Oakdale, Sirhowy Valley (ST 1884 9902)

Link to map

This was a series of levels that were named after the famous battle. The No.1 was at NGR 188990, the No.2 at 191991, the No.3 at 188991 and the No.4 at 187990.

They were opened in 1815 to work the Mynyddislwyn seam and was owned in turn by; Phelps by 1838 who owned the Old Waterloo and Thomas Protheroe who owned the New Waterloo in that year. In 1842 it was owned by Messrs Cartwright’s and employed 90 men. By that time the workings were 1.75 miles in from the mouth of the level.

The Royal Commission of 1842 described the mine:

Coal brought through the levels from the workings on iron tramroad by horses. Length of the main road one mile and three quarters. Mine ventilated by air shafts with furnace placed under.

Mr. Samuel Jones, cashier and clerk:

The work in this neighbourhood is very uncertain which uncertainty often proves injurious to the man. In winter they suffer much as few vessels arrive for coal at Newport. The want of regular employment causes total neglect of education to the children and I should certainly be within bounds by saying, that no one grown male or female in 50 can read and the farm servants in this part are as ignorant as the miners. Masons and carpenters who get regular employment, send their children to day school but the younger classes are in a lamentable state of ignorance. The miners suffer sometimes from a shortness of breath and they are certainly not so strong or as hale as other workmen but they generally cloth well with flannel and are very cleanly, always washing themselves all over their bodies after work and even when off work the habit is continued of washing every day. The work is fatiguing for young boys but the masters have no control over the colliers as to whom they shall take to assist them and when work is dull the fathers carry the boys below when four or five years old. Coal was last years reduced 2d. per ton in the working. We now pay 2s. the ton, taking 21 cwt. to the ton. The men stood out 11 weeks and reduced themselves to a state of beggery. Many merely had potatoes and the children were literally starved. I took the census of this [the northern] district of the parish comprehending about 60 houses and we numbered 379 females, 372 males. Out whole parish is said to contain 17,984 acres.

 Phillip Lloyd, 58 years old, collier:

I was not working in the mines until I was 16 years old as my father was at the copper works in Swansea. I have been 32 years in this district, sometimes at the Waterloo and other times at the Rock Colliery. I am now able to work below, though the clod [soft roof] in the mine fell upon me three years back and broke my thigh in two places, three of my ribs and my arm. I was off work some months which much distressed me as things are very queer about this place. Work is very uncertain and wages are paid upon the truck system and as storekeepers are either contractors or have some interest in the works, we pay through the nose for everything and when we run a little debt in the winter season we have no work, we are screwed out of every penny when work sets in again and the storekeeper keeps every shilling of our wages till he is satisfied and I have not seen, nor have many of the men, money for months. In fact, I am going over to Mr. Jones tonight to threaten him, to settle in some way with me or go before the magistrate. I know that I did owe a few shillings at the company’s shop but he has no right to stop all my money when he gets the wages in his hands to pay with. I have seven children, Three boys are working below and one girl [my daughter] works in the mine for William Morgan who has lost his leg and cannot do much. I have not been able to give my children schooling nor can many do so from paying so high for the necessaries of life and especially the mode of payment we are compelled to submit to. An outbreak took place last week in a neighbouring colliery, in order to compel the contractor to pay weekly and in money so that the people might go to the market where they pleased. The men kept out one week and have returned on a promise to have it remedied in some way or other.

 David Williams, aged 10, collier:

He has been two years but can’t tell when he first went down. He works with his father. We are six in the family. I earn 2s. 6d. a week. I have been to a day school but I have not been since I was at work. I have been to Sunday School and learns English. [This little fellow was so unnerved by being asked these few questions that he burst into tears and I was obliged to dismiss him.]

 Edward Thomas aged 10, collier:

He does not work with his father but another man because his father takes his brother down. He has been a little to school and reads some English but no Welsh. He earns 6s. a week. Can’t tell what country he is in. [No religious knowledge whatever.]

There are then a number of different owners: Thomas Cartwright in 1842, W.S. Cartwright in 1848, Roger Lewis in 1865, W.S. Cartwright in 1866, then in 1875 Thomas Davis and Company are working it, Davies and Morgan are shown to own them in the period 1876 to 1878 followed by Roberts & Chivers (1879) William Davies (1880 to 1881) Evans and W. Griffiths and Company (1882 to 1884) W. Griffiths & Co in 1885 to 1888 the New Waterloo Colliery Company in 1888 and then the Waterloo Colliery Company in 1889 to 1893 when it was abandoned.

The Davies Brothers re-opened the colliery in 1899 and worked it until 1906. The last company became a subsidiary company of the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company. In 1900 the Old Waterloo was owned by the Blackwood Coal Company and employed 13 men working underground and 4 men at the surface of the mine with Robert J. Strong as the manager. In 1907 it employed 78 men working underground and 10 men at the surface. This level was closed in 1917 when replaced by the Waterloo Pit.



Argoed (ST 191 992)

It was shown to be working in the 1840s, and owned by Martin Morrison in 1854, Carr & Company 1854 to 1864 and was abandoned in 1865. It produced 233 tons of coal in December 1853 and was also used to mine fireclay. This is the same mine as Waterloo No.2.



Oakdale, Sirhowy Valley

This pit was sunk to the Brithdir seam, which is found at a depth of 286 yards, in 1908 to replace the old Waterloo Level. One shaft was sunk on the surface of the Oakdale Navigation Colliery, with the pits ventilation being shared with Oakdale Navigation Colliery. The Waterloo pit was a downcast ventilation shaft, 17 feet 6 inches in diameter and had a winding capacity of two trams of coal/material per wind giving 97 winds per hour. The headgear was 55 feet high. It worked the Brithdir seam at a section of 43 inches.

