Mountain Ash, Cynon Valley (ST 0455 9954)

Link to map

This colliery was sunk in 1850 by David Williams of Ynyscynon in partnership with George Insole. It was sunk to a depth of 850 feet to the Four-Feet seam but was deepened in 1924 to just below the Seven-Feet seam at a depth of 1,167 feet. It was further deepened in 1955 to the Five-Feet/Gellideg seam at a depth of 1,227 feet. The downcast shaft was 15 feet in diameter. In 1857 the colliery had serious ventilation problems and the Home Office served notice that the colliery was unsafe. It was then sold to the partnership of Nixon, Taylor and Cory which was to become Nixon’s Navigation Coal Company for £42,000.

John Nixon was born in 1815 in the small village of Barlow, County Durham. He entered the mining industry as a workman in the Durham Coalfield and work his way up the ranks. His first visit to the South Wales Coalfield was to carry out mineral surveys in the Merthyr Tydfil area for the Marquis of Bute. He then briefly had a spell in a French Coalfield before returning to south Wales to sell its coal to the French. The money he made from this marketing enabled him to lease the mineral rights for the Mountain Ash area from the Marquis of Bute. He either sunk or purchased the Werfa, Cwmcynon, Navigation and Deep Duffryn Collieries before moving out of the Cynon Valley to sink the Merthyr Vale Colliery. John Nixon retired in 1894, being replaced as head of the Company by H.E. Gray.  In the days before the welfare state, you had to work until you died, as in the case of Thomas Nichols who on the 12th of July 1899 was run over and killed by trams – he was 72 years of age. He left over a million pounds in his will.

The Western Mail on the 2nd of September 1871, gave a full report of a workmen’s inspection of the pit after a prolonged strike. This report can give you an insight into the workings of Deep Duffryn at that time:

To George Brown, Esq., Manager,

-Sir- In compliance with your request, we have carefully and conscientiously examined both the new and old workings of Deep Duffryn Colliery, and herby submit a correct report of the same:

Thomas Harries’ District, Jerry’s Deep (West Side) – We have walked all through the new and old workings. Found one blower in Thomas Harries’ district; all the old workings clear from gas.

Thomas Jones’s District (West Side) – We walked through to No.17 heading. Found one blower there, and one in Matthew Brooks’s cross heading. All the other, new and old, clear from gas.

William Davies’s District (Top of Incline) – Found one blower in the top of No.7 cross heading. All the new and old workings clear from gas.

East Side District – Walked through the Blooming Deep to the top of the fault; found one blower at the bottom of John Harris’s cross heading. Walked through all the other old workings and found them clear of gas.

Engine Deep District – Walked through the lower return along the new workings until we came to Samuel Hillman’s cross heading. Found one blower in the face; found one blower in Thomas Evans’s road in Levy Rees’s deep. Found a small accumulation of gas in David Morgan’s level heading, also in the face of David Joseph’s heading. In all places, where requested, we found the overman, deputy-overman, and firemen’s marks, giving satisfactory proof that both the old and the new workings are regularly travelled. However, we hereby bear testimony to the whole of the above named colliery to be in a perfectly satisfactory and safe working order, a strong current of air being accessible to the different sections of the works, the communication of which exempts it from every danger apprehensible or foreseen, the whole reflecting high credit upon the excellent management of same.                        

Signed, Thomas Watkins, Daniel Williams, Colliers.

In 1878 it was managed by W. Bevan in 1908 by William Morgan, in 1918 by J.O. Jones. Nixon invested heavily into Deep Duffryn Colliery knowing that the ‘Aberdare’ Four- Feet seam was the finest steam coal seam in the world and that the markets would be insatiable. One of the earliest mechanical ventilation fans was installed together with new winding engines, and modem methods of coal getting, production was raised from around 150 tons a day to 1,000 tons a day making Deep Duffryn one of the most productive pits in the South Wales Coalfield, and the springboard for Nixon’s further sinkings. In the 1880s the winding engines were vertical slide lever types with the cylinders being 33 inches in diameter and 66 inches long. The winding drum was spiral in shape and ranged from 9 feet to 18 feet. The winding rope was 1.5 inches in diameter. The carriages were double-decked and could be wound in 60 seconds.

In 1884/5 it was managed by W. Prichard, in 1893/6 this pit was managed by James Davies and in 1911/3 it was managed by W. Morgan and manpower stood at 1,893 in 1913. In 1913 the Company advertised itself thus:

Nixon’s Navigation Smokeless Steam Coal. Proprietors:-
Nixon’s Navigation Co.Ltd.. Registered Office: Bute Docks, Cardiff London Office: Fenchurch Street.
Shippers of the well-known Nixon’s Navigation Smokeless Steam Coal which has been used for the Trials of Speed of His Majesty War Vessels, and onboard the Royal Yachts, for many years it is also extensively used by Foreign Governments, and the principal British and Foreign Steamship and Railway Companies, also used by Steam Launches, Motors, Electrical Works, and for Bunker purposes. Nixon’s Navigation Large and Small Washed Steam Nuts are also highly appreciated by users of steam power.

