Richard Blakemore’s opposition to the Bute Ship Canal stemmed from his position as Managing Director of Melingriffith Works, and his long-running dispute with the Glamorgan Canal Company.
Melingriffith Works had been a water-powered ironworks since the mid-eighteenth century. Its motive power was water from the River Taff, drawn off on an artificial course at Radyr Weir.
The earliest records show that the ironworks were founded by Rees Powell sometime before 1749. They passed through the hands of a number of families and firms before being acquired by Richard Blakemore and Company in 1810, with Richard Blakemore himself as managing director.
Blakemore acquired the coal and iron-ore mines and furnaces at Pentyrch Works in order to supply the Melingriffith Works. He built a narrow-gauge railway between the two sites in 1815 to replace the unsatisfactory transport by pack-horse and water. In the 1830s a second furnace was constructed, resulting in a tripling of production within 15 years.
The Glamorganshire Canal Company was formed by Act of Parliament in 1790. It provided a canal from Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff, and was designed to improve transport from the rapidly expanding ironworks in the area surrounding Merthyr Tydfil.
From 1802 for at least 30 years, Richard Blakemore was in constant dispute with the Glamorganshire Canal Company over their extraction of water from the River Taff. During dry summers the Works was often forced to stop working due to a shortage of water.
Friendly negotiations having failed to solve the difficulties, Blakemore regularly sought legal redress for his injuries. It has been estimated that over the course of thirty years he spent £20,000 on various court cases, including an appeal case that in 1831 was heard by the House of Lords.