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Guest Memorial Library, Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil - Wide.jpg
The Guest Memorial Library
Grid reference: SO075075
Location: 51°45’43"N, 3°21’11"W
Population: 6,926  (2011)
Post town: Merthyr Tydfil
Postcode: CF48
Dialling code: 01685
Local Government
Council: Merthyr Tydfil
Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney

Dowlais is a village and community in north-east Glamorgan, forming a suburb of Merthyr Tydfil. At the 2011 census the electoral ward had a population of 6,926,[1] The population of the Community being 4,270 at the 2011 census having excluded Pant.[2] Dowlais is notable for its historic association with ironworking; once employing, through the Dowlais Iron Company, roughly 5,000 people, the works being the largest in the world at one stage.[3]


The name is derived from the Welsh du meaning 'black' and glais meaning 'stream'.[4][5]


Dowlais came to prominence in the 18th and 19th centuries because of its iron and steelworks. By the mid 1840s there were between 5,000 and 7,000 men, women and children employed in the Dowlais works.[6] During the early to mid 1800s the ironworks were operated by Sir John Josiah Guest and (from 1833) his wife Lady Charlotte Guest. Charlotte Guest introduced welfare schemes for the ironworkers. She provided for a church and a library. The school (dating from 1819) was improved and extended, becoming "probably the most important and most progressive not only in the industrial history of South Wales, but of the whole of Britain".[7] In the 1850s, after Sir John's death, the works became under the control of a board of trustees.[7] In 1865 the Bessemer steel making process was introduced to Dowlais, with £33,000 being spent on a new steelworks.[8] Steel production at Dowlais eventually ceased in 1936 due to the Great Depression, although the iron foundry continued until 1987.

Dowlais originates as a chapelry of the ancient parish of Merthyr Tydfil. In 1872 the population was 15,590.[9] Its total population at the 2011 census was 6,926.[10]

The old stables, Dowlais

Notable buildings

Little remains of the works that once sustained the community throughout the Victorian era until the 1930s, the two notable buildings that remain are the Engine House, now used a community centre and the stable block which is now social housing.

Dowlais House, which has now been demolished, was once home to Sir John Josiah Guest and Lady Charlotte Guest, and it was at Dowlais House that Lady Guest translated the Mabinogion. The Guest Memorial Library (1863); commissioned by Lady Guest and designed by Charles Barry, still stands.

St John's Church, a Grade-II listed building, contains the tombs and burial places of several notable people, including Sir John Guest who had the church built in 1827. St John's closed in 1997 but has received several hundred thousand pounds of Government money to preserve it.[11]

In its heyday, Dowlais had numerous nonconformist chapels. Almost all have disappeared although the buildings of Bethania (Independent) and Hebron (Calvinistic Methodist) are now used by evangelical congregations. Others have been demolished including Bryn Seion and Gwernllwyn.

Sport and leisure

Dowlais is home to rugby union club, Dowlais RFC.

Notable residents

  • Laura Ashley, fashion designer
  • Dai Astley, association footballer
  • Richard Davies, actor
  • Thomas Nathaniel Davies, artist
  • David William Evans, lawyer and international rugby union player
  • Horace Evans, 1st Baron Evans, royal physician
  • Lady Charlotte Guest, first translator of the Mabinogion into English
  • Ivor Guest, 1st Baron Wimborne, industrialist
  • John Josiah Guest, engineer
  • Richard Harrington, actor
  • Robert Alwyn Hughes, artist
  • Heinz Koppel, artist
  • Gustavius Payne, artist
  • Robert Rees, tenor
  • Glanmor Williams, historian
  • Gwyn Alf Williams, historian



Outside links