Aberaman, Cynon Valley (SO 0159 0038)

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Anthony Bacon made the first attempt to make iron at Aberaman, but this failed and was abandoned until Crawshay Bailey came along and rebuilt it. By 1850 he had in operation three furnaces and a forge. To supply the works with coal he sunk Aberaman Colliery in 1843/7 to a depth of 751 feet 4 inches. It was worked by the water balance method of winding.

This was his first major venture into coal mining in this valley and aimed to exploit the famous Aberdare Four-Feet seam. The seam had a section of 66 inches to 72 inches in this area.

On the 20th of April 1855 Thomas James aged 12 years, Evan Thomas aged 23 years, Richard Lovett aged 23 years, and William Davies aged 26 years all died in an explosion of gas and James Williams aged 16 years was blown into the sump and drowned.

In 1855 it was condemned by the mines inspectorate as “dangerous and defective”. There was no qualified engineer, the overman was a heavy drinker, the airflow was defective or lacking, there were no printed rules, the shaft had no brick lining and there were no covers to the pit cage, while in 1862 the inspector refused to go down the shaft due to the cage hanging on a single link chain. A fine of £10 was imposed and the chain replaced. The shaft was deepened to the Nine-Feet seam in 1860. The Nine-Feet seam consisted of a top coal of 42 inches, then clod for 6 inches, and a bottom coal of 66 inches, whilst the Upper-Six-Feet seam was only 22 inches in thickness. Thirty-four feet below this seam was the Lower-Six-Feet seam which was 42 inches thick. The Seven-Feet seam consisted of three leaves of coal with thin partings giving a total thickness of up to 72 inches. Lying only between two to twelve inches below this seam was the Yard seam at a thickness of 8 inches.

The downcast ventilation shaft was used for winding coal/men/materials and was elliptical 16 feet x 10 feet. The original steam winding engine was replaced by one built by Barker & Cope in 1870 which had two horizontal cylinders 27 inches in diameter with a five-feet stroke. The winding drum was 13.5 feet in diameter and 7 feet wide. The wooden headgear was replaced in 1896 by a 55 feet high wrought iron one. A load of two tons ten hundredweights of coal could be raised to the surface in 25 seconds. Two trams per wind were catered for and they were one above the other with double landings at the pit top and bottom to speed up the process. The time taken to replace the full trams with empty ones and vice versa was 5 to 6 seconds. The upcast shaft was 60 yards away to the south and was 10 feet in diameter. This pit was also worked for clay and constructed a brick and sanitary works at the surface to utilise it.

Ventilation for the colliery was provided by a steam-driven Waddle fan 40 feet in diameter with additional ventilation provided from the linked Abercwmboi Colliery.

The Admiralty investigation into the suitability of Welsh coals for the Navy stated that this colliery’s coal was; “The specimen examined was brilliant and granular in its structure.” Generally, Aberaman’s coals were classed as type 201B Dry Steam Coals, usually non-caking, low volatile, with an ash content of around 5% to 9%, and a sulphur content of between 0.6% and 1.5%. These coals were used for steam raising in boilers for ships, locomotives, power stations, central heating, etc.

Along with Treaman Colliery, it was bought by the newly formed Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Company Ltd in 1866, with P.D. locating their headquarters at this pit. In 1878 the manager of this colliery was J. Sanderson., in 1896 it was D. Bowen Jones, in 1908, 1913/1916 and 1918/23 it was T.L. Davies, and in 1927 C.L. Watson, while in 1938 the manager was W. Moore. In 1943/5 the manager was T.J. Hughes.

On the 14th of June 1883, in those days before the welfare state and pensions, William Thomas was still working as a collier at age 69 years, he fell under moving trams and was killed.

