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Industrial Pioneer Honoured With Blue Plaque

An industrial pioneer who created the transport link that brought coal, the precious “black gold”, from the Rhondda to the world has been celebrated as part of the Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Blue Plaque Heritage Trail.


The Council and the Gelliwastad Club and Institute in Pontypridd organised an important event this week to celebrate the life and achievements of Dr Richard Griffiths, who lived at the building in which the club is now based. During his residency Gelliwastad Farm was a rural spot in fields near where the River Rhondda met the River Taff.

Mayor of Rhondda Cynon Taf Cllr Robert Smith officially unveiled Dr Griffiths’ commemorative Blue Plaque, before guests enjoyed a brief journey through history by Brian Davies, local historian and curator of Pontypridd Museum where there is currently an exhibition of the Griffiths Dram Road featuring old rails and wheels.

By the end of the first decade of the 19th century a tinworks and small ironworks were in operation in Treforest. It was here that the terminus of a tramroad existed, constructed by Dr Richard Griffiths that ran from the first coalmines being sunk in the lower Rhondda.

Dr Griffiths also built a private canal known as the Doctor's Canal that linked the tramroad and the Glamorganshire Canal. Significantly, both the Doctor's Canal and tramroad effectively ignored the tiny hamlet scattered around Edwards's bridge and it wasn't until the arrival of the Brown Lenox chainworks in 1818 that Pontypridd experienced development of real significance.

Industrial-Pioneer-Honoured-2Gelliwastad Club and Institute Chairman Iwan Davies welcomed the scheme and the placing of the Blue Plaque in the building and also in attendance was the Mayor of Pontypridd, Town Councillor Avril Reid as well as club members and local residents.

Cllr Smith said: “I have had the pleasure of attending a number of Blue Plaque unveilings in recent weeks and must say it is an honour and also a treat to be taken back down memory lane.

“As we work around the county with our partners in the community and other agencies, it is becoming clear just how important the Rhondda Cynon Taf Blue Plaque Heritage Trail is and just how well it is being received.

“Thanks to its simple but unique approach, the historic corridors of RCT are being opened for all to enjoy and people are learning about the places, residents and events that preceded them.

“We are working with fascinating people from the community and partner organisations such as museums and historical societies and, best of all, are celebrating the icons that were nominated by residents.”

For almost two years Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Libraries & Museums Service has been working closely with various voluntary organisations and individuals to determine 30 sites in the county borough as yet unrecognized for their historical background with the placing of a Blue Plaque.

Due to £49,200 of Heritage Lottery funding, the project has set out to identify icons, events and buildings, culminating in the placing of blue plaques to commemorate their history and achievements.