Merthyr Tydfil occupies a natural basin at the head of the Taff valley. High hills and ridges reach 450m above OD on all sides, with development constrained to the basin floor and smaller tributary valleys of the Taff, which itself provides the only natural route out of the basin to the south east. However, it is not topography alone that has shaped the town, but the mineral resources contained within its hinterland. It was probably the largest iron-making town in the world in the early to mid- 19th century, with an output calculated to be a quarter of that of the entire United States of America. The town, and its associated landscape, was rapidly transformed from a modest village in the 1750s to the largest town in Wales by 1801.
Despite extensive recent land reclamation and the sanitisation of the surrounding waste tips, overall Merthyr still retains its industrial landscape character as the most significant Welsh town of the Industrial Revolution. The town and its environs remain a potent example of an internationally renowned industrial landscape of the 18th and 19th centuries and a permanent reminder of man's exploitation of the landscape.
The primarily late 18th to 19th centuries landscape comprises numerous relict elements and foci set within the present landscape. These individual elements consist of the remains of large ironworks, remnants of the associated coal mining industry, water power eats, an early iron bridge, communication systems, including early tramroads, tips, terraced industrial housing, and the ironmasters house, Cyfarthfa Castle. Merthyr Tydfil, however, retains not only its economic significance, but also its importance as a religious, literary and political centre.
The area identified here contains many and diverse elements, which include Merthyr's Dowlais Ironworks, established in 1759, and probably the first such works to use coke in South Wales. It was followed by the foundation of other ironworks such as Plymouth in 1763, Cyfarthfa in 1765 and Penydarren in 1784. Other subsidiary works were created in the early 19th century at Ynysfach by Cyfarthfa, Ivor by Dowlais, Dyffryn by Plymouth, with further forges at Pentrebach, a part of Plymouth.
| Surviving remains
include the renowned furnace bank at the Cyfarthfa Ironworks, where six
out of its seven late 18th century blast-furnaces, and its ranges of calcining
kilns, survive substantially intact. At the Dowlais Ironworks the remains
include the great stables and the blast-engine house, which have been restored.
The remains of the Ynysfach Ironworks consist of one blast engine house
and four early 19th century furnaces. The engine house is also restored
and acts as a museum of the iron industry.
Locally, early communication systems survive, though to varying degrees. Adjoining the Cyfarthfa Ironworks lies the Pontycafnau bridge built in 1793, and the first ever iron railway bridge to be built. The bridge has added significance in that it had a combined use as an aqueduct. The Gyrnos tramroad which used the Pontycafnau bridge carried limestone from the Gyrnos quarries and exists today as a scenic footpath retaining its stone sleeper blocks. The remains of limekilns and fulling mills survive on either side of the route. Elsewhere, the line of the Penydarren tramroad, built in 1802 to carry iron by horse-drawn tram, survives and is also historically significant as the route of the first steam-hauled railway journey by Richard Trevithick's 1804 locomotive. The tramroad also includes a tunnel constructed under the Plymouth Ironworks.
Short sections of the famous Glamorganshire Canal, built in the 1790s, also survive as important landscape features, including a restored section in front of Chapel Row. This is crossed by the relocated Rhydycar bridge which is an early iron girder bridge dating from the 1790s. Chapel Row itself was built by the Cyfarthfa Iron Company as workers' houses, one of which is restored, both as an example of a period ironworker's cottage and also as the birthplace of the renowned composer Dr Joseph Parry. In a sharp distinction which reflects the other social extreme of the Merthyr ironmasters' activities, Cyfarthfa Castle, overlooking the Cyfarthfa Ironworks, was the largest and grandest ironmaster's house in Merthyr Tydfil, and amongst the most notable surviving industrialist's house in Wales. The house is situated in 64ha of grounds, which were landscaped by the Crawshay family to include woodlands and a lake. This grand house and its parkland setting also provide an interesting and important contrast to the other relict landscape features of Merthyr.
