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TREVITHICK , RICHARD ( 1771 - 1833 ), engineer ;

b. 13 April 1771 at Illogan , Cornwall , only son of Richard Trevithick , engineer and manager of the Dolcoath and other mines, by his wife Anne . The son, after some schooling at Camborne , soon became an expert engineer in the Cornish mines and displayed a remarkable inventive ability in improving the various types of engines then in use for hauling ores or draining the mines . In 1796-7 he made three working models, two of locomotives and one of a stationary engine, and by Christmas Eve 1801 he had evolved his first road locomotive , which on that day conveyed the first load of passengers ever moved by the force of steam . He patented in 1802 , ‘an improvement on the low pressure engines of James Watt .’ He produced a second road locomotive in 1802 , which ran for some ten miles through the streets of London in 1803 .

These road experiments were the prelude to the great triumph at Penydarren , Merthyr Tydfil , in 1804 . Trevithick had been engaged as an engineer by Samuel Homfray (q.v.) , ironmaster of the Penydarren Iron-works , during the latter part of 1803 , and very soon was engaged in making a steam locomotive with the aid of the Penydarren mechanics and fitters, which they hoped to utilise on the tramway, then recently erected to convey the manufactured iron from the Penydarren , Dowlais , and Plymouth Works to the Basin or Navigation (now called Abercynon ) and so avoid the canal, then largely owned and controlled by their competitor, Richard Crawshay of Cyfarthfa (q.v.) . By 13 Feb. 1804 , the steam engine was completed, and Trevithick wrote, ‘ We put it on the tramway. It worked very well. … ’ By 20 Feb. he reported that the ‘ Tram Waggon ’ had been at work several times, and that it worked ‘ very well, and is much more manageable than horses .’ This was the day before the advertised day of the great experiment which attracted an immense crowd of spectators. At Merthyr , on 19 March 1934 , was unveiled a monument raised to his memory by the Trevithick Centenary Commemoration Committee . He d. 22 April 1833 at Dartford .


  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography ;
  • The Cambrian , 25 Feb. 1804 ;
  • Western Mail , 14 March 1925, 14 and 19 April 1934 ;
  • F. Trevithick , Life of Richard Trevithick. with an account of His Inventions (1872) , 1872 ;
  • Richard Trevithick, the Engineer and the Man (1934) , 1934 ;
  • Memorial edition of the Life of Richard Trevithick (London, 1883) ( London, 1883 );
  • A History of Carmarthenshire , ii, 344-5 — an account of a Trevithick engine used at Alexander Raby's colliery in Llanelly;
  • Colliery Guardian , 8 Aug. 1930 ;
  • C. Wilkins , The history of Merthyr Tydfil (Merthyr Tydfil, 1867) , 1867 , and The History of the Iron, Steel, Tinplate and - other Trades of Wales with descriptive sketches of the land and the people during the great industrial era under review (Merthyr Tydfil, 1903) , 1903 ;
  • The story of Merthyr Tydfil. an introductory history of the County Borough of Merthyr Tydfil (Merthyr Tydfil, 1932) , 1932 ;
  • The Listener , 19 April 1933 ;
  • The Merthyr Express , 31 Dec. 1932 .


Watkin William Price, M.A., (1873-1967), Aberdare

Published date: 1959