Category Archives: Transport

Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Gallery

12th February 2015, Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Gallery

Cyfarthfa Castle was built in 1825 by William Crawshay. It cost £30,000 and was home to the Crawshay’s until 1889. Merthyr Tydfil Corporation bought it in 1909, and it was turned into a school and museum.

I had a very friendly and engaging visit to the Castle Museum, the former home of the Crawshay Family who owned the Cyfarthfa Ironworks.

Cyfarthfa Castle, Merthyr Tydfil. Image: Christopher Tipping
Cyfarthfa Castle, Merthyr Tydfil. Image: Christopher Tipping

I met with Kelly Powell – acting Museums Officer, Benjamin Price – Education and Interpretation Officer, Chris Parry – Community Officer and Michelle Lewis – Community Officer.

Images taken from a Cabinet of Iron samples manufactured by the Cyfarthfa Ironworks, on display at the Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Gallery. Images by permission of Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Gallery
Images taken from a Cabinet of Iron samples manufactured by the Cyfarthfa Ironworks, on display at the Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Gallery. Images by permission of Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Gallery
Images taken from a Cabinet of Iron samples manufactured by the Cyfarthfa Ironworks, on display at the Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Gallery. Images by permission of Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Gallery
Images taken from a Cabinet of Iron samples manufactured by the Cyfarthfa Ironworks, on display at the Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Gallery. Images by permission of Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Gallery
Image taken from a Cabinet of Iron & steel samples manufactured by the Cyfarthfa Ironworks, on display at the Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Gallery. Images by permission of Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Gallery
Image taken from a Cabinet of Iron & steel samples manufactured by the Cyfarthfa Ironworks, on display at the Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Gallery. Images by permission of Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Gallery
Image: A Cabinet of Iron samples manufactured by the Cyfarthfa Ironworks, on display at the Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Gallery. Images by permission of Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Gallery
Image: A Cabinet of Iron samples manufactured by the Cyfarthfa Ironworks, on display at the Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Gallery. Images by permission of Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Gallery
Image taken from a Cabinet of Iron & steel samples manufactured by the Cyfarthfa Ironworks, on display at the Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Gallery. Image by permission of Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Gallery
Image taken from a Cabinet of Iron & steel samples manufactured by the Cyfarthfa Ironworks, on display at the Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Gallery. Image by permission of Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Gallery

Samples such as these by the Cyfarthfa Ironworks,  were made for no other reason that to illustrate and show off the skills of the workers in manipulating iron and steel. Many, if not all of these samples were bent cold !

On 27th June 1912, King George V and Queen Mary visited Dowlais Ironworks. A spectactular steel archway – the ‘Goat Mill Arch’, had been erected for the occasion, & decorated with many locally made manufactured steel components, very similar to, if not the same as those on display in the Castle Museum.

Image of the Royal Visit to Dowlais in 1912 and the Goat Mill Arch by permission of Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Gallery
Image of the Royal Visit to Dowlais in 1912 and the Goat Mill Arch by permission of Cyfarthfa Castle Museum & Gallery
Image: Detail of the Royal Visit to Dowlais in 1912 and the steel Goat Mill Arch erected to mark the occasion.  Image by permission of http://www.alangeorge.co.uk/
Image: Detail of the Royal Visit to Dowlais in 1912 and the steel Goat Mill Arch erected to mark the occasion. Image by permission of http://www.alangeorge.co.uk/

During the same Royal Visit, a triumphant arch of locally mined coal had been erected. It had formed an entrance into Dowlais House, the former home of ironmaster John Josiah Guest and Lady Charlotte Guest, translator of the Mabinogion.

The Coal Arch - erected for the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1912. Image by permission of http://www.alangeorge.co.uk/
The Coal Arch – erected for the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1912. Image by permission of http://www.alangeorge.co.uk/
The Coal Arch was still standing in 1956, when a decision was made to demolish the structure. Image by permission of http://www.alangeorge.co.uk/
The Coal Arch was still standing in 1956, when a decision was made to demolish the structure. Image by permission of http://www.alangeorge.co.uk/

2015-02-12 14.03.14

Meeting Dr Chris Evans, Professor of History, University of South Wales

12th February 2015 – Treforest, South Wales – the birthplace of SIR TOM JONES !

Treforest Station Railway Footbridge. Image: Christopher Tipping
Treforest Station Railway Footbridge. Image: Christopher Tipping
Treforest Station Railway Footbridge. Image: Christopher Tipping
Treforest Station Railway Footbridge. Image: Christopher Tipping

I met with Dr Chris Evans today to discuss the history of iron production in Merthyr Tydfil and the legacy and impact of this on contemporary Merthyr Tydfil and its aspirations & current regeneration programme. This is in light of contextual research I am doing in regard to the new Bus Station project and Link bridge feasibility study.

Chris is a Professor of History at the University of South Wales, on the Treforest Campus.

We met at Ty Crawshay – Francis Crawshay’s House in Trefforest, now a Museum and Gallery – a part of the University Campus.

Ty Crawshay, Treforest, once the home of Francis Crawshay and now part of the University of South Wales.
Ty Crawshay, Treforest, once the home of Francis Crawshay and now part of the University of South Wales.

