Merthyr Tydfil is a town located in the valley of the river Taf in south Wales and
lies within the county of Glamorganshire. It is named after Saint Tydfil, the daughter
of Brychan King of Brycheiniog who by tradition was martyred in the area.
In the 1750's Merthyr Tydfil was an unimportant small village with only a handful of
houses but nearby was everything necessary for the would-be ironmaster to ply his trade -
with supplies of limestone, iron ore, coal and water readily to hand. The first
ironworks were established at Dowlais in 1759 , followed by further works at Cyfarthfa
and Plymouth, all within a two mile radius of the original village. By the year 1801 the
population of Merthyr Tydfil had grown to over 8,000, making it the largest town in Wales
and the world's first truly industrial connurbation.
Merthyr became the Iron Capital of the world by the 1840's the Dowlais plant was the
largest manufacturing concern on earth and produced much of the iron for the American
railroads. The export of iron was greatly helped by the construction of the Taff Valley
Railway designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and completed in 1841 that linked Merthyr to the port of Cardiff.
The iron industry began to decline in the second half of the nineteenth century as the
local supplies of iron ore ran out, and the iron industry moved away to the coast where
imported ore was cheaper to unload, but the increasing demand for coal more than
compensated. It was only the final collapse in the coal market from the 1920s onwards that
led to the final decline of Merthyr Tydfil.
Merthyr Tydfil is most remebered for the Merthyr Rising of 1831 when the locals rioted
as a result of the rejection by the House of Lords of the 1831 Reform Bill, and the Red
Flag was first flown in Britain at nearby Hirwaun Common.
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