Category Archives: Aberystwyth

Early July dune flowers, more foraging

July already.  How on earth did that happen?  A sunny day today, and a welcome change from the recent wet weather.  The day before yesterday it wasn’t actually raining in the afternoon, although it had all morning, and the feeling of going stir-crazy after all the rain was immense, so it was a relief to go and see what else had come into flower in the sand dunes, which seem to be changing all the time.

 

The sea holly is just coming in to flower, one of my favourites (Eryngium marititinum).  There seems to be less of it in the dunes than in previous years, but that may just be an impression.  The leaves are a lovely silvery-blue colour and the flowers are a stunning powdery cornflower blue, forming little domes.  It loves full sun and dry coastal and rocky habitats.  Surprisingly, given its appearance, it is  a member of the carrot family.

Common/yellow toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) looks so exotic, like an orchid, but is relatively commonplace.  It is a perennial that flowers between July and October.  Narrow leaves grow spirally up the stems.  The flower is two-lipped and only large long-tongued bees can push the two closed lips apart to reach the nectar.  Colloquial names include squeeze-jaw and bunny-mouth.  It likes open fields and sandy soils.

 

Hound’s-tongue (Cynoglossum officinale) is new to me.  It has many small dark crimson flowers, each with five petals, on hairy stems.  After flowering, the fruit is a spiked nutlet that starts green and goes through deep purple to brown.  They hook on to the fur of a passing animal.  The ones in the dunes were courteous enough to have both flowers and nutlets on show.

Hedge woundwort (Stachys sylvatica) grows on the wasteland and the edge of cultivated land and footpaths, with a preference for semi shade.  The toothed leaves look rather like nettles.  They grow up to 1m tall.   It was renowned from the 16th Century for its healing properties, and it has proved to be mildly antiseptic.  White markings on the lower lip of the two-lip flower guides bees to nectar.

Rosebay willowherb (Chamerion angustifolium) is a spreading perennial up to 1.5m tall.  It colonized bomb sites during the Second World War and became known as “fireweed.”  It spreads both by rhizomes and by seed, so where it is found, it is usually widespread, and the the rhizomes mean that a whole patch may actually be a single plant.  Delicate Four-petalled pink flowers with white stamens that climb the stem go over first at the bast and continue to be in bud at the top, meaning that they may stay in flower from June to September.  Its leaves used to be used as in infusion to substitute for tea.

Before flowering, old man’s beard, or traveller’s joy (Clematis vitalba) looks just like clematis and is probably the next most widespread plant in the dunes after marram grass, hugging the lower lying areas.  It spreads over everything, and provides a natural protective home for the wild pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis) that grows in the dunes.  The name old man’s beard refers to the hairy, air-born seed heads that appear in autumn and extend into winter.  The flower begins as a tiny, spherical white bud and bursts into lovely, starry white flowers with four white sepals and a burst of stamens.

Common ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) is common in the area,  in the hills, fields, wasteland, and in the dunes.  It is poisonous to birds, horses and cattle, particularly when dry, but for some reason sheep seem to be immune.  It may be either biennial or perennial.  Although it can be mistaken for goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea) from the flower alone, the leaves are very different.  Where goldenrod has long, thin leaves, common ragwort’s leaves are untidy, dissected and multiple-lobed.  Senecio is almost the only specie that can be used for food by the day-flying red and black cinnabar moth’s (Tyria jacobaea) caterpillar, striped bright orange and black, absorbing the plant’s poison as a defense against birds.  In spite of the fact that they can be seen between May and August, there were none on view that day.

Broad-leaved everlasting pea (Lathyrus latifolius) is a French perennial that has colonized many other countries.  A vigorous scrambling plant that uses tendrils to colonize hedges and shurbs.  It was brought from France to Britain as a garden plant and has gone native.  The flowers are larger than most of the other pea family of flowers, up to 3cm across, with shades of dark pink and purple.

Marsh pennywort (Hydrocotyle vulgaris) is very similar to the more widespread wall pennywort (Umbilicus rupestris), but grows in marshy areas, whilst wall pennywort grows, as the names suggests, out of walls (and is widespread in Aberdovey).  This particular marsh pennywort was growing out of the side of one of the drainage streams on the golf course.  It is less waxy and succulent than wall pennywort, as it doesn’t need to store as much water.  Both are edible as leaves in salads and as garnishes with much the same flavour.  The flavour can be variable, so although it tastes a bit like cucumber, it can be bitter, and a leaf should be tasted before picking more.

White stonecrop (Sedum album) has now spread over huge areas of the lower parts of the sand dunes, particularly near the road where the sand is mixed with soil, its succulent leaves forming mats, and its white star-like flowers clustering at the top of the short, slender stems.  Drought tolerant, thanks to the succulent leaves that store water.  Like Sea rocket (Cakile maritima) it has apparently benefited from the lack of people around, colonizing areas that would otherwise be used for reaching the caravan park, the golf course and the beach.

The perennial sea beet (Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima) and the orache are side by side at the edge of the dunes, both huge clumps, both common at the edges of sand dunes. Sea beet has a tall, spiky clumps of flowers straggling across the top of the plant.  Sea beet is both drought and saline tolerant.  It is the wild version of a version that was cultivated in the Middle East for its roots and leaves.  Sea beet is easily confused with fat hen (Chenopodium album) and both are members of the Chenopodiaceae, but the leaves have very different edges.  Sea beet leaves have a smooth, untoothed margin, whereas fat hen leaves look more like orache, with a toothed margin.  Sea beet is a popular foraging ingredient, with smaller, younger leaves used in salads and bigger leaves spinach in a tiny amount of water for a few minutes, like spinach.  Squeeze out the water, return to the pan with some butter, and you have a much tangier version of spinach.  On my to-do list.

 

Artemisia absinthium or wormwood seems to come in a variety of forms, many with a lot more foliage than this, but there are a lot of photographs of it online looking just like this.  Small fdsfsfas of tiny yellow flowers tit on a network of silvery stems with silvery leaves.  I haven’t put it to the test, because I didn’t know what it was when I took the photograph, but it is the primary flavouring of absinthe, much beloved of Toulouse-Lautrec and his contemporaries.

The last triumph of the day was the discovery of some field mushrooms and some baby puffballs.  I had the puffballs tossed in butter and added at the last minute to a slow cooker stew with French smoked sausages, onion, garlic, dried ceps, savoy cabbage and peeled baby new potatoes.  The puffballs were mushroomy but delicate, a real treat.

Steamships in Aberdovey from the mid-1800s to the First World War

Vintage postcard of Aberdovey showing both sail and steam in port.

The local shipbuilding industry, which started on the back of the Industrial Revolution in around 1840, didn’t survive the arrival of the railway, partly because the upper reaches of the river Dyfi were cut off, but also because wooden sailing ships for deep-sea cargo carriage were being built more cheaply and ambitiously in Canada whilst, most conspicuously, steamships were beginning to replace sail all round the coast and across the oceans.   Early 19th Century steamship services had developed along big rivers and estuaries like the Thames and Clyde, with corresponding shipbuilding services fulfilling a real demand.  These were populous areas in need of reliable passenger and cargo transport and a number of entrepreneurs found that there was a good market for pleasure trips.   In Wales, these early steamers were too expensive to run for low-margin cargoes and were not suitable for carrying heavy goods.  As the technology improved, so did the ships.  There were many advantages of steam over sail.   Steamers could set sail in all weathers and tides, they could operate to a timetable, and those built of iron could be much larger than wooden equivalents.

The Dovey Belle. Source: Lewis 1996, plate following p.120

By the mid 19th Century a number of Welsh shipbuilders had tried their hand at steam, including the 1854 Victoria built in Barmouth and the single Aberdovey-made steamer, Aberllefeni Quarry Maid, launched in 1858 (see below), usually known simply as Quarrymaid.  This experiment did not evolve into a steamboat industry either in Aberdovey or Barmouth, where another steamship had been built.  The development of  a shipbuilding industry in Wales, for even small steamers, was inhibited for a number of reasons.  These included the expense of dredging access routes for the building of bigger ships, adapting shipyards, adding new infrastructure and acquiring new skills.  The last Aberdovey ship was launched from Penhelig in 1880, the schooner Olive Branch, a pattern of shipbuilding decline that was echoed in small ports along the Welsh coast as the shipbuilding industry came to a standstill. The last Dovey-built ship to frequent Aberdovey was the 1867 84-ton schooner Dovey Belle, which met her end in 1907.

The Aberdovey jetty, fitted with rails

Towards the end of the 19th Century, steamships from other areas visited small Welsh coastal ports, and Aberdovey continued to be an active port until the First World War.  The earliest steamships were paddle steamers, successfully crossing the Atlantic on regular crossings between Britain and America, and these were succeeded later by the much more efficient screw (propeller) steamers.  In 1887 a new Aberdovey jetty was built, 370ft long.  Approached along a pier, it enabled ships to load and unload at both low and high tide, encouraging the visits of steamships.  The pier and jetty were fitted with railway tracks and a turntable, so that the main railway could be connected directly with shipping via the Aberdovey Harbour branch.

The only steamer to be built in Aberdovey was the 83.1ft long above-mentioned Aberllefeni Quarry Maid, built by Roger Lewis to serve as a coastal vessel, and was launched in October 1858.  She was fitted out with two De Winton 50hp engines and associated machinery in Caernarfon, and undertook her maiden voyage from Aberdovey to London in April 1859, with several of the owners on board, some of whom disembarked at Aberystwyth.   Her normal route was between Aberdovey and Liverpool, averaging a round trip per fortnight, but one one occasion she was chartered for a pleasure cruise to Aberystwyth and back, as reported in the North Wales Chronicle and Advertiser on 3rd September 1869.

