Cornelly in the mid-1840s with his wife Constantine. They lived in Ty Maen with their three sons, all of whom were born at the house, and five servants: a lady’s maid, a housemaid, a nurse, a groom and a cook.
Horace settled in Cornelly because of iron and coal and, along with his father, he established the Bryndu Iron and Coal Company. This was a boom time for coal in the area but, unfortunately, the Bryndu Iron and Coal Company went bankrupt in the 1860s and Horace retired to Bristol with his family and one servant, a parlour maid.
Away from business Horace was a keen archer. He was attracted to the sport in 1845 and four years later he triumphed at the UK Grand National Archery Meeting.
After that 1849 success Horace A. Ford went on to win an unprecedented eleven consecutive championships, remaining unbeaten until 1860. In 1857 he recorded a score of 1,251, a record that stood for seventy-two years.
By the time Horace A. Ford had won his twelfth championship, in 1867, he was regarded as the greatest target archer of all time. He wrote a book, ‘Archery: its Theory and Practice’ and he was also a prominent member of the Royal Toxophilite (Archery) Society. Moreover, many people regarded Horace A. Ford as the leading sportsman of his day.
A Victorian Christmas
Christmas in the Victorian era differed considerably from the Christmas we celebrate today as these extracts from the Glamorgan Gazette reveal. In 1876 the Gazette reported that: ‘The Sunday Schools belonging to the Calvinistic Methodists in this district held a meeting on Christmas Day at Cornelly, to recite portions of “Hyfforddwr Charles.” The following schools took part: Kenfig, Water Street, North and South Cornelly. The meetings were held at two o’clock and six o’clock in the evening. The scholars were questioned by the Rev. J. T. Jones of Marlas House and the answers were very satisfactory’.
Meanwhile, in Kenfig Hill: ‘Meetings were held at Elim Chapel on Christmas Day for the purpose of encouraging the young people of the place in worthy exercises. A meeting was held at two o’clock, consisting of recitations and singing by the members of the Band of Hope. At six o’clock a literary meeting was held and prizes were offered for singing, reciting, lecturing, prose and poetry. The prizes consisted of various interesting books. The chapel was crowded, and the whole proceedings turned out quite a success’.
In 1881 the Gazette stated that: ‘The churches in this parish (Pyle and Kenfig Hill) were tastefully decorated for Christmas with holly and evergreens by Mrs Davies the Vicarage, Mrs Morgan, Marlas, and numerous friends. At the morning service on Christmas Day the Vicar preached, taking for his text St John iii, 16. After the service Holy Communion was celebrated. In the evening the Vicar again preached from Timothy i, 15. On Thursday evening, December 29th, a special service was held for catechising the children of the Sunday School and presenting them with prizes for good conduct during the year. A similar meeting will be held in Welsh next Tuesday evening’.
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