Ynysfach Engine House. Courtesy HERIAN
Community groups in South Wales are to celebrate the region’s industrial past by transforming a former engine house into a heritage centre and resource facility.
Ynysfach Engine House, Merthyr Tydfil, once housed the beam engine for the blast furnaces of Cyfarthfa Iron Works, founded in the 18th century and the site played a key role in making Merthyr Tydfil into the iron capital of the world in the early 19th century. Now a £273,000 investment will allow the transformation of the engine house into a heritage centre.
The organisation HERIAN (Heritage in Action), which works to promote awareness of the industrial heritage of South Wales and harness its unique legacies, is spearheading the project along with the Merthyr Tydfil Heritage Trust. Merthyr Tydfil Borough Council and the Gellideg Foundation – a Community First group – are also actively involved.
The plan is to create not only state-of-the-art interactive displays, but also provide volunteering and lifelong learning opportunities for local people.
“Involving local people in the telling of the story of industrial South Wales delivers far reaching benefits,” said Jeff Pride, Director of HERIAN’s Partnership Coordinating Team, “not only for the community but also for visitors, businesses, and people seeking employment in the area. We’re keen to create that real sense of ownership of our unique cultural assets that everyone can be proud of and feel part of.”
Merthyr Tydfil Heritage Trust will be working to make the project community driven. Once the building is open, it will be used for storytelling, family history research, reminiscence workshops and lecture programmes. Other activities will include volunteer training, functions and meetings, whilst external landscaping and community inspired artworks are planned.
“We’re really excited at the prospect of helping local groups lead the way in creating a facility in and for their community,” said Glyn Bowen of Merthyr Tydfil Heritage Trust. “It will provide a valuable resource to improve skills, learning and wellbeing in the area and we will be encouraging people of all ages and interests to make use of it.”
The restored building dramatically floodlit. Courtesy HERIAN
As well as the exhibition in the main part of the Grade II-listed building, Ynysfach will house a HERIAN Information Point – a touch screen device allowing visitors to find out about other heritage sites in the vicinity and across South Wales. The idea is to bring together the region’s history, and show how communities built the industries that shaped South Wales.
HERIAN’s vision for the future is to have similar community driven heritage projects across the whole of South Wales, with the Ynysfach Engine House project being a model to encourage other similar groups.
Gellideg Community First will be one group to benefit from the restoration project.
“We have been working hard in the area to help people become proud of where they live,” said Ian Benbow, Gellideg Community First Coordinator.
“Using the past to help the future is an ideal way to engage with people of all ages and this project has qualities that will contribute to the social, economic and environmental regeneration of Merthyr Tydfil and its communities.”
Funding for Ynysfach Engine House has come from EU Objective 1, the Welsh Assembly Government, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, British Steel Enterprise and HSBC. Find out more about HERIAN at www.herian.org.