Louis Gustave Mouchel
The early years
Louis Gustave Mouchel was born in the French port of Cherbourg in 1852, the only son of four children to Louis, a local wig-maker, and his wife Felicité. After entering a college in the coastal town with the intention of becoming an officer in the French Navy Cherbourg was home to France's naval arsenal Mouchel found himself drawn to a different profession: engineering.
His fascination with the technical discipline led him to join the staff of Cherbourg Ponts et Chaussées (Cherbourg Bridges and Roads) as a resident engineer, and subsequently to start a course in mining engineering in 1872. In his early years he played an active role in the construction of the harbour at Dillette and the pier for the Barfleur lighthouse.
After developing his skills in France, Mouchel saw an opportunity to take his mining expertise elsewhere. He had always shown an interest in the island nation that sat across La Manche, and so at the age of 23, Mouchel used his French contacts and English and Latin language skills to seal a residence at Briton Ferry in South Wales.
At the time of Mouchel's arrival, South Wales valleys were dominated by active mine shafts and collieries, and the thriving coal industry was an engine room for Britain's late industrial boom. Briton Ferry itself was an industrial town of iron, steel and tin works which relied upon a constant supply of coal to satisfy its output. The town, and the region itself, was a vibrant environment and a melting pot for technical specialists. It was the perfect setting for Mouchel to make his mark.
While at Briton Ferry, Mouchel used his links to his homeland and his mining background to open up iron mines in Brittany. Once opened, he arranged for the ore to be shipped to South Wales to feed Briton Ferry's flourishing ironworks. Opening iron mines in Brittany was a masterstroke for Mouchel, and more success followed. He was instrumental in introducing washed coal in the coke-making process, and helped to form the Cardiff Washed Coal & Fuel Company. His involvement eventually led the British Admiralty to convert to the new process. He was also a director of several of South Wales' most important manufacturing companies.
As a ship broker and French consular agent for the ports of Briton Ferry, Talbot, Porthcawl and Neath Abbey, a role which he served from 1879 until his death, he was recognised by the French government for developing strong industrial ties between France and Wales his reward was the rank of Conseillers du Commerce Extérieur.
Mouchel quickly developed a reputation for being a man with a 'broad vision' who had a huge capacity for work.
portait and other images courtesy Mouchel