Coal Mining

 

http://www.page-net.com/swansea.localhistory/llansamlet/pages/coalmining.html

 

Source - in the main from ‘The Coal Mining Industry in West Glamorgan’ by W. Gerwyn Thomas B.Sc, Ph.d etc in The Glamorgan Historian Vol 6 ed. Steven Williams (pub’d. 1969)

 

 

Early References to Coal Mining History

 

When the Romans conquered the area around 79 AD they built a fort at Neath. However, the roots of the main settlements in the area are more recent, going back to Norman times with the founding of abbeys at Neath and Margam. Industrial growth began in the 16th century with copper and iron-smelting. By the 19th century the area had become a world centre of metals manufacture and coal-mining. Coal was mined from shafts in every valley and in deep pits on the coastal plain. Neath, Briton Ferry, and Port Talbot became major ports and commercial centres.

 

The earliest references to coal mining in West Glamorgan occur in about 1250 when Owen ab Alaythur granted to Margam Abbey all the ‘stone coal’ on his land. The coal was worked near Margam, in the hill district of Penhydd extending to the River Ffrwdwyllt, and was intended for use at the Monk’s Grange of Rossoulin and for the Abbey at Margam and its tenants. ‘Stone Coal’ refers to the hard anthracite coal of the area. Later, in 1281 John Giffard, Warden of Glamorgan for the Earl of Gloucester, in his accounts under the ‘Manorium de Neath’ includes the item ‘Issues of the Manor ... from coals for the same time nothing, through lack of workman there’. The coal referred to was probably at or near the Gnoll.

 

The next earliest reference to coal mining in 1306, when William de Braose, the Norman lord of Gower granted a new charter to the borough and burgesses of Swansea. One of the privileges granted was that the burgesses might have ‘pit coal in Byllywasta’ (probably Gelliwastad above Morriston) - but only for their own consumption.

 

The coal industry was obviously still in its infancy at this time although there was a coal mine near Clyne and also one at KIlvey, to the east of the Tawe estuary. Coal was being produced in the Lordship of Kilvey before 1340 and by the close of the century it was being worked on a considerable scale as seen from the accounts of the mine for the year 1399 -1400. The mine consisted of drifts back into the hillside - a new adit being dug during that year, by piece work, for 60/-. Water was drained from the mine by conduits, lighting was by candle and barrows were used to move the coal. Three hewers were employed at the coal face and there were thirty porters who not only carried the coal to the surface but also moved it from the pit-head to the waterside and on to the ships. The output of the colliery for that year amounted to 4000 tons - a fairly large mine for those days.

 

In 1526 the earl of Worcester, lord of Gower leased to Sir Matthew Cradock of Swansea ‘all manner mines of coal ...’ within Gower and Kilvey.

 

Reverting to Margam, in 1516 Abbot David of the Cistercian House of Margam granted a 70 year lease of lands in Dyffryn Ffordwyllt with the right to dig coal. Coal had also been worked on the Neath Abbey estate at Cadoxton from an early date, the last abbot, Leyson Thomas received a yearly rent of 20/- from the coal at the time of the dissolution. Afterwards in 1541, Richard Cromwell the new owner of the estate continued the lease at the same rent.

 

In addition to the early coal developments mentioned on the Abbey estate on the west side of the Neath river, lands belonging to the lord to the west and east of the river were also being worked for coal during the 14th and 15th centuries. Leland, the historian, visited the Neath valley in about 1536, and noticed considerable activity in coal-work and shipping.

 

The second half of the 16th century saw the beginning of an organised coal mining industry in Wales as distinct from the operation of an individual prospector and a few part time helpers. The chief coal mining centre in Wales during the 16th and 17th centuries were the Neath and Swansea areas. In these regions the sea gave direct access to the interior of the coal field, facilitating the beginnings of an export trade in coal along the coast.

 

In the Vale of Neath at Cadoxton coal continued to be worked under lease and by about 1650 the coal reverted to the owner, Edward Donington, and later to David Evans of Eaglebush. The pits were some distance from the river and connected to it by a waterway. Higher up the valley between the rivers Nedd and Dulais there were two pits being worked before 1577 at the western end of the area. Later, in 1632, developments took place at Bryndulais, near Seven Sisters.