The wooden headgear was replaced in 1896 by an iron one that was 55 feet high. The winding drum was 13.5 feet in diameter and 7 feet wide. Around 1910 this colliery was producing 11,000 tons of coal per week from the Yard and Seven-Feet seams. The longwall system was used with the width of each stall being 12 yards. The stall roads were cut off by headings when they had advanced 50 yards. The workings were then in all directions and approximately three-quarters of a mile from the shafts. The Old Duffryn ventilation fan was used to ventilate the working s to the west and south-west, while the Abercwmboi fan (approximately one mile to the east of Aberaman) was used for the east and south-east workings. The fan at the Abergwawr Colliery (one thousand yards to the north of Aberaman) was used for the northern workings. Until that time the main haulages had been worked from steam engines at the surface of the mine but were then converted to electricity with the haulages further inbye worked by compressed air. A ‘journey’ or train, consisted of twenty trams.

In 1910 the colliery was working the Two-Feet-Nine, Yard, Seven-Feet, Bute and Gellideg seams while in 1914 this colliery was working the Bute, Yard, Seven-Feet, Five-Feet and Gellideg seams with the coal being wound up the downcast ventilation shaft from 220 yards. Aberaman was merged with Abercwmboi Colliery in 1923 and remained with Powell Duffryn until Nationalisation in 1947.

In 1914 Powell Duffryn issued a commemorative pamphlet, which included parts about Aberaman Colliery:

In 1866 the first important extensions under the new regime took place. In that year the High Duffryn Colliery was acquired, and in the same year Mr, Crawshay Bailey sold the Company the Aberaman Estate, including Ironworks at Aberaman and Collieries at Aberaman and Treaman. The

latter purchase necessitated further capital, and in July 1866, there was an issue of 1,000 Preference Shares of £100. Carrying 12.5 per cent Preferential Dividend and redeemable at £125. This addition brought the total capital of the Company up to £600,000. Following this purchase, Aberaman was made the headquarters of the Company as far as Colliery Management was concerned. During the latter sixties, the Coal Trade passed through severe and continuous depression, but between 1870 and 1872 as a result of the Franco-Prussian war, both the Iron and Coal Trades experienced a boom and large profits were made.

This Boom was followed by a long sustained slump in iron, and great loss resulted in 1875, whereupon the Aberaman Iron Works were closed and the Powell Duffryn Company permanently abandoned the business of manufacturers of iron…Acting on the suggestions of the Accidents in Mines Commission, the Company, cooperating with the Nixon’s Company, Cwmaman Colliery and the Bwllfa Company erected a Rescue Station at Aberaman in 1909 for the joint use of the four Companies. Within ten months of its opening, it justified its existence by rendering most valuable assistance at Abernant, Darran and Penrikyber…Early in the year 1914 work was commenced on the erection of a Cottage Hospital upon the Company’s freehold property at Aberaman, which is to be somewhat larger than that at Bargoed. The arrangements with regard to its cost will similar to those in the Bargoed case, the Company are defraying the cost of erection, and the workmen have undertaken to maintain it by regular contributions.

Aberaman Colliery

The Aberaman Colliery, near the T.V.R. Station at Aberaman, is as old as the Company and was acquired in a working state two years after the Company was formed.

The Colliery has had much to do with the success of the Company and today gives employment to over one thousand men. The seams worked include the Bute, Yard, 7 feet, 3 feet and Gellideg. Coal is wound up the downcast shaft from a depth of 220 yards, the upcast shaft being used for ventilating purposes. Part of the ventilation is also derived from the old Abergwawr shaft and part from The fan at Aberaman, a Walker giving 4 7/16 inch to 5 inch water gauge, is driven by a Lentz compound engine.

There is also a stand-by motor of 250 B.H.P., 3,000 volts, three-phase, at the reverse end of the fan shaft in case of breakdowns.

The winding engine is a horizontal Corliss type with two cylinders, each of 24 in diameter with a 5-foot stroke and 763 H.P. The engine is fitted with a steam reverser, and Whitmore Patient overwinding gear. The winding drum is of the semi-conical type developed by Mr. E.M. Hann about 20 years ago.

At Aberaman the mine is drained by two Sulzer pumps, each capable of delivering 60,000 gallons per hour against a head of 700 feet. They are driven by motors of 350 B.H.P. 3-phase, 3,000 volts. The power for the motor is obtained by cable from the Middle Duffryn Power Station.

