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Triangle Business Park, former Pentrebach Ironworks

InTriangle Business Park, former Pentrebach IronworksSouth of the Plymouth Furnaces, Trevithick’s locomotive would have continued along the Penydarren tram road, which had been built on land over which Richard Hill had acquired extensive mineral rights. In 1804 however, the ironworks and collieries that were to make the Hill family very wealthy, had yet to be developed. Two new blast furnaces were to be built at Plymouth in 1807 and1815, and by this time construction of works at Pentrebach had began.

Whilst the blast furnaces at Plymouth turned the raw materials of ironstone, coke and limestone into pig iron, the Pentrebach works was constructed to refine that metal. At the site, puddling furnaces and rolling mills were built to turn the useless pig iron into a more malleable material that could be cast or rolled into different shapes. The Hill’s still relied heavily on water to power machinery in the works so the water feeder that served the Plymouth site was continued south to serve Pentrebach. This works became a very important part of the Plymouth concern and in 1841 modern rolling mills were opened.

At the same time as the Pentrebach works were being built the owners decided to erect new cottages for their workers. A number of separate rows were built to the south, but immediately to the north, confined by the bend of the Plymouth water feeder, four rows were constructed, three of these making the shape of a Triangle. Toilets were located in the centre of the enclosed space. These were good quality houses for the skilled ironworkers of Pentrebach. After the death of Richard Hill in 1806 his three sons were involved in the running of the works.

It was however the youngest son, called Anthony after his uncle Anthony Bacon, who became the most notable of the family. He had studied geology, chemistry and metallurgy and became a Fellow of the Geological Society. Although the Hills tried to sell the works in 1834 no buyer came along and the concern remained in their ownership for almost another thirty years. Despite becoming a very wealthy family, the Hills continued to live at Plymouth House overlooking the site of the original works.

They seemed to shun the extravagant lifestyles of the other Merthyr ironmasters, preferring to provide for the education and spiritual welfare of their workers. It was not until 1850 that Anthony built the mansion that still stands at Pentrebach and where he lived until his death in 1862. (The second large building on the site used as a motel is a modern construction). Anthony Hill in particular was a man of great generosity, establishing schools at Plymouth and Troedyrhiw, paying the teachers and leaving money in his will for the maintenance of the buildings.

Travelling south of the Pentrebach Ironworks, a site now occupied by business offices and chain stores, the tramroad continued towards where Anthony Hill was to develop a third location for iron manufacture. At Duffryn he was to build five more blast furnaces with other associated structures, and here too deeper pits were to be sunk which would reach the richer steam coal seams of the Taff Valley. Graig and Duffryn Collieries, sunk alongside the Penydarren Tramroad would continue to produce best quality coal for world shipping for well over a half a century after Anthony Hill’s death.