 

Towards the end of the 16th century, the lord of the manor, the earl of Pembroke, proposed a scheme to the burgesses of Neath, to increase the production of coal within the borough. They were to be allowed to produce coal for sale on payment of a royalty of 6d a wey (or weigh, supposedly about 5 tons) for all coal sold overseas. In the year 1597 a total of 221? weys were taken and exported from the banks of the Neath river. Later, the burgesses were allowed to take coal both for their own use as of old and for sale on the common lands of the town in consideration of a yearly rental and a royalty of 6d a wey.

 

One of the burgesses, David Evans, later undertook to supply coal to the other burgesses for their own needs at favourable rates and to pay royalty to the lord on coal sold outside the borough boundaries, and the lease was renewed several times in the 17th century by David Evans’s son Edward and by Herbert Evans (the Gnoll family).

 

Other exporters besides the Evans family were operating at or near Neath during the 17th century despatching coal from their mines, these included Richard Sage, William Leyson, William Phillips and also Bussy Mansell.

 

In 1686 Humphrey Mackworth by his marriage to the sole heiress of Sir Herbert Evans came into possession of the Gnoll estate and control of the Neath coal interests. In 1695 Mackworth recognised the working of the town pits, improved the ventilation and constructing a tramway from the pits to the town quay. He introduced copper-smelting and silver refining at Neath building copper furnaces (Melin Crythan) near the coal pits and made the coal works at Neath the foremost in Wales at the time.

 

On a plan drawn in about 1720 there is a reference to ‘Ginn houses for raising coals’ indicating that the winding arrangements at the coal pits were worked by a horse or horses. In a work by Waller on the copper and lead mines of Sir Carberry Price reference is made to Sir Humphrey Mackworth’s innovations at Neath. He had a new method of ‘coffering out the Water from his Shafts and Sinking pits, thereby avoiding the Charges of Water engines’ (? water wheels); and his new ‘Sailing Wagons’ for the cheap Carriage of Coal to the waterside. Whereby one Horse does the Work of ten at all times; but when any wind is stirring (which is seldom wanting near the sea) one Man and a small Sail does the work of Twenty ..’. Needless to say , such inventiveness was bound to fail.

 

Under his town lease (granted by the burgesses for 31 years) in 1697 Mackworth had originally attempted the recovery of the coal works with the assistance of the colliers of that neighbourhood but failed. Whereupon he travelled into other counties to find skilful miners to assist him therein. He appears to have gone to the north of England for he continues ‘after great expense, and by carrying on a level or wardway, commonly called a ‘footrid’ or ‘waggon-way’ after the manner used in Shropshire and Newcastle, he recovered the said coal works , and at great expense continued the said waggon-way on wooden rails from the face of each wall of coal - 1200 yards underground to the water-side. The coal was apparently shipped to Bridgewater among other parts at that time (1705)

 

According to Edward Lhuyd, writing towards the end of the 17th century, ‘at Neath there are coal mines up and down everywhere, but the most considerable are near the Abbey where many workmen are employed’. The output from the Abbey pits was most probably shipped not at the town quay but at a quay on the opposite side of the river near the Abbey, on the west bank of the estuary.

 

Sir Thomas Manselll, Hopkin Thomas and Rice ap Evans of Llantwit are mentioned as working mines in the area. Others, including the Evans family of the Gnoll, worked leases in the area before 1611 until 1667. Also in 1637, Edward Evans , son of David, obtained the lease of other mineral rights in Llantwit, which eventually passed to Walter Evans, Edward’s son-in-law, of the Eaglesbush family.

 

Coal had been worked in the Briton Ferry - Baglan area before 1502. The mines at Briton Ferry were worked during the 16th century by the Price family and afterwards, through marriage by the Mansellls. Bussy Manselll was exporting coal from the town quay of Neath in 1663 and was mining Neath Abbey lands in 1670. His main interests, however, lay at Briton Ferry and Baglan. Bussy Manselll was succeeded at his death in 1699 by his grandson, Thomas Manselll of Briton Ferry. By the end of the century four pits had been opened up in Briton Ferry.

