Union Ironworks

From Festipedia, hosted by the FR Heritage Group

Union Ironworks was the business of Owen Thomas that eventually would become the De Winton engineering company. [1]

Owen Thomas was the son of a master mariner who was awarded a bounty by Admiral Lord Nelson shortly before he died at the battle of Trafalgar. It could be that was the source of funds which allowed father Thomas to help his son get started in business. Owen was born in 1815 and served his apprenticeship in an iron foundry locally. The were several iron foundries in and around Caernarfon before Owen's Union Ironworks. His trade was moulder and iron founder.

In 1834 Owen teamed up with Boaz Prichard to run an iron foundry in a small yard on the slate quay closer to the castle than the eventual De Winton site. Prichard had many connections with the rapidly developing slate quarries a few miles away in the mountains and his networks must have made him an ideal partner. By 1836 the two of them had established the foundry. The association ended in 1840, possibly because Prichard had a spell in jail having been caught by the Customs & Excise smuggling liquor from abroad. The contraband was hidden in a cargo of apples in a small sailing ship's hold.

Union Ironworks moved to a piece of land on the shore of the river Seiont upstream of its original site. Thomas was fortunate to have good relations with Lord Newborough who had earlier construct a quay there below other land he owned. Thomas did not just serve the slate quarries. The Nantlle Railway opened in 1828 and its 3 foot 6 inch gauge rails ran just past his new works. He also served the ship builders and repairers. Wooden sailing ships contained many iron components. In addition he produced some agricultural machinery. Probably his most illustrious order was about two hundred tons of iron beams for the new Houses of Parliament under construction in London. He was a shrewd businessman. When the Chester & Holyhead Railway and the London North Western Railway quoted too high a price to transport this last order to London he shipped it to Liverpool and then via the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway to London at a 50% saving in cost.


  1. ^ Fisher D, Fisher A and Jones G P (2011) De Winton of Caernarfon: Engineers of excellence, RCL Publications, Cambrian Forge, Garndollbenmaen, Gwynedd, LL51 9RX pp 4 - 16.