The town of Merthyr Tydfil is steeped in history. It was the iron producing capital of the world during the Industrial Revolution. Many of the town’s buildings were built at this time and are still occupied today. During the same period, the town saw significant growth in coal mining and railway manufacturing. This boosted the economy significantly and the town quickly became one of the largest in Wales.
Merthyr Tydfil is also known as a hub for the arts and culture. Its several choirs – Dowlais Male Voice Choir, Ynysowen Male Voice Choir, Treharris Male Voice Choir, Merthyr Ladies Choir, Con Voce and Cantorion Cyfarthfa – perform both locally and internationally. A number of theatres – Ynysowen, the Riverfront, and the Arts Centre – provide venues for local and touring productions. The 1831 Merthyr Rising saw workers protest against ruthless debt collection, frequent wage reductions, and the imposition of truck shops in which workers could only purchase goods from their employers.
Currently, the town is undergoing an economic transformation from heavy industry to high-tech and services businesses. The town is home to several universities and colleges, and its residents include a large number of scientists, engineers, and software developers. In addition to this, the town is the headquarters of several multinational companies, including Coca-Cola, JCB, and ICI.
The town’s two rugby league teams – Merthyr RFC and Tydfil Wildcats – compete in League 1. It is also home to the semi-professional League 1 side South Wales Ironmen. Several authors have written about the area, including the novelist Anthony Trollope in his book Orley Farm and the writer Jasper Fforde in his Thursday Next series set in an alternative history. The poet Les Murray referred to the town in his poem Vindaloo in Merthyr, and Canadian singer Jane Siberry wrote the line “and my heart is black and heavy, it is slags of Merthyr Tydfil” in her song No Borders Here.
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