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JOHN CROW RICHARDSON, J.P.,
THE respected subject of this memoir, John Crow Richardson, is the eldest brother of Robert Richardson-Gardner, M.P. for the Royal Borough of Windsor, a memoir of whom appeared in the August part of “Celebrities of the Day." Mr. Richardson was born in 1810, his father being the late John Richardson, Esq., J.P. of Swansea. In the year 1828 he commenced business in his father's office, and has been intimately associated with the rise and progress of Swansea in which he has always taken the deepest interest, as well as a very prominent part. For the last forty years he has been one of its leading merchants and ship-owners, and is also largely engaged in the copper and mineral trade of the district. The firm of Richardson and Company is one of the largest receivers and importers of copper and other ores and owners of extensive calamine and zinc mines in the North of Italy from which large quantities are brought to Swansea for smelting in their Crown Zinc and Spelter Works.
Mr. Richardson has been identified with most of the public institutions of South Wales—especially of Swansea and its district. We may particularly mention the Harbour Trust, of which he is one of the oldest Trustees. Mr. Richardson was for many years a Member of the Swansea Corporation, and he filled the dignity of Mayor in 1860-1. The subject of this sketch and his brother, the late James Richardson, were the principal means of establishing the large and successful Sailors' Home at Swansea, and he has been for many years Chairman of the Committee of Management of this admirably-conducted and useful institution. As we may, without exaggeration, describe Mr. Richardson as the leading-spirit of this Swansea hospice, a brief description of its objects may not be altogether out of place. Sections 237 and 238 of the Mercantile Marine Act, 1864, protected seamen from being annoyed by the solicitations of keepers of lodging-houses of low character, and dealers, whose only object was to drain the seamen of their wages in the shortest possible time. The ship-owners and other gentlemen of Swansea and its vicinage, therefore, acting in the spirit of these sections, at a great cost provided the Home for the comfort and convenience of all seamen entering this important Port. The Agents of the Sailors' Home are duly authorised by law to enter vessels immediately on their arriving in a roadstead, and to speak to the seamen. It need scarcely be stated that the sailors prefer to lodge at the Home—where their money is safe, and where they can count on wholesome food, clean lodging, and consequent health. There is also a Library, In-door games, and other amusements. Mr. Richardson also established the First Reading Room for working men, and erected it on his own land.
Speaking of Swansea, generally, it is one of the largest Ship-owning Ports in the Bristol Channel, and is also that situated furthest seawards. The Bay is sheltered from the N.E. and N.W. by a range of hills, the western extremity of which forms the Mumbles Roadstead, so well known as a safe anchorage, being sheltered from all winds from S.W. to E.S.E.
On the Mumbles Head the Light-house is maintained free of cost to shipping by the Swansea Harbour Trust. The lighting apparatus consists of a large lantern 114 feet above the sea, fitted with patent dioptric lenses, having a range from 18 to 20 miles.
An Electric Telegraph Ship Signal Station has also been established at the Light-house, in connection with the Harbour Office and the Telegraph system of the United Kingdom.
The Signal Station is open day and night.
The town has risen with a rapidity almost unequalled in the history of the Principality, from a comparatively insignificant bathing place to a sea-port of such commercial and manufacturing importance, as well entitles it to be regarded as the Metropolis of Wales. With Neath, Loughor, Kenfig, and Aberavon, as contributories, it returns to Parliament one Member; the present Representative being Lewis Llewellyn Dillwyn, Esquire.
Swansea is also the Assize Town for the County of Glamorgan. The Population at the last census was 70,000, having more than doubled itself during the previous twenty years, and the coming census is expected to show a still further marked increase.
The shipping trade of Swansea has exceeded that of last year, monthly, by an average amount of something like 12,000 tons. There was an increase in all the three departments into which the returns are divided, viz., Coasting,
European, and Beyond Europe. The year 1879 also showed an increase over the trade of 1878 of 127,448 tons.
Many causes have conduced to this nearly unprecedented advancement in commercial prosperity ; but it must be chiefly ascribed to the very advantageous position of Swansea, a first-class sea-port, actually within the South Wales Coal Basin. This no doubt originally led to the establish-ment in its vicinity of Copper-smelting Works, for the reduction of the ores then obtained almost entirely from the opposite counties of Devon and Cornwall. These works, however, were conducted with such success that Swansea, and its immediate neighbourhood, soon virtually monopolised the Copper Trade of the kingdom, and commenced importing ores from nearly every quarter of the Globe. The establi hment of the Copper Works, on such an extensive scale, naturally soon led to the addition of works for the extraction of the other metals, so often found in conjunction with copper, such as silver, zinc, lead, nickel, cobalt, &c. There are also in the neighbourhood of Swansea large Iron and Steel Works, Brass and Patent Metal Works, and several of the most extensive Tin Plate Manufactories in the Kingdom, so that this town may justly claim to be pre-eminently the metallurgical capital of Great Britain. The manufacture of Patent Fuel, a composition of small coal and tar, or pitch, is carried on most extensively in Swansea, and is exported to all parts of the world. There are in addition large breweries, alkali, superphosphate and other chemical works, foundries, and ship-building yards.
