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Abernant was the most easterly of three contemporary ironworks in the Cynon valley. Hirwaun, the most westerly, had the oldest furnace, but production had not been continuous.3 Between Abernant and Hirwaun, at Llwydcoed, was the Aberdare Iron Company, (not to be confused with the contemporary Aberdare Canal Company). The Abernant and Aberdare Iron Companies produced pig-iron for the local and export markets. The re- capitalised Hirwaun produced bar iron. The furnaces at all three were probably blown using water power. The investment boom towards the end of the eighteenth century was spurred by the new technologies, by industrialisation and by wartime demand. In 1788, only 12,500 tons of pig iron were cast in South Wales, equivalent to only half the output of Shropshire, the then premier iron district. By 1796, production topped 34,000 tons to overhaul Shropshire, and by 1805 exceeded 78,000 tons. This represented thirty percent of total British output, and marked South Wales's triumph as the largest iron producing region in the kingdom.4 By 1811 there were fifty-six furnaces in blast, eight times the number that had existed in 1750, producing thirty-four times the output.5 The changes in the landscape around Merthyr, were noted in 1803 by Malkin, who was 'glad to escape from the contusion of anvils, the blast of furnaces and the whirl of wheels'.6 Background to the Tappenden Investment Some investors drawn by the attraction of iron had no obvious connection to the business; the Bristol linen merchants were in this category. But most, including Bacon (Cyfarthfa and Plymouth Works), Guest (Dowlais), and the Homfray brothers (Penydarren), came with a background in iron manufacturing and/or trading. Richard Crawshay, for example, who made the Cyfarthfa Works the largest in Britain by the mid-1790s, is also thought to have been the leading iron merchant in London, with a substantial Baltic trade.7 Samuel Homfray, another example, was also a partner in a firm of City iron merchants, together with financiers Forman and Thompson, who were co-investors in South Wales.8 Samuel Homfray's brother, Jeremiah, was probably the link between the London Tappendens and Abernant. He would have seen in Forman's investment at Penydarren a model for the Tappendens' investment at Abernant. There were parallels; their ironmongers business, with its freehold and leasehold premises on both sides of Foster Lane, next to the hall of the Goldsmith's Company, provided the rationale for integration into mining and iron manufacturing. As we shall see, the Homfray brothers played influential roles in the Tappendens' investment in South Wales. They were extremely influential; their