Whitland Forge

All of the drawings on this page are dedicated to Gerwyn Williams for sowing the seeds regarding Whitlands History

The ironworks of Carmarthenshire included those owned by Robert Morgan of Carmarthen from the middle of the 17th century. They were located at Whitland, Cwmbran, Cwmdwyfran, Llandyfan and Kidwelly.  It appears the earliest forge on the Whitland site was recorded in1636

The location of all early ironworks was governed by two factors, the need of a regular water supply and the necessity of obtaining charcoal as cheaply as possible

The Whitland forge was situated about 2 miles north of the village. It was built on a site near Whitland Abbey. Probably at the junction of two streams, the Gronw and Nant Colomendy. All that remains today is the trace of a leat. There are no records after the early 1800’s when it probably became obsolete in light of more efficient coke fired furnaces.

These drawings are based on the halfpenny tokens issued by Robert Morgan. The research into the site and workings is ongoing as there are a few anomalies and much that has not been recorded between methods in use at that time and the detail on the token. So I would welcome any constructive advice from people with experience of the buildings and processes pre industrial revolution. Consequently all of these drawings are subject to changing in light of more accurate information

inside-1-B-HB site-plan-3

One of the points I am uncertain of, generally the forges at this time comprised a Finery forge and maybe two Chafery forges. All of the information I have seen show the bellows at low level whereas on both of the tokens the bellows appears to be much higher, maybe chest or head high. Its a point I would like to discuss. Also the Chafery is probably the forge on the right and the opening on the left is unused, could that be the other forge? Both would need bellows so are there three water wheels? or are three sets of bellows driven by the two wheels. Opinions please. Another question - What sort of lighting would they have a forge at that time?  

Tilt-Hammer BELLOWS
inside-4 inside-2

I have been fortunate enough to have had the guidance of a very eminent Archaeologist Peter Crew. Peter has given me information on typical forges from this period and information from various documents about the forge. One section he forwarded to me was an entry by  P.W. King, 2011, ‘Iron in 1790, production statistics 1787-96 and the arrival of puddling’

In Historical Metallurgy 45, 102-133
This article discusses and publishes for the first time the 1794 list of furnaces, forges and mills, which survived in the Boulton and Watt papers M11/5/10 now Birmingham City Archives MSS 3219/6/16. It reads

Whitelands (sic) forge is listed with Mr Morgan as proprietor, with 2 fineries and a chafery.

From the note one could surmise there could have been either three or four water wheels if there were three forges. One to drive the tilt hammer and one for the bellows on each forge. It is difficult to know what the exact layout was, so I prepared several possible arrangements from what we can see on the token. One uses just the two wheels with one set of bellows sharing the drive shaft with the hammer and the two furnaces using bellows operate by the opposite wheel. The drawings above are loosly based on this arrangement and fit snugly into the detail on the token. Peter feels this isn't likely. With his many years of experience he suggests each device would have its own drive so the drawings below are based on his advice but keeping as close as I can to the details on the coin. 

p4 p7
P2A p3
sec-6 sec-5

Finery and Chafery are types of forge.

finery forge is a forge used to produce wrought iron from pig iron by decarburization in a process called "fining" which involved liquifying cast iron in a fining hearth and removing carbon from the molten cast iron through oxidation.
chafery is a variety of hearth used in iron making for reheating a bloom of iron, in the course of its being drawn out by hammering into a bar of wrought iron.


Many thanks to Janet Burton, Professor of Medieval History, for her help with providing links and reference information between Whitland Abbey and the forge. Click on the image to visit the site that contains a huge amount of information about the Abbey and other Monasteries


Another site that belonged to the Abbey was a corn mill. The mill that was demolished around 1990 in Spring Gardens was probably rebuilt on the same site. I am searching for information about it. Click on the image to visit my page of how I think this mill looked