 

A valuable report on the Baglan coal mines for 1696-99 was prepared by Anthony Thomas, the agent of the pits. The pits lay in the low ground near the seashore, one containing ‘several veins to the number of forty at least’. The veins here dip steeply to the north and underlay the church and churchyard Baglan, the graves apparently being excavated in coal.

 

Coal was produced at Millwood (Llangyfelach) during the late 16th and 17th centuries, both under lease, by the Seys family of Rhyddin, and also by one of the Mansell family who owned the land.

 

In west Gower during the 16th century there were mines at Llanrhidian, Llandimore and Weobley; some belonged to Neath Abbey and others were under lay ownership. In the Loughor area in the opening years of the 18th century, Sir Humphrey Mackworth took up a lease at Penclawdd and on the glebe lands of Loughor. In 1730 Thomas Popkins of Forest had also taken a lease of coal mines in the parish of Loughor.

 

In west Gower lands under the ownership belonged in 1530 to William, Earl of Pembroke, who leased them for coal working to William Herbert of Swansea. In 1626 the mines were in the hands of his nephew, William Herbert of Cogan.

 

In 1667, Sir Richard Mansell came into possession of the manors of Llandimore, Weobley and Reynoldstown, as well as other lands in the Gower. Mansell himself operated the pit at Y Wern in Llanrhidian at least until the year 1686-7 when 2000 tons of coal were exported. Before 1730 coal mines were developed under the salt marsh at Llanrhidian by Mathew Price, and in that year Mansell granted a lease to Robert Popkins to work coal in Llanrhidian parish. About the same time he granted a lease of the coalworks at Llanmorlais. The main operator was Gabriel Powell who also obtained from Mansell in 1749 a lease which enabled him to use the Salthouse Pill to export his coal

 

A long detailed account submitted by William Jenkins to Sir Thomas Mansell, Bart, in 1707-8 shows the amount of coal shipped in a month from the Great Pitt, Little Pitt, Middle Pitt, Pydew Pitt and Keven Pitt at ‘White Rocke’, ‘Middle Banke’ and at ‘Upper Docke’. The above coal, doubtless from Llansamlet or Birchgrove, formed a major source of the export supply from Swansea at that time, as also did the pits at Millwood, Clyne and Kilvey. The Llansamlet pits referred to were, to some extent at any rate, the undertaking which was leased to Chauncey Townsend in 1750 by Bussy Mansell.

 

The coal mines in the Kilvey area to the west of the Nedd estuary were closely linked to the Briton Ferry mines, both forming part of the Mansell interests in the 17th century. In 1646 Walter Thomas of Swansea had coal pits at Kilvey and certain mines after 1640, probably those of the Price family, passed into the hands of Bussy Manselll and his partner Hopkin James. These may be the pits described as lying under the high road leading from Bon-y-Maen to Llansamlet church associated in a survey of 1650 with the name Ffordd-y-Glo (the coal way). A hundred years later, in 1750, Bussy Manselll, granted a lease to Chauncy Townsend to supply his copper-works with coal, with power to construct a waggon-way.

 

Turning to coal working in Swansea and on the western bank of the Tawe, the Morris MS., quoting a letter of Robert Morris, says that the ‘coal trade began to flourish at Swansea in 1727’. The local copper works, established in 1717, were supplied with coal at that time by only a few collieries. In 1727 it was obtained, although in insufficient quantities. from Popkin’s Cwmbach and ‘Penivilia’ pits. In 1728, Thomas Price of Penllergaer was supplying coal and a little later, Herbert Mackworth from Trewyddfa, at 17/- per wey. The consumption at Thomas Lockwood & Co’s Landore copper works was considerable, the payments to Popkin and Mackworth Being about £111 monthly. In August 1728 Robert Morris, on behalf of Thomas Lockwood & Co., took over from Mackworth ‘ the coal work he had at Treboeth ‘ which was styled Trwyddva’. The intention was to sink a pit (for ventilation) The sinking cost £8 per fathom (six feet) - in hard rock - and they ‘sank a fathom a month’, according to the Morris MS .

