The South Wales town of Merthyr Tydfil has changed enormously over the past century. Luckily, old film footage captured the town’s people and places on a number of occasions over the past century.
Merthyr Tydfil Through The Ages
Uploaded to YouTube by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, this short film tells us what 19th century French and German visitors wrote about their experiences in the town. It’s packed full of information about the street conditions, female miners and the ironworks.
Uploaded to YouTube by Professor Paul Carr, this film is about the memories of music in the town between 1955 and 1975. Images and digital stories used formed displays at the Redhouse exhibition between January 27th and February 24th 2018.
Merthyr Tydfil Between The Wars
This short British Pathé film opens with the title card, announcing Cardiff City “and the cup” have great reception in Merthyr. Crowds of people pack the streets and the football game.
Like communities all over Britain, Merthyr Tydfil lost many sons to the Great War. In 1931 the town’s War Memorial was inaugurated by Field-Marshal Lord Edmund Allenby. Huge crowds turned out to watch the large procession.
In 1938, Secretary of State for War, Leslie Hore-Belisha, opened a new drill hall in the town. Crowds gathered to watch the official ceremonies.
Leslie Hore-Belisha later became 1st Baron Hore-Belisha of Devonport in Devon.
Unfortunately, evidence suggests that racial bigotry contributed to the downfall of this Jewish politician under Chamberlain’s early wartime premiership.
However, he is widely credited for his success in modernising the British road system as Minister of Transport, 1934-1937.
He died at the age of 63 on 16 February 1957, while giving a speech in the town hall in Reims, France, as part of a British parliamentary delegation.
Steam Trains in 1971
In just one minute, this clip from Unseen Steam takes us back to the steam age – even though it’s 15th April 1971.
“Some three years after steam was finally banned from the BR system – and five years after the Western Region abandoned it – the National Coal Board, unsurprisingly, still used steam in its collieries in South Wales as elsewhere.”Unseen Steam on YouTube
Merthyr Tydfil Workers In The 1970s
Although the title says 1977, this Thames TV footage was broadcast in 1973. The South Wales coalfield was behind its targets, in part because miners were leaving the pits in increasing numbers. They claimed the government set pay levels, which led to industrial action the winter before, was less than alternative employment in the area provided.
However, with Britain suffering in a global energy crisis, coal was desperately needed. But mining was a dirty and dangerous job, with a high risk of life threatening illnesses from coal dust in the lungs.
This is fascinating footage to see the conditions of working class people, and hear the stories of survival both at work and during the lean weeks of strike action. The advertisements for new workers is surprising given the end of Britain’s deep mining coal industry
Interviews include Donald Davis, the Coal Board’s marketing director.
The footage includes the factory production line, where a number of local women are busy working on sewing machines.
British Pathé records from the 1970s show John Bentley visiting the Tri-ang Pedigree toy factory, but little information about the location or the man himself. Luckily, the information is found elsewhere.
At 2:16 we see Cyfarthfa Castle in its parkland close to local housing, quickly followed by the factory in its valley setting in the town. So we know this is the factory at Merthyr Tidfil.
In addition, something is known about the businessman John Bentley too:
“A Pathe website user has informed us that John Bentley’s company Barclay Securities Ltd bought Tri-ang in December 1971. He closed the Merton, London SW19 factory in June 1972 and moved production to Merthyr Tydfil in Wales. He sold Tri-ang by 1975.”British Pathé on YouTube
If you want to find out more about the highs and lows of John Bentley’s life, a 1995 article from the Independent, Predator turned prodigal son : John Bentley : Profile , is fascinating.
In The 1990s
In 1991, lots of people rushed to the Rhydycar Leisure Centre, bringing their old treasures for valuation by the Antiques Roadshow experts.
The episode opens with shots of the town in 1991, along with a short history introduced by Hugh Scully.
From YouTube channel DaveSpencer32, a short clip showing buses, along with the occasional passenger, pedestrian or passing car.
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