Thursday, April 20, 2017

Unbridled Capitalism

Still working on my family history writing project, I said I wouldn't post. But, part of my project is the research, particularly of Tredegar in the 1840s and 50s. I am continually horrified by the abuses of unregulated Capitalism on the working poor in Wales during the Industrial Revolution. We're not just talking hard-working, tough guys, but women and children too.

I have yet to visit Tredegar in the Sirhowy Valley, but I was just one valley over in the Ebbw Vale and I drove by on the Heads of the Valleys Road, AKA the A465. And we visited Merthyr Tydfil two valleys over on the west side and went to church there in the beautiful Stake Center that sits with some irony up above the abandoned Cafarthfa Iron Works.

So, I share with you tonight some horrifyingly beautiful art pieces of what South Wales was like in the Industrial Revolution when the wealth of Britain and its Imperial war power was built on the blood and crushed bones of Welsh men, women, and children.

An Iron Forge at Merthyr Tydfil, Julius Caesar Ibbetson, 1789
Dowlais Ironworks, George Childs, 1840

Cyfarthfa Ironworks Interior at Night, Penry Williams, 1825.

Cafarthfa Iron Works Ruins, Merthyr Tydfil

Nant-y-glo Ironworks, (Artist unknown) c.1830 (near Llanfoist)
"Nant-y-glo" means "Coal Brook" but the "glo" is an interesting word inspiring this piece, in part, I believe.

Mine Worker, William Clayton, c.1860.
Mine Worker, William Clayton, c.1860.

These last two, are the earliest known photographs of South Wales Miners according to the website I stole them from. But I think they're in the public domain even in Britain. They could be our cousins.

It was this passage I came across in a report to Parliament on working children that got to me. 

I had been writing that the mining of ironstone was not quite as bad as mining coal. John Lewis (1822-1867) husband of Jane Vaughan Lewis Johns (1827-1890), was an iron ore miner in Tredegar according to the 1851 Census for Wales. I think I can still work that idea into the story.

John and Jane along with their son, John Samuel Lewis, and Jane's mother, Elinor Jenkins Vaughan, were all Mormon Handcart Pioneers of 1856. 

I would have risked a handcart journey to get out of South Wales.

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