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£50m plan for industrial heritage centre in Merthyr

Credit: David Jones/PA Archive/PA Images

Merthyr Tydfil’s Cyfarthfa Castle, its park and the surrounding areas should be developed as an industrial heritage centre of international significance, in line with its place in history.

That is according to a report published today by the Design Commission for Wales.

The report follows a ‘visioning exercise’ last year that brought together over 60 creative minds – architects, landscape architects, planners, museum and heritage specialists and artists, as well as local community groups – to appraise Cyfarthfa’s regeneration potential.

The report says Cyfarthfa Castle and the estate east and west of the River Taff needs investment on a scale that recognises its historical importance nationally and internationally, as well as its potential to act as an anchor project for a Valleys Regional Park.

The Cyfarthfa ironworks, together with three other works in the town - Dowlais, Penydarren and Plymouth - employed thousands and propelled Wales into a global industrial economy, characterised by investment in new ideas, technologies and techniques, making MerthyrTydfil’s name in the late 18th and 19th centuries synonymous with innovation.

The report envisages:

  • An investment of at least £50m over the next decade to develop a modern interpretive centre that would showcase Merthyr Tydfil’s standing as the world’s largest centre of iron production in the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • A visitor attraction capable of quadrupling the current annual 60,000+ visitors to the castle by combining high quality historical narrative and visual spectacle, using the latest technologies and CGI to create immersive displays.
  • A high quality landscape development plan to upgrade the existing Cyfarthfa Park and the area west of the River Taff stretching from the historic Crawshay furnaces to the Cefn Coed-y-Cymmer viaduct – giving Merthyr an open space that could function as a major venue for open air events.
  • An architectural competition for the design of a new museum/exhibition centre adjacent to the castle.
  • Adoption of the highest standards in building and landscape design, curation, storytelling, display and the commissioning of public art;
  • The creation of an annual framework of public events that would take advantage of Merthyr Tydfil’s location at the junction of the A470 and A 465 roads.
  • The development becoming a standard setter, extending the values and principles underlying the scheme to the development of the rest of Merthyr and beyond.

The proposals will be presented to Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, heritage bodies and other stakeholders at a special meeting later today.

Merthyr Tydfil has resources of powerful loyalty to the place and pride in its history. The presiding impulse from all participants in this exercise was to raise the town’s projection to the world today to a position truly commensurate with its international importance in our industrial, social and political history. We hope that these proposals will help Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, the Welsh Government and the whole community to bridge that gap and to achieve the transformation for which Merthyr Tydfil has waited for too long.

– Geraint Talfan Davies, Design Commission for Wales