Culture & Heritage

The Making of Merthyr Tydfil – Early History


Merthyr Tydfil: from 6,000BC people lived in the Merthyr Tydfil area.

Stone Age arrowheads and Bronze Age pottery found locally are on display in the museum at Cyfarthfa Castle.

Great Britain: The Celts Started to arrive in Britain. The Welsh Language developed from a branch of Celtic known as Brythonic.

1st – 10th Centuries


Merthyr Tydfil;

68-96AD Penydarren Roman Fort housed over 500 soldiers on a site overlooking the River Taff

480AD Tudful, daughter of Brychan, King of Breconshire, was martyred during a pagan raid. Merthyr Tydfil’s name is derived from this event.

Great Britain:

43 AD The Romans invaded Britain and stayed until 410

c.785AD Construction of Offa’s Dyke began – a linear earthwork created by the king of Mercia to separate his Kingdom from Wales

11-17th Centuries


Merthyr Tydfill:

1270 Morlais Castle was built by the Normans


Great Britain:

1066 Battle of Hastings

1215 Magna Carta

1348-1350 Welshman Henry VII crowned King of England after the battle of Bosworth

1642-1649 English Civil War

18th Century


Merthyr Tydfil:

1759 The Taff Valley was sparsely populated but within 25 years four ironworks were established: Dowlais, Plymouth, Cyfathfa and Penydarren. This marked the beginning of ‘industrial Merthyr’ The communities that developed around the ironworks grew to form one large town, Merthyr Tydfil.

1793 The world’s oldest cast iron tramroad bridge and aqueduct. Pont y Cafnau, was rected to supply Cyfarthfa Ironworks with limestone and water. It is still in use by pedestrians today.

1798 The Glamorganshire Canal from Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff opened. It’s now part of the Taff Trail Cycling and walking route.

Great Britain:

c.1760 Industrial revaluation began

1781 Iron Bridge, the world’s first cast iron bridge, was built in Shropshire


19th Century


Merthyr Tydfil:

1801 Merthyr Tydfil established as largest town in Wales with a population of 7,705.

1802 Nelson visited Cyfarthfa Ironworks where cannons were being made. Soon it was the largest ironworks in the world.

1804 The world’s first steam locomotive pulling a load ran on a tramway from Merthyr Tydfil to Abercynon. The route is now a cycling/ walking trail named after the locomotive designer Richard Trevithick.

1825 Cyfarthfa Castle was built for William Crawshay II

1831 Merthyr Rising: workers protested at unsatisfactory conditions and raised the red flag as a symbol of rebellion. 24 people were killed and Dic Penderyn was hanged for allegedly wounding a soldier. This working class martyr is remembered in a plaque at Merthyr Tydfil Central Library.

1841 Brunel built the Taff Vale Railway from Merthyr to Cardiff.

1868 A railway linked Merthyr to Brecon. Its two graceful viaducts now form part of the Taff Trail.

1870 John Hughes from Merthyr established the Russian town of Hughesovka, setting up an ironworks and coal mines. It is now the Ukrainian city of Donetsk.

Great Britain:

1801 First British census

1805 Admiral Lord Nelson killed at the battle of Trafalgar

1833 Abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire

1845-52 Irish potato famine


1871 Trade unions legalised

1897 Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee


20th Century


Merthyr Tydfil:

1900 Keir Hardie became MP

1911 Highest ever population: 80,991

1925 Fashion designer Laura Ashley was born in Dowlais

1927 The town elected a female Mayor, Mary Ann Edwards, before women got equal voting rights

1939-45 Wartime factories brought much needed employment

1948 Hoover Factory opened, employing 350 people

1957 Brecon Beacons National Park created

1980 Brecon Mountain Railway opened

1989 Trelewis Drift Mine closed

1991 Deep Navigation closed

1993 Taff Merthyr closed

1997 Former colliery sites were reclaimed to create the scenic Parc Taf Bargoed and Wales’ largest indoor climbing wall at Rock UK Summit Centre

Great Britain:

1904 Welsh religious revival

1916 Lloyd George became the first Welshman to be Prime Minister

1930-31 The Great depression

1939-45 World War II

1948 The National Health Service was born

1984-85 Miners’ Strike


21st Century

2008 Merthyr County Borough Council took over the running of the park

New tourist attractions include:

BikePark Wales, the UK's top mountain bike park

Parkwood Outdoors Dolygaer, an outdoor activity centre near Pontsticill Reservoir

Canolfan Soar, a bilingual theatre, shop and cafe

Leisure Village developed to include a modern leisure centre, skate park, bowling alley, cinema and restaurants

Redhouse, an arts centre in the renovated Old Town Hall

Brecon Beacons National Park certified as an International Dark Sky Reserve

Construction of a UK leading megastore Trago putting elevating retail destination profile


Last Updated - Fri - 04 / May / 18