Watkin George

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Watkin George (1759-1822) was an carpenter, engineer and ironmaster from Trevethin in Monmouthshire. He rose from humble beginnings as a carpenter to have a major influence on ironworks at Cyfartha and Pontypool and is responsible for the design of early cast iron bridges.

Trevethin suburb of Pontypool and a community in Torfaen County Borough in south east Wales

Trevethin is a suburb of Pontypool in Torfaen, Wales, a community in Torfaen, and includes two electoral wards for Torfaen County Borough Council.

Monmouthshire (historic) one of the thirteen historic counties of Wales

Monmouthshire, also known as the County of Monmouth, is one of thirteen historic counties of Wales and a former administrative county. It corresponds approximately to the present principal areas of Monmouthshire, Blaenau Gwent, Newport and Torfaen, and those parts of Caerphilly and Cardiff east of the Rhymney River.

Contents

Early life

Little is known about George's early life except that he was born in Trevethin around 1759 and that his father, who was also called Watkin George, died in 1787. [1]

Career

Again, little is known about George's early career but from about 1790 to 1794 he was possibly working on iron girder bridges over the Glamorganshire Canal. [1] [2] He was made a partner in Cyfartha ironworks in 1792 by the owner Richard Crawshay. The works expanded over the next few years, developing Henry Cort's puddling process, to become the largest ironworks in the world by 1806. [1] [2]

Cyfarthfa Ironworks

The Cyfarthfa Ironworks was a major 18th- and 19th-century ironworks in Cyfarthfa, on the north-western edge of Merthyr Tydfil, in South West Wales.

Richard Crawshay British iron merchant

Richard Crawshay was a London iron merchant and then South Wales ironmaster.

Henry Cort English ironmaster

Henry Cort was an English ironmaster. During the Industrial Revolution in England, Cort began refining iron from pig iron to wrought iron using innovative production systems. In 1783-1784 he patented an improved version of the puddling process for refining cast iron although its commercial viability was only accomplished by innovations introduced by the Merthyr Tydfil ironmasters Crawshay and Homfray.

During this period Watkin George also constructed or designed Pont-y-Cafnau (1792-93 - an iron tramway bridge and aqueduct), Gwynne water aqueduct (1793-96 - a timber trestle structure 185m long, part of which ran over Pont-y-Cafnau), Melingriffith water pump [lower-alpha 1] (1793-1795), Aeolus waterwheel (1793-97 - a 50 ft diameter cast iron waterwheel), Ynysgau Bridge (1799-1800 - a single shallow arch of cast iron), and Ynysfach Ironworks (1801 - the two blast furnaces bore his initials). [1] [2] [5]

Pont-y-Cafnau bridge in United Kingdom

The Pont-y-Cafnau is a 14.2-metre (47 ft) long iron truss bridge over the River Taff in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. The bridge was designed by Watkin George and built in 1793 for his employer, the Cyfarthfa Ironworks, to support both a tramway and an aqueduct to carry limestone and water into the works. A Grade II* listed building and Scheduled Ancient Monument, the Pont-y-Cafnau is the world's earliest surviving iron railway bridge.

Aqueduct (water supply) any system of pipes, ditches, canals, tunnels, and other structures used to convey water supply

An aqueduct is a watercourse constructed to carry water from a source to a distribution point far away. In modern engineering, the term aqueduct is used for any system of pipes, ditches, canals, tunnels, and other structures used for this purpose. The term aqueduct also often refers specifically to a bridge on an artificial watercourse. The word is derived from the Latin aqua ("water") and ducere. Aqueducts were used in ancient Greece, ancient Egypt, and ancient Rome. In modern times, the largest aqueducts of all have been built in the United States to supply the country's biggest cities. The simplest aqueducts are small ditches cut into the earth. Much larger channels may be used in modern aqueducts. Aqueducts sometimes run for some or all of their path through tunnels constructed underground. Modern aqueducts may also use pipelines. Historically, agricultural societies have constructed aqueducts to irrigate crops and supply large cities with drinking water.

Melingriffith Water Pump water-driven water pump built around 1793 to return water from the Melingriffith Tin Plate Works to the Glamorganshire Canal

Melingriffith Water Pump is a water-driven water pump that was built by Watkin George, of Cyfartha, around 1793 to return precious water from the Melingriffith Tin Plate Works to the Glamorganshire Canal. The water pump is a scheduled monument and has been restored twice since it ceased operation in the 1940s. For many years it was believed to be designed by the canal engineer John Rennie.

