Penydarren

Penydarren was home to a Roman fort, a great ironworks and the world's first steam powered railway locomotive.


Penydarren Ironworks


The site you are overlooking was where Penydarren ironworks once stood.
The Homfray's founded Penydarren Ironworks in 1784.


By 1796 under the management of Samuel Homfray (1762 - 1822) the works were outperforming its main competitor, Dowlais Ironworks.


Samuel was always looking for ways to improve production. In 1803 he invited Richard Trevithick to Penydarren to demonstrate what his new high pressure steam engine could do.


Richard Trevithick and the First Steam Locomotive


Born in Cornwall in 1771 Richard Trevithick was an inventor and engineer.
By 1802 Trevithick patented a new type of high pressured steam engine and had already tested the 'Puffing Devil', a road locomotive.


On the 21st February 1804, spurred on by a bet made between Samuel Homfray and Richard Crawshay for 500 guineas,  Trevithick revealed his steam locomotive. The locomotive was put on the rails of the Merthyr (or Penydarren) tram road, and it became the first steam locomotive in the world to run on rails, carry passengers, and carry freight. The Penydarren Locomotive travelled to Abercynon with 10 tons of iron and 70 passengers.

The End of Penydarren Ironworks


By 1813 William Foreman together with Alderman William Thompson had taken control and for around twenty years Penydarren prospered.


The cables for Thomas Telford's Menai Suspension Bridge were made at Penydarren and they made the rails for the Liverpool and Manchester railway's in 1830; the first rails made in Wales.


By the mid 1850's the 'Age of Steel' was beginning which would make the old ironworks redundant. Penydarren could not hope to finance the changes involved in converting to steel so by July 1859 'these works in the active sense of the word, have ceased to exist...the furnaces have been extinguished.'


Penydarren House


Constructed in 1786 Penydarren House was the first iron master's estate in Merthyr Tydfil.


"The splendid mansion of Mr S Homfray at Penydarren... contains all the conveniences and the luxuries requisite for a family of wealth and importance. The gardens...are now abundantly productive. The hot-houses, grape-houses, etc, furnish their fruits in profusion. "(J G Woods, 1813)

The Roman Fort at Penydarren


During construction of Penydarren House workmen discovered the remains of a Roman settlement.
Constructed around 75 A.D., Penydarren fort covered five acres, and had a defensive ditch surrounding it. Inside the fort were timber and stone built barracks, officer's quarters, and a hospital; there were also ovens, a grain store, a stone lined well, and a Roman bath house complex.

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Last updated: 30.03.2012
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