Hay view from Castle

Hay view from Castle
Hay-on-Wye, Powys (formerly Breconshire), Wales. The "Town of Books" (and Vaughans!)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Puddler at Forge

The mystery remains but we're closing in on how the sons of a fatherless butcher became puddlers in the South Wales iron works. A puddler was a skilled worker of some prestige in the boiling ores, blinding fires, and poisonous clouds of the industry.

The first indication we have is the 1851 census in which John and Elinor's son William Vaughan, age 21, is listed as "puddler at forge." What forge? We've wondered. And I only assumed, as there was no forge apparent in their resident village of Llanfoist, that it was the Blaenavon Ironworks over the Blorenge Mountain. It wouldn't be an impossible walk, if inconvenient, to travel over the mountain or maybe stay some days coming home on Sunday, likely the only day off, ever.

Then something came across my Facebook feed from Gwent Archives mentioning Llanfoist at the foot of the Blorenge and the tramways across the mountain:
the counter balanced incline planes at Llanfoist canal wharf which were part of Hill’s Tramroad, linking Blaenavon furnaces and Garnddyrys forge with the wharf to transport the wrought iron along the Brecon and Abergavenny Canal.

Garnddyrys forge! It was called a forge! "Puddler at forge" would likely refer to the closest forge in the vicinity along with the few other puddlers, rollers, or labourers "at forge" listed in the Census for Llanfoist.