Around 1805 Watkin George left Cyfartha to become a partner at Pontypool Ironworks where he undertook a number of changes including the demolition of a wire works at Pontymoile, a new tinplate works and waterwheel at Pontymoile and two tinplate works at Lower Mill, near Pontymoile. [1] After George left Cyfartha he was described later (1807) as having ..."lately quitted the concern with from thirty to forty thousand pounds in his pocket. This is one among the most remarkable instances of wealth acquired by the untutored ingenuity of the natural faculties." [6] The partnership with Capel Hanbury Leigh at Pontypool proved successful and after the first two years George received £8,300 in profits. [7]

Pontymoile suburb of Pontypool and a community in Torfaen County Borough in south east Wales

Pontymoile is a large suburb of the town of Pontypool in Torfaen, south east Wales and a Community. It is all but merged with the nearby suburbs of Cwmynyscoy and Upper Race.

In 1811 George submitted plans for a bridge at Chepstow. The bridge was eventually built to a design by John Rastrick in 1816. [8]

Old Wye Bridge, Chepstow bridge in Chepstow, south-east Wales

The Old Wye Bridge or Town Bridge at Chepstow, also known historically as Chepstow Bridge, crosses the River Wye between Monmouthshire in Wales and Gloucestershire in England, close to Chepstow Castle. Although there had been earlier wooden bridges on the site since Norman times, the current road bridge was constructed of cast iron in 1816 during the Regency period, by John Rastrick of Bridgnorth, who greatly modified earlier plans by John Rennie.

John Urpeth Rastrick was one of the first English steam locomotive builders. In partnership with James Foster, he formed Foster, Rastrick and Company, the locomotive construction company that built the Stourbridge Lion in 1829 for export to the Delaware and Hudson Railroad in America.

Family life

On 20 September 1789 George married Anne Jenkins (1760-1845, also from Trevethin) at Llanhilleth. [1] [5] They had two or three children, Hannah (1793) Anne (1794) and Watkin (1795). [1] [5] Watkin George died on 10 August 1822 and is buried at St Cadoc's Church, Trevethin.

Legacy

Pont-y-Cafnau and Melingriffith Water Pump both survive and are scheduled monuments (Pont-y-Cafnau is also a Grade II* listed building). [9] [10] Ynysgau Bridge was dismantled in 1963. The remaining parts are stored at Cyfarthfa Castle. [1]

Notes

  1. Until recently John Rennie was assumed to be the designer of the waterwheel. Although Rennie was consulted on the waterwheel there is little evidence that Rennie's advice was heeded and the design is that of Watkin George. [3] [4]

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References

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  2. 1 2 3 Chrimes, Mike (2002). Skempton, Alec, ed. George, Watkin. Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers . Volume I: 1500-1830. London: Thomas Telford on behalf of the Institution of Civil Engineers. p. 247. ISBN   0-7277-2939-X . Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  3. Malaws, B.A. (12 August 2005) [1981]. "Melingriffith Waterpump". National Monuments Record of Wales (NMRW). Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW). NPRN 34441. Retrieved 1 May 2016 via coflein (online database of the NMRW).
  4. "Melingriffith Water Pump". Grace's Guide. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  5. 1 2 3 "Watkin George". Grace's Guide. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  6. Malkin, Benjamin Heath (1807). The Scenery, Antiquities and Biography of South Wales. I. Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme. pp. 207–8. Retrieved 1 May 2016 via google books.
  7. Barber, Chris (1999). "The Hanbury Family and Pontypool Park". Eastern Valley - The Story of Torfaen (1st ed.). Llanfoist: Blorenge Books. p. 72. ISBN   1-872730-23-X. OCLC   43459623.
  8. Burrows, John (2015). "Chepstow Bridge" (PDF). Welcome to Chepstow. Chepstow Town Council. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  9. "Pont y Cafnau". Historic Environment Record (HER) . Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust (GGAT). GGAT PRN 01090m. Retrieved 1 May 2016 via archwilio (online database of the four Welsh Archaeological Trusts).
  10. "Melingriffith Waterpump". Historic Environment Record (HER) . Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust (GGAT). GGAT PRN 00743s. Retrieved 1 May 2016 via archwilio (online database of the four Welsh Archaeological Trusts).