 

The Swansea Canals

 

The lack of facilities at this time for the shipment of coal by sea. The river was only navigable for two miles above the bar at Swansea and there were ‘convenient quays and slips for shipping and unshipping of goods’, in what was termed the ‘harbour of Swansea’ But there was then a canal leading from the west bank of the Tawe leading to ‘Hennoyedd’ in Breconshire, and a short cut, private property , on the eastern bank, extending to Neath.

 

In 1796 the Swansea Canal was opened to Godre’r-graig and fully in 1798 to Hen-neuadd at Abercrave,. A number of factors led to its construction: the growth of collieries up the Tawe Valley : the possibility of enlarging the iron works at Ynyscedwyn and developing others ; the growth of copper-smelting that required the transport of copper ore to the works ; the absence of a turnpike road up the valley; and the passing of an Act to improve Swansea harbour.

 

The Swansea Canal incorporated at its lower end the Trewyddfa Canal, which consisted mainly of the original Morris’s Canal. This was built about 1790, measuring just over a mile in length, and ran parallel to the river from the coal banks at Landore up to the Fforest Copper Works below Morriston. It was described in 1793 as belonging to Messrs. Lockwood and Cotton, Lord Eliot and John Morris. The canal referred to as being on the eastern bank was probably the Llansamlet (Smith’s) Canal, built by John Smith, son-in-law of Chauncy Townsend, about 1784, replacing an earlier tramroad from Llansamlet down to the Tawe at Foxhole.

 

Tramways

 

The Morris MS gives details concerning the introduction of tramways - Cast Iron Tram Plates - in Nov’r 1776, I wrote to Messrs Darby and Co, at Coal Brook Dale that I had sent them a pattern in wood about 4 ft long and 5 in wide, to cast Iron plates for wheeling Coal in my Collieries, each plate to weigh about 56 lbs.: and if they could be supplied at £8 per ton, I should want about 100 tons, and that the introduction of them would occasion a vast consumption of metal never before used for such a purpose. Twelve years later, in 1778, we learn that there were about 240 tons of Cast Iron Tram Plates underground at Landore colliery , enough for 3? miles of tramway.

 

To quote from Rev. Evan’s letters - ‘The largest colliery is at Pentre, the property of Mr Morris of Clasmont. The whole hill is full of coal, and is obtained by open adits driven into the hill, which form levels for draining the work as well as ways for the delivery of coal... On of these adits, which ran back about a mile, admitted low wagons, holding a chaldron each, which running on an iron railway , ‘which one horse with ease delivers at the quay’ (at Landore)

 

Steam-driven Pumps

 

In manuscript notebooks of Mr (afterwards Sir John ) Morris he refers to the extension of Landore Colliery with new pits at Landore and on the Graig, and says that by July 1775 the collieries ‘have a ‘prosperous app’ce’. It is also clear from his notes that Lockwood, Morris & Co. appreciated the necessity for a larger pumping engine than the ‘Fire Eng’es’ then at work, which would be capable of draining the whole of the extended colliery area.

 

Copies of letters from John Morris (Lockwood, Morris & Co.) and Matthew Boulton and James Watt from the end of 1778 until 1786, relating to the new pumping engine, are preserved in the Morris MS. Although the conclusion of the correspondence is not available, specifications had been finally agreed and a large efficient pumping engine was introduced which successfully drained the whole of the Landore colliery area. It apparently cost £5000 and pumped 100 gallons per stroke at twelve strokes a minute

 

Scott’s Pit

 

In the 1770s other pits were sunk in the lower Swansea Valley and further steam engines in the form of the beam engine of the Boulton and Watt or Cornish type were installed to cope with ever-present water. Such a pit was Scott’s pit, Heol Las, Llansamlet, sunk in 1770 by Captain Scott. He soon found that his lack of experience in dealing with the water prevented any long term success for him in the project, accordingly he abandoned the pit and returned to his previous work in building tramroads. He completed one from Llansamlet to the riverside wharf at Foxhole. Swansea.

