Discover Rhydycar Houses @ St Fagans: National History Museum

The Rhydycar Houses in Merthyr Tydfil stand as enduring witnesses to the transformative period of the Industrial Revolution. As the neighbouring areas of Rhydycar and Caedraw experienced unprecedented growth during this era, the influx of workers seeking employment in the thriving ironworks fuelled Merthyr Tydfil's population surge from a mere few hundred people in the 1750s to an astonishing 46,000 by 1851.

Rhydycar, initially established to accommodate the workers at the Rhydycar iron ore mine, strategically sunk by Richard Crawshay to supply the nearby Ynysfach Ironworks, became a vibrant centre of activity. The settlement thrived alongside the bustling Glamorganshire Canal and multiple railway lines that crisscrossed the area, facilitating the transportation of goods and people.

Tragically, the cottages that had borne witness to the industrious days of Rhydycar faced a calamity in December 1979 when a devastating flood prompted the evacuation of the cottages. Subsequently, most of the houses were demolished, leaving behind a historical void. However, in a commendable effort to preserve this integral part of Merthyr Tydfil's heritage, six of these cottages were carefully relocated and reconstructed at St Fagans: National History Museum.

The decision to move the Rhydycar Houses to St Fagans reflects a commitment to safeguarding the architectural and cultural legacy of the region. Now, as part of the museum's immersive landscape, visitors can explore these houses and gain insights into the daily lives of the workers who played a crucial role in the Industrial Revolution. This relocation not only preserves the physical structures but also honours the resilience of a community that faced challenges and thrived during a pivotal period in history.

The Rhydycar Houses now based at St Fagans stand as living testaments to Merthyr Tydfil's industrial past, allowing present and future generations to connect with the rich heritage that shaped the town's identity.

St Fagan's webpage describes the houses as follows - 

This small terrace was built by Richard Crawshay around 1795 to provide housing for the workers in his iron ore mine. Originally there were two rows of houses, at right angles to each other, these being the first six houses to be built. Each dwelling contains a living room with a bedroom above, accessed by a steep circular staircase next to the fireplace. A second bedroom and small pantry are located at the back beneath a 'cat-slide' roof.

The six houses have been displayed at different periods of their history, namely 1805, 1855, 1895, 1925, 1955 and 1985. In this way, the changes in the buildings, their contents and their gardens can be shown. Merthyr was the largest town in Wales between 1800 and 1860 but there were no basic facilities like piped water and toilets.

From about 1850 living conditions improved; coal took over from iron as the most important industry. The pigeon-cot in the garden of the 1925 house and the living shed in that of 1955 are both typical of the area. Behind the living shed can be seen an Anderson Air Raid Shelter. Thousands of these small corrugated iron structures were erected throughout south Wales during the early years of the Second World War when the threat of aerial bombing was greatest. Later, they were re-used as garden sheds, as shown in this example.

St Fagans National Museum of History, Cardiff, CF5 6XB
Images courtesy of ©Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales
St Fagans,

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