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This was a series of collieries named Waunwyllt and later on after the ‘mother’ of the Welsh coal trade, Lucy Thomas and also called Pit-y-Witw (the Widows Pit).

In 1828 Robert Thomas moved from west Wales to Merthyr Tydfil and opened a level at Waunywyllt to supply house coal to that area. Its take was under the Waunwyllt and Penlan Farms. The lease was obtained from the Earl of Plymouth and stated, “to open a sale colliery without power to sell to any of the ironmasters, and not to interfere with works which may be erected for the smelting of the Earl of Plymouth’s iron mines which may be in that quarter.” Thomas had decided that his market would be for housecoal and set up an account with the Glamorganshire Canal Company in July 1828 shipping his first load of coal to Cardiff in February 1829. By January 1831 the volume of coal being shipped down the canal warranted his own wharf at Cardiff.

Fairly soon after that, Robert died, his widow, Lucy, and son William took over the family concern, but the old lease ended and reverted back to the Hill Brothers. The Thomas’ then turned their attention to the coals under the Graig Farm one mile south of their old level. They signed a lease in 1837 to work the minerals under the Graig, with the agreement that the Thomas’ must pay 1/3d for each ton of coal produced. By 1842 they employed 50 miners. There was a sad event on Wednesday the 5th of February 1845 when gas ignited and caused an explosion badly burning eight men including the owner William Thomas and the colliery agent, Thomas Howells.

John Thomas, aged 14 years, was killed when a tram ran him over on the 14th of March 1846. The coroner returned a verdict of Accidental Death.

Lucy Thomas died in October 1847 aged 66 years leaving William as top dog. In 1852 he formed the Graig Coal Company which he ran until 1863 when Locket and Marychurch took over, by 1871 it was listed as not working.

Thomas’ Merthyr Colliery Company Limited (Gomer Llewellyn Thomas, A.J. Howfield and L.C. Thomas) was incorporated in 1908, and they must have wondered why they bothered. it was then four years of probing in thirteen different places plus boreholes to try and find a workable seam. They failed to work the Gorllwyn and No.2 Rhondda, they worked a little of the Saron seam in 1908, then tries the Castell Weiver and Hafod but both seams were dirty, with a poor roof and very wet. On top of this, both seams were thin and they had to advertise for colliers who were used to working in 20 to 24 inches of height. To help in this they also brought in coal cutters but by 1912 they were taken out of the coalface and work reverted to the old longwall system. In 1913 the company offices were based at 130, High Street, Merthyr. At that time the Waunwyllt employed 50 men. Associated with the Waunwyllt was the Gorllwyn level which worked the Gorllwyn seam between 1914 and 1921.

After seven years of working the Gorllwyn became too thin to work in 1920 and was abandoned followed by the thinning out of the Graig seam which forced the company to surrender the lease on the 1st of November 1925.

The Lucy No.1 Drift was driven down at 4 ½ inches to the yard and worked the Four-Feet, Six-Feet, Yard, Bute and Nine-Feet coal seams plus ironstone in 1928. The Crawshay Brothers gave up the lease for the coal in this area in 1911 with it then taken up by Thomas and Llewellyn to go alongside the existing one they held since 1908. They constructed a tramway from the mouth of the new drift and re-opened an old Four-Feet seam level to complete the ventilation circuit.

They then drove down to the No.1 Yard seam and by June 1916 had reached the Six-Feet seam. They continued down working the pillars left in the Nine-Feet seam and on down to the Five-Feet seam. The Four-Feet seam was found to be elusive, so they decide to work the Upper-Six-Feet seam. All went well for 45 yards then the coal disappeared, they drove forward 135 yards through stone only to hit old workings in the Lower-Six-Feet. They then drove up from a point 35 yards in from the start of the washout and after 8 yards found a 40-inch Upper-Six-Feet seam.

In 1921 they prospected everywhere, up to the Two-Feet-Nine seam, From the Lower-Six-Feet down to the Nine-Feet and from the Four-Feet up to the Yard seam. In July 1923 there was a change to all the bad news when they broke their weekly record by producing 3,001 tons. It didn’t last long, in June 1924 the Nine-Feet seam hit disturbed ground and had to drive forward 80 yards to reach a good area at 28 inches thick. During that time only the Six-Feet working were keeping the place going but a cross-measures drift from the Nine-Feet to the Bute seam opened up new areas and output rose from 69,000 tons in 1923 to 89,000 tons in 1924. There were 600 men employed.

Back to normal in 1928 problems with the Nine-Feet seam reduced the work to four headings, the working of the pillars in the Four-Feet seam had to stop – they couldn’t keep the roads open due to the weight of the roof. The Yard seam was stopped, and the Upper-Six-Feet was stopped in December 1929. The Bute was reduced to only two headings producing coal but a new 100 yard long coalface was opened. The West Bute coalface had been built up to 22 places and 330 yards long but by 1930 it was approaching a geological fault.

The East Bute coalface had 15 places but was approaching old waterlogged workings. In that year 36,353 tons of coal was produced. 1931 brought a failure to find the Nine-Feet seam only disturbed ground and work was reduced to narrow heading with steel arches. The West Bute face was cut off by a fault and then only found small coal that had been left behind. This was of sufficient quantity to construct a washery at the top of the drift in 1932 to prepare it for market. In the East Bute face the workplaces had been reduced to 9 places. In 1934 the place was losing money, but the company decided to try and find more reserves, they drove down to the Lower-Five-Feet seam but found a seam that was only 15 inches thick.