 

(The typical form of plateway used on the early tramroads before the advent of steel rails)

 

A few years later a Cornish type pump and winding engine was installed at Scott’s pit and the sinking of the pit was completed. Unfortunately by then Captain Scott’s financial resources had run out and he sold the colliery to Charles Smith of nearby Gwernllwynchwith who operated it from 1819 to 1838. The restored engine house may still be seen.

 

‘Squire’ Smith, as he was called, was descended from Chauncy Townsend. who had come into the lower Swansea valley, with his son-in-law John Smith. They acquired interests in various pits, including the Church pit , from the Morgan family of Gwernllwynchwith. John Smith developed the undertakings into a complex of pits., and when he died his sons Charles and Henry inherited the Llansamlet collieries.

 

From evidence which Henry Smith gave before a committee of the House of Commons - very deep pits were sunk at Llansamlet and several powerful fire-engines were working and very expensive wagon-ways made with timber framework. All this prior to 1797.

 

Charles Smith, in addition to taking over Scott’s pit also sank a pit which was named after him - Charles pit, and he constructed in 1839 a drift mine further along the valley which he named after his wife, Emily. ‘Squire’ Smith was a good geologist and a well liked personality and his Charles pit and Emily colliery were very successful ventures.

 

‘Squire’ Smith was succeeded by his son, Charles Henry Smith, the last Smith of Llansamlet, who sold his colliery interests in about 1870 to the Foxhole Coal Company.

 

The Vivians

 

Another name, that of Vivian, is closely bound up with the development of industry in the Swansea area. John Vivian, originally of Truro, first came to Penclawdd about 1800 to represent the ‘Associated Miners of Cornwall ‘ who had an idea that the true value of their copper ores was not being paid to them by the smelters. John Vivian operated the Penclawdd Copper works as a joint venture with his Cornish colleagues, charging a commission for smelting. Having satisfied himself that copper smelting was a profitable concern John Vivian sent his second son John Henry to study mining in Germany. Her found a suitable site for a new works, with an ample supply of coal of a usable quality and price, at Hafod on the banks of the Tawe. This land was leased from the Duke of Beaufort and Lord Jersey, in 1810, in the names of Richard Hussey and John Henry Vivian, (later Sir H.H. Vivian). In addition to copper and other works, the Vivians owned several collieries including Brynwyllach, Pentre, Brynhyfryd, Pentrefelen, Penfilia, Mynydd Newydd and Cathelyd in the Swansea area, and Morfa colliery, Port Talbot (1849)

 

At the Mynydd Newydd colliery, soon after it was sunk in 1843, there was an explosion. As a result the men decided to establish a chapel underground in the Six Feet seam at the depth of 774 ft. A chamber was hewn out of the solid coal,16 yards long by 6 yards wide, and supported by timber along the sides and in rows across. The roof and sides were whitewashed and rough plank seats were placed between the rows of timbers. There every Monday morning at 6 am a service was held before the men went to their working places. The practice continued for eighty years until 1924, when the miner’s chapel was fifty years old.

 

The Mackworths

 

Returning to the endeavours of the Mackworths, Sir Humphrey Mackworth died in 1727, and apparently his son Herbert Evans Mackworth concentrated on the development of the coal trade at the expense of his father’s copper works. It was Herbert who largely developed the coal industry at Neath and sank numerous pits. From November 1743 to April 1744 3000 tons were shipped to sea, while the copper works used 700 tons. In 1744 Mackwoth’s pits included Greenway, New Greenway, Castle, Cole’s, Bowen’s, Little Greenway and Bassett. In 1751 there were in addition Gwainmorgan vein, Middle and South pits (Cimla), Gnoll or Mill pit, Tyn-y-wain and Cae-y-pandy. In 1753 there was a steam (or fire) engine working at Gnoll.

 

At Baglan in 1778, Sir Herbert Mackworth wrote to the Board of Customs appealing for sanction to export the produce of his new Mackworth colliery as ‘culm’ and so within the exemptions of the coal duty.

