With plentiful local supplies of iron ore, limestone, timber and coal, Merthyr Tydfil was an important early centre of iron and steel making. The Dowlais works, founded in 1759, was the first of four major ironworks which would flourish in the town, making it an important centre of the industrial revolution.
John Guest was appointed manager of Dowlais works in 1767 and later became a substantial shareholder. However, the plant enjoyed its heyday under Guest’s grandson, Sir Josiah John Guest, between 1807 and 1852. The works later became part of the Guest Keen and Nettlefolds group who moved the main operation to Cardiff, which offered easier access to imported ore.
The stables were built in 1820 to accommodate horses working at the ironworks. The preserved range appears to have formed the main frontage of a quadrangle. The large first-floor rooms were used as a boys’ school until the Dowlais Schools were built in 1854-5, while soldiers were stationed in the building for several years after the Merthyr riots of 1831. The stables ceased to be used in the 1930s and lay derelict for several decades until bought, in 1981, by the Merthyr Tydfil Heritage Trust, who undertook restoration work. In 1989, the building was converted, by Merthyr Tydfil Housing Association, into flats for the elderly. There is also housing in the former stable yard.
David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer
- Mary Traynor Collection [D1093/2/3A]
- Dowlais Iron Company Collection, sketch of Well Street, East Street and Dowlais Stables, nd [DG/P/1/84]
- Mid Glamorgan County Council Land Reclamation Unit, plan of the stables at Dowlais, nd [MGCC/LR/G/290]