ABERDOVEY.—On Thursday the Steamer Quarrymaid from Aberdovey took a trip as far as Aberystwyth and back. The weather was beautifully fine, and a rich treat was thus afforded. About eighty from Towyn and Aberdovey, visitors, &c., availed themselves of a trip, H. Webster, Esq,, of Aberdovey bore the expenses of the excursion, to whom great praise is due for his kindness and liberality at all times in Aberdovey and vicinity. During the passage, singing was kept up with spirit. After spending about six hours in Aberystwyth, the Quarrymaid steamed off at about nine knots an hour, and Aberdovey was reached in good time. Three hearty good cheers for Mr. Webster was given on board, which was joined in by the multitude on shore, who greeted the company on their return. A private company was entertained by the same gentleman at the Hotel, and a pleasant evening spent.

In 1862 she had a six-man crew.  It is not known when she went out of service.  If anyone knows of a photograph, please get in touch!

The paddle steamer Vale of Clwyd. Source: National Museum of Wales (via Williams and Armstrong 2010)

As far as I can tell, the earliest visiting steamers to arrive in Aberdovey were those of the Cardigan Bay Steam Navigation Co.  It was formed in 1834 by local gentry and operated a summer service from Pwllheli to Aberystwyth with their one funnelled, two-masted paddle steamer, the 60hp p.s. Vale of Clwyd (p.s. standing for paddle steamer), commanded by John Hughes of Pwllheli. She left Pwlheli every other day and returned on alternative days, but did not run on Sundays.  Her round trip between Aberystwyth and Pwllheli included stops at Barmouth and Aberdovey, both on outgoing and return trips.  There’s no record of how she was received in Aberdovey, but a local newspaper reported that on her arrival in Aberystwyth, she was greeted by “nearly all the population of the town and country for several miles around.”  Later in the same year she also stopped at Aberaeron and New Quay.  On 27th May 1934 the North Wales Chronicle warmly greeted the linkage of Aberystwyth and Pwllelli, seeing it as a solution to opening up the Welsh coast “so long hermetically sealed against tourists and travellers.”   It seems to have been a short-lived service, and the ship was moved to the Portdinllaen to Liverpool route the following year.

The next steamers to stop at Aberdovey were owned by the Cambrian Steam Packet Co, which was registered as the Cambrian Screw Steamship Co Ltd in March 1956, but changed its name In April.

Cambrian Steam Packet Company Share Certificate. Source: National Museum of Wales


The company operated out of Aberystwyth, with ships going to Bristol, Liverpool and London and extended the service to Swansea. It carried both cargo and passengers to these destinations, stopping off at intervening smaller ports, including Barmouth, Tywyn, Aberdovey, New Quay, Aberaeron, and Aberystwyth.  The earliest advert I have found dates to 1859, singing the praises of the ship Plymlymon.  An 1859 Cambrian Steam Packet Company advert in the first edition of the Aberystwyth Observer has an illustration of the ship Plymlymon, captained by William Wraight, which carried goods and passengers between Liverpool, Aberystwyth and Bristol, stopping at Holyhead, Portmadoc, Aberdovey, Aberaron and New Quay. Although prioritizing cargo, the advert goes on to say “Excellent accommodation for Passengers. Stewardess on board.”  Fares from Liverpool and Bristol to Aberystwyth, Portmadoc, Aberayron, Aberdovey, Cardigan and New Quay cabins were 12 shillings and steerage 7 shillings.  Between either Aberystwyth, Aberaeron, Aberdovey, Cardigan, new Quay, Portmadoc or Holyhead, cabins were 9 shillings and steerage was 6 shillings.  The full advert is shown at the end of this page.  The appearance of the advert in 1888 is somewhat confusing, as the Cambrian Steam Packet Company is said by a number of sources to have closed in 1876, so I am looking for more information on the subject.  Later ships advertised were Aberystwyth, Queen of the Isles, Young England, Genova and Liverpool, all steamships.  In 1863 an additional steamer, Cricket, was added to the list of ships running on this route “with Liverpool, Bristol and London goods,” and “good accommodation and a stewardess on board.” Although it ran cargo and offered passenger  less expensive prices than the railway, it found competition from the combination of rail and the establishment in 1863 of a rival steamship company difficult, and folded in 1876.

In the absence of a picture of Elizabeth, here’s a photograph of her owner Thomas Savin instead. Source: Wikipedia

The Cambrian Railway was directly responsible for the arrival of  the paddle steamer p.s. Elizabeth in 1863 from Blackwall, London (please get in touch if you know of a photo).  In the early 1860s, during the construction of the Cambrian Railway that began in 1862 (discussed further here), Elizabeth was purchased to serve as a ferry.  The Cambrian’s railway engineer was contractor Thomas Savin (about whom more on the aforementioned post about the railway). Savin had originally intended to build a bridge across the Dyfi to connect Aberdovey and Ynyslas by rail, and this remained the plan for some time, but due to the local geomorphology, civil engineers decided that the bridge could not be built and an additional 12 miles of rail had to be laid to go around the estuary, crossing the river just north of Gogarth instead. This meant that until the new stretch was built, southbound passengers had to cross the river by ferry between Aberdovey and Penrhyn Point, just beyond Ynyslas, linking the railway, where a line had been built.  Savin himself purchased Elizabeth, a 30 horse-power Blackwall (London) paddle steamer that was also rigged for sail as a backup for the engines.  According to a report in the Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald she arrived at Aberdovey in 8am, having sheltered in Milton Haven for a number of nights, on the morning of 10th October 1863.  She was captained by a Machynlleth resident Captain Edward Bell, who was succeeded by his younger brother Captain John Bell.  She had a draft of 20 inches (i.e. she was shallow beneath the waterline) and was “fitted up like a yacht.”  Unfortunately Elizabeth was not a success, as a letter printed in the 7th November 1863 edition of the Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald makes clear.  Although elegant, with “much the resemblance of the Great Eastern build,” she was “almost totally useless as a means of conveyance.”  At c.125ft long she was too long “by a third of her present length,” meaning that small boats had to take up the slack, as they had done before the arrival of the steamship.  He goes on: “A trip of two or three times a weeks is all ‘our toy’ can make, and she has neaped [grounded] on a sand bank since Monday last!”  In the same edition, it was reported that piers were under construction for the ferry at Aberdovey on one side of the estuary, and Penrhyn on the other, which seems like something of an afterthought!

Steam train making its way along the estuary towards Machynlleth, after the completion of the Aberdovey to Aberystwyth section of the line, eliminating the need for a ferry.

When the railway was eventually completed in 1867 it ran along the Dyfi Estuary, routing through the outskirts of Machynlleth and down the coast to Aberystwyth, making the ferry redundant.  Savin sold Elizabeth in 1869 to an agent in Londonderry.  Long after the railway was complete, sleepers were still brought into the port for the Cambrian Line.  The Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald notes the arrival of the steamers Lizzie (which belonged to Lewis and Co of Mostyn) in September 1889 and Lotus in July 1891 loaded with sleepers.  This evidently continued at least as late as 1908 when the residents of Bodfar Terrace and Glandovey Terrace joined forces to present a petition to the Cambrian Railway co. asking for the removal of the piles of sleepers stacked in front of their houses, “as they are a great eyesore to visitors and residents.”  They were particularly concerned that they should be taken away before the influx of August visitors.

Lizzie. Source: Fenton 1989b, p.121

 

The Aberystwyth and Cardigan Bay Steam Packet Company was formed by seven shareholders from Aberystwyth, including the harbour master, a master mariner, two merchants, two grocers and a carrier.  It was probably founded in 1863.

The Countess of Lisburne. Source: National Museum of Wales

The first ship purchased, in 1857, was the 108 ton s.s. Express, followed by the 118 ton s.s. Henry E. Taylor (built for the company by Bowdler, Chaffer and Co, Secombe) in 1868 and the s.s. Grosvenor (built by Crabtree and Co, Great Yarmouth later on (s.s stands for screw steamer or steamship).  The service ran between Aberystwyth and Liverpool, stopping off at ports along the way, including Aberdovey. The business was reconstituted twice and in 1885 became the Aberystwyth and Aberdovey Steam Packet Company, to raise new operating funds of £4,000 (none of which came from Aberdovey).  At this time  the Henry E. Taylor was transferred briefly to new company.  It was sold a year later when the 135 ton Countess of Lisburne (above) was purchased.  She was in turn replaced in 1908 by the steel 219 ton Grosvenor (shown below), which sailed to Liverpool on a weekly basis.  She was sold in 1916.  It is clear from the 1908 AGM, reported in Cambrain News and Merionethshire Standard on 7th May 1909, that the business was suffering from ship outages due to repairs and other difficulties with the ships.  I have quoted it an length, although the entire report is longer (see it here) but I think it is worth it for the insights that it offers into the operational difficulties:

The balance sheet had been prepared and the accounts audited by Messrs. Graham King and Co. who regretted to report a large adverse balance as the result of the Company’s trading for the year an unsatisfactory result which seemed to be entirely attributable to the breaking down of the old steamer. During the time that boat was on offer for sale and temporarily laid up for repair it was necessary to hire another steamer in order to retain freights and good will. That hiring cost the Company £450. There was also a serious loss in freight for the year, there being a de- crease of £512 in the gross earnings. The sale of the old steamer resulted in a capital loss of £1,266 I8s Id., which the auditors suggested should be wiped off over a period of ten years and had therefore charged the past year’s profit and loss account with £126 13s. 9d. The new steamer had been running about two months in the period covered by the accounts and it was trusted that the increased carrying capacity in the present- year would show a good profit, especially as the working expenses were practically the same as in the smaller boat. The report of the directors was as follows :—Your directors, in presenting the annexed balance sheet and profit and loss account for the year ended 31st December, 1908, regret to state that there is a net loss for the twelve months of £478 6s. 2d. It will be observed that a sum of£228 19s. 6d. was expended on repairs to the s.s. “Countess of Lisburne,” and a sum of £430 was paid for the^hire of another steamer during the time the s.s. “Countess of Lisburne” was on offer for sale and temporarily laid up for repair, in order as far as possible to retain the freight and goodwill. There was a considerable falling off in the traffic during the negotiations for the sale of the s.s. Countess of Lisburne,” as the steamer chartered by your Company, having to call at other ports. was not able to meet the requirements of the freighters at this port, and this accounts for the decrease in the gross earnings during the year. It is hoped that all this will now be obviated as the s.s. “Grosvenor” has a carrying capacity of 250 tons, as against the 120 tons of the s.s. “Countess of Lisburne.” and the attention of the shareholders is called to the fact that the working expenses of the s.s. Grosvenor” will be about the same as those of the s.s. “Countess of Lisburne,” with the great advantage of having a carrying capacity of 130 tons more than the s.s. “Countess of Lisburne.” It is hoped that all the shareholders will assist the directors and officials in developing the trade of the steamer, so as to wipe off the existing loss and that the directors may be in a position to declare a dividend before the end of the coming year.

