History of places along the Taff trail

Written for the design brief.

The 30 miles between Cardiff Bay and Merthyr Tydfil hold a wealth of historical treasures; from centuries old monuments to its transition from farming communities to being a part of massive industrialisation. The Taff Trail is a wonderful way of linking communities together and giving a healthy way to get to capital.

With the growth of the large Iron works and collieries in the area came a demand for transport routes, but with the complicated landscape the best way to build these routes was to follow the natural undulations of the Welsh Valleys. A requiring theme that I found while reading about the towns and villages along the Taff Trail was that they all seem to have thrived from the building of the Glamorganshire Canal and then later the Railways. The Canal was a twenty five mile canal that is now mostly buried underneath the A470, but between 1794 and 1951 the Canal was important in the transportation of goods from the iron works (eg: Dowlais, Plymouth, Cyfarthfa and Penydarren) to the Bay. From what I can tell, there seems to have been a fair amount of controversy surrounding the finances of the canal during its creation and usage, and was used less and less when the railways were built (Brecon & Merthyr Tydfil Railway, Vale Neath Railway, Taff Vale Railway and Great western railway). The development of these tram roads and railways was partly possible because of Richard Trevithick’s testing one of the first steam locomotives at Penydarren, which then travelled along the Merthyr tramroad (now part of the Pontygwaith nature reserve) as its maiden journey.

Pontypridd also utilised the industrialisation of this area to its advantage, with its development as a transportation hub during the 19th Century. With one of the longest platforms of stations at the time it played an important part in transferring of materials across England and Wales, with links further through the docks at Cardiff bay. Ponty was also where the Welsh national anthem, “Hen wiad fy nhadau” (Land of our fathers) was composed, making this a place of important national history.

Unfortunately, with such a huge amount of industrialisation during a time where there was not a massive amount of safety regulations this area was not unfamiliar to tragedy, including the Aberfan disaster and explosions at the Albion Colliery. With so many families looking to these mines and factories for work it is understandable that whole communities were affected by the events. I believe that it would be important to include a memorial to these unfortunate events within my piece, as it important to remember these tragedies so they can be avoided in the future.

Before this the area was mostly farming communities, but certain areas still had a considerable amount of wealth. Including Llandaff that had been set up as an important religious area from the 6th Century, and the cathedral that is situated in Llandaff shows how the communities still see the area as having religious significance. It is often referred to as a city, an unofficially title, simply because of its seat for the Bishop of Llandaff. With the cathedral positioned close to the trail it joins the castles that are also part of the history of the area.


See images at Alan George’s Old Merthyr.



Published by

Jessy Plant

A Brighton born artist, now studying a Fine Art Degree at Cardiff Met Uni.

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