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Wales - Coal Oil

Flint & area

    Oil Works & Refineries
    Oil Companies

South Wales


A Recognised Collection of National Importance

Home > Beyond Scotland > Wales and vicinity > The South Wales tram oil industry

The South Wales tram oil industry

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Young v. Fernie, the "Great Paraffin Case" of 1864, included evidence of oil or tar production from coal at Pontypool, and other sites in iron-making districts of South Wales. Through presenting this evidence Fernie hoped to establish that production of oil from coals, using processes similar to those employed by Young, had been well established long before the granting of Young's patent. If this were accepted by the court, it would throw doubt on the validity of Young's patent and undermine Young's case against Fernie and his associates for breach of patent arising from operation of their oil works in Flintshire.

The evidence that was presented indicated that lubricating oil had been produced at various sites in the South Wales since early in the 19th century, and that production continued (in 1864) at Pontypool. In each case, the oil had been produced by varying the operation of coke ovens to produce a thick oil used for lubricating the bearings of tramway wagons. Invariably the oil was produced for the company's own use rather than as a product for re-sale. Fernie and his associates presented evidence that emphasised the parallels between the techniques and technology used in South Wales and those described in Young's patent. Young, in defence, dismissed the products as tars, not oils, and as such were common by-products of coke and gas production.

Both Fernie and codefendant Joseph Robinson were directors of the Ebbw Vale Iron Company, proprietors of the oil works at Pontypool.


Ordnance Survey maps reproduced by kind permission of the Trustees of the National Library of Scotland.

south wales locations

Approximate locations of oil production sites referred to in Young v. Fernie court case, 1864

Locations of "tram oil" works

Abersychan Works, Monmouthshire

Oil production prior to 1850

Beaufort Iron-Works, Brecknockshire

Ordnance Survey maps reproduced by kind permission of the Trustees of the National Library of Scotland
beaufort iron works

Oil production took place "30 years ago" (ie c.1835)

Blaina Works

Oil production began in 1831

Brynmaur Works, Brecknockshire

Oil production in 1833 and 34, abandoned as the coal had been worked out.

Coalbrookvale Works, Monmouthshire

Oil production "30 years ago" (ie c.1835)

Clydach Works, Breconshire

Oil production 1849 to 1862

Golynos Works, Monmouthshire

Oil production began in 1831

Nantyglo Works, Monmouthshire

Oil production began in 1831

Pontypool Iron Works, Monmouthshire

Operated by the Ebbw Vale Iron Company. Oil was produced there as early as 1808 and continued to be made there (in 1864)

Risca Works, Monmouthshire

Oil production began in 1815


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