 

The next step in the Gnoll coal history occurred in 1801 with the end of the Mackworth era and the commissioning of Edward Martin of Morriston to report fully on the condition of the various pits to C. Hanbury Leigh, who had recently married the widow of Sir Robert H. Mackworth. Martin recommended some developments including the sinking of a new pit at the side of the Neath canal, on the grounds that the price of coal per wey had increased from 42/- in 1792 to 61/- on 1800 and that the expiry of the patent on Boulton and Watt’s’ ‘Small Rotative Fire engine (which raised baskets of 5 cwt., 100 fathoms, in a minute and a half, would save them £500 a year.

 

The coal operations of the Gnoll ceased almost entirely about 1809 and did not restart until the 1870s when Robert Parsons of Neath and others leased the property, surrendering it four years later in 1874 to the Hopkinson Co. - the Neath Collieries Co, Ltd. Afterwards Charles Evan Thomas of Gnoll worked the pits.

 

The Neath Canal

 

In the Neath Canal Act of 1791 authority was given for the building of a canal from Glynneath for about 10? miles to near Melincrythan pill, Neath. The purpose of the canal was mainly to develop the coal export trade from Neath valley pits and to bring iron ore down to the various iron-works at Cwm Gwrach, Melin-y-cwrt, Penrhiwtyn, Aberdulais and Neath Abbey.

 

The canal was completed about the end of 1795 and took boats up to 25 tons. An extension of 2? miles from Melincrythan to Giant’s Grave near Briton Ferry, where train shipment to coastal shipping would be easier, was completed in 1799. There was also the Mackworth canal which Sir Humphrey built between 1695 and 1700. A short tidal cut (300 yds long) from a pill in the river Neath, it enabled small craft to navigate to within 400 ft of the Melincrythan lead and copper works, about a mile above Neath. A tram road joined the canal and the works.

 

The opening of the canal induced a number of entrepreneurs from England to lease coal areas in the valley. From the head of the valley to the sea, on both banks, numerous coal mining operations were developed in the 19th and early 20th centuries. To mention only a few more important: Humphrey Mackworth worked coal at Banwen Pyrddin in 1743-4 and opened the Waen-Marchog colliery in 1791, after which John Penrose took over in about 1816. It remained in his family for many years and by 1873-4 a company had been formed known as Penrose and Starbuck. Sir D.R.Llewellyn developed the Rock colliery in the same region in 1920.

 

From 1810 the Aberpergwm colliery remained a family concern until taken over by Sir D.R. Llewellyn in 1920 (as the Vale of Neath Collieries Collieries Co.) In 1928 Aberpergwm and three other Glynneath collieries of the same company were absorbed into the Amalgamated Anthracite Collieries Ltd. combine, where they remained until nationalisation in 1947. With the coming of the Vale of Neath railway in 1851 with new sidings and facilities the enterprises flourished until 1918-9 when the whole undertakings were purchased by Sir D.R. Llewellyn’s ‘Ynysarwed Collieries Co. Ltd , Resolven. This company also remained active until the 1947 nationalisation.

 

As regards the early working of coal at Neath Abbey, the local Customs Records did not commence until 1709, but from that date onwards there are constant references to the shipping of coal from the river Nedd. The first Quaker coal lease at Neath was taken out in 1806. when George Croker Fox, Peter Price and others, who had previously acquired the Neath Abbey Ironworks in 1792 leased the Dyffryn estate minerals. The Neath Coal Co. as it was known operated until the death of Isaac Redwood in 1873 after which the property was sold to Messrs Batter and Scott. It then became the United Co. which in time became the Main Colliery Co. and in 1898-9 they sank two new pits in the Skewen district.

 

Near Resolven, Cefn Mawr at the head of the Melin-y-Cwrt valley is considered to be the coal area which Owen ab Alaythur leased to Margam Abbey about 1249, rather than the Mynydd Penhydd a few miles to the south along the ridge. Mining was taking place here again in 1772 and in the late 19th century the Neath Methyr Colliery Co. held the Cefn Mawr undertaking. In 1912 during exploration of the old workings an oak tram wheel banded with iron was found.

