From the Weekly Mail 110 years ago today…..
What better for a cold winter’s night than a gruesome tale of murder and it’s ghostly aftermath?
The following story is one of those tales that has been passed down through many generations (I have certainly heard about it from several different sources), and has passed into Merthyr folklore.
As most people know, Cyfarthfa Ironworks was founded in 1765 by Anthony Bacon, a rich London merchant, and in around 1770 he had a home built for himself on the banks of the River Taff, next to the works, and called Cyfarthfa House.
Soon after it was built, one of Anthony Bacon’s maid-servants began a love affair with a young man named William Owen, who, on one occasion presented her with a pair of silver shoe-buckles and a black silk neckerchief. The couple visited the Cefn Fair, but Will noticed that his lady-friend was very reticent towards him, and was paying far more attention to another young man – Benjamin Harry, obviously another would be suitor. To make matters worse, Will noticed that his rival was wearing the fancy buckles and the very silk neckerchief he had presented to his beloved!
On the Sunday following the fair, Will decided to confront the maid. Having attended the evening service at Ynysgau Chapel he went to Cyfarthfa House for an explanation of her behaviour. Will declared his love to the girl and proclaimed his faithfulness to her at all times, but accused her of being unfaithful to him. A heated argument ensued, culminating with Will plunging a knife into her chest. The injured girl managed to get into the house, and climbed the stairs to join the other maids. As she ascended the stairs, faint through loss of blood, she rested her bloodstained hand on the wall for support, before dying.
Ever since then, so the story goes, that subsequent generations who occupied the house decorated the hallway many, many times over, but no matter what they used, be it paint or wallpaper, the bloody hand-print would always show through.
Sir Frederick J Pedler, former mayor of Merthyr and historian, says in his book ‘History of the Hamlet of Gellideg’, that he actually visited Cyfarthfa House in 1926, and was shown the spot where the maid rested her bloodied hand on the wall, and sure enough, there was the shape of a hand print on the wall.
Cyfarthfa House was demolished in the 1930’s, and with it went the hand-print for good.
Many thanks to Chris Parry at Cyfarthfa Museum with additional information about Cyfarthfa House.
Following the recent article about Charles Stanton, I have received a number of messages asking for a list of all of Merthyr’s M.P.’s, so here we go….
The Merthyr Tydfil Historical Society are pleased to announce the publication of volume 28 of the Merthyr Historian.
Published 2017 – ISBN 978-0-9929810-2-0
An Editorial Statement
1. Ars Gratia Artis: Popular Culture and the Making of Modern Merthyr Tydfil by Huw Williams
2. Rediscovering J.O. Francis (1882-1956) The Distinguished Merthyr-born Playwright by Mary Owen
3. Pilgrimage of a Vagabond: The Harry H. W. Southey Story by Christopher Parry
4. More Than Just a Bed-cover, More Than Just a Dress by Christine Trevett
5. Disestablishment of the Church in Wales: An Anniversary by David Lee
6. Isaac Craigfryn Hughes of Quakers Yard: Colliery, Culture and the Common Man by Christine Trevett
7. William Warde Fowler: From Gwaelod y Garth House to Ancient Rome by Christine Trevett
8. The Royal Crescent Allotments 1917-2017 by Hywel Mathews
9. George Jones (Talfyrydd): A Forgotten Local Historian by Brynley Roberts
10. The Taff in Poetry and Paint: An Appreciation of “A Fold in the River by Philip Gross and Valerie Coffin Price” by the Editors
11. Biography of Contributors
I have received an e-mail with the following request:
I have received an e-mail from Alan Davies with a bit of mystery. Alan writes:
“I have seen two of these labels at properties in Penydarren, Merthyr
that I have worked in, at the fuse box location. I thought a photo may be of
small interest. I wondered if perhaps the customer was able to have three
lights installed for free, provided you paid the electric company for the
Can you shed any light (sorry!) on the mystery?
If anyone has any information on this, please get in touch.
Here are details of the next talk….
Many thanks to Victoria Owens, a keen supporter of this blog for the following piece that she sent as a comment on my previous post. As it is so interesting I thought it was worth sharing with everyone and deserved a post in its own right.
One of the oldest and most impressive buildings still standing in Merthyr is Dowlais Stables.
In the early part of the Nineteenth Century, despite Merthyr being at the forefront of the industrial revolution, and indeed pioneering the first steam-powered locomotive in 1804, Dowlais (and all the other) Ironworks were reliant on horses and ponies to bear the brunt of the heavy haulage work. In July 1819, it is recorded, Michael Faraday the eminent scientist visited the Dowlais Works, and walked with Josiah John Guest to the hay fields near the Works where the hay made there was used to feed the 150 or so horses which the Dowlais Iron Company used.
The following year, Josiah John Guest had stables built to house the horses. The architect of the building is unknown, but it was (and still is) a striking building. The complex is of symmetrical design, in the form of a rectangular plan of ranges set round a (formerly railway-served) central yard. The façade has two-storeys with centre and end pavilions separating 9-bay ranges and there is a tall central arch, through which the railway passed, with a circular clock face. This façade is roughly 450 feet long, and the central block rises to over 50 feet, with the central arch being roughly 30 feet high. This is topped with a decorative wooden cupola.
It is said that when the stables was built, a number of contemporary newspaper cuttings, and several items of memorabilia were hidden behind one of the arch stones to be revealed “when the building falls down”.
The stables were well used; towards the end of the nineteenth century, the Dowlais Iron Company were employing “over a dozen blacksmiths, several stable lads and a score of other hands to tend the several hundred head of horses now owned by the Company and stabled in the very heart of Dowlais”.
As well as being used as for stabling horses, soldiers were stationed in the building for several years after the Merthyr Riots of 1831. Also, of course, Lady Charlotte Guest famously used the large first-floor rooms as a boys school until Dowlais Central Schools were opened in 1854-5.
The stables closed in the 1930’s and the complex became derelict; in the late 1970’s unauthorised demolition was started, but was brought to a halt. The site was subsequently bought by the Merthyr Tydfil Heritage Trust in 1981, and despite the façade partially collapsing in 1982, the building was eventually rebuilt as flats; the south east facade walls were also substantially rebuilt. Of the original structure, only the southeast range and Stables House on the north west range currently survive.