When the Glamorganshire Canal was constructed in the 1790s, it drew water from the River Taff at Radyr Weir, through the same feeder channel as the existing Melingriffith Tin Plate Works. To avoid depleting Melingriffith’s supply, the Act of Parliament authorising the canal’s construction required its operators to extract their water downstream of the works, after it had been used to drive machinery there.
Historians disagree over both the designer and exact date of the pump, but it was installed between 1795 and 1807. Technically a “water lift engine”, it was driven by an undershot waterwheel linked to two cylinder pumps which lifted Melingriffith’s waste water into the canal feeder. It seems that it did not wholly overcome Melingriffith’s water supply problems since ongoing disputes led to a further agreement whereby the canal company was required to limit its extraction from the River Taff during times of water shortage.
The pump is known to have operated until 1927, and may not have been finally abandoned until 1942 when commerce on the canal ceased.
Since the date of Mary Traynor’s drawing, efforts have been made to refurbish the pump. During the 1970s and 80s, restoration work was undertaken by volunteers from the Risca-based Oxford House Industrial History Society in conjunction with the South Wales branch of the Inland Waterways Association, but it subsequently fell again into disrepair. Further restoration, funded by Cardiff council and Cadw, was undertaken between 2009 and 2011. Following this, it was again possible to operate the pump – albeit by electrical power.
David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer
- Mary Traynor Collection [D1093/2/3]
- Ingledew Family of Cardiff Papers, Melingriffith Company Limited petition to House of Lords objecting to Bill of the Cardiff Railway Company, 1898 [DING/6/26/4]
- Chappell, Edgar L., Historic Melingriffith (1940 – reprinted 1995)