IN THE late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Pontypool was the target of international professional espionage.

Information on the industrial sites, particularly furnaces and tin works and the processes and machinery involved in tinplate rolling and Japanware manufacture was much sought after.

In the museum archive there are at least two evidenced diaries of 'spies' coming to Pontypool to gather information to set up similar works in America and in Sweden.

A few years ago, the museum was sent a copy of an extract of American industrial pioneer James Patterson’s diary from the 1820s.

James Patterson sailed from New York in October 1827 to visit relatives in Ireland and then on to industrial sites in England and south Wales – where he hoped to gain information ready for the opening of tinplate works in Pennsylvania.

The 35-page diary extract is fascinating reading and highlights of the Patterson’s trip are visits to all Capel Hanbury Leigh’s works and others around Pontypool, Abersychan (the British) and Blaenavon.

Patterson describes in great detail the work and equipment at the Osborne and town forges as well as the tinplate rolling mills of Pontypool.

James Patterson was not the only industrial spy to visit Torfaen; several years earlier a Swedish industrialist, R R Angerstein, also visited the valley, and his illustrated diary was translated into English and printed in 2001.

Both transcriptions are available to view, by appointment, at the museum’s library and archive.

Nostalgia is provided by Torfaen Museum.