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Pascoe St Leger Grenfell (1798 - 1879)

GRENFELL, PASCOE ST LEGER (1798 – 1879), copper smelter, was born on November 5th 1798 and christened at St Martin- in- the- Fields, London on January 15th 1799. He was second son of Pascoe Grenfell of Taplow by his second wife Hon. Georgiana St Leger. He was educated at Eton College and in France, and entered the family business which had copper smelting interests with Thomas Williams, the ‘Copper King’ on the banks of the Tawe river in Swansea. By 1804 the family had a controlling interest in the Middle and Upper banks and other copper works in Swansea. In 1825 the Williams family withdrew from copper smelting and Pascoe Grenfell & Sons dominated the Swansea valley until the 1890’s. During the period 1830 – 1860 Swansea was smelting half the world’s production of copper ore and there were more than 600 chimneys belching out fumes.

Pascoe St Leger followed his brother Riversdale to Swansea in about 1844 and assumed the management of the company. By the standards of 19th century managers he was very benevolent towards his employees and he set up his home, Maesteg House, in the eastern area of the town where many of his workers lived rather than the less polluted western side. Shortly after arriving he began improving workers cottages and building new ones some of which remain to this day. In his more than 30 years management of the company not a single strike or lock out was recorded.

He was particularly public spirited as can be seen by the fact that the family built All Saints Church, Kilvey and he taught at the Sunday school for 30 years and also built Kilvey ‘ragged’ schools at which upwards of 1,000 children were educated, together with a concert hall and several other buildings for the benefit of the people. He was Chairman and then Treasurer of the Swansea Harbour Trust, a Borough Councillor, Justice of the Peace and Deputy-Lieutenant of the County of Glamorgan. He was a member of the Committee of the Swansea Board of Health.

Politically Grenfell was a Liberal following his father Pascoe who was Member of Parliament for Marlow (1802 – 1820) and Penryn (1820 – 1826) and supported the principles of free trade, and spoke eloquently on the subject at a meeting in Swansea Guild Hall in 1852.

He married twice, firstly in 1824 to Catharine Ann Du Pre who died in 1845 and then in 1847 to Penelope Frances Madan. By Catherine he had 9 children, most notably Field Marshall Francis Wallace Grenfell who in 1902 became the 1st Lord Grenfell of Kilvey.

Pascoe St Leger Grenfell died on March 27th 1879 at the Nottingham home of his daughter Mrs Katherine Thornton and he was buried on April 2nd in the Family Vault, The Old Churchyard, Taplow Court, Taplow, Buckinghamshire.

Swansea Museum Fact Sheet no.9, Dictionary of National Biography, Malcolm Barton.

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