Countess of Lisburne. Source: Fenton 1989b, p.41

The Grosvenor was operated by the Aberystwyth and Steam Packet Co from 1908 until 1916. This photograph shows her after she had been sold. Source: Maritime Wales by John Richards, p.111

Seaflower. Source: Fenton 1989b, p.21

The Cardigan Steam Navigation Company, which was registered in 1869 to run cargo between Cardigan, Bristol and Liverpool and other ports that seemed viable at the time.  I have not seen any reference to its ship Tivyside stopping in Aberdovey, but it seems probable that they did stop, if only occasionally.  In 1888 it went into liquidation, having failed to survive competition with the Cardigan Commercial Steam Packet Co., established in  1876 with the ship Seaflower (built by J. Reid and Co, Port Glasgow).  This itself ran into trouble when Seaflower ran into the wooden sailing brigantine Charlotte in November 1879, resulting in damages of £1200.  This finished the company, but a new company was created in the same name, with the same ship.  This endured until 1902, closing down shortly after replacing Seaflower with the Mayflower.

In 1874 a Royal Navy survey was carried out in the River Dyfi to reduce the incidence of accidents, the result of which was a new sailing chart.  Although I cannot track down a name for her, this lovely paddle steamer is, according to Hugh M. Lewis in Pages of Time, the Royal Navy’s survey ship.  She has a single funnel and two masts with schooner rigging.  Two large rowing boats are on the aft deck, and two smaller tenders (ship-to-shore boats) float at the steamer’s side.  I love the  ornamental paddle cover and the washing hanging out to dry.

Advert for the Waterford and Aberdovey Steamship Co. Source: Hugh M. Lewis Portraits of a Village. Lewis does not state the name of the newspaper in which the advert was placed.

In 1887 a line from Aberdovey to Waterford (and other ports) in southern Ireland was established, the Waterford and Aberdovey Steamship Company, to be subsidized by rebates, after some difficulty, by the Cambrian Railway.  A report in Cambrian News said that “a valuable connection has been formed with Ireland, and traffic is brought upon the railway that otherwise would not have reached it.  The first ship in the service was the 246 ton s.s. Liverpool, which ran a livestock transportation service from April 1887 from Waterford to Aberdovey.  On her first trip she brought a general mixed cargo together with 60 pigs, returning with another general cargo to Waterford.  She made four such trips in that April, and records show that another ship, Magnetic, made more than 12 trips from Waterford to Aberdovey between November 1887 and March 1988.  Departures from Waterford had to be timed carefully to coincide with the Aberdovey tides.  Livestock pens were built at Aberdovey for holding incoming cattle, pigs and horses, prior to their transportation by rail to other parts of Britain, particularly the Midlands.   Livestock was a potentially good cargo for shipping, assuming that the demand was there.  Not only were there few handling costs (livestock was simply led or herded off a ship into waiting pens, with minimal manpower and no lifting gear required) but it was thought that there would be demand in urban areas.  An advert in Hugh M. Lewis  Portrait of a Village (page 64), and dated July 1888, is shown to the left, advertising both its electric lighting, which was also in its cattle holds, and its superior passenger accommodation.  Another 1888 advert below advertises “Great acceleration of transit” on the steamers s.s. Magnetic (and possibly s.s. Electric), “Carrying passengers, Merchandise and Live Stock in connection with the Cambrian Railways, at Low Through Rates, the principal English and Welsh Towns”.  An interesting paragraph towards the end of the advert details the following advantages:

“For the conveyance of Live Stock from Ireland, owing to the favourable course of the currents in the part of the Channel to be navigated, and its freedom from fogs.  On arrival at Aberdovey shippers may, as suits their convenience, either despatch their Stock to destination immediately by Special Trains, or place them in a large field adjoining the Cambrian Company’s Station, where they will be allowed to remain free of charge for twenty-four hours, and from which they can be loaded at any time direct into Trucks. Another advert in Lewis’s book, dating to later in 1888 reads:  “Shortest and most expeditious route to Lancashire, Yorkshire, Midland Counties etc.  Sailings for August and September 1888. The s.s ‘Magnetic‘ is a fast boat, and is fitted throughout (including the cattle space) with the Electric Light.  The Passenger Accommodation is of a superior description.  A Steward and Stewardess on board.”

Lewis Lloyd lists some of the livestock carried by Magnetic, the dates showing when dues were paid on each cargo (1996, p.219) including the following example:

  • 8/11/1887: 14 cattle,
  • 15/11: 7 cattle and 233 pigs
  • 20/11: 212 cattle, 187 pigs and 32 sheep
  • 331/12:  35 cattle, 88 sheep and 259 pigs (returning to Waterford with slate and pipes)

The Liverpool was not quite up to the task, and after several slow runs it became clear that a faster ship would be desirable.  In September 1887 she missed two buoys on her approach to Aberdovey, and ran aground, after which a light was fitted to her bows.  She was replaced the following month by the 290 ton s.s Magnetic., which had been adapted for carrying livestock, but it soon emerged that this work was woefully inadequate.  Green (1996, p.109-110) tells the story:

The Magnetic‘s second trip, on 26th October 1887, was a great disaster.  She rolled abominably in severe gales, and the conversion had been done badly, with the stallage constructed at too low a level so that the beasts were thrown over the tops onto others in the next stalls.  The ventilation was also quite inadequate.  The had set sail with 149 head of cattle, and arrived with 21 of those dead, and a further 25 injured.  A butcher from Towyn was sent for, and he slaughtered another three immediately, whilst the other 22 had to be sold off locally as being unfit for further travel. . . . There was a considerable legal wrangle over insurance, primarily because no cover had been ordered!

Having lost the trust of customers wishing to transport cattle, she became confined largely to small livestock, mainly pigs and some sheep.  Local businesses were clearly aware that an expansion of the route to Ireland could replace the coastal trade, and were keen to build on the existing service, but not only were new services not established but in spite of its apparent success, the Waterford and Aberdovey’s operation was regrettably brief, closing at some point between 1888 and 1895 (harbour records are incomplete for the period).

The Aberdovey and Barmouth Steamship Company was founded in 1877.  The company operated out of the offices of Liverpool wholesale grocers David Jones and Co., although they were not the only shareholders.

The best photograph I have found for the Dora so far is this one, showing her in Barmouth, c.1901. Source: People’s Collection Wales, which in turn scanned it from the U-Boat Project 1914-18 by Michael Williams.

Advert for the Dora.  Source: Nefyn.com, which sourced it from Katie Hipwell and Claire Smith great grand-daughters of Captain Williams and their late father O G Williams (Gwyn) grandson of the Captain.

Their first ship was the iron-hulled screw steamer, the 162 ton s.s. Telephone, built in 1878 by H.M. McIntyre and Co of Paisley, replaced in 1900 by the 200-ton, three-masted s.s. Dora, known locally as The Grocery Boat.  The two ships were registered in Liverpool.  The steel-hulled Dora, also built in Paisley, by J. Fullerton and Co, was fitted with three masts and a single funnel set between the main (central) and mizzen (rear) masts.  She was a weekly visitor to Aberdovey and the last ship to sail to and from Aberdyfi on a scheduled basis, carrying grain, cement, wood, timber, manure and sleepers.  She departed from Liverpool every Friday stopping at Porthdinllaen, Barmouth and Aberdovey.  The ship carried groceries, timber and animal food to Aberdovey, where they were met by local farmers who loaded horse drawn wagons from sheds on the wharf.  She also carried passengers. Her last run appears to have been in October 1915. You can find some more about the Dora at the Nefyn.com website.

Lewis Lloyd comments that “The steamers Telephone and Dora endeared themselves to the people of Aberdyfi and their regular ports-of-call.  Their schedules represented normality and their passing meant a further reduction in the character of the coastal communities which they served.”  There are several old photographs showing Dora, which usually, although by no means always, loaded and offloaded her cargo on the jetty’s inner berth.  Dora was requisitioned for  the Liverpool to Belfast route in November 1916.

