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The Lloyd Family Of Dolobran History Essay

The extensive industrial interests of the Lloyd family really began with an opportunistic purchase by the first Sir Charles Lloyd during the Commonwealth period following the English Civil War. Percy Herbert the second Baron Powis and Member of Parliament for Wilton found himself caught up in a plot to bring troops over from Ireland to suppress parliament. Forced to support King Charles he later fled to the continent before being summoned back to Parliament to be tried:

He returned to England before the end of May 1649, the deadline stipulated by parliament. Herbert vigorously defended his case, but he was unsuccessful, and his estates were forfeited and sold in 1652–3. These included Hendon manor in Middlesex and several manors in Montgomeryshire. [1] 

It was the manor of Caereinion that Sir Charles Lloyd chose to buy, extending his land beyond the family home of Dolobran Hall. Little is known of the first Sir Charles Lloyd, reinforcing the view that before the industrial interests built up by his son the family was simply one of the multitude of minor gentry, although William Rees referred to him as a ‘merchant and Alderman of the City of London.’ [2] This suggests that he had some status in the city and possibly that he was in a position to benefit from the Commonwealth. Despite his relatively low profile William Rees believed that it was him who founded the Lloyd’s industrial interests with the building of a forge on part of his newly bought estate at Mathrafal. This took place shortly after its purchase in 1651 but by 1652 it had been sold to William Fownes, another London merchant who became heavily involved in the iron industry. [3] After this the forge changed hands several times, including coming back under the ownership of the Powis family who recovered their lands after the restoration, being under the control of Sir Thomas Myddelton at the time of his death in 1666 and being passed to his grandsons. [4] It was then rented out numerous times before coming back under the control of the Lloyd family by 1693.

Due to a lack of documentary evidence it is unclear exactly who regained control of the Mathrafal forge and exactly when this happened. William Rees felt that Mathrafal was certainly in the hands of the Lloyd family by 1693 ‘when the Quaker, Amos Davies, became Clerk of the Forge’ but that the lease had been taken out earlier than this by Charles Lloyd the Second. [5] Humphrey Lloyd has disagreed however, and has accredited the venture to his son, Charles Lloyd the Third:

Already since the end of 1697 an air of change had come over Dolobran where the house and estate were now in the hands of the younger Charles...and within six months of his father’s departure to Birmingham, the new Charles had made a still more far-reaching move. He had taken the lease of a local iron forge. [6] 

Estate record show that Charles Lloyd III took up the lease of the forge at Mathrafal on the 25th of March 1698. As his father died in later in the November of that year it seems to me more likely that this was a new lease for the family rather than one that was inherited. [7] This implies that Charles Lloyd III built up the family’s industrial interests from scratch with little prior experience therefore taking a large risk which ultimately failed. It is important to emphasise that Charles did not buy Mathrafal and was instead leasing it from the Powis Estate for the considerable sum of £40 a year. [8] Whilst this saved him a much higher initial purchase cost it gave him no security for his investment in the enterprise which must have been considerable. Although he did not own the forge all of the costs of production would have still fallen to him. There is little information available about the operation of the old forge at Mathrafal during its time under the Lloyd family but from the millrace and support for the wheel that survives at the site it seems to have been a typical water-powered forge of the middle seventeenth century, as described by Humphrey Lloyd:

There was a hearth, with water-powered bellows, for refining the iron and expelling its impurities and a second hearth with power-hammer for drawing out the bars, processes that must have been in operation there for forty years past. [9] 

Before the introduction of coal the forge would have been ideally placed for charcoal to be imported from surrounding estates. Large quantities would have been needed as can be seen by a petition from the landowner Lord Percy of Powis to the House of Lords in May 1660 concerning the use of timber by his tenants as fuel ‘that a stop may be made of destroying any more timber and the carrying away what is already cut, in order that there may not be total destruction of the estate.’ [10] This suggests to me that the original tenancy agreement had included the right to cut timber for use as fuel but the quantities involved were much greater than Lord Powis had expected, leading him to seek an ruling from the House of Lords. It is in the operation of the Mathrafal forge that we first start to see the Quaker influence on Charles Lloyd’s business interests as he chose to entrust the running of his new venture to a fellow Quaker, Amos Davies. Davies was appointed clerk of the forge after spending many years as the clerk of the Dolobran Quaker meeting house, starting a tradition of Charles Lloyd appointing fellow Quakers to positions of responsibility, an arrangement that would have given him a higher level of trust and reliance in his key employees. [11] 

Taking on the old forge at Mathrafal might have seemed like an odd venture for a minor gentry family to take on, especially in what can be seen to be such a remote location. However, there were a number of advantages. Firstly, the forge itself had by this time been established for over forty years and could be seen as a reliable venture of known quantity that could give a regular return. Secondly, the location provided easy access to charcoal sources from surrounding estates. Also important was the location in relation to local navigable rivers- Mathrafal was located on a tributary of the Vyrnwy, itself a tributary of the Severn, at this time widely used for transportation. This meant importation of pig iron was straightforward, as was the exportation of processed bar iron to the important West Midlands market. Also there would have been an important local market for bar iron produced, due to there being few forges in the surrounding area. However the venture starts to make real sense when it is considered that by the time Charles Lloyd III acquired control of Mathrafal he already had strong family links with the iron industry.

