THE history of the Cardiff and Glamorgan of Wales in the years following the Stuart period is generally that of the country at large. About the middle of the seventeenth century, Non-Conformity began to obtain a footing in the county, and the first school in Wales for Non Conformist ministers was also established within its boundaries. This school was at Brynllywarch, in the Parish of Llangynwyd. It was founded by the learned Samuel Jones, who had been vicar of the parish under the Commonwealth. He refused to accept, or conform, as it was called, to an Act of Parliament, and was thrown out of his living.
The county was but little troubled during the plotting for the return of the Stuarts to the throne. There was only one little disturbance, following which some gentlemen in the neighbourhood of Merthyr Tydfil were fined for treason. The Chartist Riots in the East, and the Rebecca Riots in the West, caused some disturbance, but very few of the people of Glamorgan had anything to do with them.
The chief thing to be noticed during the last century and a half is the growth of the industries of the county. The two great minerals with which we are concerned are, of course, coal and iron. The smelting of copper and the making of tinplates are also of importance.
Mention is made in the laws of Howell Dda of the manufacture of iron, so that the industry is a very old one. Some old workings are even said to have been used by the Romans. Records of the reign of Queen Elizabeth state that Sir William Matthew, of Radyr, built two furnaces in the Taff Valley. His son, Sir Toby Matthew, carried on the works, but he was forced to flee the country, as he was strongly suspected of having made cannon for the Spanish Armada.
It is said that furnaces were erected near Aberdare in the reign of Henry VIII. Heaps of ashes, and bars of old iron, have been found in that district. The real beginning of the iron trade, however, dates from the middle of the eighteenth century. In 1747, works were started at Merthyr, and in 1760 Mr. Guest began what afterwards became the famous Dowlais Works. A Mr. Anthony Bacon, in 1755, obtained leases for a considerable district round Merthyr.
"To Mr. Bacon belongs the chief credit for opening up the vast mineralwealth of the county." Other works and ironmasters followed, and the trade in iron increased rapidly. The use of foreign ores, however, has brought some of the works near the coast, and the iron industry does not now occupy the proud position it once held. Still, it occupies a position of great importance, and thousands of .tons of iron and steel are made every year.
Copper smelting is also an old industry in the county. It is carried on chiefly in the Swansea district, but works are in existence at Cardiff and Dowlais. The first copper works dates back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth. In 1584 that sovereign gave a charter to a company called the Company of the Mines Royal. The charter gave the company permission to build a works to smelt metals near Neath. From this small beginning copper smelting has grown so that it now covers a wide area, which forms the chief metal smelting district in the world.
Coal was worked in the county in the reign of Edward II., but the industry on a big scale is really of recent birth. About eighty years ago, coal for household purposes was often got by servants from hollows in the mountain sides. When, in the second half of the last century, the iron trade began to decline, the greater use of coal for engines of all sorts created a new industry that took its place.
The introduction of railways and of steamboats increased the demand for this valuable fuel. The demand for rails and other iron goods for the railways, made the iron works a little more busy than they had been. To supply the fuel required, coal pits were sunk, and levels were driven into the earth. Thousands of people got work in the mines. Then came the exportation of coal to all parts of the world. The first cargo of steam coal was sent out from Cardiff in 1840. So much coal was wanted that docks had to be built for ships to be loaded in. Thus, bit by bit, grew up the great coal trade of South Wales, which now is such a source of wealth to the county, and to the nation generally.
Wherever coal is found, especially in the history of Cardiff, if it be accompanied by iron, other industries arise. Such has been the case in Glamorgan, so that, at the present day, the county, except in the farming and the more remote mountainous districts, is one great busy industrial centre. Goods made in the county find their way all over the world, and favourable circumstances combined with the energy and industry of its inhabitants have made Glamorgan the chief county in Wales, and one of the most important in the British Isles.