Steamship Telephone. Source: Fenton 1989b, p.125

An interesting article in the Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard dating to two years previous to the withdrawal of Dora from Aberdovey concerns the withdrawal of Telephone from Aberaeron, and may reflect some of the concerns that the loss of Dora may have caused.  “Notes from Aberayron” opens with the statement “The most significant of all news for the week” was that s.s. Telephone would no longer connect Aberaeron with Liverpool with its “fairly large cargoes” on a fortnightly basis.  The article says that it has been suspected for some time that the service was running at a loss, and this was now confirmed.

If the s.s. “Telephone” has gone for good, and if no new venture is in store which will put another boat on the trade, it will be a commercial loss to the community . . . . To lose the advantage of buying in the Liverpool markets means a good deal.  The clients and customers of the Liverpool houses, too, will be cut off from Aberayron and that reduces the commercial status of the town.

The article finishes with worries about the tyranny of monopoly and the dominance of the railway, but hopes that instead “the old, old relationship with Bristol” might remain unimpaired or even strengthened.   In Aberdovey, the company did not resume service following the war, closing officially in 1918.  Dora was sunk by a German submarine, UC 65 under the command of Otto Steinbrink in 1917, but only after the crew had been allowed to disembark into the ship’s boats and return to shore.

In July 1895 the Cardigan Bay Steamship Company was formed in Pwllheli to offer a service between Pwllheli and Aberystwyth, calling in at Barmouth, Aberdovey and Aberystwyth.  However, none of these destinations ever saw a ship, because potential investors were deterred by the existing services already offering a service to these ports, and after failing secure the necessary finance, the fledgling company closed.

Finally, the Liverpool and Cardigan Bay Steamship Company was founded in 1900 to run a service for the usual Cardigan ports from Liverpool.  It purchased the Telephone, which had been replaced by the Dora, from the Aberdovey and Barmouth Steamship Company.  As the main investors in the new company were the same Liverpool wholesale grocers David Jones and Co, who were the main investors in the Aberdovey and Barmouth Steamship Company the transaction must have been fairly painless.  This was another short-lived service, closing in 1905.

Lewis Lloyd mentions other steamers that visited Aberdovey during and after the 1880s (1996, p.218-222).  Included in his examination of the harbour records are those that visited in the last years before the war, including the steamers Ruby and Beryl, both carrying creosoted sleepers from Glasgow, the s.s. May and the s.s Countess of Warwick carrying summer day-trippers between Aberystwyth and Aberdovey, and the s.s. Gem from Ardrossan, carrying more sleepers 96528 if them).

Marconi’s steam yacht Elettra. Source: ARRL

In 1918, during Guglielmo Marconi’s tests of a radio station set up near Tywyn for transmission of wireless signals to America.  Marconi (1874-1937) and and his team moored in Aberdovey in his absolutely stunning steam yacht ElettraElettra (meaning electron) is easily identifiable with her white hull, a long deeply raking clipper bow and stern, a single central funnel and two masts and neat rows of portholes.   As a youngster, Kenneth Sturley, who later became a Marconi power engineer, spent his childhood holidays in Aberdovey, and tells the story of going aboard Elettra:

So I’d always watched with interest those aerials strung across from Tywyn. It was a long horizontal wire in those days, with low frequencies, of course, involved. Marconi occasionally came into Aberdovey Harbour with his yacht “Elettra,” in order to get to Tywyn from there, Tywyn being about five miles away. I heard that it was possible for one to make a request to go on the boat “Elettra”, and perhaps even see the great man. So I asked if I might do so, and was granted this opportunity. We went into the Morse-code cabin, and I duly put on the headphones and listened, and then the great man walked in. I’m afraid I was almost too tongue-tied to have much conversation with him. I remember very vividly, him coming in, but I can’t remember what he said. It certainly gave me a considerable kick, and made me realize that what I wanted to do was to be in radio.

Hugh M. Lewis comments in Pages of Time:  “When the yacht berthed alongside the outer jetty, Marconi with his crew of young, good-looking Italians, were made very welcome in the village.”  He includes a photograph showing her in Aberdovey, but it chops of both bow and stern and as she is simply shown on the sea with nothing showing Aberdovey itself, a different photograph here has been chosen to show the yacht’s main external features.

Enid Mary. Source: Fenton 1989b, p.112

After the war, few other regular commercial visitors arrived at the jetty, apart from fishing, boats.  In the 1930s the Overton Steamship Company brought in shipments of cement for a while.

Finally, the Enid Mary, owned by British Isles Coasters came into Aberdovey around twice a year cargoes of superphosphate from the Netherlands, a fertilizer for local farmers.

Just as steam replaced sail, oil replaced steam.  Two  naval ships visited, and both were oil-fired:  HMS Fleetwood in 1951 and the minesweeper HMS Dovey in 1987.  The Aberdyfi lifeboat station has a rather special and unique feature:  the bell from the HMS Dovey.  It is on loan from the Royal Navy.  Should another HMS Dovey be built, the bell will have to be returned, but at the moment it is a much loved and admired resident of the lifeboat station.  The HMS Dovey was a river class minesweeper M2005 commissioned in 1984 and sold to Bangladesh in 1994 for use as a patrol ship.  The last large visiting ship that I have been able to find reference to was the Royal Navy survey ship Woodlark, which spent 10 days surveying the approaches to the port in 1973.

One of the things that surprised me when I started writing this post and hunting for images was just how small most of these steamships were.  I don’t know why I was expecting them to be substantially larger, because they were replacing small sailing coasters.  Like their predecessors, they were true workhorses, and built to last.  All of them retained masts from their sailing ancestry, usually two, as back-up for the engines and to save fuel when there was a good following wind.

The coming of the railway led to the decline and the eventual end of many small coastal ports.  For a while sea and rail operated simultaneously, and at Aberdovey, ironically, all railway construction materials were landed by sea, leading to a brief spike in shipping activity.  The decline of the slate trade, one of its primary coastal exports, was another contributing factor to Aberdovey’s deteriorating status as an active port.   Businesses had clearly believed that running steamers in competition with the railways, by providing slower but cheaper cargo carriage, had genuine potential.  The sheer number of steamship companies described above indicates that businesses refused to abandon the idea that steam could compete with rail, mainly trading regular perishable cargoes such as groceries, grain and, at the other end of the scale, non-perishable heavy goods like railway sleepers and ores that were not time-sensitive.  The attempt to create a link with Ireland via the Waterford and Aberdovey Steamship Company must have given hope to Aberdovey, making use of the rail link with the port, but although it seemed to be quite well thought out, with animal pens provided for sending livestock on by rail, this eventually failed, perhaps because the demand for premium Irish livestock in expanding industrial areas was over-estitmated. Meanwhile, larger ports with good infrastructure benefited by becoming railway termini, where deep sea traders and the railways complemented one other.

On a personal note, it was lovely to discover Roy Fenton’s work on the mid and north Wales steamships.  I used to know him many years ago when we were both members of the Port of London Study Group, and he is one of those people whose enthusiasm shines forth in a very understated way, and who has the knack of explaining the most complicated engineering features in a fully comprehensible way.  He wrote a lot about steam colliers (coal carriers) and gave me one of his books on the subject, but I had no idea that he had done so much work on ships in the area in which I am now living.  Although we lost touch, it is such a pleasure to be using his work to fill out a little more of Aberdovey’s history.

 

Main sources:

Please note that not all accounts of the steamship companies listed above agree, particularly on foundation and liquidation dates.  I have done my best to select what I think are the most probable of the various accounts by cross-referencing between the various sources of information, but if you are using this post as a preliminary step for research purposes, I urge you to read my sources below (particularly Green; Fenton; and Williams and Armstrong), and then explore their sources.

The National Library of Wales
https://newspapers.library.wales/

Fenton, R. 1976.  Aberdyfi, its shipping and seamen (1565-1907).  Maritime Wales/Cymru A’r Môr 1, p.22-46

Fenton, R. 1989a.  Steam Packet to Wales:  A chronological survey of operators and services.  Maritime Wales/Cymru A’r Môr 12, p.54-65

Fenton, R. 1989b.  Cambrian Coasters.  Steam and motor coaster owners of North and West Wales.  The World Ship Society.

Fenton, R.  2007.  The Historiography of Welsh Shipping Fleets.  Maritime Wales/Cymru A’r Môr 28, p.80-102

Green, C.C. 1996.  The Coast Lines of the Cambrian Railways, volume 2. Wild Swan Publications

Lewis, H.M. n.d. Aberdyfi:  Portrait of a Village

Lewis, H.M. n.d. A Chronicle Through the Centuries

Lewis, H.M. 1989 Pages of Time

Lloyd, L. 1996.  A Real Little Seaport.  The Port of Aberdyfi and its People 1565-1920. Volume 1.

Richards, J. 2007. Maritime Wales. Tempus

 

“Ellen Beatrice” (built in Aberystwyth, 1865), in Aberdovey Harbour c.1903

The Ellen Beatrice, via the Peoples’ Collection Wales website (Copyright Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru).

I have been working my way slowly through the Peoples Collection Wales website since before Christmas, finding what it has in the way of photographs about Aberdovey and other places of interest.  I have a particular affinity with 19th Century ships, so when Adrian Lee posted the photograph on the Aberdovey/Aberdyfi Past and Present Memories Facebook page asking for information, I recognized it instantly from the Peoples Collection website, which mercifully provided the name of the ship and its port of registration.  From there it was only a few steps to finding out some more details.

