David Davies (industrialist)

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David Davies

David Davies (18 December 1818 – 20 July 1890) was a Welsh industrialist and Liberal politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1874 and 1886. Davies was often known as David Davies Llandinam (from the place of his birth, Llandinam in Powys), to differentiate him from others of the same name.[1] He is best remembered today for founding Barry Docks.

Early life[edit]

Davies was the son of David Davies and his wife Elizabeth and the eldest of nine children.[2] He attended the day school at Llandinam but was primarily self-educated. He began work as a sawyer and went into agriculture, working alongside his father who died when Dabid was twenty, leaving him to take charge of the family. He was successful from an early age and in 1848 took over a larger farm called Tynymaen, which later became the home farm of the Plasdinam estate. Two years later he took over a further holding, Gwerneirin.[3]

Early business career[edit]

His first enterprise was the building of a bridge over the Severn at Llandinam.[2] He soon built a reputation as a contractor and was responsible for the building of numerous roads and bridges.[3] From 1855 he was involved in the construction of the Llanidloes and Newtown Railway, which eventually opened in 1859. This line was unusual in that at neither terminus did it connect with any other railway, and the engines and carriages had to be carried on specially constructed wagons from Oswestry, 36 miles away.[3] Together with partners such as Thomas Savin, Davies built the Vale of Clwyd Railway (opened in 1858 ), the Oswestry and Newtown Railway (1861), the Newtown and Machynlleth Railway (1862) and the Pembroke and Tenby Railway ( 18630, which was extended to Whitland in 1866. His greatest achievement was the section of the Manchester and Milford Railway from Pencader to Aberystwyth, which opened in 1867.[2] This included the very difficult crossing of Tregaron Bog in the construction of the line between Lampeter and Aberystwyth in 1866. It is reputed that he bought up the entire year's production of sheep fleeces in Ceredigion to lay as a foundation for the railway line on the bog.[1] He later became a director of the Brecon and Merthyr Railway.[4]

Industrialist[edit]

Statue of David Davies
Statue of David Davies outside the Barry Dock Offices, Barry

As a result of his success in the railway trade, Davies became a colliery owner. He was an important figure in the industrialisation of the Rhondda Valley, having founded the Parc and Maendy collieries in the 1860s. The Ocean Merthyr company was formed under his chairmanship in 1867 and a number of new collieries were sunk including Dare (1868), Western and Eastern (1872), Garw (1884), and Lady Windsor (1885).[2]

By the 1880s the output from his collieries had increased to such an extent that Davies established a limited liability company, the Ocean Coal Company Ltd.[2] At the same time a combination of the inability of the Taff Vale railway and the Bute docks at Cardiff to cope with the Ocean traffic, and the fact that Davies had to pay such high costs to use these facilities, led him Davies to construct new docks at Barry with a railway connection from the Rhondda. The project was completed after a lengthy parliamentary process, and was completed in 1889. Barry Docks, described as 'the crowning triumph 'of David Davies, was a crucial factor in the expansion of the South Wales coal trade on a world scale.[5]

Religion and education[edit]

A Calvinistic Methodist by upbringing, Davies was teetotaller and firm about his Sunday observance. He became an influential figure within the Calvinistic Methodist denomination, which had over 13,000 members in Cardiganshire alone, and funded the building of numerous chapels.

Davies was a keen patron and one of the first governors of the University College of Wales at Aberystwyth and in 1875 was elected treasurer, a post which he held till 1887.[2]

Political career[edit]

David Davies first sought election to Parliament at the 1865 General Election when he ran for the Cardiganshire county seat following the withdrawal of Henry Richard. He lost to Sir Thomas Davies Lloyd of Bronwydd, a Whig landowner. Davies was, however, elected as Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) for Cardigan Boroughs in 1874 and held the seat until 1885,[6] when the county and borough seats were merged under the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885. He was then elected MP for Cardiganshire county seat in 1885.[6] Davies was a poor public speaker, and his speech was described as untutored, but his support in Cardiganshire was nevertheless considerable owing to factors including his patronage of the new university college at Aberystwyth and his connections within the Calvinistic Methodist denomination, which had over 13,000 members in Cardiganshire. His success in 1885 was also underpinned by a particularly effective Liberal Association, organised by H. C. Fryer, an Aberystwyth solicitor, and which set up mechanisms to ensure the registration of voters. Trains were even organised to convey voters who had migrated to the South Wales coalfield back to their native county to cast their votes.[7]

Break with the Liberal Party and the 1886 General Election[edit]

In 1886, however, but Davies broke with Gladstone over home rule for Ireland and at the 1886 general election he stood as a Liberal Unionist candidate, having initially indicated that he would retire from politics. A number of his associates such as Robert J. Davies, Cwrtmawr followed him into the Liberal Unionist camp.[8] The election split the Liberal Party in Cardiganshire and the election was hotly contested with almost all the landowners, including those previously regarded as having Liberal sympathies, supporting Davies. He also received the support of several prominent Liberals, especially from his own Methodist denomination.[9] Eventually Davies was defeated by William Bowen Rowlands, the Gladstonian Liberal candidate, by a mere nine votes, a result which was largely attributed to the influence of nonconformist ministers over their congregations.[10] Rowlands served until 1895.

Although he withdrew from political life after his defeat in 1886, Davies became a member of Montgomery County Council in 1889 and was a long-standing member and chairman of the Llandinam School Board. He was also a JP for Montgomeryshire.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Iron bridge across the Severn

During his lifetime, he was also known by the nicknames, "Top Sawyer" and "Davies the Ocean". His father was a sawyer and lived on the south side of the Severn valley in Llandinam so that in winter the house was shaded from the sun because of the enclosing hills. Once he had started to amass his fortune, he built Broneirion,[11] a grand country mansion on the north side of the river that would enjoy sunshine all year round, which is maintained in good order to this day in the ownership of Girlguiding Cymru. For access to the house, Davies built the first iron bridge in Montgomeryshire.[1]

Davies married Margaret Jones, daughter of Edward Jones of Llanfair in 1851.[4] They had one child, Edward Davies (1852–1898). His grandson, another David Davies, continued Llandinam's philanthropic activities and was elevated to the peerage. Llandinam's two granddaughters, Gwendoline Davies and Margaret Davies, donated their substantial art collection to the National Museum of Wales.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Ivor Bulmer-Thomas: Top Sawyer: David Davies of Llandinam (Golden Grove, Carmarthen, 1988) ISBN 1-870876-10-5
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Welsh Biography Online". Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c "Death of Mr David Davies, Llandinam". Aberystwyth Observer. 26 July 1890. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c Debretts House of Commons and the Judicial Bench 1881
  5. ^ Morgan. "Democratic Politics in Glamorgan". p. 5. 
  6. ^ a b Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "C" (part 1)[self-published source][better source needed]
  7. ^ Morgan. "Cardiganshire Politics". pp. 322–2. 
  8. ^ "Meeting in support of Mr D. Davies". Aberystwyth Observer. 26 June 1886. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  9. ^ Morgan. "Cardiganshire Politics". pp. 323–4. 
  10. ^ "Cardiganshire Election and its lessons (editorial)". Aberystwyth Observer. 17 July 1886. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  11. ^ "History". Broneirion. 

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Thomas Lloyd, Bt
Member of Parliament for Cardigan Boroughs
18741885
Constituency abolished
Preceded by
Lewis Pugh Pugh
Member of Parliament for Cardiganshire
18851886
Succeeded by
William Bowen Rowlands