 

The Effect of Copper Smelting on Coal Production

 

The impetus given to the coal industry by copper smelting, first at Neath (1584) and then Swansea (1717), led to many thriving colliery undertakings around these two centres. The Swansea Beds, containing in descending order the Swansea Four Feet, Five Feet, Six Feet, Three Feet and Two Feet seams provided a supply of cheap, dry, steam coal, suitable for smelting and the result was the establishment of collieries and smelting works as near to each other as possible to reduce transport costs. Thus a thriving copper smelting industry grew up around Swansea where thirteen works were established between 1717 and 1850, on the riverbanks in the lower Swansea Valley.

 

The copper industry in the Swansea area reached its peak about 1860, but zinc smelting was already established and growing, particularly at Llansamlet. Zinc was succeeded in turn by tinplate which started in Swansea in 1845 and reached its peak in 1890. The year 1869 was significant for the city when the Landore Siemens Steel Company went into production to provide steel for tinplate and other requirements by the open hearth process.

 

Various Colliery Undertakings in the Lower Swansea Valley Area

 

Thomas Williams (Llangennach ) Ltd.

 

This company had three out of four of their pits in west Glamorgan, the other, Morlais colliery was in Carmarthenshire. The three pits were Grovesend, Talyclun (both sunk in 1870) and Brinlliw (sunk in 1903-5) all near Pontardulais. Brinlliw closed in 1925, but was re-opened by the National Coal Board in 1954.

 

Berthlwyd and Cefngolau Collieries

 

In Gowerton these two collieries were separately owned by companies of those names.

 

Broadoak and Beili Glas Collieries

 

These two collieries were at Loughor and produced the bituminous coal of the Gower peninsula. Broadoak was in being by 1870 and had an unusual double beam steam winding engine, which operated until the pit was closed in 1948.

 

 Glasbrook Bros Ltd

 

Founded by John Glasbrook who also had interests in the Aberdare area. At Gorseinon in the 1870s they were working the Swansea Five Feet seam at a depth of 615 ft in the Garngoch No1 colliery. Garngoch No2 in the late 1880s and Garngoch No3 in 1906-7. Again this enterprise was taken over by the NCB in 1947..

 

Caeduke Colliery

 

Sunk in 1888 at Loughor, this firm the Loughor Colliery Co.(1910) Ltd , was taken over by Swansea Navigation Collieries in 1939.

 

The Mountain Colliery

 

Sunk in 1903-5 at Gorseinon and owned by the Mountain Colliery Co. Ltd until 1909 when it was absorbed by the Swansea Navigation Collieries.

 

The Graigola Merthyr Co. Ltd

 

This was developed from an earlier undertaking founded by Frank Yeo and Thomas Cory, who in the 1860s went into the patent fuel business. The company had a plant at Swansea’s North Dock and later a very large production facility at King’s Dock which had an output of 1 million tons a year. This company also had interests at Pontardulais, and Clydach.

 

The Clydach Merthyr of 1868 was an interesting colliery - underground it not only had good roadways of Graigola seam workings (long seams with sandstone roofs which required little support) but also a set of steam boilers and a blacksmith’s forge. The boilers were working until the late 1940s at least, until the mine became ‘safety lamp’ throughout

 

Hendy Merthyr Colliery Co. Ltd

 

This was another company in the Clydach area which transferred six pits to the Coal Board. They were Hendy Merthyr, Nantycapel, Felinfran, Guerets Slant, Tyladwyn and Maesmelyn. These except Guerets Slant dated from the 1930s.

 

The Daren Colliery Co. Ltd

 

Operated the Daren levels at Trebanos, Pontardawe, working the Hughes vein, at the base of the upper Pennant measures. The levels were driven, slightly to rise into the hillside, and the coal was brought out under gravity by a tail-rope haulage system

 

The Swansea Vale Railway

 

This railway reached Ystalyfera in 1859 and Brynaman in 1864 and there was no longer the limit to production that had existed when the collieries had to depend on a canal. From then onwards the upper Swansea region was able to make a full contribution to the development of the anthracite coal trade.

 

Similarly in the Dulais valley, when the mineral railway was opened from Neath to Onllwyn in 1864 (later renamed the Neath and Brecon, with its extension to Brecon), the development of the local anthracite seams was pursued energetically. During the period of its heyday the Dulais Valley sent millions of tons of high quality anthracite for export, mainly from Swansea.