Cwmaman, Cynon Valley (ST 9997 9944)

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There is some confusion over the original owners of this mine, according to Rhondda Cynon Taff Council, it was sunk by Thomas Brown and Thomas Protheroe in 1856, and was called Brown’s Pit after Mr. Brown. However, H.M.Inspectorate accident records state that it was sunk by David Williams in 1851 and sold to Sir Thomas Phillips in 1858. Both Phillips and Protheroe were Newport coal owners and close associates of Thomas Powell who also moved into the Cynon Valley around that time, while it was called Brown’s Pit which appears to validate Thomas Brown.

Whatever the truth is was sold on to the United Merthyr Collieries Company in 1864 and in 1867 it was again sold, this time to Powell Duffryn who held it until nationalisation in 1947. PD was a member of the Monmouthshire and South Wales Coal Owners Association.

The Bristol Mercury of the 13th of February 1869, reported


Tuesday morning an explosion of firedamp took place at Powell’s Duffryn Steam Coal Company’s Fforchaman Colliery, Aberdare. We regret to say that three men were killed, and eleven injured, two so seriously that their lives are despaired of. It appears that the colliery, which is about 200 yards deep and employs about 200 hands, was idle on Monday, and on Tuesday morning, as soon as work commenced, a workman, named Griffiths, bored a hole to blast the coal, which was very hard. He had asked the fireman’s permission to use powder a few days before and had been refused on the ground that blasting was prohibited in the pit under any circumstances.

After boring the hole and filling it with powder, he was cautioned by a workman not to fire it, but the caution was not regarded…but shortly after seven o’clock, the charge exploded with dreadful results. The man Griffiths, with two others, named Evans and Lewis, were killed, and eleven others who were not working at the place became burnt… The three deceased were all married and leave numerous families. Several of those who are burnt are also married.” At the Inquest, Mr. Wales, the

The Government Inspector strongly censured the men who knew it was the intention of Mr. Griffiths to fire the shot, for not reporting the matter to the officials of the pit who may have stopped it. The Jury returned a verdict “That the deceased died from the effects of an explosion, caused by the firing of a shot against the rules of the colliery.

The manager in 1878 was Rees Rees. It was bounded by Mardy Colliery to the west, Aberaman Colliery to the east, Bwllfa to the north and Ferndale to the south.

The Downcast Pit was sunk to a depth of 921 feet 9 inches and was elliptical in shape measuring 20 feet by 11 feet. The Upcast Pit was sunk to a depth of 832 feet 2 inches and was 14 feet in diameter. The shafts were 60 yards apart and sunk to work the world-famous Aberdare Four-Feet seam which was stated to be the finest steam coal on the planet. It varied between 66 inches to 72 inches in thickness at this colliery.

There were twelve coal seams between the Two-Feet-Nine seam and the Gellideg seam. They totalled 46.5 feet in thickness at an average of 3 feet 10 inches per seam. They also averaged 34 feet apart.

The Liverpool Mercury of the 22nd of October 1885, reported:

A shocking accident occurred on Tuesday night at Fforchaman Colliery, near Aberaman. Two boys, aged 15, named Gwilym Williams and John Thomas, were on their way out of the pit, walking in the rear of a train of loaded wagons, when one of the coupling chains gave way, causing the train to run wild and to dash into the boys, killing them on the spot. The mother of Williams lost her husband in a similar manner a few years ago.

It was managed by T.L. Davies in 1908 it employed 1,070 men in 1913 when it was managed by Jno. Powell and in 1916 it employed 1,000 men.

In 1914 Powell Duffryn issued a booklet celebrating fifty years of business, this is what it had to say about Fforchaman:

Fforchaman Colliery

The Fforchaman Colliery was purchased in 1866.

The seams at present worked include the Bute, Yard, 6-feet, 7-feet, and Gellideg, all being steam coal. Though there are two shafts, only the downcast is used for winding. The depth is about 284 yards.

The winding engine by Frazer & Chalmers has cylinders 28 in with a 5- foot stroke, both cylinders being high pressure. The drum is semi-spiral with diameter 8ft to 14ft.

