The Diary of Charles Wood of Cyfarthfa Ironworks 1766-1767

by Joseph Gross

Charles Wood (1702–74), a member of a family long connected with the iron industry of the West Midlands and later Cumberland, spent the last decade of his life at Merthyr Tydfil in Glamorgan, first supervising the construction of Cyfarthfa Ironworks and then acting as manager on behalf of owners who lived elsewhere. For about twelve months in 1766–7, while the furnace, forge and other plant were being built, Wood kept a daily record of the progress of the work, which provides a unique insight into the difficulties of such an undertaking in a remote part of the country.

The book in which he wrote the diary was used in the 1750s to note Wood's experiments at Low Mill in Cumberland when he was attempting to perfect what became known as the 'potting' or 'potting and stamping' process of refining pig iron into bar iron, and also to record a tour he made of ironworks in various parts of England in 1754.

Although known to a handful of specialists for some years, Wood's diary, which remains in the possession of a descendant in Australia, is a neglected source for the history of the iron industry. It also throws a wealth of light on life in Merthyr Tydfil in the mid 18th century, just as the parish was beginning to be transformed by the building of new ironworks. This complete edition of the manuscript, with an introduction, full apparatus and index, makes an important text readily available for the first time.

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2001. Hardback, 288 pages, 6 illus

ISBN 1 898937 48 6