Merthyr Tydfil town centre has some amazing buildings, monuments, and artworks, with lots of interesting and unusual features, from mythical creatures and ferocious animals to famous faces and plenty of stories from past and present.
Square One: Penderyn Square
You are standing on the site of the Merthyr Rising of late May-early June 1831, a gathering of discontented and angry workers, most of whom were ironworkers laid off from employment by the local ironmasters, notably Guest and Crawshay.
Workers gathered in front of The Castle Hotel, where inside the ironmasters were in a meeting. The crowd outside was protesting against the poor working and living conditions.
This open square is named after Dic Penderyn (real name, Richard Lewis). He was hanged at Cardiff jail in August 1831 for his part in the demonstration at Merthyr Tydfil, which became a disorganised, threatening crowd and where shots were fired by troops guarding the Hotel meeting.
The Hotel has long since gone, a Castle Cinema occupied the site from 1929 until recently, and now a grassed area and an iron heart sculpture occupy the ground.
Once two-way traffic passed by here and could turn down Castle Street towards the river Taf. Wetherspoons was once Manchester House, a well-known shop or emporium.
Square Two: Woodfired
Until the mid-19th century, buildings occupied the whole of this part of High Street, but come the opening of the railway station in this part of Merthyr Tydfil in 1853, a gap was made to get people to the front entrance. Now, this entrance is the loading bays of Tesco superstore.
Notice Viazzani’s Italian café here? The Station Café, one of the oldest in the town and one of the very few Italian-run cafes remaining locally.
The New Inn once occupied this site, providing accommodation for passengers entering the town; now it is Woodfired Pizza.
Square Three: Howfield's
High Street English Baptist Chapel dates from the 1800s; it has recently been renovated with Heritage Lottery grants and is one of the few remaining non-conformist places of worship left in the town centre. It is the location for many concerts and meetings.
Howfield’s was a well-known bakery and confectioners within Merthyr Tydfil, owned and run by the family of that name. The iron gates provided the entrance into the warehouse at the back of the shop, with the family living above.
Not so many years ago, this part of High Street was two-way traffic, the main street through the town centre on which stood many more public houses and shops of all descriptions.
Square Four: Llys Janice Rowlands
You are entering the Café Quarter of town at the bottom end of High Street, but there are not as many cafes left here now!
The parish church dedicated to St. Tydfil is supposed to be the origin of this town. Somewhere near this site is where Tydfil was killed, about the year 480, and thus became an early Christian Celtic saint, hence the name of this town, “Merthyr Tydfil” (“Merthyr” is “Martyr” in Welsh).
The Square or Plas is named after Janice Rowlands, wife of the then Member of Parliament for the town, Lord Ted Rowlands.
An ornamental fountain occupies the site, erected in memory of two founding pioneers of the local coal trade, Lucy and Robert Thomas.