We discussed a number of things including:

 Francis Crawshay  – an eccentric member of the Crawshays of Cyfarthfa, who had portraits of his workers painted which was, at the time highly unusual, giving a remarkable insight into the lives of ordinary working people. He was something of a Druidic character, building stone circles and mounds.

 The Upland Landscape of the Brecon Beacons  & its importance in both the past and the future of Merthyr Tydfil. Merthyr is a product of this upland landscape & could make much more of this relationship.

The Taff Trail and how visitors could experience & relate to  Merthyr  as a gateway to the Brecons.

The Creativity and Flair of the great engineers and innovators who were central to the Industrial Revolution in Merthyr not being sufficiently celebrated. Watkin George, William Edwards, William Williams worked at the cutting edge of technology and innovation. Even factory buildings were classically proportioned. Merthyr was a hub of creative knowledge, that became not only world famous, but exported this knowledge all over the world – even sending expertise to set up new Ironworks in Russia for example. The town generated and maintained international contacts, becoming an international crossroads of industry.

Elemental Processes of ironworking – extremely labour intensive. The ability to standardize products and replicate to order under these conditions was testament to the degree of control over processes these manufactories had. Confidence in their technology and how to utilise it successfully

Impact on landscape – early extraction methods included damming rivers and streams and then breaking the dam to allow the raging waters to scour the top soils and expose the iron ore beds. Cinder Tips, & Slag Heaps

Power the control and management of water was at the heart of Merthyrs advancement. Transport was the other – Canals, Tramways, Railways, Roads, River.

Power – Napoleonic Economy & Rise to WealthAtlantic Trade – Iron and Slaves – Dr Chris Evans Research

Anthony Bacon – Founder of Cyfarthfa Iron Works

Ynysgau Iron Bridge lost due to River widening / flood mitigation scheme in the 1960’s.

Merthyr Tydfil Bus Station and Link Bridge

9th February 2015

I have now made two visits to Merthyr Tydfil & am preparing to go up again this week for two days to meet with the project team and Capita, who will be delivering the Bus Station. Capita recently completed the The River Taff Central Link and Bridge –  a new road system that connects Merthyr Learning Quarter at the existing Penry Street Bridge, through Avenue De Clichy, across the new road bridge located south of Swan Street, and via the new road in front of the College. The new bridge is a major landmark for the town.

The town centre is fascinating & has some wonderful architecture. Just remember to look up above the shop fronts to see the architectural detail! Key anchor buildings are still extant & a good deal of regeneration is breathing new life into these buildings and by default, back into the town centre. The RedHouse, an arts and cultural centre – in the former Town Hall –  is a singular example of great regeneration practice & takes in the adjoining Penderyn Square – As part of the Heritage Quarter development, a new civic square outside the renovated Old Town Hall will be a key focal point for the cultural identity of Merthyr Tydfil.  The square will be a vibrant environment that will host events across the year celebrating the heritage of the town”. 

I have done a lot of walking and am talking to whoever I can to enlighten me on the legacy and heritage of the town, but also about its aspiration and spirit for the future.

I have also been asked to contribute to a feasibility study commissioned by Merthyr Tydfil CBC, to look into replacing the existing footbridge link from the College, to St Tydfil’s Shopping Centre with a new footbridge which also extends to the site of the new Bus Station on Swan Street. The project is being delivered by Mott MacDonald  & Knight Architects.  This pedestrian connectivity is a critical element in unifying the accessibility of trains, buses  and pedestrian routes in the town. It serves also to improve and build upon the visual impact a new footbridge may have as a landmark attraction and destination along the Taff Trail, bringing more tourists and visitors to the town centre.

The site of the new Bus Station on Swan Street. Image: Christoher Tipping
The site of the new Bus Station on Swan Street. Image: Christoher Tipping

This site, on the corner of Swan Street and Avenue de Clichy was until recently, the home of the Hollies Health Centre, which has now moved to state of the art new facilities in the Keir Hardie Health Park at Cyfarthfa. The old buildings have now  been demolished. The old Police Station – right & centre of picture, is also in process of demolition to make way for the Bus Station. The back of the St Tydfil’s Shopping Centre can be see on the left of this image.

The new Bus Station site as seen from the new River Taff Road bridge. Image: Christopher Tipping
The new Bus Station site as seen from the new River Taff Road bridge. Image: Christopher Tipping
360 Panoramic image of the Swan Street site. Residential flats and two schools lie to the south of the site & a sensitive response is imperative. Image: Christopher Tipping
360 Panoramic image of the Swan Street site. Residential flats and two schools lie to the south of the site & a sensitive response is imperative. Image: Christopher Tipping
The current Bus Station off Castle Street. Image: Christopher Tipping
The current Bus Station off Castle Street. Image: Christopher Tipping

This image looks grim, but to be fair, the weather on the day was dreadful ! If you turned around, the views out to the surrounding hills are great, even on a horrible day. Castle Street now leads onto the new River Taff Central Link Road at one end and the Redhouse at the other – both, great examples of the power of regeneration schemes in the town to make credible changes.

