Interior, Tubal Cain Foundry, Tyndall Street, Cardiff

William Catleugh, a millwright and engineer of 4 The Hayes, Cardiff, died on 19 December 1851.  His initial successor in the business was Mr H. Scale but it was later taken over by George Parfitt and Edward Jenkins.  In July 1857, Parfitt and Jenkins advertised that ‘they have the foundry now in working order, and all orders entrusted to their care will be executed promptly and in a superior manner’.

Despite its town centre location – which also served as the proprietors’ home – the plant must have been quite substantial since, in 1862, it was able to produce a locomotive to work the mineral traffic of a colliery in the neighbourhood of Swansea.  However, on 1 April 1864, the Cardiff Times reported that Parfitt and Jenkins had leased upwards of an acre of land at the top of the East Dock, facing Tyndall Street.  A construction tender had been let and foundations for their new foundry and engineering works were already being excavated.

While no specific evidence has been found of the thinking behind the name of the new works, Tubal Cain, a great-great-great-great-great grandson of Adam and Eve, is described in the King James Bible as ‘an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron’.  It therefore seems an appropriate name for what Parfitt and Jenkins would have viewed as a major expansion of their business.  The casting house was a single storey, rectangular brick building with thirteen semi-circular headed windows to the west wall.  The roof was supported on a series of wrought-iron trusses, providing an unusual example of an open tie-bar trussed roof.

At first, Parfitt and Jenkins seem to have operated both the Hayes and Tubal Cain works but, by 1875, the Hayes Foundry appears to have closed.  George Parfitt died in 1886 and Edward Jenkins in 1888 but their business continued to thrive.

While initially serving the shipping and railway industries which were then growing up around the Bristol Channel, the variety of its products gave the company considerable flexibility.  In more recent years, as part of Penarth Industrial Services Ltd, Tubal Cain is said to have been the only jobbing foundry in South Wales capable of producing one-off pieces of work, rather than being limited to production runs.

As the redevelopment of Cardiff Bay progressed in the 1980s, a compulsory purchase order was served on the works.  During a subsequent public enquiry, the Victorian Society argued forcefully for its preservation.  However, in light of the emissions of smoke, dirt and sulphur dioxide fumes, it was concluded that the plant should not continue to operate on the Tyndall Street site and, in due course, it was demolished.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

rsz_d1093-2-21_to_44_034__interior_tubal_cain_foundry

Sources consulted:

  • Mary Traynor Collection [D1093/2/34]
  • Holy Bible – Genesis, chapter 4, verse 22
  • Scammell & Co’s City of Bristol and South Wales Directory, 1852
  • Wakeford’s Cardiff Directory, 1855
  • The Cardiff Directory and Handbook, 1858
  • Webster’s Directory of Bristol and Glamorgan, 1865
  • The Post Office Directory of Monmouthshire and the Principal Towns and Places in South Wales, 1871
  • Worrell’s Directory of South Wales and Newport, Monmouthshire, 1875
  • 1851 and 1861 censuses
  • The City and Port of Cardiff – Official Handbook, 1955
  • The Monmouthshire Merlin, 26 December 1851
  • Cardiff Times, 21 March 1862
  • South Wales Echo, 12 Oct 1886
  • Cardiff Times, 20 Oct 1888
  • http://www.peoplescollection.wales/items/26968
  • http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/40463/details/TUBAL+CAIN+FOUNDRY%3BPENARTH+FOUNDRY/
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