This solidly built visitor to Aberdovey, moored up on the wharf is the 88-ton Ellen Beatrice, registered in Aberystwyth, number 49664.  She was built in 1865 by John Faulk Evans of Aberystwyth, whose father John Evans was also an Aberystwyth ship builder.  John Faulk Evans built a number of schooners and at least one brig and one barque.  Her first Managing Owner, who retained the title for many years, was William Owens of Aberystwyth.  The name of the ship is something of a puzzle.  It probably refers to the second daughter of Sydney H. Jones-Parry, Ellen Beatrice Jones-Parry.  Captain  Jones-Parry had joined the East India Company is a boy and served in India, Burma and the Crimea but returned, with his wife and six children, to Ceredigion to turn his hand at farming on the Tyllwyd estate that he had inherited.  I have not managed to find out quite how the family was connected to William Owen, but it may be that Jones-Parry had a share or a number of shares in the vessel.

Photograph of Ellen Beatrice, showing her in Aberystwyth. This was found on the MyWelshAncestry website (original source unknown).  There’s a slightly sharper version here.

Both views are revealing, and both necessary for a full grasp of the ship’s design.  The first photograph shows off that uncompromisingly square stern, whilst the second one shows her beautiful hollow bows and classic schooner lines, and her fine rigging.  The first photograph shows Ellen Beatrice from the rear, giving a clear view of her transom (square) stern.  Although rounded sterns offer greater overall strength to a vessel, particularly important on the open sea, a coaster was usually less prone to stress, and could take advantage of the additional cargo space and deck area that a transom stern conferred.  The second photograph enables a look at her rigging and sails, identifying her as a topsail schooner.  Topsail schooners combined the benefits of sails that were perpendicular to the ship’s sides (square sails) and sails parallel to the ship’s sides (“fore and aft sails”).  The deep sea full-rigged tea clippers and East Indiamen, merchant ships of the same century, were rigged with square sails on all masts in order to pick up the trade winds, but coastal ships had much more complicated winds and breezes to confront.  Two square sails hanging from the yards (cross beams) at the top of the fore mast of Ellen Beatrice enable a following wind to provide speed as the sails billow out and power the ship through the water.  Fore and aft sails are, however, much better for manoeuvrability and tacking, allowing a ship to sail efficiently both downwind and close to the wind.  She also had jib sails (smaller triangular sails) extending from the fore mast to the bowsprit to add to lend extra flexibility and versatility.  An artist’s impression of what she looked like under sail, the painting below left of “The Charming Nancy and Ellen Beatrice” by Terry F.J. Rogers, painted during the 1970s (with Ellen Beatrice on the left), gives a good idea of how she may have looked when at sea.

From the day of her launch, her Managing Owner was William Owens of 21 North Parade, Aberystwyth.  Managing Owners were often the business managers for ships, based on land and running the commercial side of things whilst appointing a Master to take the ship concerned to sea.  The further the ship went from her own port, the more complex this relationship.  William Owens, however, seems to combined the roles of Managing Owner and Master himself.  He was listed as the Master of Ellen Beatrice for many of her voyages between 1866 and 1872, with Glyn Botwood usually acting as Mate until 1870, reappearing in 1873.  After 1872, 50-year old William Owens is replaced as Master by Robert Evans, but is listed as Boatswain.  For a few years Owens returned as Master and even when Richard Davies Jones took over for the rest of the 1870s into the 1880s, Owens often acted as Mate, only vanishing from the roster in the 1890s.

Painting by Terry F.J. Rogers: “The Charming Nancy and Ellen Beatrice,” painted during the 1970s. The Ellen Beatrice is on the left of the painting. Source: National Museum Wales

Apart from master and mate, the crew retained some consistent names from year to year, but there were also numerous changes.  Looking at the Aberystwyth Shipping records for Ellen Beatrice from the 1860s to the 1890s, again on the Taklow Kernewek website, it is clear that most of the temporary crew signed up for short contracts of between four and eight weeks.  The Taklow Kernewek website lists the crew for a large number of her journeys, and although many sailors and mates came from Aberystwyth, and a few from Borth (a supplier to many sailors to local shipping), they also came from far and wide.   The National Archives provides some details of her crew in 1881, a list that shows just how much men moved from ship to ship, in this case coming together on Ellen Beatrice from as near as Aberystwyth and as far away as Rotterdam in the Netherlands and Sydney, Australia.  Perusing the crew listings for Ellen Beatrice on the Taklow Kernewek website, it is clear that very few sailors give their place of birth as Aberdovey.   There are exceptions.  William R. Morris, Ordinary Seaman, born in Aberdovey in 1871 joined the ship at Newport and left it at Cardiff.  David Williams Lewis, born in Aberdovey in 1872, joined the ship at Aberdovey as an Able Seaman and left her at Portmadoc.  Hugh Ezekiel Davies (sic), born in Aberdovey in 1874, joined the ship at Aberdovey in 1894 as Ordinary Seaman an and also left her at Aberdovey nearly two months later.  Ezeciel Davies (sic, possibly the same person as the previous, but listed as born in Aberdovey in 1876) joined she ship from Aberdovey in 1894 as an Able Seaman and left two months later in Portmadoc.  These names turn up every now and again on the ship, but often with a year or more between journeys.  Most of those who remained with the ship from one job to another were from Aberystwyth.  What is interesting, however, is that the port of Aberdovey was a real hub for sailors.  No matter what their places of birth or where they lived, sailors joined and left the ship at Aberdovey again and again.  It is clear that Aberdovey was a good place to find new ships to join during the latter part of the 19th Century, something of a hub for jobbing sailors.

The Aberdovey topsail schooner Catherine. Source: Lewis Lloyd, A Real Little Seaport, volume 2

Aberdovey shipbuilding ended with the launch of the last ship to be built on the Dyfi, the 1869 76-ton 75.2ft schooner/ketch Catherine built by John Jones at Llyn Bwtri near Pennal.  It had been the same story in Borth, across the estuary, and Barmouth to the north. When the Aberystwyth and Welsh Coast Railway arrived in the 1860s maritime trade went into decline, together with the shipbuilding industry.  This was just a year before the last sailing ship to be built on the Thames was launched, the 1870 794-ton tea clipper Lothair, part of a trend throughout Britain.  Although the new Dyfi railway bridge, the west coast railway itself and Canadian-built ships were challenges to shipbuilding and maritime trade in the Aberdovey area, there was a much bigger threat to all builders of wooden sailing ships in Britain.  Steam power was slowly taking over the sea, and many steamships and long distance sailing ships were now iron-hulled.  Shipbuilding in Aberystwyth had not quite been defeated by the railway and the arrival of steam, although it was teetering on the edge.  Shipbuilding persisted into the 1870s, although only 15 ships were built. The last big sailing ship to be built was the schooner Edith Eleanor in 1881.

The Ellen Beatrice, via the Peoples’ Collection Wales website (Copyright Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru).

In the photograph at the top of the page, and copied right, Ellen Beatrice is moored at the Aberdovey wharf alongside a big pile of shaped timber, possibly deals (pieces of timber shaped to a standardized 7 ft × 6 ft × 5/2 in) and parallel to the rail tracks that bought slate in to the port of Aberdovey for trans-shipping elsewhere. There is nothing in the photograph to say whether she was, for example, loading slate or off-loading timber.  It is probable that she simply ran various locally produced cargoes into ports along the coast, picking up return cargoes where she could.  The Aberystwyth Observer noted that in the winter of 1890 she was carrying a cargo of firebricks when she ran aground trying to enter Workington harbour in Cumbria during a bad storm.

The Aberystwyth Observer reported the incident on 15th November 1890 when Ellen Beatrice was 25 years old. “The huge waves were sweeping her for stem to stern and the crew must have suffered greatly.”  Conditions were so rough that the lifeboat sent to her aid was was unable to her, forced back by “terrific” breakers at the pier head.  Instead, a rocket brigade made several attempts to fire a line on to the ship, and this eventually worked.  The line was taken on board and made fast, and the crew were taken off by breaches buoy.  The owner William Owen, Captain R.D. Jones from Pembury, his son Oliver “a lad” and his son-in-law Mr Thomas Williams, all from Aberystwyth, were removed safely.  The ship was refloated when the storm dropped, and taken into Workington Harbour.  Another incident is recorded in the Aberystwyth Shipping Records.  In 1910 Thomas Oliver Jones from Aberystwyth, master of the ship, was killed when the Ellen Beatrice was at Cowes “by an iron hook falling on his head, from the boom, whil in collision with ketch Alford.”

The Mercantile Navy List includes her up until 1924.  During that period she changed hands several times.  Her Managing Owner from 1865 was William Owens who was registered at 21 North Parade, Aberystwyth.  The vessel’s registered tonnage was 88 tons when she was launched, but was changed to 76 tons in 1892.  Between 1902 and 1914, presumably on the death of William Owens, the title and responsibilities of Managing Owner passed to Mrs M. Owens of 41, North Parade, Aberystwyth.  It’s a different address, but she was probably his wife, unmarried sister or daughter.  Between 1915 and 1917 her Managing Agent was Ernest Brown, Tintagel View, Port Isaac.  Between 1918 and 1920 she was in the hands of The Weymouth Diving and Touring Company at 17A King Street, Weymouth.  Finally, between 1921 and 1923 (now registered 73 tons) her Managing Owner was William T Cundy of Lipsom Road, Plymouth.

I don’t know why her registered tonnage was reduced from 88 tons to 76 and then 73 in the Mercantile Navy List.  It is possible that there were errors in the record, or that the way in which tonnages were calculated changed.  This did happen from time to time, because duties for cargoes were based on various measurements including tonnage, but it may also be that the ship was physically altered in some way, and that her actual tonnage was reduced as a result.

There is no record of her in the Mercantile Navy List after 1923 but I have been unable to find any record of a wreckage or sale.  As she was by then 59 years old, after a reliable but strenuous career, she was perhaps too old to be seaworthy without costly repairs.  It seems plausible that the decision was taken to break her up but it would be good to have a definitive end to her story.