The coals can be shipped at the principal Ports in the Bristol Channel.

From 1916 to 1922 J. Jones was the manager. In 1923 the manager was A.H. Williams, in 1927 it was R.C. Morgan and in 1930 it was J.O. Jones. In 1929 Nixon’s Company became Llewellyn (Nixon) Limited, part of DR. Llewellyn’s vast empire, who in 1935 employed 140 men on the surface and 1,250 men underground producing 500,000 tons of coal at Deep Duffryn. The manager at that time was T. Roderick. In 1934 Llewellyn (Nixon) Limited was based at the Navigation Offices, Mountain Ash with the directors being; Sir David R. Llewellyn, W.M. Llewellyn, H.H. Merrett, Sir John F. Beale, T.J. Callaghan and J.H. Jolly. It controlled six collieries that employed 6,280 miners who produced 2,100,000 tons of coal in that year. The manager in 1938 was G.S. Morgan and in 1943/5 it was D.E. Harris. At that time the pit employed 515 men working underground in the Seven-Feet, Yard and Gellideg seams and 77 men at the surface of the mine. Llewellyn’s companies were, in turn, swallowed up by Powell Duffryn who in turn were Nationalised in 1947 and came under National Coal Board control. Deep Duffryn Colliery was placed in the South Western Division’s No.4 (Aberdare) Area, Group No.3, and at that time employed 78 men on the surface and 532 men underground working the Yard and Gellideg seams. The manager was D.J. King. He was still there in 1949.

A survey by the South Wales Area of the National Union of Mineworkers into pneumoconiosis in the period 1948 to 1961 showed that there were 213 certifiable cases at Deep Duffryn, and during that period 93 of them were re-assessed upwards, 47 continued working at the pit, and 35% died of the disease. The report went on to criticise the methods of dust suppression at the pit, and the inadequate recording of dust levels.

In 1954/55 this colliery was one of 42 which caused concern to both the NCB and the NUM over the high accident rates. In 1955 a new pit bottom was made in the Gellideg seam which was 50 feet lower than the old pit bottom. Manpower increased slightly in 1954 when the pit employed 114 men on the surface and 532 men underground working the Five-Feet and Gellideg seams. The manager at that time was J.H. Dole.

The colliery continued to increase until a post-war peak of 708 men was reached in 1957, but by now, after over 100 years of continuous mining the best seams had been worked and output and manpower started to decline. In 1957 the Divisional NCB carried out a survey of power-loading coalfaces which included one in the Gellideg seam at Deep Duffryn. The seam was 58 inches thick and the coalface was 444 feet long with coal cutting by Anderton disc, manpower was higher than the average at 58 men and daily advance lower than average at 37 inches.

In May 1965 one of the strangest disputes to hit the South Wales Coalfield started at Deep Duffryn, a young miner was sacked for swearing at an official, this prompted a series of unofficial sympathy strikes by NUM members throughout the Coalfield, which resulted in the reinstatement of the man. His reinstatement was deeply resented by the officials union, the National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers who immediately went on strike until a compromise was reached.

This colliery was starting to lose money in the mid-1960s until in 1968 £250,000 was invested in new power loading machinery that increased productivity by 6% to give an output per man shift of 47.6 hundredweights.

In 1972 during the miner’s strike for an increase in wages, the NUM Lodge at this colliery withdrew their safety workers against the advice of the Area and National Executive Councils of the NUM. Deep Duffryn survived the closures that ravaged the Coalfield in the 1960s, but a gradual rundown of the colliery during the 1970s resulted in closure in 1981, despite the efforts of the local NUM Lodge to keep it open.

This pit worked the Five-Feet seam, and the Seven-Feet seam extensively at a thickness of between 60” to 66”. The Lower-Six-Feet seam was also worked extensively it had a section of coal 9”, dirt 10”, coal 36”. The Yard and Gellideg seams were also extensively worked. This colliery’s coal was generally classed as type 201B Dry Steam Coal, low volatile, with low ash and low sulphur content and non-caking, they were used for steam raising purposes in ships, locomotives, boilers, etc., and latterly in power stations. In 1969/72 the manager was T.A. Wynn, in 1975/1979 it was M. J. Williams.

Among the many who died in this most dangerous of industries were, W. Hughes aged 46 years and Samuel Price aged 23 years who died under a roof fall at this pit on the 17th of February 1885, and barely two months later, John J Hodges, a collier, aged thirteen years, who also died under a roof fall.