Merthyr Tydfil Historical Processes, Themes and Background
|The Character Areas
HLCA 001 Merthyr Tydfil: Historic and Commercial
Core Pre- and early industrial settlement core with later expanded
industrial settlement: pre-industrial religious, commercial and administrative
centre developed during the post-medieval and industrial period; post-medieval,
19th and 20th century religious, commercial, administrative and other
buildings; historic events and associations; industrial transport corridor
HLCA 002 Williamstown, Cae-Pant-Tywyll, Tydfil's
Well and Morgan Town Well preserved ironworks settlement: early
industrial settlement expansion mixed linear and regular layout, with
minor late urban renewal; minor commercial development; close association
with Cyfarthfa Iron Works; industrial transport corridor
HLCA 003 Penydarren Park and Gwaelod-y-Garth
Premier middle-class suburban development over former parkland; regular
blocks of terraces and larger semidetached and detached villas; site of
former ironworks master's residence; prominent recent leisure function
HLCA 004 Penydarren Iron Works Area
Early ironworks area with remains of blast furnaces and adjacent area
of late 19th / early 20th century industrial housing,' nationally and
internationally important historic, and technological associations; site
of industrial transport features and power generation
HLCA 005 Penydarren Industrial settlement:
Iron Company owned settlement of early dense scatter/cluster and, linear
ribbon development supplemented by planned settlement of regular linear
blocks of terracing, including early local authority housing
| HLCA 006 Merthyr Tydfil,
South: Plymouth Street Area Industrial settlement: early
ribbon development with later regular terraced infilling; transport corridor
and close association with neighbouring areas
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HLCA 007 Dowlais Industrial settlement: Iron Company owned settlement with regular and evolved element to layout; initial ribbon development and unplanned irregular dispersed settlement 'squatter-type' at Cwm Rhyd-y-Bedd, supplemented by linear grid planned core, public, educational and religious buildings; extensive 20th century redevelopment; transport corridor
HLCA 008 Dowlais Iron Works Area Industrial
Area: former ironworks site; nationally and internationally important
historic, technological, and artistic associations; site of ironmaster
's residence; water management and power generation.
HLCA 009 George Town, Former Industrial Settlement
Industrial settlement area; remodelled in recent years but early
regular street layout maintained; transport corridor; 19th century religious
buildings; historic associations (Crawshays of Cyfarthfa; Joseph Parry.
HLCA 010 Ynys Fach Iron Works Area Industrial
remains: ironworks, area partly taken by Technical College; historic,
technological, and artistic associations.
HLCA 011 Llwyn-Celyn and Ynys Fach Modern
estate settlement over area formerly characterised by mixed agricultural
and industrial use, including ironstone mining and industrial transport.
HLCA 012 Cyfarthfa Iron Works Iron Works
and nearby interrelated features: including industrial transport and water
management features; historic, technological and artistic associations;
site of former ironmaster's residence.
HLCA 013 Cyfarthfa Castle and Park Ironmaster's
seat, historic park and garden; visual connectivity to associated ironworks
and industrial extractive landscape; later museum and school; recreational
area; historic and artistic associations.
HLCA 014 River Taff
Canal and Railway Corridor Main north-south communication corridor
canal, tramroad, industrial and public railroad corridor; 18th and 19th
century extractive features, principally pits, levels and mines and associated
water management features; industrial housing; important historic and
cultural associations; Ancient Woodland
HLCA 015 Taff Vale Industrial and Business Parks
Recent industrial/retail area built partly over former ironworks, associated
tips and related transport and water management features; site of associated
coal workings; site of ironworks settlement; post-war industrial architecture.
|HLCA 016 Upper Abercanaid
Important early canal side colliery settlement and Glyndyrys pit (engine
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HLCA 019 Penydarren Tramroad Corridor
Corridor of nationally important Penydarren Tramroad and other mineral
lines, Plymouth Iron Works site; historic associations; site of industrial
housing; mining features.
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,
HLCA 021 Clyn-Mil and Wernlas Opencast Area
Late 20th century open cast and reclamation: previously characterised
as an area of intensive coal and iron ore workings of 19th century date,
with industrial transport and water management features.