The colliery closed down temporarily in October 1914 due to so many of its miners having enlisted in the forces. This pit was owned by the Oakdale Navigation Colliery Company Limited (which was a subsidiary of the Tredegar Iron Company) until Nationalisation in 1947.

On Nationalisation of the Nation’s coal mines in January 1947, Waterloo Colliery was placed in the National Coal Board’s, South Western Division’s, No.6 (Monmouthshire) Area, and at that time employed 23 men on working on the surface and 139 men working underground. The manager was J. Fox.

It was turned into a training centre for recruits into the mining industry in 1947 and remained as such until closure on the 28th of March 1970. It was also the sole centre to train ‘Bevin Boys’ in Wales during the Second World War.

The following is an excerpt from the Bevin Boys Association website:

At the outbreak of war with Germany in September 1939, the British Government had allowed experienced coal miners to be called up into the armed services. Men were also allowed to transfer from pit work to higher paid jobs in other reserved occupations – at the time it was hoped that gaps in the coal mining industries would be taken up by the unemployed.

But by mid-1943, over 36,000 coal miners had left the industry for better paid jobs leaving the coal mines in dire need of 40,000 more miners. Despite asking servicemen and conscripts to opt for this now reserved occupation, little impact was made on the numbers needed. Coal production slumped to dangerously low levels and by the end of 1943, it was estimated that Britain had only 3 weeks supply of coal in reserve.

In response, in December 1943 Ernest Bevin masterminded a scheme whereby a ballot took place to put a proportion of conscripted men into the mines instead of the armed services. 48,000 Bevin Boys were conscripted for National Service employment in the mines; half being selected by ballot without any choice to serve in a preferred service and the remainder opted as an alternative to serving in the forces. The ballot consisted of a number being drawn from a hat every month for 20 months. All men whose National Service Registration Number ended with that digit were directed into coal mining. Any refusal to comply with the direction resulted in a heavy fine or imprisonment under the wartime Emergency Powers Act. After four weeks of ‘Stage A’ training, which included class instruction, practical work and physical exercise it was down the mine for two weeks of ‘Stage B’ training. From here it was a short journey to the life of a collier. Many Bevin Boys worked in the pit alongside experienced colliers – many with the pit ponies or on conveyor belts – a few made it to the coalface as face workers. Much as in the army many of the young men were thrown together and housed in Nissan huts, or Miner’s Hostels as they were euphemistically termed at the time, others were billeted in local houses. Many collieries have now disappeared altogether – so little physical evidence remains of the Bevin Boys’ time down the mines. By the end of October 1944, 45,800 young men between the ages of 18 and 24 had been employed as miners and many of them were not released from their duties until several years after the war. In 1948 the last of the Bevin Boys were demobbed back to ‘Civvy Street’ – no medals, no associations, and no real sense of camaraderie. “We’ve not had the recognition we deserved really,” says Warwick Taylor, “because I think people forget that we were conscripted to go in but gradually that’s changing and there has been some form of recognition.”

This recent process of recognition was consolidated two years ago when the Bevin Boys had a plaque placed at the national Arboretum together with three trees. An English Oak to represent those who served in England; a Scots Pine to represent those who served in Scotland and Mountain Ash for those who served in Wales. “This Year the whole nation seems more focussed on the civilian input to the war, virtually every civilian during the war was doing something,” says Warwick. “Apart from their jobs – they were air raid wardens, fire watchers, ambulance drivers. Then there was the women’s land army, forestry workers, munitions workers – millions of them in munitions and they never get a mention.

In 1956 out of the total colliery manpower of 218 men, 80 of them worked at the coalfaces, by 1961 there was a colliery manpower of 243 men, with 73 of them working at the coalfaces. In 1961 this colliery was still in the No.6 Area’s, Tredegar Group, along with Oakdale Navigation, Markham’s Navigation and Pochin Collieries. The total manpower for this Group in that year was 3,769 men, while the total amount of coal produced by the Group in that year was 955,556 tons.

Some Statistics:

  • 1903: Manpower: 36.
  • 1915: Manpower: 101.
  • 1923: Manpower: 669 Waterloo Level: 26.
  • 1924: Manpower: 665.
  • 1928: Manpower: 567 underground only.
  • 1930: Manpower: 608 underground only.
  • 1933: Manpower: 33.
  • 1934: Manpower: 342.
  • 1937: Manpower: 222.
  • 1938: Manpower: 220.
  • 1942: Manpower: 240.
  • 1943: Manpower: 143.
  • 1944: Manpower: 240.
  • 1947: Manpower: 162.
  • 1948: Manpower: 150. Output: 50,000 tons.
  • 1949: Manpower: 171. Output: 54,600 tons.
  • 1950: Manpower: 172.
  • 1953: Manpower: 200. Output: 61,000 tons.
  • 1954: Output 67,000 tons.
  • 1955: Manpower: 203. Output: 68,026 tons.
  • 1956: Manpower: 218. Output: 66,780 tons.
  • 1957: Manpower: 293. Output: 98,979 tons.
  • 1958: Manpower: 291. Output: 117,251 tons.
  • 1960: Manpower: 258. Output: 83,000 tons.
  • 1961: Manpower: 243. Output: 76,069 tons.
  • 1962: Manpower: 242.
  • 1969: Manpower: 182.


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 welshminingbooks@gmail.com for availability.

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