The lamp room at Aberaman is now fitted to hold C.E.A.G., electric lamps, though some oil lamps are still in use. About 750 C.E.A.G. lamps are in present use and are charged by accumulators at 110 volts by motor generator 4.75 K.W. The lamps are cleaned by brushes etc., driven by a motor of 1 H.P. 220 volts. All the electric motors at Aberaman derive their power from Middle Duffryn.

Compressed air is used for coal-cutting machines, haulages and pumps, there being eight of the former. A Walker compressor 600 I.H.P. takes the air at 12 lb pressure from a Rateau exhaust steam turbo-compressor and converts it into 70 lb pressure.

 The Times Newspaper of the 28th of June 1916 reported that Frederick George Stephens, an under-manager at Aberaman Colliery had been awarded the Edward Medal, second class when on September the 10th he placed himself over a collier who was pinned under a roof fall and was struck by several stones until they got the man out. Stephens was injured himself during that incredible act of bravery.

In 1947, the National Coal Board placed the pit in the No.4 Area of the South Western Division and at that time it employed 377 men underground in the Gellideg, Nine-Feet and Five-Feet seams producing prime steam coal.

Aberaman Colliery was also a training centre, road transport depot, property repair depot, site of a central workshop and central stores of the National Coal Board. Aberaman Colliery was closed by the National Coal Board on the 23rd November 1962 due to the exhaustion of reserves of coal. The men were transferred to Deep Duffryn, Abercynon and Fforchaman. The Area Executive Council of the South Wales Area of the National Union of Mineworkers stated that Aberaman Colliery “had fulfilled its mission and had extracted from the bowels of the earth practically every ton of coal available in the take.”