HLCA 022 Clyn-MiI, Pencoedcae and Trebeddau Agricultural
enclosure; site of late 18th/l9th century coal and iron ore workings;
site of industrial transport and water management features; post-medieval
farmsteads and industrial stables; limited reclamation.
| HLCA 023 Clyn-Mil Workings
Area of enclosed upland; remains of early ironstone and coal workings, largely
surface workings; industrial tramroad network and water management; Ancient
Woodland; drystone and hedged bank field boundaries; close association with
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HLCA 024 Graweth and Pen-y-Lan Surviving
area of post-medieval evolved irregular small agricultural enclosures
with relatively small-scale industrial influence (coal andiron ore) for
HLCA 025 Nantyrodyn and Bwllfa Workings Minor
post-medieval enclosure and settlement (ruinous); extractive industrial
landscape: trial and coal levels; agricultural/industrial tracks/possible
tramway and incline corridor; Ancient Woodland
HLCA 026 Cilfach-yr-Encil Surviving area
of pre-industrial evolved irregular small agricultural enclosures with
little industrial influence.
HLCA 027 Taff Fechan Transport corridor:
public rail and road, Ancient Woodland
HLCA 028 Taff Vale Railway Corridor Rail
transport corridor; historic associations; water management features.
HLCA 029 Ivor Iron Works Area Industrial
HLCA 030 Pantcadifor, Rhyd-y-Bedd and Caeracca
Minor industrial settlement: early ribbon development with later regular
terraces; major cemetery; transport corridor (railway); historic associations
HLCA 031 Merthyr Common, Central Nationally
important Industrial landscape; water management and extractive features
associated with the Dowlais and Penydarren Ironworks; industrial and post-medieval
upland settlement; transport networks -industrial and public rail; area
of industrially altered common.
HLCA 032 Cwm Bargoed Washery In use as
a coal washery: waste and lagoons; industrial remains: extractive (site
of colliery and pits, engine house and smithy; transport corridor: railway
and tramroad and associated features (site of station and signal box),
site of water management feature (reservoir), site of domestic structures
HLCA 033 Garth Fawr Unimproved Common
Potential nationally important relict landscape: relict prehistoric settlement
and associated remains; industrial: extractive features (quarry and possible
HLCA 034 Thomas Town (West) Urban industrial
development: linear tramside settlement with later regular linear grid
additions of predominantly middle-class housing; 19th century public and
HLCA 035 Pengarnddu Transport corridor;
water management area; domestic and agricultural buildings; industrial
settlement associated with limestone quarries; improved agricultural land
and enclosure of Common edge; Military landscape. Volunteers rifle range;
HLCA 036 Thomas Town (East) and Penyard 20th
century urban expansion of 19th century Thomas Town, early social housing;
landscaped industrial extractive features; education and leisure; municipal
park and gardens; commemorative (Boer War memorial)
HLCA 39 Ffos-y-Fran Nationally important Industrial landscape associated with the Dowlais Ironworks; industrially altered upland Common: intensive area of extractive features predominantly early to mid 19th century coal and ironstone workings along mineral outcrop, primarily levels and pits, also early remains of crown pit workings, and patch workings; transport networks; industrial and public rail, drainage features: the Dowlais Free Drainage System; industrial settlement: includes scheduled Ffos-y-fran Iron Worker's settlement
HLCA 43 Garth and Blaen-Y-Garth Medieval/post-medieval agricultural enclosure: evolved irregular pattern, traditional enclosure boundaries; vernacular domestic and agricultural; minor industrial extractive landscape and water management features.
HLCA 45 Morlais Hill and Castle Relict defensive and agricultural landscape; industrial planned Farm; large irregular-shaped fields, early religious, funerary and ritual features; industrial transport corridor; early 20th century leisure characteristics; public health buildings
HLCA 47 Dowlais Top Reclaimed industrial area, recent commercial, retail and light industrial area, site of industrial extractive landscape: quarries and spoil tips, rail corridor: Brecon and Merthyr Railway (including Dowlais Top Station) and sidings associated with Dowlais Iron Company Railway.
HLCA 50 Gurnos and Galon Uchaf Modern urban estates, with commercial, educational and health facilities; site of post-medieval agricultural holdings; transport corridor: road, including Roman, and former industrial tramway; site of water management features (eg the Goitre Pond and the network of associated drainage channels and reservoirs); site of minor industrial extractive features (eg coal and ironstone level, east of Goitre).