Sampson Lloyd was the second son of Charles Lloyd II, born in 1664 during Charles’s imprisonment. After spending some years as a respected gentleman farmer and eventually marrying Mary Crowley who herself had family connection with the iron industry Sampson decided to move on away from the family influence, as described by Samuel Lloyd:

It was at the age of thirty-four, and in the same year as his father’s death (1968) that Sampson Lloyd migrated to Birmingham. Like his father he was a Friend; and, like his father, although less severely, he had been continually persecuted in Wales. He was attracted to Birmingham because his brother-in-law, John Pemberton lived there; but he also chose it to escape the harassing and ruthless legal practises of the Conventicle Act. Birmingham, moreover, was always friendly to Dissidents... he soon found scope for his energy and capital. [12] 

Although Samuel Lloyd is keen to point out the religious aspect of Sampson’s decision to move to Birmingham I feel that there may have been other influences. After all, Sampson’s brother Charles III was also a prominent Quaker and he evidently did not feel persecuted enough to leave his home. The timing of Sampson’s leaving coincides with the death of his father, meaning that Charles would have inherited the estate. Humphrey Lloyd has put forward the theory that there was little in the way of inheritance for Sampson: ‘There is nothing to suggest that his father was well off, unless in land, and Charles Lloyd had been preyed upon too long as a Quaker to have built up much worldly substance.’ [13] The comment about being preyed upon could relate to Charles’s long imprisonment and persecution or the Quaker tendency towards modesty and charity. With the land passing to his brother it is entirely possible that Sampson felt it was time for him to strike out on his own. After moving to Birmingham it seems that Sampson made the most of his family and religious connections in the iron industry to start a profitable business of his own. Humphrey Lloyd felt that his brother-in-law John Pemberton ‘a forward-looking man, more than a mere ironmonger’ was particularly influential and that Sampson ‘had soon been accepted as a useful addition to the Quaker community.’ [14] Humphrey Lloyd has deduced from surviving letters in the Lloyd collection Sampson acted as a supplier to his brother-in-law which could have allowed him to develop business interests of his own and gain valuable experience and contacts in the industry:

These letters show him already, after four years, holding a position of stability and respect, carrying on as an ironmonger on his own account in both iron and in steel, supplying bar iron for his brother-in-law’s slitting operations, advising him on candidates for employment, reporting on available mill sites and standing as arbiter in disputes. [15] 

An ironmonger in this context did not mean a craftsman but rather a merchant or trader in iron. It is clear that Charles at Dolobran regularly did business with his Birmingham based brother, as can be seen in a letter dated 1721 that Sampson wrote to complain about a delivery of iron:

I did not hear until yesterday that the last parcel of Brother Lloyd’s mill iron was come to Bewdley, where I saw Henry Wheelwright who told me. He desired me to write to Brother that if more care be not taken in drawing the mill iron they will not be willing to slit it. He says that he is sure you have changed the hammerman, for the iron was quite drawn different from what has been sent before. [16] 

There are several references to past orders in the letter, making it reasonable to assume that Charles regularly sold to Sampson or that Sampson sold on his behalf. The reference to poor quality is interesting, the reference to it possibly being the fault of a new hammer man showing the variables that existed in iron production in this period and possibly showing the greatest change between then and the time of mass production a century later. The human factor has yet to be scaled down in its importance in production. Nevertheless there is nothing to suggest that poor quality is an ongoing issue or indeed that any problems had occurred before. The business appears to have enjoyed some success and by the time of Sampson’s death in 1724 items in his will include his house of Edgbaston Street bought for £400, a second residence at Lea in Herefordshire and property in Stourbridge. He also leaves £10 a year to Charles at Dolobran, indicating that a close friendship remained between the two brothers. His estate in total amounts to around £10,000, an impressive achievement amount considering his comparatively humble origins. [17] 

The Birmingham branch of the Lloyd family now had a solid foundation on which to build and Sampson’s son, Sampson Lloyd the second, made full use of the position he found himself in following his father’s death, ultimately giving him the capital to start Taylor’s and Lloyd’s Bank which flourished in the later nineteenth century and surviving as Lloyds Banking Group, the third biggest UK bank in 2010. Jacob Price felt that Sampson Lloyd II was the catalyst behind this as he ‘began to convert his father's quiet business into something much more ambitious, integrating backwards into slitting mills, forges, and ultimately furnaces.’ [18] In connection with the Dolobran side of the family however it is the early part of Sampson II’s expansion that concerns us. Again the Quaker industrial network is shown in his purchase of the lease of what became known as the Town Mill, the first of Sampson’s major expansions, which had ‘been for a number of years in the occupation of the Farmer family, Quakers, Ironmongers, gun-makers (oddly), and later to intermarry with the Lloyds.’ [19] Its description as a Mill is due to the property previously being a corn mill- however the requirements of a forge in terms of water power were the same and indeed it seems that many mills also supported forges, especially in rural areas. Over time Sampson Lloyd II’s business went from strength to strength, particularly during the Seven Years War (1756-1763) when demand for iron and steel, particularly high-quality iron for making cannon barrels and other weaponry. Jacob Price felt that it was the end of the Seven Years War that made Sampson consider going into banking as a departure from his by this time highly successful industrial interests:

