Friday, July 20, 2007

Work in the Regency


One of our visits in Wales was to Aberdullais Falls near Neath in Wales. I had been there before, but since it had given me an idea for a story, I wanted to visit again. This picture is rather lovely, isn't it? It looks like a place for a picnic or perhaps even a place to fish, but in fact while these falls were a beauty spot, they were also the site of industry. Copper and tin smelting.

Tin mining had always been done in Cornwall, I knew that from school, and on my first visit to Aberdullais, I had thought to move this picturesque waterfall to Cornwall for a story I have had in my head for a while. I will have to think again, for while tin was mined in Cornwall, it was shipped to places like Aberdullais where they had water and coal.

As I walked around the exhibition, I was reminded that while the Regency is full of glitz and glamour, it was also the start of the industrial revolution and long before Dickens was writing about child labor, children were working twelve hour days in places like the Aberdullais copper and tin works, as were ordinary men and women. I took some pictures at this site, but of course much of the place is in ruins. The best impressions of how it might have looked were on the displays.



This is the chimney, required of course because of all the heat required to work the metal. The next picture is an artists impression of what it would be like inside the works. You can see men and boys working in this picture and an inset that shows women. By the way, the foreign language you are seeing there is Welsh. I am sure you knew that.... but just in case.



I didn't intend to do much about describing the work that was done in the mine, but one thing does stick in my mind and that is the need for small boys to scrape out the cinders from the furnace. The reason they used children was the narrowness of the passage. A man would not be able to get in there without getting his shoulders scorched.

It is pretty hard to see from this picture, but I think you can get a sense of the narrowness, and of course the steps (at the top of the channel) led into the basement. The next is a picture of the ruins from above, at the top of the Falls (which by the way were diverted by the use of dynamite , thus ruining the true beauty of the spot in a way which meant it could never be recovered. Here is a picture of the site in 1765. You can see that the Falls went around those large rocks. they were blown up, and now all that is left is the narrower channel to the right of them and of course all the industrial buildings and the waterwheel for power which now runs parallel to the river.


Of course there is a great deal to learn about these people and their lives, and as visitors we can only guess at the misery of long hours on little food. The exhibition tells their story.

As we were leaving, we paused on a bridge used to transport the metal onto the River Neath and watched a grey wagtail. He was a reminder that no matter what we do to our surroundings, nature has a way of reclaiming her own. I did take pictures of him. If you can find the bird in this picture you are better than I am, so I have added a picture of what you are looking for. I haven't seen one before, or not that I recall, so it really was a special treat. His long tale bobbed up and down constantly. This bird spends most of its life and breeds by fast running water.





Lots of food for thought. I am going to continue with a bit more on work in the Regency, since it is a backdrop for many of my stories, even if the main characters are lords and ladies. Until next time. Happy Rambles.