There are so many gaps in this, a huge frustration.  Who was William Owen, what was his background and how did he manage his business?  Was he the sole owner of the ship, or were there other share-holders?  Did he own and manage other ships?  Did the vessel get her name as a result of a connection with Jones-Parry, and if so what was this connection?  Who were the Aberdovey sailors that sailed on her, and did they remain based at Aberdovey or did they move away?  What were Ellen Beatrice’s regular cargoes and routes, how long did they take and how did she meet her end in 1923/24?  So many other questions besides.  If anyone has any of the answers, please get in touch.

I had fun doing the reading for this post.  Thanks to Adrian Lee for setting me off down this particular path.

 

Main sources:

Lloyd, L. 1996.  A Real Little Seaport.  The Port of Aberdyfi and its People 1565-1920. Volume 1. ISBN-10 1874786488
Lloyd, L. 1996.  A Real Little Seaport.  The Port of Aberdyfi and its People 1565-1920. Volume 2. ISBN-10 1874786496

Aberystwyth Harbour, Shipbuilding and Ships (C.1850-1880)
http://www.mywelshancestry.co.uk/John Jenkins/Aberystwyth Harbour and Shipping/Aberystwyth Harbour and Shipbuilding.html

The Aberystwyth Observer
https://newspapers.library.wales/view/3045806/3045811/33/ellen%20moulsdale

The Mercantile Navy List
http://www.maritimearchives.co.uk/mercantile-navy-list.html

Peoples’ Collection Wales
https://www.peoplescollection.wales/items/405446?fbclid=IwAR1Tx6nySDcE23NtQD0XdvhSV4hgGNTUePO4oW3MspRQOGMWizl0GGZfzp0

Taklow Kernewek
https://taklowkernewek.neocities.org/abership/crewlists/vessel184.html

Day Trip – The Royal Silver Mint and Dyfi Charcoal Blast Furnace in the village of Furnace

Today my father and I visited the site of the Royal Silver Mint and the restored Dyfi Charcoal Blast Furnace at the village of Furnace (Welsh Ffwrnais), only 10km southwest of Machynlleth on the south side of the Dovey river, in Ceredigion.  What an amazing place.   Some of my days out have nothing much to do with Aberdovey itself, but this one is positively bristling with linkages between the 18th Century Dyfi Furnace and the contemporary port at Aberdovey.

Learning of the existence of the Dyfi Furnace was a complete accident.  Last week my father and I drove into Aberystwyth to find out how long it would take to drive there from Aberdovey, and if there were retail facilities worth the trip.  The drive was surprisingly beautiful, mainly through lovely woodland and pastures, sometimes with views over the river Dovey, the estuary and Cardigan Bay, with a spectacular descent into Aberystwyth itself, the sea a staggeringly beautiful blue.  The reality of the eternally winding road meant that we were plagued with nervous and over-cautious drivers and very slow lorries, a frustrating experience behind the steering wheel.  On the other hand, discovering the Dyfi Furnace was an absolutely excellent outcome of the expedition.

As we hurtled around a corner on our way to Aberystwyth, we both noticed a large water wheel on the side of an impressively solid stone-built building on the left/east of the A487, a few miles southwest of Machynlleth.  When we returned from Aberystwyth I fired up my PC to find out what it was, and having identified it as Dyfi Furnace, started investigating its past.  The two buildings that make up the site are managed by Cadw, and the site has a long and absolutely fascinating history dating to at least the 17th Century, spanning the reign of Charles I, the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution and the 19th and early 20th Centuries.  Today it has a valuable role welcoming visitors and providing information about the area’s industrial past.

There is a lot to say, so this is a long post, divided up as follows:

  • Introduction to the site
  • Archaeology and the history of the Dyfi Furnace
    • The early 17th Century lead works
    • The silver mill and Royal Mint c.1648-1670
    • The charcoal blast furnace c.1755-1810
      • Introducing the Dfyi Charcoal Blast Furnace
      • The job of a charcoal blast furnace, and how it works
      • How the iron smelting process translates into furnace architecture
      • The Dyfi Furnace in detail
    • The sawmill c.1810/1887-1920
  • The site today and visitor information
  • References

All sources used throughout the post are listed at the end.  You can click on images to see larger versions.


Introduction

The site is located c.10kms south of Machynlleth on what is now the A487.  On the Ordnance Survey map, at  SN685951 it can be found on the edge of the village of Furnace, which took its name from the Dyfi Furnace.  The Dyfi Furnace is one of the last charcoal blast furnaces is to be preserved in Britain and is the best preserved in Wales.  It is now managed by Cadw, Welsh Government’s historic environment service.

The history of the Dyfi Furnace can be divided into five phases of use:

  • The early 16th Century lead works
  • The establishment of the Royal Silver Mills during the Civil War (1642-1651), when it shifted from Aberystwyth when Aberystwyth Castle was under threat of attack;
  • Its conversion to a charcoal blast furnace in around 1755, changing hands at least twice before its closure in 1810;
  • The conversion of the furnace into a sawmill
  • The use of the sawmill as an agricultural storage facility, mainly for root vegetables

All three phases of use depended on water power, employing water wheels of varying sizes to transmit energy to operate machinery.

 

Archaeology and History

The early 17th Century lead works

In the early 17th Century, Sir Hugh Myddleton was responsible for promoting the metal mining industry in Ceredigion, with remarkable success, although he is better known for his pivotal role in the construction of the New River, to supply water from the River Lea to London.  It is thought that the Ynsyhir lead smelting works, that were the first industrial works standing on the Dyfi Furnace site were part of his drive to bring industry to the area.  The lead works dated from around 1620, processing lead ore to produce both lead and silver.  As in later years, local wood was probably the main reason for siting the lead works in this particular place.  The finished products were distributed by sea via the Dyfi estuary, helping to establish Aberdovey as an important trans-shipping port.

The Royal Silver Mint

During the reign of Charles I (1600-1649) silver coinage was produced in the Royal Mint in London from silver produced in mines throughout Britain, including Wales.  The crown owned a number of silver mills in its own right, known as the Mines Royal.  A paper by the Reverend Eyre Evans describes a surviving petition from 1636  that states that on the 12th May 1625 Charles I had granted one Sir Hugh Myddleton with the rights, for 31 years, to all the silver mines in the county of Cardigan, to be sent to the Royal Mint in London.  By the end of 1636 silver had been sent to the Mint at a value of £50,000.  The petition was sent by Thomas Bushell, member of the Society of Mines Royal, who had bought the land on Myddleton’s death from from Myddleton’s widow and hoped to retain Royal patronage for the endevour.

Threepence Charles I coins minted at Aberystwyth. Source: British Museum

Bushell was granted his petition, and now in the possession of the mines began to petition for a mint (a coin factory) in Aberystwyth Castle to manufacture coins exclusively from Welsh silver mines, citing the precedent of Ireland, where a Royal Mint had been established. Rather surprisingly, given strongly worded objections from the Royal Mint in London, on the 9th  July 1637 Bushell was again granted his wish, and was authorized to coin the half-crown, shilling, half-shilling, two-pence, and penny, all from Welsh silver.  In October of the same year the groat, threepence and half-penny were added to the list.  A set of accounts for the Aberystwyth Castle mint last up until 1642, when they cease abruptly, almost certainly due to the outbreak of the Civil War and the threat to the mint from Parliamentarian forces, and the castle was actually occupied briefly in 1648.

Tentative suggestions that during the Civil War (1642-1651) the Aberystwyth Royal Mint was moved to the site at Furnace were unambiguously confirmed during the 1986 excavations by James Dinn and his team, a great result.   Ceredigion silver was very highly valued and moving the Royal Mint to this location was a sound plan, particularly as Charles I was in urgent need of coin to pay his army.  This seems to have taken place in 1648 or a short time beforehand.

The silver mill had been described by Sir John Pettus and John Ray in 1670 and 1674 respectively, and a plan by Waller (1704) survives.  These between them describe furnaces, possibly up to five of them, the mint house and the stamping mill surrounding a courtyard, together with the mint house, a lead mill and a refining house.  Between them the buildings had four water wheels to operate four sets of bellows. One of the wheel pits was found during the excavations.  A cobbled surface was also found during excavations, apparently belonging to the courtyard of the silver mill.

Dinn says that the dates during which the silver mill was in use are uncertain, but that it may have operated in 1645-6 and 1648-9.  Activity was apparently suspended in 1650 but the works seem to have been in operation again in 1650.  1670 seems to mark the date for its permanent abandonment.

The Charcoal Blast Furnace

Introducing the Dyfi Charcoal Blast Furnace

At the top of the Dyfi Furnace, the charging room, from where the furnace was fed.

The Dyfi Charcoal Blast Furnace was built in c.1755 and was in use for five years for iron smelting (the production of iron from natural iron ore).  The excavations found that later conversion to a sawmill had destroyed some of the blast furnace components but preserved others.  Charcoal blast furnaces had been introduced into Britain in the late 15th Century but it took another century for them to become widespread.

The furnace was initially leased in c.1755 from Lewis and Humphrey Edwards by Ralph Vernon together with the brothers Edward and William Bridge, who had been involved with the building of a furnace in Conwy, north Wales in 1750.   The furnace-master, who was accommodated in a house at the site called Ty Furnace, was Thomas Gaskell.  Vernon retired sometime between 1765 and 1770 and the Bridge brothers went bankrupt in 1773.  Dinn says that this “left members of the Kendall family in sole control of Conwyy and Dyfi furnaces.”  I am not clear on how the Kendalls, west Midlands iron-masters with interests throughout Britain, came to be in control, but the Kendalls may have invested in the furnace operation.  Ralph Vernon was a cousin of Jonathan and Henry Kendall and they had been in business together before.  Both Dyfi and Conwy furnaces were put up for sale in 1774.  No buyers were found and it is thought that John Kendall probably managed the Dyfi furnace himself until his death in 1791, but the Conwy furnace closed in around 1779.  In 1796 the lease again changed hands and was now in the name of Messrs Bell and Gaskell, the latter being the Thomas Gaskell who had been the furnace master at Dyfi Furnace under the Kendalls.   Dyfi Furnace went out of use as an iron ore smelting furnace in around 1810.

