Cyfarthfa blast furnaces
Industrial Wales - South and Mid Glamorgan
Merthyr Tydfil
Around Merthyr and the Taff Fechan Valley
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The Industrial History and Archaeology of South and Mid-Glamorgan

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Merthyr Town

Quick links to :-     Merthyr Town     Cyfarthfa Ironworks     Cefn Coed and Morlais     Dowlais
Pant to Pontsticill     Merthyr Common and the Taff Bargoed Valley     Pontypridd to Rhydycar

Georgetown - SO 0445 0665

Georgetown (named after George Crawshay) is one of the few remaining areas from Merthyrs past, dating from the 1820s. It includes Cyfarthfa Chapel, Joseph Parry's birthplace in a row of terraced cottages and an excavated section of the Glamorganshire Canal along with various relics from those times. Jacksons Bridge dates from 1791 and once carried the Dowlais Tramroad.

Ynys-fach Ironworks - SO 0452 0610

Ynys-fach Ironworks was built in 1801 by the Crawshays as an extension of their works at Cyfarthfa. There is a row of four derelict furnaces with the arches present and the blast passage behind next to a stone-built, four-storey blast engine-house of 1836. It was restored as a museum in 1989 and is open to the public.

The Vale of Neath Railway and other bridges

Plymouth Ironworks - SO 0560 0500

Plymouth Ironworks has long gone and little remains to mark it. The Penydarran Tramroad ran in a tunnel under the site and one portal has been reconstructed to mark the 'oldest railway tunnel in the world'. The footbridge is typical but probably not original.

Pont-y-Cafnau - SO 0376 0713 (The bridge of troughs)

This bridge is the world's oldest known iron railway bridge, built in 1793. The deck was a cast-iron tube for the Gurnos leat with the Gurnos tramroad laid on it. Above was a wooden trough carrying the Taff Fawr leat. From 1929 to 1953 the leat was used to generate hydro-electricity, originally for the Corporation tram network, in the turbine house next to the bridge. The miniature railway in the Castle grounds seems a little incongruous amongst all this industrial dereliction.

Gurnos Tramroad and leat - SO 0358 0784
Gurnos Quarry - SO 0355 0835

The Gurnos Tramroad connected Cyfarthfa Ironworks with the Gurnos Quarry. It opened in c1793, also supplying limestone to the Plymouth Ironworks. A connection up the present exit drive to Cyfarthfa Castle was added in 1825 and use of the tramroad seems to fizzle out in the 1870s. The tramroad and leat run side by side from Pont y Cefn, on the corner of Cyfarthfa Castle to the quarries and weir at Gurnos. An excellent walk with many old sleeper blocks along the way. Up above them is a tower which could be a folly or a watchtower, no-one really knows.

Cyfarthfa Ironworks

Quick links to :-     Merthyr Town     Cyfarthfa Ironworks     Cefn Coed and Morlais     Dowlais
Pant to Pontsticill     Merthyr Common and the Taff Bargoed Valley     Pontypridd to Rhydycar

Coke Ovens - SO 0370 0678

The Cyfarthfa coke ovens site was open to the public on the 7th September 2013 ('for one day only' as they say), courtesy of GGAT and the site developers. It turned out to be quite expensive as the Wife wanted feeding and some trinket or other to recompense for being dragged to Merthyr for the day. I couldn't resist a quick look at the amazing blast furnaces whilst I was there, could I? Johnny Crawford of GGAT has kindly supplied accurate details for each photo (far better than my memory or imagination) and a link to the full report of the excavations can be found in the 'Sources' section at the bottom of the page. The 'Thorne Electrical' works was built on this site after WW2 and demolished in 1993.

Blast Furnaces - SO 0383 0678

Vast structures, arches and tunnels of this great ironworks

Cefn Coed and Morlais

Quick links to :-     Merthyr Town     Cyfarthfa Ironworks     Cefn Coed and Morlais     Dowlais
Pant to Pontsticill     Merthyr Common and the Taff Bargoed Valley     Pontypridd to Rhydycar


The Brecon and Merthyr Railway, Cefn Coed to Pontsticill

Danydarren Quarry - SO 0242 0904

Danydarren Quarry is a modern quarry at the site of an old limekiln. It appears to have been active in the 1960s with a system of chutes and conveyors over the top of two kilns which may be slightly older than the quarry, possibly the 1940s as there are some workings in 1948.