Some of the fatal accidents at this pit

  • 15/5/1858 – David Llewellyn, aged 50, collier, fell out of the cage.
  • 12/6/1858 – Matthew Hodley, aged 14, hitcher, crushed by the cage.
  • 10/4/1859 – Abraham Davies, aged 30, sinker, caught on fire.
  • 18/3/1860 – John Phillips, aged 42, collier, fall of side.
  • 29/10/1861 – Zachariah Jenkins, aged 12, haulier, crushed by trams.
  • 1/11/1861 – Ellis Thomas, aged 12, collier boy, run over by trams.
  • 7/4/1862 – Levi Lewis, aged 20, stoker, caught in machinery.
  • 5/3/1863 – John Edwards, aged 41, collier, fall of roof.
  • 3/7/1863 – James McKean, aged 28, collier, fall of roof.
  • 1/7/1863 – James Thomas, aged 31, collier, fall of roof.
  • 24/7/1863 – William Jones, aged 38, waterman, fall of roof.
  • 23/6/1864 – Richard Morgan, aged 49, collier, fall of roof.
  • 1/1/1865 – William Llewellyn, aged 12, haulier, run over by trams.
  • 22/11/1866 – Charles Hall, aged 20, collier, fall of roof.
  • 19/6/1867 – John Jones, waste man, fall of roof.
  • 8/7/1867 – Jerry Keef, aged 26, hitcher, shaft incident.
  • 28/9/1868 – Fernham Sterry, aged 14, door boy, run over by trams.
  • 27/4/1869 – William Davies, aged 13, door boy, run over by trams.
  • 18/2/1870 – D. Davies, aged 38, collier, fall of roof.
  • 6/7/1870 – J. Thomas, aged 44, collier, killed by wagons.
  • 9/1/1871 – W. Heal, aged 12, door boy, run over by trams.
  • 22/2/1871 – W. Harris, aged 38, overman, fall of roof.
  • 15/6/1872 – H. Simons, aged 29, collier, fall of roof.
  • 15/3/1873 – John Lucey, aged 47, roadman, run over by trams.
  • 6/9/1873 – Thomas Phillips, aged 30, haulier, run over by trams.
  • 10/9/1874 – T. Williams, aged 30, sinker, fall of roof.
  • 14/10/1876 – William Williams, aged 18, haulier, run over by trams.
  • 4/6/1877 – John Phillips, aged 25, smith, caught in haulage rope.
  • 10/4/1878 – John Evans, aged 58, collier, fall of roof.
  • 16/8/1878 – John Buck, aged 19, collier, fall of roof.
  • 26/11/1878 – Evan Bond, aged 22, stoker, run over by wagons.
  • 9/2/1879 – John Davies, aged 32, pitman, fell down the shaft.
  • 12/5/1879 – Jacob Hodges, aged 36, collier, fall of roof.
  • 5/11/1879 – John Edwards, aged 35, collier, fall of roof.
  • 26/1/1880 – Evan Evans, aged 37, collier, run over by trams.
  • 15/8/1880 – Abraham Isaac, aged 41, engineman, caught in winding engine.
  • 2/11/1880 – Patrick Mahoney, aged 12, collier boy, fall of coal.
  • 29/1/1881 – Howell Thomas, aged 28, collier, fall of roof.
  • 21/3/1881 – John Jones, aged 22, haulier, run over by trams.
  • 17/3/1882 – William Henry Watkins, aged 16, locomotive stoker, run over by trucks.
  • 23/12/1882 – William Jones, aged 13, collier boy, fall of roof.
  • 8/3/1883 – Samuel Harris, aged 54, trimmer, run over by wagons.
  • 12/11/1883 – W. Brown, aged 40, collier, fell out of the cage.
  • 15/12/1883 – T. Williams, aged 21, haulier, fell down staple pit.
  • 1/2/1884 – David Williams, aged 16, collier, kicked by a horse.
  • 3/6/1884 – John Morris, aged 16, haulier, run over by trams.
  • 27/6/1884 – John Jones, aged 47, collier, fall of roof.
  • 17/2/1885 – Samuel Price, aged 23, collier, fall of roof.
  • 17/2/1885 – William Hughes, aged 46, collier, fall of roof.
  • 25/4/1885 – John J. Hodges, aged 13, collier, fall of roof.
  • 2/10/1885 – William Davies, aged 57, collier, fall of roof.
  • 30/10/1885 – John Cole, aged 24, labourer, fall of roof.
  • 14/11/1885 – Isaac Morgan, aged 29, sinker, fell down the shaft.
  • 12/12/1885 – John Davies, aged 30, collier, accident with machinery.
  • 27/1/1886 – John Jones, aged 38, timberman, run over by trams.
  • 30/1/1886 – John Evans, aged 34, collier, fall of roof.
  • 16/8/1886 – Marshall Smith, aged 48, blacksmith, crushed by the cage.
  • 13/12/1891 – William Jones, aged 17, haulier, tram incident.
  • 3/5/1894 – John Chilcott, aged 19, collier, run over by trams.
  • 14/2/1896 – Jenkin Jenkins, aged 48, oiler, caught in the sheave.
  • 14/4/1897 – Arthur Hurch, aged 24, labourer, fall of roof.
  • 12/7/1899 – Thomas Nichols, aged 71, roadman, run over by trams.
  • 25/8/1899 – Joseph Jones, aged 45, collier, fall of roof.
  • 16/12/1899 – Richard Eddy, aged 32, collier, fall of roof.
  • 24/5/1911 – Alfred Nash, aged 41, collier, fall of roof.
  • 5/7/1911 – Evan Evans, aged 16, collier boy, fall of roof.
  • 30/11/1911 – R.R. Griffiths, aged 36, ripper, run over by trams.
  • 11/11/1911 – Michael Sullivan, aged 40, collier, fall of roof.
  • 18/4/1912 – John James, aged 65, sawyer, crushed by the cage.
  • 6/5/1912 – Owen Thomas, aged 65, roadman, run over by trams.
  • 3/8/1912 – Sydney Padfield, aged 15, collier boy, run over by trams.
  • 25/9/1912 – William Bosley, aged 41, collier, fall of roof.
  • 19/3/1913 – Albert Ettwell, aged 43, haulier, crushed by trams.
  • 24/4/1913 – Thomas Rees, aged 38, haulier, fall of roof.
  • 15/7/1913 – D. Creedon, aged 36, collier, shaft incident.
  • 1/11/1913 – Owen J. Williams, aged 24, assistant repairer, fall of roof.
  • 5/6/1914 – Thomas Lewis, aged 19, collier, fall of roof.
  • 23/7/1914 – Gilbert Balsom, aged 34, timberman, crushed by the cage.
  • 11/9/1914 – Evan Davies, aged 40, haulier, run over by trams.
  • 3/11/1914 – John T. Simmonds, aged 39, hitcher, crushed by trams.


