Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

8 erthygl ar y dudalen hon

---__---An Ancient Welsh Industry:]…


An Ancient Welsh Industry: ] Dolgelley Webs. BY "PHILIP SIDNEY." Tis an ordinary Country Town, but of good Account, for sale of Welsh Cottons [Webs]; we've no account of its Church, but'tis said its steeple, in which hangs a bell, is but a yew tree growing in the mountain, yet here are commodious Inns for Travellers." So runs the description of Dolgelley given by good old Andrew Brice, in his 'Topographic Dictionary" of which he was both author and printer in the city of Exeter, in the year 1759. Of its Yew tree Steeple, and its commodious Inns I am not minded to write now, rather, asking my readers to bear with me awhile, as I tell them some- thing about the Webs, probably one of, if not indeed the very oldest industry still surviving and flourishing, within a few miles from our office doors. This weaving of woollen webs has been the back bone of Dolgelley for at least 400 years, and what is quite as remarkable has remained from the be- ginning until this year in one family, the head of which to-day is Mr. John Meyrick Jones, the Mayor of Dolgelley. For the last half century he has been the guiding hand of this ancient industry, before him for another 50 years was his father, Mr. John Jones, who in turn succeeded his father, Mr. Hugh Jones, of Pandy. As is right and seemly women too have had their share in steering this bark, as witness Mrs. Jones, the wife of Dr. Edward Jones, J.P., and her sister. For several centuries then, Dolgelley and its neighbourhood have been noted for the manufac- ture of this woollen cloth, known as Welsh Webs. It was until quite recently the principal trade and source of emolument to this town, situated between Rivers Aran and Wnion, near where the latter joins the Mawddach. Nearly every poor man in the town, and every small farmer in the district had his quaint, solid hand loom, and wove his webs, to support his family. This Flannel manufacture of Dolgelley is specially noted in Acts of Parliament of King James I, whilst the Privy Council of Charles III issued two successive orders for its regulation. During the interval of peace which lasted some years between the close of the American War, and the beginning of the great European revolution of 1793, Dolgelley was calculated to return from Z50,000 to Z100,000 annually in this article only. These webs were chiefly used for clothing the armies, and the slaves on the American Estates. r- They were then exported by way of Barmouth to London and Liverpool. But when France de- clared war against England, this maritime trade ceased, and the web merchant was compelled to employ the far more expensive mode of land con- veyance, by means of pack horses and carts by way of Newtown, Shrewsbury and Chester. Over and over again testimony as to the value in which these webs were held for their durability and strength, was forthcoming from the agents of the Slave owners, nothing satisfied them but these products from the Dolgelley looms, which Mr. Meyrick Jones' forefathers were every spring regularly called to furnish. Agents personally travelled to this town, then far more remote and difficult of access than now, to place their orders, which were paid for in bills of four months' date from time of delivery. And to the credit of all concerned be it recorded that such a thing as a dishonoured bill was absolutely un- known, every transaction was met in due course. Although no orders came from America after the war, the trade suffered little if any from the abolition of slavery, for so greatly was the real Welsh web esteemed, and so successful was the Dolgelley manufacture, that for years afterwards the webs were bought on the spot by English merchants, who employed agents to wait o. Messrs Jones for the purpose of securing their out-put, and as late as the year 1820 upwards of £1,000 weekly was thus spent in the district. But the heavy expense incurred in the carriage of the goods, however, caused the trade to languish, and it was not until the advent of railways into Wales, that any attempt could be made to regain as far as England was concerned, the lost trade. Meanwhile the method of manufacturing the article had vastly improved, stronger the webs could not possibly be Tendered, but much was accomplished in making it finer in texture, and more attractive in tone and colour. That popularity was again established is due, without any doubt and without any undue measure of praise, to the presistent exertions of Mr Meyrick Jones, who laboured hard and successfully to re-introduce these flannels and tweeds to the English public, through the medium of the various Manchester houses. Strange as it may appear to some, these Welsh tweeds are still made on hand looms, which differ but little, if at all from the primitive ones of past centuries. No visitor should leave Dolgelley without taking a peep at this primitive method of making flannels and tweeds. The mills are