There were four reasons for basing the furnace at the foot of the River Einion waterfall.

  • First, the waterfall provided power for the water wheel, and with its source high in the hills, originating in Craiglin Dyffi near the summit of the remote Aran Faddwy, the tallest peak in the area, it was unlikely to dry up at any part of the year. The water wheel powered the bellows that gave the blast furnace its name.
  • Second, there was a road to the river village of Garreg, 2km away, that provided access to the navigable part of the River Dovey (Afon Dyfi), which provided easy access to the sea port of Aberdovey.  The furnace depended upon Aberdovey for transfer of iron ore (the natural material from which iron is extracted in the furnace) from Cumbria to river ships that could make the trip to Garreg, and for transhipping its pig iron (iron produced from iron ore that was now in a state ready to be worked in a forge by a blacksmith) to elsewhere in the country.
  • Third, it was surrounded by rich woodland that was exploited for the manufacture of charcoal to fuel the furnace.
  • Finally, it was immediately next to the turnpike road out of Machynlleth, providing access to the market town.

Both iron ore and limestone had to be imported.  The iron ore came mainly from Cumbria, but it is not clear where the limestone was sourced.  Limestone is available in north Wales, and there are records of imports to the furnace from the River Dee, so this is a plausible source.

The entire complex included the Furnace (blast furnace stack, the hearth at its base, a casting house, a bellows room, a counterweight room, a charging room), an external charcoal storage building and the iron-master’s house, Ty Furnace.

Plan of the buildings associated with the Dyfi Furnace. Source: Dinn, J. 1988, p.112

 

The job of the charcoal blast furnace, and how it works

Iron Smelting

A furnace is an impressive combination of chemical and mechanical engineering.

Iron ores are a mixture of oxides and sulphates of iron, predominantly haematite, ferric oxide (Fe2O3).  However, the haematite and other iron oxides come mixed with a variety of other minerals, containing such elements as silica, alumina, phosphorous, manganese and sulphur. The smelting process must accomplish two things.

Blast Furnace simulation showing some of the components described in this post.  Please note that this simulation shows coke being used, but this is a later innovation; the Dyfi Furnace used charcoal. Sourced from the BBC History website, where it can be run as an excellent Flash animation.

It must split the molecules of the iron compounds so that the iron is separated from the oxygen.   This is done by the addition of heat and the supply of carbon in the form of (in this case) charcoal.   In this chemical and physical environment, the addition of heat energy divides the ore into iron and carbon dioxide, CO2.  The hot carbon dioxide exits through the chimney.  Notice that the charcoal is both the source of heat, and a chemical reagent combining with the oxygen in the ferric oxide.

The second thing the process must accomplish is remove the other minerals that accompany the haematite in the iron ore.  This is achieved in two ways.  First, the addition of intense heat acts in much the same way as it does with the haematite taking off some of the impurities as gases.   However, it also requires the addition of a limestone (primarily composed of calcite, CACO3) “flux,” which both lowers the melting point of the mixture and bonds with the impurities to make a silicaceous liquid, physically and chemically similar to a very impure glass.  Being silicaceous, it is light and floats on the iron, making it relatively easy to separate.

The addition of oxygen

Oxygen is added by use of bellows.  There are two features of the flow of air in a furnace which are worth noting.  First the bellows are much more effective blowing into a confined space.  Blowing into an open hearth, the air is quickly dissipated, as is the heat produced.  Second, the narrow funnel at the top of the furnace creates what engineers call a “venturi.”  It forces the hot rising gases into a much smaller space so that their speed increases, in the same way that like the narrowing of the nozzle size on a hose pipe, increases the speed at which the water squirts out.  When the velocity of a gas increases, its pressure falls, according to a physical law known as Bernoulli’s principle.  The low pressure at the top of the furnace pulls the air through the smelting mixture just as the air from the bellows is pushing it.  Together, they increase the amount of oxygen from the air which reaches the burning charcoal, radically increasing its temperature.

Bellows

Bellows are a device for taking a lot of air from an unconfined place and pushing it at high pressure into a smaller place.  To operate successfully the bellows need four features.

First, and most obvious, a bag into which the air can be sucked from the atmosphere.  At this time the bag were usually leather.

The second thing that the bellows need are a way of opening and closing the bag.  In this furnace opening is achieved by a cog with one side of each tooth rounded (see diagram), driven by a water wheel.  The opening is achieved by a counter weight connected to a lever which is pulled up by the same cog mechanism (see diagram). When the tooth of the cog passes, the counterweight falls to open the bellows.

The third thing is a valve on the leather bag which lets air be sucked in when the bellow are open, but not blown out when they are closing.

Finally, the bellows need a narrow nozzle to push the air at high speed into the furnace chamber to deliver oxygen to the charcoal and increase the rate of combustion.

A Cadw sign from the site showing how the counterweights related to the functionality of the bellows

How the iron smelting process translates into furnace architecture

The furnace consists of a number of different rooms, each devoted to a different task:

  • The charge (charcoal, limestone flux and iron ore) is fed in from the charging room at the top of the furnace.  This room keeps the charcoal dry whilst it is being fed into the furnace.
  • The furnace itself is in a square stack, but is circular in form.  A small round opening at the top (the neck) flares out down the length of the stack to allow the materials to expand as they are heated from a blast from the bellows.  The stack suddenly narrows into a funnel, called the bosh.  Finally, the a tall cylinder at the base, the hearth, is where the molten iron and slag gathers.
  • The heat within the furnace is maintained by the bellows, which are contained within the bellows room and these are operated by a water wheel on the outside of the building.
  • A counterweight room contains the counterweights that raise and drop the bellows.  The bellows connect to the furnace via an pipe, c.3 inches in diameter, and a nozzle called a tuyère that are carried through a tuyère hole or blasting arch at about 1ft above the base of the furnace at the correct angle to give maximum impact.
  • The area in the hearth below the tuyère where the liquid metal comes to rest is called the crucible.
  • Molten slag, floating on top, and molten iron, below, pass through separate tapholes.  The iron passes through an arch, called a casting arch, into the the casting room.  This is where the iron hardens in clean and dry conditions.


Looking in detail at the Dyfi Furnace

When it was built in c.1755 the Dyfi Furnace appears to have consisted of a free-standing blast furnace, with other components added a little later.  The completed complex consisted of the furnace building made of local shale from the Silurian period Llandovery series and grey-white mortar, the charcoal barn 20m away from the furnace and the head ironmaster’s house.

A superb cut-away image of the interior of the Dyfi Furnace, showing how all the components relate to one another, upstairs and down. The furnace is at far left with the bellows to its right and the couterwights beyond, at far right. Upstairs is the charging room where the iron ore, charcoal and limestone were poured in, and at the bottom you can see men urging the molten iron into the pig moulds in the casting house, of which only the foundations were found during excavation. The water wheel is on the other side of the far wall, powering the bellows. The chimney vents all the released gases. Source: Cadw signage at the site.

 

The charcoal store

The furnace building was split into the furnace stack itself (9.1m square at the base and 8m square at the eves, and 10m tall).  The furnace stack was was circular on the inside, which can be clearly seen from the ground floor.  The blowing house had a vaulted brick arch (the room measuring 5.1×7.7m).  The cast house measured 7.05×7.10m).  There was also a counterweight room and wheel pit, together with a wheel, to operate the bellows.  Two lean-to structures were added to the building, one housing the water wheel and the other apparently used for storage.

 

Site plan from the excavation report. Source: Dinn, J. 1988, page 122

The bottom of the furnace, the bellows room and the counterweight room can all be seen from the lowest level of the site down a small flight of stairs to the right of the building as you approach from the car park.

The excavations revealed the original cast house walls, of which only 0.80cm remained.   When you look in through the first arch at the furnace, you are standing where the cast house once was. Dinn says that “the variety of features in the casting area was much greater than that recorded at sites such as Bonawe  and Duddon, and the casting pit much deeper, suggesting a wider range of activities than pig casting was envisaged.”

It is not known whether the bellows were leather or the more modern iron blowing tubes that were installed in at least one contemporary furnace at Duddon in Cumberland.  Unfortunately there is nothing left to determine this.

The interior, circular design of the furnace.

The furnace, circular on the inside, but set within a square chimney, was probably composed of at least two layers of brick, separated by a fill of light rubble, earth or sand to allow for expansion of the furnace lining as it heated.

The rooms that would have contained the charging house were locked up, but this is where the iron ore (high quality Cumbrian haematite), the limestone and the charcoal would have been tipped into the furnace.  A covered charging bridge also existed, leading into the charging room.

There are considerable similarties in the design to Craleckan in Argyll and Conwy in north Wales with overall similarities to both Duddon in Cumberland and Bonawe in Argyll, and it is possible that they were all designed by the same person.

Outside, the water was managed using a series of features, including at least one leat (a channel dug into the ground to direct water to where it is needed), a waterfall that was built up to give it extra power for turning the water wheel, and a tailrace to take the water away from the furnace.   None of these features was excavated.  The wheel and wheel pit at the site today both belong to the saw mill and are bigger than the ones for which fittings were recorded during the excavations, which were 3.60-5m, 7.5m and 7.9m diameter.  The excavation report does not mention if the original water wheels used for the furnace were overshot or undershot designs.

