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Trevithick Monument

Trevithick MonumentThe memorial that commemorates the journey of Richard Trevithick’s steam locomotive from Penydarren to Navigation (Abercynon) on February 21st. 1804 stands at the southern extremity of the site of what was the Penydarren Ironworks.By the1840’s all of the Merthyr ironworks had outgrown their original locations. The Cyfarthfa concern had built two furnaces at Ynysfach as early as 1801 while the Plymouth Forge Company had by 1820 time expanded onto sites at Pentrebach and Dyffryn. Dowlais of course was to locate a new extension to their plant at the Ifor Works.

Penydarren however, as well as lacking the extensive mineral resources of the other companies, also suffered from the fact that the site was confined within a steep sided valley and the company had no alternative site on which to develop. The buildings associated with the works therefore, were all located along Nant Morlais, stretching almost as far as Pontmorlais, the bridge that carried the road from Dowlais, down into the town.

Trevithick MonumentThe original Act of Parliament of 1790, which gave permission for the building of the Glamorgan Canal, had provided for the construction of a branch canal from Cyfarthfa to Dowlais. It very soon became apparent that the difference in elevation between the river level at Merthyr and the Dowlais works made its building completely impractical. Both Dowlais and Penydarren therefore, were forced to construct their own separate tramways to the canal wharf at Georgetown.

The Dowlais tram road, very steeply graded in places, followed the promenade on the opposite side of the road to the monument, whist that from Penydarren took a parallel line before passing through a short tunnel at the top of Bethesda Street. Wagons of red-hot furnace waste would also have followed the route for part of the way before being tipped onto the banks of Nant Morlais above the present town centre. This very large tip, extended out toward the infamous part of Merthyr Tydfil known as China, eventually taking the name of the British Tip after 1863 when the British and Foreign Bible Society built the Abermorlais Schools on top.

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