Some (but not all) of the early fatalities at this colliery

  • 26/3/1852, Samuel Davis, aged 40, hitcher, clod fell down the shaft
  • 18/11/1853, John Davis, aged 40, collier, fall of roof.
  • 22/6/1854, Lewis Lewis, aged 30, collier, fall of roof
  • 13/4/1855, George Collins, aged 32, labourer, run over by surface wagons
  • 18/4/1855, Thomas James, aged 23, collier, James Williams, 16, haulier, explosion of gas, 5 killed
  • 20/6/1855, Samuel Thomas, aged 52, roadman, explosion of gas
  • 31/10/1855, John Hughes, aged 25, roadman, explosion of gas.
  • 25/11/1856, John Morgan, fall of roof
  • 22/3/1858, Benjamin Stephens, aged 39, collier, fall of roof
  • 22/3/1858, John Jones, aged 27 collier, explosion of gas 2 killed
  • 1/9/1858, Richard Grant, aged 48, sinker, explosion of gas
  • 2/10/1860, William Parry, aged 38, collier, fall of roof
  • 2/10/1860, Samuel Thomas, aged 21, collier, shaft incident
  • 11/12/1860, Thomas Morgan, aged 32, roadman, fall of roof
  • 8/1/1861, Thomas Lewis, aged 18, collier, fall of roof
  • 18/1/1861, Joseph Price, aged 42, collier, fall of roof
  • 21/6/1862, David Davis, aged 21. Collier, fall of roof
  • 21/6/1862, Daniel Evans, aged 29, collier, fall of roof
  • 29/8/1862, Thomas Thomas, aged 34, collier, fall of roof
  • 27/6/1863, John James, aged 55, roadman, run over by trams
  • 4/6/1865, David Morgan, aged 7, tangled in machinery on the surface
  • 23/1/1872, D. Williams, aged 15, collier, fall of roof
  • 31/5/1872, Thomas Clark, aged 23, collier, fall of roof
  • 25/6/1872, Thomas Titcombe, aged 16, collier, shotfiring incident
  • 22/9/1872, D. Thomas, aged 14, collier, fall of roof
  • 14/3/1873, John Williams, aged 34, collier, run over by trams
  • 19/4/1873, William John, collier, fall of roof
  • 26/8/1873, R.J. Rowden, aged 13, collier, fall of roof
  • 7/10/1873, David Davies, aged 29, collier, run over by trams
  • 17/10/1878, Robert Edwards, aged 32, collier, fall of roof
  • 25/4/1879, Frederick Farr, aged 42, collier, fall of roof
  • 4/6/1881, Thomas Thomas, aged 22, haulier, run over by trams
  • 20/10/1881, James Thomas, aged 19, collier, shotfiring incident
  • 6/12/1881, James Mayo, aged 18, haulier, run over by trams
  • 13/7/1882, Thomas James, aged 25, collier, fall of roof
  • 9/3/1883, Edward Williams, aged 19, collier, run over by trams
  • 14/6/1883, William Thomas, aged 69, collier, run over by trams
  • 22/6/1885, John Thomas, aged 17 years, collier, fall of roof.
  • 21/10/1886, Richard Morgan, aged 50, collier, fall of roof.
  • 14/8/1891, Christopher Evans, aged 35, haulier, fall of roof
  • 16/9/1891, Thomas Knight, aged 42, collier, fall of roof
  • 6/4/1892, Thomas Pritchard, aged 40, hitcher, coal fell down the shaft
  • 17/5/1895, John Morgan Rees, aged 14, colliers boy, fall of roof
  • 14/11/1894, Simon Thomas, aged 46, ripper, fall of roof
  • 14/11/1894, John Evans, aged 41, ripper, fall of roof
  • 17/5/1895, John Morgan Rees, aged 14, colliers boy, fall of roof
  • 22/12/1897, Henry Spiller, aged 21. Collier, fall of roof
  • 29/9/1898, Thomas Davies, aged 53, collier, fall of roof
  • 8/10/1898, Isaac Lewis, aged 45, timberman, fall of roof
  • 8/6/1899, Con Walker, aged 15, colliers boy, fall of roof.
  • 30/9/1899, David Jones, aged 13, collier boy, run over by trams
  • 9/12/1889, Phillip Jones, aged 32, collier, fall of roof
  • 16/2/1910 FH Thomas, aged 14, collier boy, fall of roof
  • 21/2/1910, James Chambers, aged 26, spragger, shaft incident
  • 17/1/1912, Thomas Lawrence, aged 39, collier, fall of roof
  • 26/1/1911, David john Emanuel, aged 37, haulier, run over by trams
  • 29/6/1911, Jonasthan Phillips, aged 38, master haulier, run over by trams
  • 10/11/1911, John Tanner, aged 32, collier, fall of roof
  • 17/7/1912, David Dunn, aged 40, repairer, fall of roof
  • 21/10/1912, George Jeffreys, aged 17, collier, fall of roof
  • 14/11/1912, Albert Poar, aged 34, collier, fall of roof
  • 20/11/1914, William Eggleton, aged 47, collier, fall of roof
  • 5/5/1925, Samuel Hicks, aged 32, collier, fall of roof

Some Statistics:

  • 1870: Manpower: 522.
  • 1889: Output: 150,906 tons
  • 1894: Output: 286,592 tons.
  • 1896: Manpower: 961.
  • 1899: Manpower: 1,443
  • 1900: Manpower: 1,510
  • 1901: Manpower: 1,557
  • 1902: Manpower: 1,535
  • 1903: Manpower: 1,648
  • 1905: Manpower: 1,726
  • 1907: Manpower: 1,698
  • 1908: Manpower: 1,739.
  • 1909: Manpower: 1,739.
  • 1910: Manpower: 1,578
  • 1911: Manpower: 1,742.
  • 1912: Manpower: 1,259
  • 1913: Manpower 1,095.
  • 1915/6: Manpower: 1,215.
  • 1919: Manpower: 1,300.
  • 1920: Manpower: 1,500
  • 1922: Manpower: 1,700
  • 1923: Manpower: 1,627.
  • 1924: Manpower: 1,571
  • 1925: Manpower: 1,600
  • 1926: Manpower: 1,750
  • 1928: Manpower: 52
  • 1933: Manpower: 159
  • 1934: Manpower: 299 with Abercwmboi
  • 1935: Manpower: 180.Output:5,000 tons.
  • 1937: Manpower: 577
  • 1938: Manpower: 783.
  • 1940: Manpower: 982.
  • 1941: Manpower: 143.
  • 1942: Manpower: 364.
  • 1943: Manpower: 427.
  • 1944: Manpower: 454.
  • 1945: Manpower: 447
  • 1947: Manpower 451.
  • 1948: Manpower: 464. Output: 105,000 tons.
  • 1950: Manpower: 615.
  • 1953: Manpower: 625. Output: 170,000 tons.
  • 1954: Manpower: 611. Output: 136,908 tons.
  • 1955: Manpower: 591. Output: 143,873 tons.
  • 1956: Manpower: 617. Output: 137,086 tons.
  • 1957: Manpower: 662. Output: 135,241 tons.
  • 1958: Manpower: 631. Output: 137,621 tons.
  • 1960: Manpower: 578. Output: 122,220 tons.
  • 1961: Manpower: 569. Output: 114,000 tons.
  • 1962: Manpower: 579.