At Fforchaman there has been installed a Bleichert wire ropeway, for the transport of rubbish to the rubbish tips. The length of the line is more than three-quarters of a mile, with a rise of 450 feet. The hourly capacity is 60 tons, the cars having a capacity of 13 cubic feet for an effective load of about 12 cwt., so that about a hundred cars are handled per hour. The rope has a speed of 300 feet per minute. The cars empty themselves automatically on the rubbish tip, the only attendance required is for loading.

In 1918 it was still managed by J. Powell but in 1919 the manager was J. Hughes with it still employing 1,000 men.

Control of the Coalfield was taken over by the Government in 1916 and for the first time membership of the South Wales Miners Federation became a condition of employment and wages increased. However, the owners were not finished with them yet and were to flex their muscles once again in 1921 when the Coalfield was de-controlled.

On Nationalisation in 1947 Fforchaman Colliery worked in conjunction with Cwmaman and Fforchwen Collieries and was placed in the National Coal Board’s, South Western Division’s, No.4 (Aberdare) Area, Group No.2. At that time the pit was working the Five-Feet seam employing 91 men on the surface and 540 men underground. The manager at that time was V.B. Jones.

In 1954 the pits employed 102 men on the surface and 652 men underground working the Five-Feet, Gellideg and Seven-Feet seams. In 1955 out of a total manpower of 732 men at this colliery 283 of them worked at the coalfaces. In 1956 the coalface figure had risen to 414 men, but dropped back down to 368 men in 1957 and to 348 men in 1958.

By 1958 the pit was down to working the Gellideg seam only. In 1961 this colliery was in the No.4 Area’s, No.3 Group, along with Abergorki, Deep Duffryn and Aberaman collieries. The total manpower for this Group was 2,174 men, while total coal production was 515,000 tons. The Group Manager was R.N. Lewis, while the Area Manager was T. Wright.

A closure review of the colliery on the 12th of August 1965 was opposed by the local NUM who claimed that the Bute, Yard and possibly the Seven-Feet seams could be worked, the full review was; the Two-Feet-Nine, although there were 735 acres of it, left it was too thin to work. The Four-Feet seam was exhausted. The Six-Feet seam had 140 acres left but was not economical to work. The Nine-Feet was being worked but was a difficult seam. The Bute had 185 acres amounting to one million tons of coal giving eight years of work but would need £30,000 to develop. The Red Vein had only a section of 16 inches. The Yard seam had 430 acres left and would cost £17,000 to open up. The Seven-Feet would need boreholes to prove it. The Five-Feet was a difficult seam and could not be mechanised. The Gellideg seam had 900 acres of coal but was subject to washouts.

The NCB replied that the pit had lost the equivalent of £8 per man employed during the year 1963/64 despite £500,000 being invested. No further investment was forthcoming and the last coalface at the colliery, the V2 met with a thinning coal seam in July 1965 which made it unviable and the colliery was closed by the National Coal Board on the 25th of September 1965 on the grounds that it was uneconomical.


Some, but not all, of the fatal accidents at this pit:

