Guest, Josiah John (DNB00)

GUEST, Sir JOSIAH JOHN (1785–1852), ironmaster, elder son of Thomas Guest, manager and part owner of the Dowlais Ironworks, who died 28 Feb. 1807, by Jemima, daughter of Thomas Phillips of Shifnal, Shropshire, was born at Dowlais, near Merthyr Tydvil, 2 Feb. 1785, and was educated at Bridgnorth and Monmouth grammar schools. He early devoted himself to the direction of the Dowlais Ironworks, and becoming thoroughly conversant with the details of the manufacture of iron, he was fully alive to the improvement to be introduced by a proper application of chemical and engineering knowledge. He tried improved blowing engines, the substitution of raw coal for coke in the furnaces, and the use of hot blast, with many minor alterations. He was one of the first ironmasters who undertook to roll the present heavy rails, the manipulation of which was for some time deemed nearly impracticable. In 1815 he succeeded to the sole management, and the works, which in 1806 were considered of importance because they produced about five thousand tons of iron, were by his commercial enterprise raised in their annual power of production to a hundred thousand tons of pig iron. In 1849 they sent into the market seventy-five thousand tons of iron in the form of bars and rails. Although strictly enforcing subordination among the multitude of men in his employment, he studied their interest by founding places of worship and schools, while during periods of mercantile depression and the visitation of disease his charity was unbounded. His character for good sense and business habits caused his election for Honiton 16 June 1826, for which place he sat till 23 April 1831. After the dissolution, however, he did not succeed in again representing that constituency. On 7 Aug. 1837 he unsuccessfully contested Glamorganshire. Chiefly through his exertions the borough of Merthyr obtained the privilege of returning a member, and he was himself the first to occupy the seat, 11 Dec. 1832, which he held till his death. He was a mediator in the Merthyr riots in 1831, when but for his influence with the ironmasters and the men a much greater loss of life would have taken place. He acted as chairman of the Taff Valley railway, was elected a fellow of the Royal Society 10 June 1830, became a fellow of the Geological Society, and in 1834 became an associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers, in which and in other scientific societies he took a considerable interest. On 14 Aug. 1838 he was created a baronet. On the renewal of the Dowlais lease Guest stated that he would have willingly relinquished the management of so large a concern in his declining years; but his regard for a population of twelve thousand families whom he had drawn around him did not permit him to divest himself of his responsibilities. In July 1848 Sir John and his wife were received with an enthusiastic welcome in Dowlais. In the following year he became sole proprietor of the entire works and establishment, the management of which he kept in his own hands till his death. For the benefit of his health he latterly resided at Canford Manor, Dorsetshire, which he had adorned with many specimens and curiosities brought from Nineveh by Lady Charlotte's relative, Sir Austen Henry Layard. He, however, had a desire to die amidst the scenes of his childhood, and removing to Dowlais died there 26 Nov. 1852. He married, first, 11 March 1817, Maria Elizabeth, third daughter of William Ranken—she died without issue in January 1818; and secondly, 29 July 1833, Charlotte Elizabeth Bertie, only daughter of Albemarle Bertie, ninth earl of Lindsey, by whom he had ten children; the eldest son, Ivor Bertie, was created lord Wimborne in 1880. Lady Charlotte Guest married as her second husband, on 10 April 1855, the late Charles Schreiber, formerly M.P. for Cheltenham and Poole. She is well known as the editress of the 'Mabinogion.'

[Gent. Mag. January 1853, pt. i. pp. 91-2; Minutes of Proc. of Inst. of Civil Engineers, 1853, xii. 163-5; Sermon preached in Dowlais Church upon the death of Sir J. J. Guest, by the Rev. E. Jenkins, 1853; Illustrated London News, 20 Oct. 1855, p. 476, with view of monument in Dowlais Church; Times, 9 Dec. 1852, p. 8.]

G. C. B.