Welsh Journals

Search over 450 titles and 1.2 million pages

CYLCHGRAWN LLYFRGELL GENEDLAETHOL CYMRU THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF WALES JOURNAL VOLUME IX. Summer, 1956. NUMBER 3. SIR JOHN AND LADY CHARLOTTE GUEST'S EDUCATIONAL SCHEME AT DOWLAIS IN THE MID-NINETEENTH CENTURY (PLATES IX. 3-IX. 5) From the standpoint of establishing schools for the education of the working classes, the Guest family of Dowlais was probably the most important, and also the most progressive, in the industrial history not only of South Wales, but of the whole of Britain during the nineteenth century. The Guest schools, the largest of their kind in the country, achieved as much fame as the Guest ironworks, and the educational scheme planned and implemented by the outstanding member of the family, Sir Josiah John Guest, M.P. (1785-1852), and his cultured wife, Lady Charlotte Guest, was the most comprehensive and practical ever to be attempted during the last century. The Guest schools at Dowlais, and the educa- tional scheme associated with them, were unique and unparalleled in any other industrial region in Britain, and warrant a special place in the history of the develop- ment of Elementary Education in the Principality. During the latter half of the eighteenth century, four large ironworks were established in the Merthyr district-Dowlais, Cyfarthfa, Penydarren, and Plymouth, which became the largest ironsmelting centres on the South Wales coalfield during the nineteenth century. Dowlais, in particular, developed into a stupendous concern. In 1813, six furnaces produced fifteen thousand tons of iron; in 1845, eighteen furnaces produced nearly seventy-five thousand tons, employing over seven thousand workers. The Dowlais works covered an area of forty acres, ten of which were occupied by the works buildings. By 1852, it was estimated that no less than four thousand five hundred men, three thousand women, and three thousand children were dependent for subsistence on the Dowlais ironworks.2 Population figures for the first fifty years of the nineteenth century are even more striking. 1 Clarke, T. E: A Guide to Merthyr Tydfil, 1848, p. 17. 2 Wilkins, C: History of Merthyr Tydfil, 1908, p. 218.