Vaynor Quarry - SO 0370 0975

Morlais Castle Quarries and tramroads

The Western Quarries (Penydarren and Plymouth Ironworks) - SO 0490 0945, SO 0475 0985

The Western Tramroad connected both the Penydarran and Plymouth Ironworks with their quarries on Morlais Mountain. It appears to have been open by 1801, but Penydarran closed in 1859 and Plymouth in 1875 with traffic ceasing completely by 1888.

The Eastern Quarries (Dowlais Ironworks) - SO 0530 0995

The Eastern Tramroad connected the Dowlais Ironworks with the Eastern quarries, opening in c1825 and linked by a tramroad by c1833 which was soon converted to a railway.

Twynau Gwynion - SO 0650 1060

The extensive limestone quarries at Twynau Gwynion were originally connected to Dowlais Ironworks until 1825 when Morlais East quarries became the ironworks main source of limestone. The various Rhymney ironworks took over these quarries and the Rhymney Limestone Railway was opened. As these quarries connected far more with the Rhynmey Valley than Merthyr, their story is told on the Northern Rhymney Valley page here :-
'The Northern Rhymney Valley'


Quick links to :-     Merthyr Town     Cyfarthfa Ironworks     Cefn Coed and Morlais     Dowlais
Pant to Pontsticill     Merthyr Common and the Taff Bargoed Valley     Pontypridd to Rhydycar


From two walks in the Summer I found a vast amount of interesting sites around Dowlais.

Pengarnddu bridge and aqueduct - SO 0710 0882

The Brecon and Merthyr Railway around Pengarnddu bridge and aqueduct

Dowlais Top Station - SO 0799 0845

The Brecon and Merthyr Railway Dowlais Top Station house sits beside the Heads of the Valleys road in splendid isolation from any railway at all.

Pant, Pontsticill and beyond

Quick links to :-     Merthyr Town     Cyfarthfa Ironworks     Cefn Coed and Morlais     Dowlais
Pant to Pontsticill     Merthyr Common and the Taff Bargoed Valley     Pontypridd to Rhydycar

The Brecon Mountain Railway

... and a few views of the new extension being built - will it ever go through the tunnel or up to Neuadd?

Tyle Haidd Quarry, Pontsticill - SO 0620 1045

Neuadd Reservoir railway, Torpantau - SO 0385 1700

The Neuadd Reservoir railway was built to Lower Neuadd reservoir in 1882-84 from a siding at Torpantau Station on the Brecon and Merthyr Railway. It seems to have been taken up when the reservoir was completed but relaid and extended to build Upper Neuadd Reservoir in 1896-1902. Again it was lifted when the reservoir opened and now forms part of the Taff Trail. The branch from Torpantau was standard gauge but 3ft lines are believed to have existed at the reservoir site.

Merthyr Common and Taff Bargoed Valley

Quick links to :-     Merthyr Town     Cyfarthfa Ironworks     Cefn Coed and Morlais     Dowlais
Pant to Pontsticill     Merthyr Common and the Taff Bargoed Valley     Pontypridd to Rhydycar

Tyle Dowlais Ironstone Mine - SO 0737 0735

Tyle Dowlais Ironstone Mine emerged from the depths of the Ffos-y-Fran opencast pit in December 2017 and Colin Roach took these aerial photos a few months later. The mine started in the early 1800s. By 1875 it was a large undertaking but was greatly diminished by 1900, fading slowly until the 1940s when tipping began to cover it over.

Merthyr Common - SO 0750 0600

Pen-y-darren Pits - SO 0820 0510

Pen-y-darren Pits was one of many supplying the various ironworks via an intricate web of tramways and inclines. Surprisingly, given it's name, this supplied the Dowlais Ironworks.

Cwm Bargoed Disposal Point - SO 0876 0612

Cwm Bargoed Disposal Point is the loading point for the Ffos-y-Fran opencast mine and the site of Cwm Bargoed station.

Taff Bargoed GWR / RR joint line - SO 0942 0426

Ffynnonau Duon Colliery, No 3 level - SO 0945 0395

Acknowledgments, sources and further reading

Thanks for photos and information to :- Johnny Crawford, Philip Cumpstone, GGAT
Further Reading :- 'Merthyr Tydvil tramroads and their Locomotives' by Gordon Ratternbury and M J T Lewis
'Early Limestone Railways' by John van Laun, The Newcomen Society.
'Reservoir Builders of South Wales' by Harold Bowtell and Geoffrey Hill.
'Cyfarthfa Coke Works', a report by GGAT at this link to the report

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