Ynysfach engine house


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No doubt in its heyday all of the major ironworks were possessed of an incandescent majesty; Merthyr was once described as ‘the fiery city of Pluto’ by the King of Prussia after a visit in 1844. Although such an environment coloured by overcrowding, poor sanitation, polluted air and work that brutalised both flesh and mind was perhaps more akin to a Boschian vision of Hell. All of the ironworks now lay silent; buried, removed or hinted at through fragmentary structures.

Perched on a leafy hillside largely hidden from view behind the Merthyr Technical College lies the Ynysfach Engine House. Built in 1836 along with the ruined blast furnaces, it is all that remains of the Ynysfach (meaning little island) ironworks, a subsidiary of the mighty Cyfartha works owned by that other great dynasty of iron masters, the Crawshay family.

Smaller in size and older than the Dowlais engine house it is given an equally decorative architectural flourish.
A simple rectangular building mainly in the ubiquitous blue Pennant sandstone enlivened with white-ashlared limestone quoins and dressings, it is crowned with a hipped slate roof with deep eaves (reconstructed). The windows have segmental heads with deep voussoirs and dressings, and small-paned replaced sash windows.

The Ynysfach works closed in 1874 and the engine house subsequently fell into disuse. It was restored between 1986 and 1989 and converted to a heritage centre and offices.