Historic Landscape Characterisation
Merthyr Tydfil

020 Pentrebach

HLCA 020 Pentrebach Industrial settlement: pre-1850s isolated industrial rows with early 20th century colliery based expansion and later social housing; transport and water management features, ironmaster's residence.

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(Photo: GGAT Merthyr 020)

Pentrebach character area: industrial settlement of ironworkers' houses.


An industrial settlement associated with the Plymouth Iron company. It apparently originated in the 18th century as a small road-side settlement, with two other small settlements added before the middle of the 19th century, after which they were expanded and eventually amalgamated by the construction of linear terraces. The area retains examples of pre-1850 housing, though it is now characterised more by industrial house of the late 19th and early 20th century, and social housing of the late 20th century.

Historical background

The historic landscape area of Pentrebach appears to originate during the 18th century as a small road-side settlement: comprising some five buildings and a tollbooth, located at the road junction between the Plymouth Toll Road of 1771 and a track leading east to the open mountain. This, the early core of Pentrebach has been cleared for modem industrial/retail development, while the surviving settlement, centred on Tai-bach, is located further to the south.

Between 1813-1832, the area formed three small separate settlements at Lower Pentrebach, Tai-bach and Dyffryn to the east side of the Plymouth Feeder Canal. Tai Bach initially formed a small, nucleated settlement adjacent to the Plymouth feeder. The settlements of Pentrebach (ie Lower Pentrebach) and Dyffryn were physically separated from Tai-bach at this time by open fields. Tai-bach comprised an L-shaped arrangement of Rows located west of the road to the Pentrebach Iron Works. Lower Pentrebach to the north and Dyffryn, to the south, both comprised groups of cottages/Rows, located at the junction with tracks leading east, in the case of Dyffryn to the open mountain and Twynywaun beyond. Cartographic evidence shows a melin or mill was located at Dyffryn in 1813.

By the mid-l9th century Tai-bach formed part of the estate of Robert Henry Clive, while the settlements of Lower Pentrebach and Dyffryn both belonged to Thomas Thomas, all were leased to Anthony Hill of the Plymouth Iron Works. At Tai-bach additional terraced Rows (the present Tai-bach) to the south of the Plymouth Feeder canal had been constructed. Lower Pentrebach was characterised by linear terraces lining Brown Street and a Chapel/church at this date. By 1875, a mill had been added just east of Pentrebach House and Lodge, built for Anthony Hill owner of the Plymouth Ironworks. The settlement of Dyffryn comprised linear terraced Rows to either side of Rhydfach (part of which is still extant to this day), with two shorter Rows or cottages arranged at right angles and a range of buildings adjacent to the Plymouth Feeder. To the west, is a small structure extended and named on the map of 1875 as a smithy (just within 015). Allotments were a feature of all three settlements. The layout of the area's settlement remained essentially unchanged until after the closure of the nearby Plymouth ironworks in 1880.

Between 1898 and 1915 Tai-bach underwent a major expansion; probably attributable to the continued working of the area's coal reserves at the South Dyffryn Pit, the nearby Bwllfa Levels, and in particular, the North Dyffryn Pit, which continued in operation until the Second World War. By 1915 the urban area extended along Dyffryn Road from Castle Street in the north to Dyffryn in the south, with the addition of Hamilton, Maestaf, Penlan and Hafod Streets. The settlement now boasted a recreation ground, public house, Baptist Chapel, Infant School and Post Office. During the same period, however, Lower Pentrebach and Dyffryn remained essentially unchanged. Extensive 20th century council estates now dominate the urban character of the area.


For further information please contact the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust at this address. Link to the Countryside Council for Wales website at www.ccw.gov.uk or Cadw at www.cadw.wales.gov.uk