Quakers Yard Station - Edwardsville
Possessed as it was of immense industrial potential, the area around Merthyr
Tydfil at the head of the Taff Valley, suffered economically from its
isolation among the Welsh hills. Its only links to the coast were along
lonely and exposed mountain ridges where ran rough and ancient trackways.
Over terrain of this nature, only pannier carrying mules were suitable to
transport the produce of the newly developing ironworks. Attempts were made
in the 1760’s to improve some of these routes but gradients were too steep
and surfaces too rough to accommodate heavily laden vehicles.
To the south of Merthyr Tydfil where the relatively soft Coal Measure rocks
gave way to more resistant Pennant Sandstone, the Taff Valley becomes more
confined and between Pontygwaith and Quakers’ Yard the river makes a deeply
incised loop. Despite the tortuous nature of the river’s course here, late
eighteenth and nineteenth century engineers succeeded in overcoming many
natural obstacles and constructed a succession of lines of communication,
which enable the ironworks, and later the coal mines to expand and prosper.
On each bank of the river road, canal, tramway and railway were to be
constructed, each in turn having to cling in places to the vertiginous
slopes of the valley side.
In the late 1760’s Anthony Bacon, founder of both Cyfarthfa and Plymouth
Ironworks and John Guest of the Dowlais Works combined to sponsor the
building of a turnpike road on the eastern side of the valley to Cardiff.
This was eventually completed in 1771 and large wagons could be used to make
the transport of iron to the coast easier and more efficient. This road
followed the line of the modern A4054 north of Fiddler’s Elbow, and although
a great improvement the hill between Quaker’s Yard and modern day
Edwardsville continued to cause some difficulty. It did one cold January day
in 1838 when the Cardiff mail coach failed to climb the icy gradient and the
mailbags had to be sent on to Merthyr by horseback. When this road was
completed the number living in and around Merthyr was only about 500 but by
the Census of 1801 this number had risen to almost 8000.