Merthyr 1804

What was Merthyr Tydfil like in 1804?

This was a place that was now the biggest iron producing area in the world. A village that was surrounded by four great ironworks and the steep foothills of the Brecon Beacons mountain range. A fast growing township.

Here men, women and children toiled for long hours to keep the rows of massive iron furnaces glowing white hot. The flames, fumes, smoke and incessant din from Cyfarthfa, Dowlais, Penydarren and Plymouth already made Merthyr a scene from bedlam – some said the fire, steam and smoke was like nothing else on earth and more like something from hell.

The ironmasters fought and feuded – their workers struggled in living conditions that were without clean water. Life was hard.

But the turmoil brought amazing sights – a new bridge made of iron was one of the first in the world, a giant waterwheel by the river Taff was one of the largest in the country, a new tramroad and a modern canal. Ingenuity, invention and enterprise flourished – making Merthyr the centre for the technological developments that made the industrial revolution possible.