Thirty kilometres north of Cardiff in Wales lies the town of Merthyr Tydfil. Though Wales has many much more attractive places to visit, its Welsh name is known to most British people. Merthyr is a place steeped in the history of the Industrial Revolution, a town that earned Britain its nineteenthcentury nickname of" the Workshop of the World".
Starting a revolution: a model of Trevithick's locomotive
The history of Merthyr Tydfil is the history of iron. The first ironworks was established in a wooded valley near the town in the sixteenth century. But with the introduction of coke-fired furnaces in the middle of the eighteenth century, the town' s economy began to take off like no other had done before. Merthyr Tydfil' s location was perfect for this new method of iron production. The valley was not only rich in iron ore, but also in coal. A nearby river supplied water and the local stone provided excellent building material. Eventually, four ironworks were built in the town and business thrived.
At first, iron was transported from Merthyr Tydfil by road to Cardiff, the nearest port, but soon the roads became hopelessly overcrowded with traffic. However, the thriving businesses were able to raise money to build a canal which allowed cheaper and quicker water transport. This gave a huge boost to the town' s prosperity and provided the impetus for its rise to international fame.