The following is a technical report on the Colliery with regard to its electrical equipment;


Aberaman Colliery

The Aberaman Colliery is situated in a group of collieries belonging to the Powell Duffryn Co., in the Aberdare Valley, and is 20 miles distant from Cardiff. Until very recently six of the nine pits in the valley had isolated direct-current plants generating 200 or 400 volts for lighting and power purposes. Instead of extending these plants for the more general use of electric power, it was decided to erect a power station to supply the whole of the company’s pits, the direct result being to lower the capital and generating costs and to obtain the advantage of a higher load-factor.

The power station is about 1,300 yards from the Aberaman pit, and is equipped to deal with an average load of 1,300 kW. The engines are horizontal, cross-compound, and jet-condensing, and were made by Messrs. Yates and Thom, of Blackburn. They are governed on both high and low-pressure cylinders, so as to carry momentary overloads of 50 per cent. The air pumps, of the Edwards type, are driven from the tail rod of the high-pressure cylinder. Steam is supplied from Babcock and Wilcox boilers, each having a grate area of 49 square feet, a heating surface of 3,080 square feet, with 350 square feet of superheating surface, and five boilers being used at the time of maximum load. The feed is heated by Green’s economiser.

The switchboard is of the carriage type and is of cellular construction with the busbars running along the back in a separate chamber, from which contacts project into each division. The output of the power station is at the rate of 4 1/2 million units per annum.

Each sub-station is fed from the power station by one or more H.P. feeders, which are protected at each side by lightning arresters. Before connection to the sub-station busbars, the incoming feeders are controlled by oil-break switches and by fuses in the case of sub-stations fed by two feeders. The sub-station bus-bars branch to:

  1. 3,000-volt sub-stations below ground, connected by armoured cables;
  2. 3,000-volt motors connected by overhead distributors;
  3. Three-phase transformers reducing the pressure to 500 volts (for motors below 50 H.P.);
  4. Single-phase 110-volt lighting transformers.

The general arrangement of the underground substations is the same as those above ground. The mine cables are carried down four of the pits and extend a distance of 700 yards from the pit bottom. The overhead distribution from the sub-stations to the various motors consists of bare wires supported on insulators attached to wooden poles or to the existing buildings.

The motors are divided into two classes:

  1. Variable speed, for haulage and winding, of which forty are in use, varying in power from 300 to 25 B.H.P.
  2. Constant speed, for driving fans, pumps, screens, conveyors, workshops, and brickyard, of which thirty-seven are at work, from 180 to 5 B.H.P.

The fan motors are run at full load continuously, being shut down for examination and cleaning for ten minutes every three weeks.

Adjoining the power station is a Humboldt Washery, which is capable of washing 160 tons per hour. The small coal from all the collieries is carried here; from two places by means of aerial ropeways, and from the others by wagons. Nearby, at the Middle Duffryn pit (which has not been used for winding coal since 1884), there are two Hathorn Davey engines pumping from a depths of 270 yards, in one column, by balanced lifts, having rams 17 inches diameter and 10 feet stroke. Each set is capable of pumping 80,000 gallons per hour.


This information was supplied by Ray Lawrence and is used here with his permission.

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