  • ?/11/1876 T. Howells, aged 35, hitcher, coal fell down shaft
  • 18/12/1877 Benjamin Lewis, aged 42, collier, explosion of gas
  • 9/8/1878 Alfred Williams, aged 13, collier, fall of roof
  • 22/5/1880 Thomas Phillips, aged 16, collier, fall of roof
  • 27/7/1882 Robert Lewis, aged 30, repairer, fall of roof
  • 24/8/1882 James Williams, aged 23, rider, run over by trams
  • 14/9/1883 T. Jones, aged 45, repairer, fall of roof
  • 15/11/1883 R. Hill, aged 40, haulier, run over by trams
  • 8/8/1884 Thomas Lewis, aged 18, collier, fall of roof
  • 20/10/1885 Gwilym Williams, aged 15, collier, crushed by trams
  • 20/10/1885 John Jones, aged 15, collier, run over by trams
  • 23/6/1886 John Lewis, aged 14, collier boy, fall of roof
  • 3/3/1887 Alfred Griffith, aged 30, fitter, crushed by cage
  • 31/12/1887 Daniel Williams, aged 12, collier, fall of roof
  • 18/3/1891 William Rogers, aged 50, labourer, crushed by tram
  • 5/9/1891 John Watkins, aged 27, rope inspector, crushed by trams
  • 17/12/1891 Thomas Lewis, aged 39, collier, strain
  • 6/3/1895 David W. Davies, aged 13, collier boy, crushed by trams
  • 24/4/1895 Evan Thomas, aged 34, collier, fall of roof
  • 20/11/1895 David Lewis, aged 21, rider, crushed by trams
  • 18/4/1896 William Mason, aged 49, hardgroundman, shotfiring incident
  • 2/2/1898 David Richards, aged 45, collier, fall of roof
  • 25/9/1889 Samuel Harris, aged 14, collier boy, fall of roof
  • 25/5/1910 William Fisher, aged 37, collier, roof fall
  • 24/9/1910 William Perkins, aged 35, collier, roof fall
  • 8/4/1911 David Williams, aged 23, rider, roof fall
  • 30/8/1911 Gwylim Thomas, aged 49, haulier, crushed by trams
  • 17/8/1912 Stephen Rothwell, aged 45, foreman, shaft incident
  • 17/8/1912 John Jenkins, aged 55, haulier, crushed by trams
  • 5/9/1912 William Evans, aged 55, timberman, fall of roof
  • 18/12/1912 John Brewer, aged 31, haulier, crushed by horse
  • 2/1/1913 Thomas Davies, aged 43, collier, fall of roof
  • 7/1/1913 Walter Gwynne, aged 48, collier, crushed by trams
  • 14/4/1914 David Davies, aged 42, haulier, crushed under machinery
  • 19/6/1925 John Davis, aged 65, haulier, crushed by trams
  • 5/11/1925 Joseph Bailey, aged 68, stower, shaft incident
  • 2/10/1928 W.R. Ellis, aged 25, haulier, run over by trams 47
  • 22/3/1929 H.G. Kitchen, aged 20, collier, crushed by tram
  • 14/6/1929 Henry Gough, aged 28, collier, fall of coal
  • 20/11/1929 David Rees Wheeler, aged 29, collier, fall of roof

Some Statistics:

  • 1870: Manpower: 410.
  • 1889: Output: 158,584 tons.
  • 1894: Output: 212,732 tons.
  • 1899: Manpower: 578
  • 1900: Manpower: 604
  • 1901: Manpower: 643
  • 1902: Manpower: 685
  • 1903: Manpower: 714
  • 1905: Manpower: 680
  • 1907: Manpower: 524
  • 1908: Manpower: 637.
  • 1909: Manpower: 637.
  • 1910: Manpower: 843.
  • 1911: Manpower: 758.
  • 1912: Manpower: 933.
  • 1913: Manpower: 1,070.
  • 1916: Manpower: 1,000.
  • 1919: Manpower: 1,000.
  • 1920: Manpower: 1,000.
  • 1922: Manpower: 1,000.
  • 1923: Manpower: 1,024.
  • 1924: Manpower: 1,080.
  • 1925: Manpower: 1,100.
  • 1926: Manpower: 1,250.
  • 1927: Manpower: 1,100.
  • 1928: Manpower: 1,691.
  • 1929: Manpower: 1,667.
  • 1930: Manpower: 1,746.
  • 1933: Manpower: 1,401.
  • 1934: Manpower: 1,143.
  • 1935: Manpower: 1,310. Output: 370,000 tons.
  • 1938: Manpower: 827.
  • 1940: Manpower: 860.
  • 1941: Manpower: 712.
  • 1944: Manpower: 647.
  • 1945: Manpower: 510.
  • 1947: Manpower: 631.
  • 1948: Manpower: 652. Output: 190,000 tons.
  • 1949: Manpower: 667. Output: 200,000 tons.
  • 1950: Manpower: 701.
  • 1954: Manpower: 754. Output: 158,890 tons.
  • 1955: Manpower: 732. Output: 167,141 tons.
  • 1956: Manpower: 767. Output: 174,924 tons.
  • 1957: Manpower: 765. Output: 144,950 tons.
  • 1958: Manpower: 740. Output: 137,126 tons.
  • 1960: Manpower: 653. Output: 132,000 tons.
  • 1961: Manpower: 532. Output: 127,137 tons.
  • 1962: Manpower: 651.


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

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