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Merthyr Tydfil

"The Bridge of the Works"


<Click on the Photograph to Enlarge>



In the nineteenth century the owner of the land here was Robert Henry Clive.

Pont y Gwaith had at least three ‘meanings’. It was the name of the bridge across Afon Tâf linking the two hamlets of Forest and Taff & Cynon. It was the name of the farm on the eastern side of the bridge in the hamlet of Forest. It was the name of the small community that used to exist on the western side of the bridge in the hamlet of Tâff & Cynon.  Gwaith has many meanings and can be ‘work’, Gweithfa means ‘works’. Pont y Gwaith is the name of the bridge over Afon Tâf by the old iron forge, furnace or smithy taking the ancient byway across Afon Tâf. In short, Pontygwaith means the Bridge of the Works.

The bridge called Pont y Gwaith was illustrated on Emanuel Bowen’s 1729 Map of Southern Wales as one of three bridges in the valley along with Pont yr Ynn and Pont Merthyr Tudful. Dadford’s 1790 Glamorgan Canal Map showed the area indistinctly as ‘Pontgwaith’. George Yates’ 1799 Map of Glamorgan showed the bridge and road crossing the valley from the Turnpike Road. The road bridge over the railway near the canal was obviously more recent (mid-nineteenth century).         One version of the several bridges at this site, Pont y Gwaith, was apparently built by William Edward of Eglwys Ilan, who was active in the earliest constructions at Cyfarthfa Works.          

The simple forge or smithy near Pont y Gwaith, certainly not an iron-works as in later centuries, was started possibly in the 1580s. Why was there a small forge or smithy just at this particular place from at least the sixteenth century onwards?         There were no ironstone workings nearby, although there were plenty of trees for use as fuel. Where did the old smiths get the ironstone from? It is possible that there were then far more attempts at small-scale iron-making in this valley than local history books have recorded and iron-making may have been quite common in the Taff Valley in the time of Elizabeth I. The authors of The Story of Merthyr Tydfil, page 158, recorded that an iron plate dated as early as 1478 was found in the ruins of a small furnace on the banks of Afon Tâf near Aber Canaid.

It seems that legislation in Parliament in the sixteenth century which prevented the deforestation of the iron-producing areas of the Weald in Kent and Sussex, resulted in some of the Sussex iron-workers coming to this district to establish small furnaces and forges here. They were clearly aware that this occupation had been followed locally for many years before their arrival and that the raw materials for iron making  were available here; otherwise, why would they have come? There were thick woods and so a ready source of charcoal for the smelting process. Some local historians have stated that these small forges and smith shops were started by a Mr. Anthony Morley of Sussex and later of the nearby parish of Llanwynno, possibly in the 1580s.

Tir Pont y Gwaith, the farm, was on the eastern side of the bridge and river.

There was a small community here and many cottages were built in the early nineteenth century to house some of the early Glamorgan Canal workers. Sadly these were demolished in the 1980s for the building of the A470 Truck Road. Although on their own in a rural environment, the cottages were not isolated as a railway line ran close to the community and stopped at the  tiny Pont y Gwaith Halt, but there do not appear to be any photographs of this halt and  railway enthusiasts would like to see a picture of it.  Are there any around?


Pontygwaith Ironworks - in the seventeenth century.

Anthony Morley a Sussex Ironmaster set up a small ironworks at Pontygwaith, in 1583. Very little is known about this works. Morley became bankrupt and the works were taken over by Messrs Lewis and Cook, it was still in production in 1640. It is believed to have been destroyed by a group of roundhead soldiers during the Civil War of the 17th Century.



Pontygwaith and Buarth Glas.

See pictures below

(Photograph courtesy of Andrew Quick)

(Photograph Courtesy of Brian Wall)

Buarth Glas Farm in the 1960's.


Buarth Glas Farm

(Photograph Courtesy of Brian Wall)

Buarth Glas Farm.


Bryn House,

1950's - 1910's - 1970's

(Photographs courtesy of Andrew Quick)



The ubiquitous Valley's sheep, visiting Pontygwaith to check the dustbins..

(Photograph courtesy of Andrew Quick)


Buarth Glas Terrace

(Photograph courtesy of Andrew Quick)


Buarth Glas Terrace

(Photograph Courtesy of Brian Wall)


Buarth Glas Terrace

(Photograph courtesy of Andrew Quick)


Buarth Glas Terrace - Abandoned.

(Photograph courtesy of Andrew Quick)


Buarth Glas Terrace Abandoned,

to make way for the A470.

(Photograph courtesy of Andrew Quick)

From The Other End,

(Photograph Courtesy of Brian Wall)



Buarth Glas Terrace and Buarth Glas Farm, Pontygwaith - 1982

Before the properties were demolished to make way for the Abercynon to Pentrebach A470 road.

(Photograph Courtesy of Margaret Munkley)


Pontygwaith in the 1960's.

(Photograph courtesy of Andrew Quick)


Pontygwaith Bridge in 1995.

(Photograph courtesy of Mr Thomas, Risca)

Pontygwaith Bridge from the other side.

(Photograph Courtesy of Brian Wall)

Pontygwaith Bridge During and After Refurbishment

(Photograph courtesy of David Chillcott)





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