Some Statistics:

  • 1889: Output: 135,967 tons.
  • 1894: Output: 278,505 tons.
  • 1896: Manpower: 1,285.
  • 1899: Manpower: 1,430.
  • 1900: Manpower: 1.410.
  • 1901: Manpower: 1,471.
  • 1902: Manpower: 1,481.
  • 1903: Manpower: 1,531.
  • 1905: Manpower: 1,630.
  • 1908: Manpower: 1,652.
  • 1909: Manpower: 1,652.
  • 1911: Manpower: 1,858.
  • 1913: Manpower: 1,893.
  • 1915: Manpower: 1,553.
  • 1916: Manpower: 1,553.
  • 1919: Manpower: 918.
  • 1920: Manpower: 1,078.
  • 1922: Manpower: 1,257.
  • 1923: Manpower: 1,282.
  • 1924: Manpower: 17, sinking.
  • 1925: Manpower: 1,314.
  • 1927: Manpower: 348.
  • 1928: Manpower: 939.
  • 1929: Manpower: 930.
  • 1930: Manpower: 842.
  • 1932: Manpower: 1,000.
  • 1933: Manpower: 1,417.
  • 1934: Manpower: 859.
  • 1935: Manpower: 1,400. Output: 500,000 tons.
  • 1937: Manpower: 928.
  • 1938: Manpower: 968.
  • 1940: Manpower: 912.
  • 1941: Manpower: 723.
  • 1942: Manpower: 667.
  • 1944: Manpower: 593.
  • 1945: Manpower: 592.
  • 1947: Manpower: 610.
  • 1948: Manpower: 603. Output: 160,000 tons.
  • 1949: Manpower: 681. Output: 200,000 tons.
  • 1950: Manpower: 675.
  • 1953: Manpower: 745. Output: 316,000 tons.
  • 1954: Manpower: 646. Output: 205,470 tons.
  • 1955: Manpower: 653. Output: 212,748 tons.
  • 1956: Manpower: 653. Output: 255,837 tons.
  • 1957: Manpower: 708. Output: 256,112 tons.
  • 1958: Manpower: 671. Output: 245,597 tons.
  • 1960: Manpower: 586. Output: 188,000 tons.
  • 1961: Manpower: 598. Output: 168,868 tons.
  • 1962: Manpower: 580.
  • 1969: Manpower: 622.
  • 1970: Manpower: 614.
  • 1971: Manpower: 581.
  • 1972: Manpower: 578.
  • 1974: Manpower: 514. Output: 160,000 tons.


Information supplied by Ray Lawrence and used here with his permission.

Return to previous page