Penydarren Park, Merthyr Tydfil

merthyr_penydarren_parkPenydarren Park, Merthyr Tydfil

This football ground occupies the site of a Roman military settlement, which included a fort large enough for at least 500 soldiers.

During the Industrial Revolution, the site became part of the Penydarren House estate. The house was built in 1786, the first mansion for Merthyr’s wealthy new ironmasters.

In the 19th century, Penydarren Park was one of the few open spaces in the town where locals could go for walks, play team sports and take part in athletic competitions. It was redeveloped in the 1890s with a cinder running track and a cycling track. The first touring Australian rugby league side played here in 1909, facing a Wales XIII.

A temporary pavilion – seating c.11,000 people – was erected in the park for the National Eisteddfod of Wales, held here in August 1901. One of the park’s trees was enclosed inside the building, rather than being felled.

The park has been the home of Merthyr Town Football Club (in various guises) since 1908, when the club was formed as a professional outfit. The photo on the right shows fans celebrating in May 1989, when the Merthyr beat Crawley Town 3-1 to gain promotion to the Conference National.

Greyhound racing took place on a circuit around the pitch from 1930 to 1960, on Thursday and Saturday evenings. The 1947 betting licensing lists show the ground had a capacity of 20,000.  It’s said that Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy, attended race meetings here while a prisoner of war in Abergavenny.

The original football club played in the Football League’s Third Division South in the 1920s but was disbanded in 1934. Merthyr Tydfil AFC was formed in 1945 to seek re-election to the Football League. It won five Southern League titles and two Welsh Cups but was denied admission to the league. Its case wasn’t helped by its geographical isolation, or the greyhound track! After the Welsh Cup wins, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Aston Villa and Newcastle United played friendly matches here.

After Merthyr won the Welsh Cup again in 1987, European football came to Penydarren Park with the visit of Atalanta BC – from Italy’s top-flight Serie A. This necessitated an upgrade of the ground, under chairman John Reddy. On 16 September a crowd of 8,000 turned up to watch the Italian stars – who were beaten 2-1!

Merthyr Tydfil AFC was wound up in 2009. A year later the current club, Merthyr Town FC, was resurrected by the supporters’ trust Martyrs to the Cause. The trust runs the club as a fan-owned social enterprise.

With thanks to Mark Evans

Post code: CF47 8RF    View Location Map

Website of Merthyr Town FC