Josiah John Guest

Broseley Local History Society Journal Nos 4 and 5.




The following article by Mrs. Lilian Heyward, originally published in the Shrewsbury Chronicle of 29th October 1954, was brought to our attention by the late Howard Williams. It is here reproduced as written; addenda and corrigenda are listed at the end, with reference to 'Iron in the making: Dowlais Iron Company Letters, 1782-1860’, edited by Madeline Elsas (1960).

"Famous Ironmaster was of Broseley descent.

One of the greatest ironmasters hailed. from Broseley. There is quite a lot about him in "The Diaries of Lady Charlotte Guest" published by Murray four years ago."

I had known of Lady Charlotte as the translator the Mabinogion from the ancient Welsh language, but it was news to me that her husband (John Josiah Guest, 1785-1852) [1]  came of a Shropshire family from Broseley and its neighbourhood.

The Guests had been yeoman farmers there for 200 years. One John Guest (b.1772) [2] was, according to the diaries, seventh in descent from a John Guest of the 16th century. The Guests had a furnace at Broseley which stood where Broseley Tileries were built later, and their name appears in the Broseley registers.

This John Guest was interested in coal mining and iron smelting, and in 1763 he joined Isaac Wilkinson in taking a lease from the Earl of Plymouth of property on the Taff in Glamorganshire.

Guest dropped this venture, and became manager [3]  and later part owner of the Merthyr furnace, which was the nucleus of what became the famous Dowlais Iron Works.

Change of Rent

These were on property held in a 99 year lease from the Windsor family of Shropshire, at a rent of £31 per year, free of royalties. Many efforts were made by the descendant of Lord Windsor to break the lease, but in spite of lawsuits the lease was not renewed until-1848, at a figure of about £25,000 a year - a very different figure from that of the past.

On John Guest's death in 1787 his share in the furnace went to his son Z Thomas, and later to a relative, John Josiah Guest (1785-1852)  [4], who however was sent as a boy to live with an uncle in Broseley and who attended Bridgnorth Grammar School.

It was not long before he returned to Dowlais to make the works there the greatest in the world, and he himself the greatest ironmaster of his time. There were times when the Guest profit amounted to as much as £300,000 a year.

Guest's first wife was an Irish girl called Molly Rantin [5] , whom he married in 1817. She died 10 months afterwards. It was through Guest's partner, Wyndham Lewis (whose widow later married Disraeli) that he met his second wife, Lady Charlotte Lindsey, daughter of the 9th Earl of Lindsey [6].

"Into Trade"

It was then a serious step for a lady of rank to "marry into trade", and it took time and perseverance to obtain re-entry for herself and also for her husband into her own circle. Her marriage was very happy and she bore ten children. Up to at least 1882,the Guests still owned a meadow in Broseley, at the back of King Street, which they declined to part with, as it was the only bit of Broseley property which still belonged to them. It would be interesting; to learn whether this meadow(?) still belongs to a descendant of John Josiah Guest. [7]

N. J. Clarke.


[1] Sir Josiah John Guest (1785-1852): manager and eventually proprietor of the Dowlais Iron Company; M.P. for Merthyr, 1832-52; baronet, 1838.   (For some reason Mrs. Hayward transposed his Christian names in her article)

[2] It is thought that this John Guest was born in 1721.

[3] John Guest became manager of the Company in 1767.

[4] Josiah John Guest was, in fact, the grandson of John Guest.

[5] Maria Elizabeth Ranken (1794-1818)

[6] Guest married Elizabeth Charlotte Bertie (1812-95) in 1833.

[7] Can anyone throw any light on this?






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