The advantages which nature has so liberally bestowed upon the Port have been materially aided by art, very considerable sums having been expended on its improvement, under the powers of various Acts of Parliament, commencing in 1791, succeeded by several others, until that of 1854, which consolidated and amended all the previous Acts, and constituted the present governing body of Harbour Trustees. Since 1854 Acts for the further improvement of the port have passed the Legislature, and the works therein contemplated (excepting the Docks mentioned below) were executed; the result of all which is, that at a total cost of more than £800,000, Swansea Harbour now consists of a South Dock of 13 acres, with Half-tide Basin of 5 acres, communicating with each other by a Lock 300 feet long, furnished with three pairs of gates co feet wide, the Entrance Gates being 70 feet wide; a North Dock of 14 acres, with Half-tide Basin of 2} acres, communicating with each other by a Lock 160 feet long and 56 feet wide, having at its southern or seaward entrance, Entrance Gates 60 feet wide, and at its northern end smaller locks, communicating respectively with the Swansea Canal and with the upper part of the river Tawe, navigable for nearly two miles for the smaller class of vessels which seek the copper and other works established on its banks. An Outer Open Tidal Basin, called Fabian's Bay, of about 50 acres in extent, has just been enclosed and is being rapidly converted into Docks, providing 23 acres additional floating accommodation, with a Tidal Basin of 6 acres, having 32 feet depth of water on the cills on ordinary spring tides, and 24 feet 9 inches ordinary neap tides, and a Lock 500 feet long (the necessary powers for which were obtained in Sessions 1874 and 1876). This New Dock the Trustees have resolved to open for traffic in October, 1881, and it is being looked forward to with great interest.
The central stone of the Lock of the New East Dock was laid with great public rejoicings on March 31st, 1880.
It is with such a town and port as this that the subject of our sketch is so intimately connected. For nearly forty years he has been Director of the Glamorganshire Banking Company, and also of the Gas Works. He is a Justice of the Peace for the Counties of Glamorgan and Carmarthen, in both of which he holds considerable estates. He is also a large Colliery proprietor.
The editor of this work was privileged in being on the Committee for the Election to Parliament, in 1874, of Mr. Charles Bath, of Ffynone. It was at that time remarked that a second good candidate would have been Mr. John Crow Richardson. The latter, although in politics a Liberal Conservative, has, however, never been an active partisan. Indeed, he is naturally of a sensitive and retiring disposition, and is extremely averse to supplying any personal data of his long and honourable career.
Of unassuming habits, he prefers to pass through life doing all the good he can; but never in the dazzle of popular applause. As a result of this, he is socially much beloved and respected by every class, and in business he is justly considered a man of sound and excellent judgment; and has fewer enemies than most.
Like Mr. Bath, he is a good Churchman, but whilst the former is an Anglo-Catholic, we should opine that Mr. Richardson belonged to what are called the Broad and more Liberal of the Evangelical ranks. Mr. Richardson has largely concerned himself to promote Church extension in the locality. At the Church Congress, held at Swansea, in 1879, he was elected a member of the "Subjects Committee," and had the honour of entertaining during the Session His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, as well as its President, the Lord Bishop of St. David's. His generous hospitality during that historical year will not be easily forgotten. Mr. Richardson has also helped to establish and support Church of England schools, in Swansea (now numbering six schools with accommodation for nearly 3,000 children). He was also a member of the first Committee.
Like his brother, Robert Richardson-Gardner, M.P., Mr. Richardson was one of the first volunteers of his district, and was Captain of the “Third Glamorgan Rifles " for many years, in which corps his son is now Major.
Mr. Richardson holds the office of High Sheriff of Glamorganshire this year, a most important year for Swansea. We have already alluded to the prospective opening of the splendid new deep-water dock, in October next, by their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales. It is a work which becomes a source of interest not only to the Principality, but to the country at large, and in scrutinising local society to discover the most typical character of the district, the consensus of opinion singles out the revered subject of this memoir.
The High Sheriff of Glamorganshire married first, in 1837, Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of Thomas Walters, Esq., of Swansea, and secondly, in 1848, Eliza Fletcher, the youngest daughter of the Rev. John Ross, M.A., of Crawford, Lanarkshire, and sister of the Rev. A. J. Ross, D.D., Vicar of St. Philip's, Stepney. He has had issue one son and one daughter, namely John Crow, who was born in 1842, and Amy, who married, in 1864, George Pearce Serocold, Esq.,. of Rodborough, Stroud, and left issue one son, Edward John, and three daughters. She died in 1872. Mr. John Crow Richardson, junior (who is a Magistrate for the County of Glamorgan), married in 1866, Teresa Eden, youngest daughter of Edward Pearce Serocold, Esq., of Cherryhinton, Cambridgeshire, and has had issue three sons, viz., Alfred John (born in 1867), Ernold Edward (born in 1869), and Robert Eden (born in 1872).