Guest family

Iron masters at Dowlais, Glam.

John Guest (1721?-1787), a Wesleyan, migrated from Broseley, Shropshire, to Dowlais in 1759 and was appointed manager of the iron works there in 1767. In 1782 he secured for himself a share in the company, and when he was succeeded as manager in 1785 by his son, Thomas Guest (1749?-1807), a period of expansion began.

Thomas's son, Josiah John Guest (1785-1852), 1st Baronet Wimborne, succeeded through further expansion in making Dowlais the biggest producer of iron in South Wales. By 1840 there were 18 furnaces under his control, and by 1851 he was the sole owner of the company. Elected MP for Honiton in 1825, and Merthyr in 1832, he was knighted in 1838. His second wife, Lady Charlotte Elizabeth Bertie (1812-1895), translated and edited the Mabinogion. Though brought up a Wesleyan, and despite his father's having preached from time to time in local WM chapels, J.J. Guest returned to the Anglican fold. His religious convictions were expressed through his keen interest in the welfare of his workers and their families. He helped to establish schools, made donations to the local churches and chapels, supported Sunday schools, and set up friendly societies and a savings bank. But in 1846 he bought Canford Manor, Dorset, where he spent his last few years; and when the Sandbanks peninsula was sold for development, a restrictive covenant banned the building of public houses or nonconformist chapels, was said to have been specifically directed against the Methodists.

  • J.A. Owen, A Short History of the Dowlais Ironworks, Merthyr Tydfil (Merthyr Tydfil, 1972)
  • C.M. Vaughan, Pioneers of Welsh Steel (1975)
  • G. A.Williams, The Merthyr Rising (1988)
  • L. Ince, The South Wales Iron Industry (Cardiff, 1993)
  • Dictionary of Welsh Biography
  • Oxford DNB

Entry written by: GT
Category: Person
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