situated in some of the most romantic spots in the valley and form favourite subjects for artists. Inside they are as novel as outside they are picturesque. The labour is hand labour, after the manner to gladden Mr. Ruskin's heart. During Mr Meyrick Jones's long business career he has been brought into contact with Royalty on many occasions. So far back as 1868 he had the honour of presenting H.R.H. the Princess of Wales with a hand-loom Linsey Poplin dress. At the Royal Eisteddfod in Aberystwyth in 1865, and again in Chester in 1866, prize medals have fallen to Mr Meyrick Jones for the excellence of the wares from the Pandy Mills. The wools from which these materials are manu- factured arc of the highest class which Wales- our country of splendid wools—can produce. Some of the Webs are so stout and strong that they would seem to be the lineal descendants of those Israelitish materials that, we are told, endured the wear and tear of 40 years Mr and Mrs Meyrick Jones have many and in- teresting reminiscences of various men and women of world-wide fame, who have sought them and been their guests in bygone years. Alfred Tennyson, poet laureate, and his wife and two sons, were their guests for some five weeks at a stretch, long before the world knew him as Lord Alfred Tennyson, or Australia had the inestimaole benefit of liis son, Hallam, Lord Tennyscn, living in the colony. The daily piles of correspondence which even then arrived for Tennyson are still remembered. He would ]eave them for his wife-gentle, loving Anne Sellwuod—to sort and read, aye, and to answer. whilst he was off and away on the Welsh mountains, drinking in much of that inspiration to be so richly poured out in song in after years. Amongst Mr Meyrick Jones's treasures are the letter. v. t him from time to time by the poet, who sLeps now near Chaucer in the Abbey at Westir ih er. ;nd who invited Mr Meyrick Jones, andtf fitt. Air Robert Oliver Rees, of Dolgelley, to visit at Freshwater, and there spend a few days. An( of whom one would like to hear mucn \\<1, "ue late Francis W. Newman, probably more celebrated tho' less before the world than his brother John Henry, Cardinal Newman. The visit was about the time when Francis Newman was professor of Greek, Latin, and English language at Manchester New College, now known as Manchester College, and located close to Keble College, Oxford, but -then in Manchester, where at the same time the Rev. James Martineau now England's greatest thinker and philosopher, of 94 years' life, held the post of professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy. One who met Francis Newman then in Dolgelley tells the writer how he was to be seen, net in hand pursuing the glorious butterflies in their haunts amidst the romantic mountains and vales of Merionethshire—" a charming man, one to whom you were drawn to listen-, when he spoke." Revesting to Tennyson; i is of interest to record that the- tweed in which He was habitually clothed was the; product of Mr. Meyrick Jones' loom, and is known. in the market, as-" Tennyson Tweed," the name long since given it by the manufacturer in compliment to his guest. Age coming on apace, Mr. Meyrick Jones, now venerable in years and esteemed by all who know him-and who does not in these parts at least ?— has felt it advisable to put this ancient Welsh in- dustry on a firm and lasting foundation. Not without long and deep thought has the recent change been made, by which Messrs. Solomon Andrews and Son, of Cardiff and London, have become the owners of *&e mills. As men of capital, and with the local guidance and business energy of Mr. John Griffiths, they are expected to largely develop this well-established industry, and to render it even more successful and valuable in, the future than it has- been in the past. There is-raw wool in abundance on the hills; why, then, export it when it can be turned into webs on the spot ? There is.running water more than sufficient for the needs of the various industries clustering on its banks 1: why, then, let it not still be used ? There is, above all, the reputation, gained through many centuries, for genuine work, and no shoddy, nobly maintained and deepened by Mr. Meyrick Jones; let it not depart from our midst. More than ever at the present lime are well- established local industries needed in our midst; the country side has nous too many that it can afford- to lose one which affords to the dweller on the soil a means of subsistence, and prevents him from making his way to the congested and over- crowded centres of industry, as they are called, but centres of idleness and distress as they are often found to be,, by men and women flocking to them and pecting to find their streets paved with gold. May Andrew Briee's Steeple in which hangs a bell never be called upon to sound the knell of a departing industry, and may Mr. and Mrs. Meyrick Jones, for many years to come, see their lives' work flourish and expand.




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