The peace in 1763 posed a challenge, as did the need to provide careers for his four sons. The war had made many businessmen conscious of the need and opportunities for private banks in both London and the provinces. Perceiving this, in 1765 Lloyd joined with a rich Unitarian neighbour, John Taylor (c.1711–1775) to found the first real bank in Birmingham, Taylors and Lloyds; the four (equal) partners were Taylor, Taylor's son John, Sampson Lloyd, and his eldest son, also called Sampson. Shortly afterwards, in 1770, Lloyd's son-in-law Osgood Hanbury founded a bank in London...This became the necessary London correspondent and support of the quite prosperous Taylors and Lloyds. [20] 

Here then it can be seen how the iron industry provided the means for the Lloyd family to enter the banking sector but also how the uncertainty over its future after the profitable years of the mid-eighteenth century also provided the motive to diversify.

Back in Wales Charles Lloyd III was also looking to expand, perhaps encouraged by the success of his relatives in Birmingham and in the hope of being able to increase his supply to them. Charles eventually made the decision to invest in a major new venture- in 1719 he both gave up the old forge at Mathrafal and made a double investment in a brand new forge at Dolobran itself and in a furnace at Bersham to the south west of Wrexham, a place later to be made famous by John Wilkinson’s pioneering ironworks of the late eighteenth century. The motive for expansion at this time was clear, for iron prices had been rising steadily since the start of the eighteenth century, especially after 1717 when there was a trade embargo placed on Swedish imports. The decision to give up Mathrafal is a difficult one to understand, especially as contemporary figures gave the old forge a output of 180 tons annually, with the new forge at Dolobran only being slightly better at 190. [21] One argument is that the old forge at Mathrafal was only leased- by building his own forge Charles Lloyd would have full control over his investment and would be able to call upon his now considerable experience in the industry to design and run his own forge more efficiently. If the contemporary estimates are accurate then little gain seems to have been made in terms of total output and it can be assumed that the costs of construction and equipping would outweigh any savings through efficiency for a good many years. Aside from this however William Rees puts forward an intriguing theory as to why Charles Lloyd may have wished to start a new forge and invest in a furnace- the use of coal as a fuel:

Three years later , in 1724, Charles Lloyd bought from Thomas Meredith (of Pentrebychan) the colliery at Rhos, a mere two miles from Bersham, ensuring for the furnace a regular and constant supply of coal...At the forge at Dolobran, coal from Ruabon was beginning to be used but the main fuel was still charcoal drawn from the park at Llyssin. [22] 

The use of coal in blast furnaces had first been experimented with by Abraham Darby of Coalbrookdale- another Quaker ironmaster- and a furnace had been built at Dolgyn near Dolgellau in 1713 using coal. Contact through the Quaker network with Darby’s ideas may have been enough to convinced Lloyd that coal fired smelting was a worthwhile investment and the purchase of a colliery shows commitment to the idea. Furthermore, the first clerk of the new operations was to be John Kelsall, a Quaker who was formerly the schoolteacher of Dolobran but had left to be clerk at the new Dolgyn works.

The relationship between Darby, Kelsall and Lloyd will be explored in the next chapter but it seems that between them they had a great effect on Charles Lloyd’s future plans. Humphrey Lloyd felt that the experimentations with coal played a significant part in the eventual bankruptcy of Charles Lloyd:

Smelting with coke was in its infancy; it was not at all generally understood and would not be so for another two generations and the Darbys themselves may well have been fortunate in the properties of the coal from which their coke was madeor the nature of the ore and other materials which they used; so that Bersham, even with technical advice from Coalbrookdale, would still be trying to work out its own salvation. [23] 

Humphrey Lloyd also argued that this new type of furnace brought with it inherent disadvantages in that ‘coal pig did not result in a very saleable type of bar, in fact was disliked, and sold only in a limited market.’ [24] The picture that emerges is that of a rash investment into a new type of technology which was not yet understood well enough to make it commercially viable, and indeed Bersham did prove to be the downfall of Charles Lloyd III as costs overtook him and debts appear to have spiralled, eventually owing the sum of £16,000. Writing in his own journal Charles himself felt that he had allowed himself to invest way beyond his means and expertise:

Our great trouble was occasioned by my being very unadvisedly and inconsiderately concerned with some other persons in partnership and in partnership and in more business than I had stock of my own and effects to manage with, which when it was completed and finished instead of being profitable proved a continual loss not only to ourselves but unto many others, which was a cause of great sorrow, grief and trouble unto us. [25] 

Charles Lloyd III eventually sold Dolobran to cover his debts and followed the path to Birmingham when he ingratiated himself and his sons into the flourishing business of Sampson Lloyd II before dying in 1748.

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