John Taylor and the Halkyn Mines

Whilst this series of posts have a tendency to focus on Taylor’s work in Cornwall and Devon, occasionally it will wander across Britain, and this is such a post.

1812 was the year in which John Taylor made a surprising move, he resigned all active commitments in West Devon to established chemical works in Stratford Essex. This was a start of a several non-mining interests of Taylor and Sons, but as they fall outside of my Trevithick Society talk I will resist the temptation to dive down those rabbit holes in these posts.

Taylor did not stay away from mining for long, and when he returned it would be on a North Wales mountain, many miles away from Devon.

Halkyn2016 Ordnance Survey
Contains OS data © Crown copyright  published under OGL

In 1813 he became the agent to Lord Grosvenor rich lead mines around Halkyn mountain in Flintshire.The Grosvenors had been successfully working these lead mines for generations, but by the 19th century the mines were in decline, and they brought in the young Taylor to rejuvenate their fortunes.

The move to Flintshire was probably arranged through the Duke of Bedford’s agent, John Adams, who had acquired a great regard for his work at Wheal Friendship. But just as happened at Friendship, Taylor soon turned the opportunity offered by personnel contact into success.

This remote mountain was the first site of a formula for success that Taylor and Son’s became renowned for; move into a flagging mine, import Cornish mining technologies and management systems, invest in modernising, and add some of Taylor’s tight financial control. His success at Halkyn launched a campaign of moving into almost every metal mining district in Britain.

Seen from the stance of mine owners, investors and Cornish miners Taylor’s involvement in Flintshire mining was a resounding success. It enabled the mines to survive depressed copper prices to become the richest in the district. Many of the Welsh miners thought differently though. To them it was an erosion of conditions, and opposition to his methods would lead to industrial disputes and riots. Their were disputes about poor timbering , disputes about the rules he introduced, disputes about ventilation, and disputes about working hours.

Such industrial unrest was rare in Cornwall, but there the ‘system’ had evolved alongside the miners culture, rather then imposed from the outside. Or perhaps the ‘Cornish’ system had evolved because of the working culture of miners West of the Tamar.

It was the increase in the working day from six to eight hours that caused the most violent disputes. When Taylor and Sons attempted to introduce it to their Pant-y-go Mine, in 1850, 500 miners ransacked managers houses. The local police were powerless to act, and a detatchrment of the 86th Regiment was to regain control together with constables with drawn cutlasses.

PantygoOS1880

OS 1884 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland. Website

The strike lasted for twelve months, twelve months when both the mines and miners suffered badly. Their was damage to mine shafts, and miners sent for hard labour after conviction for riot. But the Taylor’s would eventually get their eight hour day when the men eventually gave in.

To learn more about the riots pop across to the Flintshire lead mining website. To learn more about the ‘Cornish System’ follow this blog to catch the next post.

If you are still wondering about those ‘rabbit holes’ that I am resisting diving down, here they are-

Manufacturing Vitrol, producing gas from oil, refining sugar, manufacturing portable printing machines.

Opposition continued however and the following year several hundred men demanded a return to 6 hours due to such wet unventilated conditions in the mine.

 

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