HLCA 52 Gurnos Farm and Bunker's Hill Agricultural landscape of late 18th/early 19th century improved medium-large regular (some irregular) agricultural and wooded enclosures; model estate farm (Gyrnos), with contemporary agricultural features; drystone walled enclosures; site of deserted rural settlement of Pantton; transport corridor. road and tram, including course of Roman Road
HLCA 55 Cefn Coed-y-Cymmer Early industrial squatter" settlement: irregular dispersed layout with central linear ribbon core, wider streets near Pont-y-Cefn (associated with Crawshay family), early industrial housing; commercial function; religious, funerary and ritual: churches and chapels, transport corridor, road, rail, and electric tram and associated bridges
HLCA 62 Coed Meurig Agricultural landscape; traditional drystone and hedged bank boundaries and sheep pens; post-medieval farms with farm buildings; Ancient Woodland; Historic association; minor industrial incursion.
HLCA 63 Clwyd-y-Fagwyr, Gellideg and Pen-Llwyn-Deri Industrial settlement of isolated rows (19th century) now dominated by large regular planned estates of council and suburban housing (mid-late 20th century); religious, funerary and ritual: non-conformist chapels; industrial landscape: levels, and spoil tips; industrial water management: reservoirs/ponds; tramroad corridor.
HLCA 64 Winch Fawr, Pen-yr-Heolgerrig, Cwm Du, and Upper Cwm Glo Workings Nationally and internationally important industrial extractive landscape associated with the Cyfarthfa Ironworks: levels (Cwmdu Drift,), pits, mine shafts, collieries, quarries, open cast workings spoil tips, airshafts and industrial buildings (such as the stables and other buildings at Cwmdu Pit); water management and drainage: leats, drains, ponds reservoirs; transport corridor: tracks, inclines and tramroads; agricultural: relict boundaries, clearance cairns, and sheep dip; religious, funerary and ritual; Bryn-y-Badell Bronze Age round cairn.
HLCA 67 Pencoedcae and Brynteg Mixed industrial/agricultural lands cape: open interface between agricultural, industrial and settlement; industrial transport corridor; water management/power generation; industrial extractive landscape associated with Cyfarthfa Ironworks.
HLCA 68 Heolgerrig and Pen-yr-Heolgerrig Industrial squatter' settlement of irregular pattern, early linear ribbon development supplemented by terraces and housing estates; religious, funerary and ritual features, ie non-conformist chapels; small undeveloped commercial function; industrial extractive and transport features; minor agricultural features.
HLCA 69 Cwm Glo, North Area illustrates earlier agricultural/settlement lands cape; religious, funerary and ritual landscape; early nonconformist chapel; historic and religious associations; industrial extractive and water management and drainage features.
HLCA 70 Cwm Glo: Tramroad. Plateway and Incline Corridor Nationally important industrial landscape associated with Cyfarthfa Ironworks; industrial transport corridor: tramroad, plateway and incline corridor; industrial extractive landscape of pits, shafts, levels and tins within the Cwm Glo Valley and along Nant Llwyn-yr-Eos; industrial water management and drainage; relict industrial and agricultural settlement.
HLCA 72 Waunwyllt. Pen-y-Lan and Graig Gethin Agricultural landscape of dispersed post-medieval settlement associated with upland sheep farming; irregular evolved field pattern of drystone walled-enclosures largely hidden in forestry; Ancient Woodland and 20th century forestry; extractive landscape associated with the steam coal trade.
HLCA 74 Blaen-Canaid and Hendre-Fawr Relict agricultural landscape of small irregular evolved enclosure pattern and associated early post-medieval farmsteads; prehistoric funerary and ritual landscape; important historical and religious associations; Ancient Woodland and 20th century regeneration.
HLCA 76 Taff Bargoed Enclosed landscape of medieval and post-medieval fields, possibly containing fossilised prehistoric elements; evolved/irregular field pattern; field boundaries mostly dry-stone wall and stone-faced banks; remnants of mining features and industrial railway. Extent of enclosure during post-medieval period as indicated by cartographic evidence. Dry-stone walls and stone-faced banks (cloddiau).
HLCA 78 Dowlais Great Tip, Trecatti, Trehir and Twyn-y-Waun Reclaimed industrial landscape; an area, formerly similar to HLCAs 031 and 039, since subject to reclamation, opencast and landfill, or combinations thereof former site of multi-period extractive and drainage features associated with the Dowlais Ironworks; former site of industrial and post-medieval upland settlements; former site of a regionally important Medieval Fair/market.
HLCA 79 A470(T) Road North-south road transport corridor, late 20th century; former railway corridor (second half of 19th century); former industrial extractive landscape associated with the steam coal trade.