Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Crawshay, William

CRAWSHAY, WILLIAM (1788–1867), ironmaster, the eldest son of William Crawshay of Stoke Newington, Middlesex, was born in 1788, and on the death of his grandfather, Richard Crawshay, became sole proprietor of the Cyfarthfa Ironworks, near Merthyr Tydvil, South Wales. He was of all the Crawshays the finest type of the iron king. His will was law: in his home and business he tolerated no opposition. With his workmen he was strictly just. His quickness of perception and unhesitating readiness of decision and action made his success as an ironmaster when railways were first introduced. States wanted railways; he found the means, repaid himself in shares, and large profits soon fell into his hands. Before 1850 there were six furnaces at Cyfarthfa, giving an average yield per furnace of sixty-five tons; but under his management there were soon eleven furnaces, and the average yield was 120 tons, and the engine power was worked up to a point representing five thousand horse. He had ten mines in active work turning out iron ore, eight to ten shafts and collieries, a domain with a railway six miles in length, and large estates in Berkshire, Gloucestershire, and in other districts. Crawshay was in the habit of stacking bar iron during bad times; at one period during a slackness of trade Crawshay stacked forty thousand tons of puddled bars; prices went up, and in addition to his regular profit he cleared twenty shillings per ton extra upon his stock, realising by his speculative tact 40,000l. in this venture. In 1822 he served as sheriff of Glamorganshire. When Austria and Russia menaced the asylum of the Hungarians in Turkey in 1849, he subscribed 500l. in their behalf. He died at his seat, Caversham Park, Reading, 4 Aug. 1867, aged 79, leaving directions that he was to be buried within four clear days, and in a common earth grave. His personalty was sworn on 7 Sept. under two millions. The whole of his property in Wales was left to his son, Robert Thompson Crawshay [q. v.], his holdings in the Forest of Dean to his son, Henry Crawshay, and his estates at Treforest to Francis Crawshay. He was three times married.

[Gent. Mag. September 1867, pp. 933–5; Mining Journal, 10 Aug. 1867, p. 532; Engineer, 16 May 1879, p. 359.]

G. C. B.