years 1753 to 1755 RR Angerstein, a Swede, toured England and
Wales making detailed notes and sketches of important industrial
sites and processes. His first 'port of call' in Wales was the
Forge at Caerleon. This was situated on the northern edge of the
town beside the road to Pontypool. Here he observed water power
driving the bellows and hammer used to heat and shape pig iron.
As well as recording what he saw, he costed the process of bringing
the iron from Abercarn, processing it and then transporting it
to Bristol. Mr Roberts, who had recently built the works, and
a Mr Williams were his guides.
he went on to Newport, Abercarn, Pontypool, Usk, Monmouth and
hence back into England. In Newport Angerstein found little to
write about - how different it would have been had he made his
tour fifty or more years later.
owners were not so keen to allow him to see the processes inside
their works. In Pontypool he was forced to observe the owner chastise
a worker who had allowed him to enter the works without official
permission! One can understand the owner's rage - Angerstein was
basically engaged in industrial espionage.
died shortly after returning to his homeland. The sketches that
survive of his tour are fair copies made by a Swedish engineer
a few years later. These copies may not have been completely faithful
to the originals.
In 2001 the
Science Museum published Angerstein's Travel Diary (R R Angerstein's
Illustrated Travel Diary 1753 - 1755. Industry in England and
Wales from a Swedish perspective. Translated by Torsten and
Peter Berg. ISBN 1 900747 24 3). The Museum has kindly granted
Caerleon Net a licence to reproduce text and images relating to
Caerleon. These can be accessed by following these links:
Across The Severn
Forge At Caerleon
at least three works in the vicinity of Caerleon in the eighteenth
century - the forge which converted pig iron to bar iron; a black-plate
mill which rolled iron into plates; and a tin mill. However, it
is very difficult to be sure of the locations of these processes
at different times. Angerstein says the forge was "a little
way from the town" - it seems likely that this was, as suggested
above, just on the northern edge of Caerleon beside the road to
Pontypool. The tin works was almost certainly in Ponthir. Donovan,
in his book Descriptive Excursions Through South Wales In The
Year 1804 And The Four Preceding Summers described the 'tin-work'
as being 'long since established' and 'at the distance of a mile
and a half from the town (Caerleon), in the road to Ponty-pool'.
Traces of these works can still be seen just across the railway
line from Station Road, Ponthir. From the mid 1790s the tin works
and the forge were on the route of the Caerleon Tramroad. Both
works may have had machinery to roll the iron into sheets. In
any case it seems likely that, at times at least, the works shared
management and operated in conjunction.