The College, Merthyr Tydfil, which opened on September 2nd 2013. Image: Christopher Tipping
The College, Merthyr Tydfil, which opened on September 2nd 2013. Image: Christopher Tipping
Panoramic image of the College at Merthyr Tydfil showing the new road and extensive public realm. The River Taff footbridge is at the far right of this image. Image: Christopher Tipping
Panoramic image of the College at Merthyr Tydfil showing the new road and extensive public realm. The River Taff footbridge is at the far right of this image. Image: Christopher Tipping

This area was the site of the former Ynysfach Ironworks, owned and run by the Crawshay Family of Cyfarthfa Ironworks. The new road seen running through the site  above almost follows the path of the former Glamorganshire Canal, which was fully opennd in 1794 and declined progressively between 1898 & 1951. Much of the Canal route is now buried beneath the A470 Cardiff to Merthyr Tydfil Truck Rd.

The view upstream from the River Taff Footbridge. towards the Civic Centre.  Image: Christopher Tipping
The view upstream from the River Taff Footbridge. towards the Civic Centre. Image: Christopher Tipping

Where the River Taff meanders to the left in the above image and turns the corner, was the site of the Ynysgau Iron Bridge, one of the first Cast Iron Bridges built anywhere in the world, started in 1799 & completed in 1800. The bridge was designed and built by Watkins George, a brilliant engineer working for Richard Crawshay of Cyfarthfa Ironworks, known as the Iron King. The bridge was constructed for the workforce to cross the Taff to reach the Ironworks. It was dismantled in 1963 and is now stored by Merthyr Tydfil CBC.

Sections and details of the Ynysgau Iron Bridge, dismantled in 1963 and now stored by Merthyr Tydfil CBC. Image: Christopher Tipping
Sections and details of the Ynysgau Iron Bridge, dismantled in 1963 and now stored by Merthyr Tydfil CBC. Image: Christopher Tipping

Communications and advances in transport were critical factors behind the expansion of Iron production during the Industrial Revolution.  Natural water supplies found in the Taff and its tributaries & streams provided the source of power, but this had to be managed and controlled. Innovation and technological advances were the powerhouses.

Merthyr Tydfil may  no  longer claim to be the Iron Capitol of the world, but transport and innovation continues to be the catalyst for change in the area.

The River Taff footbridge crosses just below the weir from the College to St Tydfils Shopping Centre. Image: Christopher Tipping
The River Taff footbridge crosses just below the weir from the College to St Tydfils Shopping Centre. Image: Christopher Tipping
The footbridge was built in the early 1970's but wasn't always covered. The bridge spans not only the River Taff, but the Avenue de Clichy & Wilkinson's Carpark . Image: Christopher Tipping
The footbridge was built in the early 1970’s but wasn’t always covered. The bridge spans not only the River Taff, but the Avenue de Clichy & Wilkinson’s Carpark . Image: Christopher Tipping
Looking downstream from the footbridge the views change between retail carpark, highway and river. Image: Christopher Tipping
Looking downstream from the footbridge the views change between retail carpark, highway and river. Image: Christopher Tipping

This distinct zoning of views as one crosses the bridge could also change considerable during the year. It’s a great feature from where to see the town  – its downfall being that it isn’t particularly good to look at ! A new footbridge would have the potential to exploit this fact too and make the most of the opportunities presented.

 

 

 

 

 

Merthyr Tydfil Bus Station

Great news to end 2014 & a promising start to 2015 !

On 22nd December 2014 I was appointed as the artist to the team for the new bus station at Merthyr Tydfil.

“The appointed artist will work as part of a multi disciplinary design team to look for opportunities to contribute to the design of the bus station both in terms of function and aesthetics. The development of a new Central Bus Station for Merthyr Tydfil is one of the last major regeneration projects for the heart of the town centre.

Through extensive public consultation held in June 2014, the majority of the public recognised the need to relocate the bus station; however concerns were raised over anti-social behaviour, accessibility and close proximity to a residential area. It is critical that the design addresses these concerns whilst looking for a contemporary design that has a unique appearance which is respectful to the surrounding area.

This is an excellent opportunity for an artist to make a real contribution to the design of an important part of the town’s transport infrastructure and a critical building within the townscape. The appointed artist will be expected to bring a new perspective to the design team crossing traditional skills boundaries and linking different design disciplines.” 

Helen Kell, Vibrant and Viable Places Project Manager, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council.  Helen will be liaising closely with me, alongside the Public Arts Officer for the project.

I will be collaborating and working alongside Capita Symonds, Mott MacDonald, Arts Council Wales & One Voice, a disability action group based in Merthyr Tydfil as well as local authority agencies and local planning officers.

The brief and scope is wide ranging at this stage, but is focussed on the use of research led contextual studies with which to influence the design process and eventual outcome of the project.

I will be starting work on the project in January 2015 & look forward to working & collaborating with the people of Merthyr Tydfil as soon as possible.

This blog will be made open to everyone involved in the project to review, comment upon & contribute to the programme and research.

 

Notes on Merthyr Tydfil by Christopher Tipping
Notes on Merthyr Tydfil by Christopher Tipping