Merthyr Tydfil (Welsh: Merthyr Tudful) is a town and county borough in Wales, with a population of about 55,000. It was formerly in the historic county of Glamorgan. It is often referred to simply as 'Merthyr'
The archaeological record starts from about 1000BCE by the 'Celts'. Then the Romans had arrived in Wales by about 47-53CE and in 74 CE they built a Roman auxiliary fortress at Penydarren, overlooking the River Taff (Taf). It covered an area of about 3 hectares, and formed part of the network of roads and fortifications.
Christianity was introduced throughout much of Wales by the Romans, but in Merthyr it seems that, it may have been introduced later by monks from Ireland and France who made their way into the region following rivers and valleys.
Local tradition holds that a girl called Tydfil, daughter of a local chieftain named Brychan, was an early local convert to Christianity, and was pursued and murdered by a band of marauding Picts and Saxons while traveling to Hafod Tanglwys in Aberfan, a local farm that is still occupied to this day. The girl was considered a martyr after her death in approximately 480CE. “Merthyr” translates to “Martyr” in English, and tradition holds that, when the town was founded, the name was chosen in her honour. A church] was eventually built on the traditional site of her burial.
Until 1754, Merthyr Tydfil was little more than a village, it was recorded that the valley was almost entirely populated by shepherds.
Merthyr was situated close to reserves of iron ore, coal, limestone and water, making it an ideal site for ironworks and in the wake of the Industrial revolution the demand for iron led to the rapid expansion of Merthyr's iron operations.
The 1801 census recorded the population of Merthyr as 7705, the most populous parish in Wales (however, the built-up area of Swansea, covering several parishes, then exceeeded 10,000). By 1851 Merthyr had overtaken Swansea to become the largest town in Wales with 46,378 inhabitants. By this time, Irish immigrants made up 10% of the local population, and there were substantial numbers of English, together with some Spanish and Italians
The population of Merthyr reached 51,949 in 1861, but went into decline for several years thereafter. As the 19th century progressed, Merthyr's inland location became increasingly disadvantageous for iron production, and only the Dowlais works invested in steelmaking technology.
Since the end of the Second World War, much of this has declined, with the closure of long-established coal mining collieries, and both steel and ironworks. Despite recent improvements, some parts of the town remain economically disadvantaged, and there is a significant proportion of the community who are long-term unemployed.
In Britain today, Merthyr:
Ranks 13th worst for economic activity.
Ranks 13th worst for life expectancy.
Has 30% of the population suffering from a limiting long-term illness.
A controversial Channel 4 programme rated Merthyr Tydfil as the third worst place to live in Britain in 2006 following areas of London
Facts about Merthyr Tydfil
Landmark Cyfartha Castle
Geographic 10° 33´30´´ eastern longitude, 52° 58´ northern latitude
Nearest city Cardiff (23 miles)
Postal Code CF47 / CF48