Images of Wales
Dowlais Ironworks, Glamorgan
Photography by John Ball - 24 September 1998
(with Agfa ePhoto-307 digital camera)
Dowlais is on the northern outskirts of Merthyr Tydfil. It was once the site of the great Dowlais Ironworks owned by ironmaster Sir Josiah John Guest (right). On his death in 1852, the ownership passed to his widow, Lady Charlotte.
In 1860, the Dowlais works was described thus:
"At the Dowlais works (the largest in the world) there are 18 blast-furnaces, 77 puddling-furnaces, 66 balling-furnaces, besides a number of refining-furnaces. About 1,000 tons of coals per day are used at the works; and in busy times from 5,000 to 6,000 persons are employed."
(from gazetteer entry for Merthyr Tydfil in Tallis's Topographical Dictionary of England and Wales)
In 1900, the works was taken over by Arthur Keen of the Patent Nut and Bolt Company. Two years later they took over Nettlefolds wood screw company and became Guest Keen and Nettlefold, better known as "GKN".
Above: The Penydarren Works, near Dowlais, in 1817, painted by Thomas Horner.
The two illustrations above are taken from the booklet 'Working Iron in Merthyr Tydfil' by Richard Hayman, published in 1989 by the Merthyr Tydfil Heritage Trust - ISBN 1 871404 04 5. I purchased my copy for £2.95 at Cyfarthfa Castle Museum, Merthyr Tydfil.
The photographs below show some of the remaining evidence of the iron industry on which Dowlais was founded.
Above and right: The imposing Guest
Memorial Hall, built in 1863.
Above: The former engine house, one of the few remaining parts of the old ironworks.
Above: This was once the stables, where horses working at the ironworks were
accommodated (photographed April 1998).
Above: The arched entrance gateway to the stables (left), viewed from the courtyard inside.
The black crosses on the walls are the ends of iron braces, used to strengthen the structure
of the building, which suffered a partial collapse in the 1980s. The building has recently
been converted into residences for the elderly.
Above: Inside the stables courtyard is this old "Stable House" residence.