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Stephen Glynne and the Oak Farm Iron works

The Glynne Baronetcy dates back to 1661, with its main estate at Hawarden in Flintshire. The 8th Baronet, Sir Stephen Glynne (1780 to 1815) married Mary Griffin, daughter of Lord Braybrooke. After his early death, he was succeeded by his son Sir Stephen Richard Glynne, the 9th Baronet (1807-1874). He was a Conservative Party politician and is principally remembered as aa noted antiquary and student of British church architecture and writer of a treatise entitled “Notes on the Older Churches in the Four Welsh Dioceses”.

Stephen Glynne

The Glynne family were also the owners of around 100 acres of land around Oak Farm in the north of Kingswinford parish. In 1822, these are in the possession of “Lady Glynne”, presumably the widowed Mary, as the younger Stephen was still a child. At this time these lands were wholly agricultural. In 1840, the same area was owned by the Oak Farm Colliery Company. The Tithe Allocation records the owners as Thomas Bagnall, James Boydell, Baronet Sir Stephen Glynn, John Hignett, William Hignett and Charles Townshend. By this time the lands were a mixture of arable, collieries, brickworks and the major industrial concern of the Oak Farm Iron Works. The latter was founded in 1835 by Sir Stephen Glynne, Lord Lyttleton, W. E. Gladstone and James Boydell. Gladstone, the future Chancellor and Prime Minister, and Lyttelton had both married sisters of Stephen Glynne.

William Gladstone

The Oak Farm works suffered major financial issues, and the company failed in 1848. These events that led to this are set out at some length in the Grace’s Guide entry for Oak Farm. There are conflicting views as to the causes of the financial difficulties – with James Boydell as Managing Partner described as either as being massively over optimistic and extravagant, or as being unsupported by the other owners during difficult time. One source writes

“…the brothers-in-law (Glynne, Lyttleton and Gladstone) appear to have suffered enormous financial losses, but the experience gained by W E Gladstone in dealing with the company’s debt was said to have stood him in good stead when he became Chancellor of the Exchequer…”

Thus, the affairs of Kingswinford parish seem to have had a long-lasting effect on the country as a whole! There is of course also a legacy of the Glynne family in Kingswinford itself with the name preserved in the Glynne Arms – the Crooked House.

The Crooked House

Finally, it is worth just saying a little more about James Boydell, the co-owner of the works. He came from Denbigh in north Wales and was a prolific inventor and patent holder. He is best remembered for his “endless railway” system, From Grace’s Guide again.

“….. the ‘endless railway’ system, applicable to traction engines and trailers. A number of flat feet were attached to the outside of a traction engine’s wheels. They were hinged in such a way that as the wheel revolved each succeeding foot would lie flat in contact with the ground, thus spreading the weight of the engine, and allowing the wheels to roll on the plates. The idea was that this arrangement would be more efficient for road-haulage engines, enabling them to deal with poor road surfaces….”

He seems to have invented the tank!

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