Tragedy struck in September 1936 when Michael O’Reilly aged 43 years was killed on the surface while shunting railway trucks, the coroner awarded a verdict of Accidental Death.

With only the East Bute District working the company decided to give up the lease on the 1st of November 1939, until then they brought all the machinery to 200 yards of the mouth of the drift and worked the pillars near the upcast shaft at a rate of 50 tons a week. It closed in 1938. The No.1 Drift was then only used for ventilation purposes. In 1919 they employed 150 men with T. Morris as the manager. In 1923/5 W.H. Davies was the manager, in 1927/30 it was John Davies. In 1935 they employed 53 men on the surface and 142 men underground producing 80,000 tons of coal from the Nine-Feet and Bute seams. The chairman of the Company was G. Llewellyn Thomas, the other directors being Ronald Llewellyn Thomas and Sir David Rees Llewellyn. In 1938 the No.1 employed 84 men and the No.2 22 men, both were still managed by J. Davies. Mr. Davies was still the manager in 1945 when the No.4 employed 60 men.

  • The Lucy No.2 Drift (It was also called the Glyndyrus Drift) was owned by Thomas’ Merthyr Colliery Company and worked the Nine-Feet and Bute seams between 1936 and 1941.
  • The Lucy No.3 Drift was a trial level that was operated between 1936 and 1937.
  • The Lucy No.4 drift was opened to the Four-Feet and Yard seams in 1946. It came under the control of the National Coal Board in 1947 and at that time consisted of the drift and a ventilating shaft. It worked the old pillars left behind in the Four-Feet seam employing 123 men and producing 34,691 tons of coal in 1947. Due to near exhaustion, it was partially closed in 1950 and closed altogether in March 1955 with 91 men on the books.
  • The Lucy No.5 Drift was again opened by Thomas’ Merthyr Colliery Co, who drove down near the old Wern Drift to intersect the Two-Feet-Nine, Seven-Feet, Lower-Seven-Feet and Gellideg seams. It was started in May 1944 and reached the Two-Feet-Nine seam in March 1946.

Pithead baths were constructed in April 1949 by the National Coal Board. The baths were of a ‘Bristol’ type and made of aluminium, but they weren’t used for long at Merthyr. This was due to geological faults and washouts in the Two-Feet-Nine seam, that made it impossible to work, and it was abandoned on the 8th of July 1950.

On Nationalisation in 1947 this colliery was placed in the National Coal Board’s, South Western Division’s, Area No.4, with the No.4 Drift employing 13 men on the surface and 54 men underground working the Four-Feet and Yard seams, and the No.5 Drift employing five men on the surface and 49 men underground working the Two-Feet-Nine seam. The manager was D. Jones who was still the manager in 1949. The colliery produced 19,000 tons of coal in 1955.

The No.5 Drift closed on July 8th 1950 due to extensive geological faulting, development to find a workable area had been going on for two years but failed to find any coal. The No.4 Drift was closed on March 11th, 1955, with most of the men transferring to Merthyr Vale Colliery. Thieves must have confused the closing of the No.5 Drift with the still working No.4 Drift and in July 1950 they cut the main power line to the drift hoping to steal the cable it was attached to. This cut off the ventilation to the colliery and the 22 men had to be withdrawn.

Some Statistics:

  • 1909: Manpower: 35.
  • 1910: Manpower: 53.
  • 1911: Manpower: 49.
  • 1912: Manpower: 82.
  • 1913: Manpower: 130.
  • 1914: Manpower: 115.
  • 1915: Manpower: 126.
  • 1916: Manpower: 188.
  • 1917: Manpower: 176.
  • 1918: Manpower: 188.
  • 1919: Manpower: 265.
  • 1920: Manpower: 116.
  • 1921: Manpower: 258.
  • 1922: Manpower: 314.
  • 1923: Manpower: 478. Output: 80,000 tons.
  • 1924: Manpower: 508.
  • 1926: Manpower: 486.
  • 1927: Manpower: 398.
  • 1928: Manpower: 401.
  • 1929: Manpower: 310.
  • 1930: Manpower: 292.
  • 1931: Manpower: 286.
  • 1932: Manpower: 220.
  • 1933: Manpower: 201.
  • 1934: Manpower: 163.
  • 1937: Manpower: 128.
  • 1938: Manpower: 106.
  • 1940: Manpower: 142.
  • 1941/4: Manpower: 75.
  • 1948: Manpower: 264. Output: 53,000 tons.
  • 1949: Manpower: 288. Output 34,691 tons.
  • 1950: Manpower: 279. Output: 26,962 tons.
  • 1951: Manpower: 107. Output: 27,393 tons.
  • 1952: Manpower: 96. Output: 26,473 tons.
  • 1953: Manpower: 92. Output: 24,020 tons.
  • 1954: Manpower: 92. Output: 18,774 tons.

This information has been provided by Ray Lawrence, from books he has written, which contain much more information, including many photographs, maps and plans. Please contact him at for availability.

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