Site of Brunswick Ironworks, Caernarfon

Site of Brunswick Ironworks, Caernarfon

Photo of DJ Williams at Brunswick ironworksThis area was once home to the Brunswick Ironworks of DJ Williams & Son. The company made the metalwork for the Unknown Warrior’s coffin in Westminster Abbey.

DJ (David John) Williams went to Liverpool aged 14 and was an apprentice ironworker for five years, followed by five years at a Manchester “arts metalworks”. He started his business in Bontnewydd, later moving to a site inside Caernarfon’s town walls (now occupied by Gwynedd Council offices). It advertised as Porth yr Aur Iron Works, referring to the medieval gate nearby.

The name changed to Brunswick in 1928 when the company moved here, to Brunswick Buildings, where agricultural implements and supplies were previously sold. The upper photo (courtesy of Meurig Williams) shows DJ in the ironworks here.

In 1909 DJ won first prize for a decorative gate at the National Eisteddfod, held that year in London. His skills were soon in demand. In 1915 his company made railings for the Tower of London’s Raleigh Walk and 250 metres of railings at the Houses of Parliament (Victoria Tower Gardens). David Lloyd George commissioned DJ to make lamps for his London residence.

In 1910 prison officials forced DJ, against his wishes, to make metal scaffold parts for the execution in Caernarfon of murderer William Murphy.

In 1920 the authorities preparing for the ceremonial burial of the Unknown Warrior were dissatisfied with the quality of metalwork on the coffin. On Lloyd George’s recommendation, DJ was summoned to London on 1 November and given one of the coffin handles to replicate and improve on. He returned to Caernarfon, made a new handle and presented it in London the next day.

Photo of Unknown Warrior's coffinHis ironworks then had to make seven more handles and the coffin straps by 7 November. The remains of an unidentified First World War soldier were placed in the completed coffin (lower picture, courtesy of Meurig Williams) in France, then transported by warship and train to London for ceremonial burial on 11 November 1920.

In 2001 the company moved to Peblig Mill, in western Caernarfon. Current manager Kate Jones, DJ’s great-granddaughter, follows in the footsteps of DJ’s son Harold and grandson Meurig.

Other examples of the company’s work include:

  • the gates of Merton College, Oxford;
  • the entrance arch and lamps at the front of the Celtic Royal Hotel, Caernarfon;
  • the gates and monogram (designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis) at Lloyd George’s grave in Llanystumdwy;
  • the giant ‘crown of thorns’ on Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral (Roman Catholic);
  • new bridges for the Welsh Highland Railway between Caernarfon and Porthmadog;
  • the chancel screen of Caernarfon’s Christ Church, now Yr Hwylfan;
  • new gates for the ‘Feed My Lambs’ hall in Caernarfon;
  • gates at Eirias Park, Colwyn Bay, commemorating the 1947 National Eisteddfod;
  • railings at several castles, including Caernarfon;
  • fire grates and dog irons for Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace.

With thanks to Meurig Williams and Pamela Smith, whose book on Brunswick ironworks (published 2020) is available from the company by e-mail (see website link below), price £10

Postcode: LL55 2NA    View Location Map

Website of Brunswick Ironworks Ltd

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