Williams, Thomas

Williams, Thomas
b. 13 May 1737 Cefn Coch, Anglesey, Wales
d. 29 November 1802 Bath, England
Welsh lawyer, mine-owner and industrialist.
Williams was articled by his father, Owen Williams of Treffos in Anglesey, to the prominent Flintshire lawyer John Lloyd, whose daughter Catherine he is believed to have married. By 1769 Williams, lessee of the mansion and estate of Llanidan, was an able lawyer with excellent connections in Anglesey. His life changed dramatically when he agreed to act on behalf of the Lewis and Hughes families of Llysdulas, who had begun a lawsuit against Sir Nicholas Bayly of Plas Newydd concerning the ownership and mineral rights of copper mines on the western side of Parys mountain. During a prolonged period of litigation, Williams managed these mines for Margaret Lewis on behalf of Edward Hughes, who was established after a judgement in Chancery in 1776 as one of two legal proprietors, the other being Nicholas Bayly. The latter then decided to lease his portion to the London banker John Dawes, who in 1778 joined Hughes and Thomas Williams when they founded the Parys Mine Company.
As the active partner in this enterprise, Williams began to establish his own smelting and fabricating works in South Wales, Lancashire and Flintshire, where coal was cheap. He soon broke the power of Associated Smelters, a combine holding the Anglesey mine owners to ransom. The low production cost of Anglesey ore gave him a great advantage over the Cornish mines and he secured very profitable contracts for the copper sheathing of naval and other vessels. After several British and French copper-bottomed ships were lost because of corrosion failure of the iron nails and bolts used to secure the sheathing, Williams introduced a process for manufacturing heavily work-hardened copper bolts and spikes which could be substituted directly for iron fixings, avoiding the corrosion difficulty. His new product was adopted by the Admiralty in 1784 and was soon used extensively in British and European dockyards.
In 1785 Williams entered into partnership with Lord Uxbridge, son and heir of Nicholas Bayly, to run the Mona Mine Company at the Eastern end of Parys Mountain. This move ended much enmity and litigation and put Williams in effective control of all Anglesey copper. In the same year, Williams, with Matthew Boulton and John Wilkinson, persuaded the Cornish miners to establish a trade cooperative, the Cornish Metal Company, to market their ores. When this began to fall in 1787, Williams took over its administration, assets and stocks and until 1792 controlled the output and sale of all British copper. He became known as the "Copper King" and the output of his many producers was sold by the Copper Offices he established in London, Liverpool and Birmingham. In 1790 he became Member of Parliament for the borough of Great Marlow, and in 1792 he and Edward Hughes established the Chester and North Wales Bank, which in 1900 was absorbed by the Lloyds group.
After 1792 the output of the Anglesey mines started to decline and Williams began to buy copper from all available sources. The price of copper rose and he was accused of abusing his monopoly. By this time, however, his health had begun to deteriorate and he retreated to Bath.
Further Reading
J.R.Harris, 1964, The "Copper King", Liverpool University Press.

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