Cyfarthfa Iron & Steelworks
Cyfarthfa Works was for a generation at the beginning of the
19th century the largest ironworks in the world. It was the source
of the great wealth amassed by the family who owned it; the
Crawshays of Cyfarthfa Castle.
The Cyfarthfa ironworks was originally founded by Anthony Bacon
in 1766, and was taken over by the Crawshay family in 1786.
Ironworkers produced iron that was made into weapons such as
cannon, which were in great demand during the late 18th century. So
important was the works to the success of the British navy that
even the famous Admiral Lord Nelson visited the works in 1802. The
manufacture of weapons was so strongly linked to the success of the
works that the Crawshays included a pile of cannon balls in their
Such was the success of the works Richard Crawshay, the first
Crawshay to run Cyfarthfa died with a fortune of 1.5 million pounds
By the second quarter of the 19th century, the rival ironworks
at Dowlais caught up with and eventually eclipsed the Cyfarthfa
works. The early Victorian age witnessed these two great rivals
producing enormous quantities of iron to make rails for the rapidly
expanding railway networks in Britain, Europe, America and the
colonies of the British Empire.
By the 1870's it was clear that the future of Merthyr Tydfil's
ironworks could only continue by investing in the latest
technologies and converting to steel production. Unfortunately,
unlike the Dowlais Works, Cyfarthfa's switch to steel making by
1884 after a prolonged period of closure came much too late to save
its former leading position amongst Merthyr Tydfil's ironworks.
The end for the Cyfarthfa works finally came in 1919 after
making steel for shell cases used in the First World War. Much of
the works was demolished over the course of the 20th century after
it fell out of use.
The impressive remains that can still be seen are of six massive
blast furnaces. A massive brick arch, which is still standing, was
built to bridge the gap in the bank of furnaces. It is a sobering
thought however to consider that these are just a small part of the
extensive works that originally occupied this site.
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