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Trevithick Monument Continued

The completion of the Glamorgan Canal in 1794 was to have a great impact on the way finished iron was being moved to Cardiff, and enabled the four works to increase output year by year. However, the three ironworks on the east side of the Taff at Dowlais, Penydarren and Plymouth had already recognized the disadvantages of their location when compared to that of the Cyfarthfa works which was situated at the canal terminus. These works had to construct tramway connections to wharfs where the iron could be loaded into narrow boats, and it was also felt that the Cyfarthfa iron was being loaded in preference to that of the other enterprises.

In 1799 therefore, these three companies combined to begin construction of a tram road to a wharf on the Glamorgan Canal some nine and half miles away at Navigation (now called Abercynon). Under the direction of the engineer George Overton this stone block and iron plateway construction was complete by 1802, effectively by-passing the length of canal between Merthyr Tydfil and Navigation, which later was to become slow and congested as the output of the ironworks continued to grow.

The Penydarren Tramroad, known originally as the Merthyr Tramroad and having a gauge of 4ft. 2in. inside the plate flanges, left the southern extremity of the Penydarren ironworks, skirted to the east of the growing town and continued on the eastern bank of the river for most of its course. It was a single track tramroad with numerous passing places; horses in the early days having to pull five drams, each containing two tons of iron down to Navigation and then the empty drams back up. These trains took one day to make the return journey but before long trains of twenty-five drams pulled by three horses were to be seen making their way along the tramroad.

With the completion of the Penydarren Tramroad in 1802 a junction was constructed with the Dowlais Tramroad, enabling the Dowlais Works to have a direct link at this point. For almost fifty years all of the iron produced by Dowlais, and bound for the coast at Cardiff would have passed this point, either in the direction of the canal or along the Penydarren tramroad. As the middle of the nineteenth century approached the Dowlais Works far outshone the other three Merthyr Ironworks in terms of growth and output. Because of its location however, it continued to be disadvantaged as it relied on the steep and tortuous tramroad link via Penydarren to get iron to the canal and Merthyr Tramroad.

The high stonewall opposite the monument to the historic journey of Trevithick’s locomotive was originally part of the boundary of Penydarren House, the home of the Homphray family. Built on the site of a Roman fort, it was in this house that some of the soldiers called into Merthyr Tydfil to quell the riots of 1831 were quartered. Alongside, is Merthyr Tydfil’s once very popular Theatre Royal, a thriving theatre during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

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