Extensive use was made of arches throughout the building.  The main components of the building are built of local shale and mortar, but some of the arches, notably the blowing arch and taphole entrance, were made of brick.

Pen and ink drawing of the Dyfi Furnace from c.1790180 by P.J. de Loutherbourg. National Library of Wales. Source: Dinn, J. 1988, p.120.  The crack shown in this drawing is still clearly visible on the north wall today.

The furnace could not have operated without being able to interface with coastal carriers at Aberdovey.   Cargoes destined for the Dyfi Furnace, and products produced by the furnace were carried by sea, but these ships were too large to navigate the Dovey river, so everything had to be trans-shipped via Aberdovey, which acted as an cargo handling hub between coasters and small river vessels.    Materials and supplies arrived at Aberdovey by sea and were loaded onto river vessels.  Pig iron manufactured at the Dyfi Furnace was in turn sent down the river to Aberdovey, where it was loaded onto seagoing ships and sent on its way.  The relationship between Aberdovey and the small river ports that lined the River Dovey was completely symbiotic.   Ore and ironstone shipments to the furnace are recorded from both Conwy and the River Dee, whilst the Aberdovey Custom House records shipments of iron ore from Ulverston in Cumbria.  Backbarrow shipping ledgers from Ulverston record many deliveries to Dyfi Furnace.

One of the Cadw information sites at Dyfi Furnace showing coppicing and preparation of the stack for manufacturing charcoal

Information signs at the site say that the local woodlands were coppiced to make the wood go further.  This simply involves cutting the wood back very close to the ground every few years so that it regrows on several new trunks from a single root.  This wood was then converted to charcoal by baking it.  Branches were stakced and covered with earth, and then a fire was set.  Once it was burning, air was excluded from the stack and it was allowed to cook for several days.  The resulting charcoal burned at higher temperatures than wood, an essential asset for charcoal blast furnaces.  A single mature tree could provide sufficient fuel to manufacture two tons of iron.  Records show that charcoal was also shipped into Aberdovey from Barmouth, and this is thought to be have been destined for the Dyfi furnace, to supplement its own supply.  Pig iron was sent to Vernon and Kendall forges mainly in Cheshire and Staffordshire via Aberdovey but also to Barmouth.  Other pig iron was sent to the local Glanfred forge on the River Leri in Ynyslas (SN643880), presumably transported by river vessel down the river Dovey and then up the Leri.

My understaning is that the furnace-master’s house has also been preserved,  called Ty Furnace (translating as Furnace House), but I was unable to actually see that. It is, however, shown in both the drawings on this page.

Dovery Furnace. Etching by J.G. Wood, 1813, from his book The Principal Rivers of Wales. Source: National Library of Wales

The Dyfi Furnace was one of the last charcoal blast furnaces to be built in Britain, and is contemporary with some other well known charcoal blast furnaces including Bonawe (Argyll, Scotland), Conwy (north Wales) and Craleckan (Argyll, Scotland), all isolated areas that had good access to coastal trade routes. Richards suggests that very rural locations were selected because of their distance from Naval shipbuilding centres in the south and east of England, where shortages of shipbuilding timber were causing anxiety in the Admiralty, and competition for wood with charcoal-burning  furnaces may have been suppressed.

Saw Mill

There is very little information about the sawmill.  It was probably established at Dyfi Furnace at some point between 1810 and 1887, according to Dinn, although there was a period of disused after the furnace closed, marked by the collapse of the cast house roof.  A refurbishment and reorganization of the furnace building seems to have taken place a little later.

An early sawmill showing two men creating planks with a straight whipsaw.  Source: Cooney 1991

Sawmills were an innovation that simply did what the name implies.  Before mechanization, sawing had been achieved by two men with a long whipsaw, one man on top of the wood being sawed, the other man below, each man pulling his end of the saw in turn.   It was a highly skilled and physically demanding job, particularly for the man at the top of the saw.  The sawmill replaced man power with water power.  A water wheel was attached to the mechanism that did the sawing via a “pitman” (or connecting rod) that converted the circular motion of the wheel into the push-pull of the saw mechanism.  How the wood was loaded and unloaded is not discussed in any of the publications that I have found to date.  Given the lack of any additional structures described in the excavation reports it seems likely that loading the wood and removing it once processed were entirely manual, although mechanized systems were introduced at other sawmills.   According to E.W. Cooney’s fascinating paper, although sawmills had been established much earlier in Europe, the sawmill was a relatively late phenomenon in Britain, the first ones established in the late 18th Century but not really taking off until the arrival of steam-powered sawmills in the mid 19th Century, and this appears to have been partly due to pressure from professional manual sawyers but also from doubts about the benefits of new technologies.  Water power was gradually replaced by steam power, and during the 19th Century the number of water-powered sawmills declined very rapidly.

It was quite usual for a water mill that had formerly used for an entirely different task to be adapted for use as a sawmill, and often former corn mills were converted, so the re-use of a blast furnace as a sawmill was not surprising.  The water wheel that remains today is 9m (nearly 30ft) in diameter, but this may belong to a later phase than the initial conversion of the building to a saw mill and it may have been liberated from Ystrad Einion lead mine in the early 20th Century, which had a wheel of exactly the same size.  It is an overshot water wheel manufactured by  Williams and Metcalfe of the Rheidol Foundry, Aberystwith.  The Cast House pit may have been used for tanning from the park produced at the sawmill, as happened at Bonawe. A period of disuse seems to have been followed by the demolition of the Cast House and adjacent building in around 1880, and again a sawmill appears to have been the intended use.  Dinn says that it ceased to function in the 1920s.

The Dyfi water-powered sawmill was by now in a rather more populated area than the furnace had been.  Samuel Lewis, writing in 1849, recorded that “the immediate neighborhood is well wooded and agreeable, and some respectable residences are scatted over the township,” which is “conveniently situated near smelting houses and refining mills.”  He said that the river Dovey was navigable to the point where the river Einion met the Dovey for vessels up to 300 tons.  Nearby Eglwysfach was a bigger settlement with an Anglican church, a Calvinist and a Wesleyan Methodist chapel and two Sunday Schools.

Dinn’s report states that the sawmill only stopped operating in around 1920, but he does not mention how it was powered at that time, and it is possible that it was still water-powered.

After the Sawmill

The main furnace buildings were adapted for uses as an agricultural store, and a flagged floor was laid down for this new role in the Blowing House.  The Furnace stack was converted into a root vegetable store, with a slate floor.  Subsequent use of the site was limited.

 

The Site today and visitor Information

The top level at Dyfi Furnace,. The charging room where the furnace was loaded with raw materials for the transformation into pig iron.

The journey from Aberdovey to Furnace took about 30 minutes.  There is a decent sized carpark to the right of the road as you head south, immediately opposite the furnace itself .

When you have parked you just need to be careful (very careful) as you cross the busy A487.

Today the site is in beautiful condition thanks to renovations in 1977-8 and again in 1984.  The site is on two levels, with a set of easy steps with a handrail from one level to the other.  At the top of the steps you can see the top part of the builing’s structure and take a very short walk to the waterfall.

The interior is not accessible but open grills allow you to see all you need to inside the building at ground level.  The interior of the charging house at the top is closed due to horseshoe bats roosting there in the summer months.  The site is free to access and there are plenty of really excellent information boards to let you know what is happening at each part of the site.  On each notice board there is also a puzzle for children to explore.

Should you fancy a bit of a walk, there are a number of options that lead up the Einion valley from the waterfall, which you can find in a number of walking guides, or you can check out the ViewRanger website where there’s a short walk or a much longer one.  Alternatively, if you are in the mood for a different type of experience after your visit, you might take in the bird sanctuary at Ynys Hir, a short drive away, or the nature reserve at Ynyslas, a 15 minute drive away.

If you have any more information about the site and its history, it would be great to hear from you, so please let me know.

 

References

Primary references used in this post (all references cited above and below are listed in the website Bibliography):

First, many thanks to my father, William Byrnes, for writing the section “How a Blast Furnace Works.”

Cooney, E.W. 1991. Eighteenth Century Britain’s Missing Sawmills.  A Blessing in Disguise? Construction History 7, 1991, p.29-46.
https://www.arct.cam.ac.uk/Downloads/chs/vol7/article2.pdf
Daff, T. 1973. Charcoal-Fired Blast Furnaces; Construction and Operation. BIAS Journal 6
Dinn, J.  1988.  Dyfi Furnace excavations 1982-1987.  Post-Medieval Archaeology 22:1, p.111-142
Eyre Evans, G. 1915.  The Royal Mint, Aberystwyth. Transactions of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society, Vol 2 No 1, (1915) p.71 http://www.ceredigionhistoricalsociety.org/trans-2-mint.php
Goodwin, G. 1894. Myddleton, Hugh.  Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 39.  https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Myddelton,_Hugh_(DNB00)
Lewis, S. 1849.  A topographical history of Wales.https://www.british-history.ac.uk/topographical-dict/wales
Richard, A.J and Napier, J. 2005.  A tale fo two rivers:  Mawddach and Dyfi.  Gwasg Garreg Gwalch.
Sandbach, P. 2017. Dyfi Furnace and Ystrad Einion 21st October 2016. Newsletter of the Cumbria Amenity Trust Mining History Society.  February 2017, No.16,p. 17-21.
www.catmhs.org.uk/members/newsletter-126-february-2017
Walker, R.D. Iron Processing. Encylopedia Britannia. January 27, 2017 https://www.britannica.com/technology/iron-processing#ref622837