Varteg, Afan Lwyd Valley (244061)

This is a thoroughly confusing area where mining started well before records or plans were kept. In 1802 the local works were opened and by 1803 patchwork and bell pits, mine kilns and calcinating kilns littered the area to quench the furnace’s demand for both coal and ironstone. John Vipond appeared in the area in 1840 with the Rock Vein Colliery and opened his Varteg Hill workings in 1860. Vipond died in 1865, but to his credit left £3,000 in his will to pay pensions out to men over 60 years and widows to a maximum of 2/6d per person. This benevolence continued for a while with the men and their families treated to a trip to Raglan Castle in 1866, around 1,000 people took advantage of the trip. The Varteg Hill mine was used to mine ironstone, and the Varteg Hill Top Pits mainly worked for coal. The top pits (244062) were sunk in 1860 to a depth of 215.2 metres. surface. The No.1 was also called the Rock Pit and the No.2 was called the Big Vein Pit.

It encountered the Four-Feet seam at a depth of 120.1 metres. The Nine-Feet seam at a depth of 158.5 metres. The Five-Feet/Gellideg seam at a depth of 202.6 metres. The Four-Feet seam had a section of 1.2 metres, and the Nine-Feet seam also had a section of 1.2 metres. It worked the Meadow Vein (Yard/Seven-Feet) seam to the south-west until 1932, to the south until 1904, and then again until 1940. It reached its northern boundaries between 1898 and 1907, and its western Boundaries between 1888 and 1903.

The Varteg Hill mine became the headquarters for the concern and the site for the cleaning of the coals from the various Vipond mines of this area. The main ironstone veins worked by this Mine Pit and the Mine Slope were as follows; It appears to have been closed as a production unit in 1899.

Other workings included the Spotted Pin Ironstone level at 255067 which appears to have closed in 1876. The Elled Level was at 256059 and closed in 1898. It produced 23,310 tons of coal in 1889. The Gas Coal level was at 260064 and closed around 1879 while the Three-quarter level was at . The New Slope was at 258068, it employed 161 men in 1900 and was abandoned in 1938. The Big Vein Slope was at 253049, it worked mainly the Big, Red and Elled coal seams producing 47,123 tons of coal in 1889 and employing 156 men in 1897. It closed around 1900. The Mine Slope at 261065 lasted until 1928 and the 252054 worked until 1938, it worked the Meadow Vein and Old Coal employing 420 men in 1900 and producing 57,996 tons of coal in 1889. The Rock Slope produced both ironstone and the Meadow Vein and Rock Vein coals until 1938. It produced 16,870 tons of coal in 1889 and employed 276 men in 1897. The Yard Slope was closed in 1932.

In 1884 At the Three-Quarter level, the men were quite happy with their pay of 1 shilling and sixpence per ton of coal filled, but the management decided to pay for clean lump coal only and offered a payment of 1 shilling and eight pence per ton. The men accepted this but soon found that 30% of what they had filled into trams was not being paid for. Although it had been lump coal when filled, the various bumps and grinds of transportation had reduced the 30% or so to small coal. Management refused to pay for this but used it for their boilers, and offices etc., the men went out on strike, and what was common in those days, many went to work elsewhere during the period of the strike, they were stopped and eventually returned to work. A similar system. The same results were introduced to the top pits in 1903.

In the 1880’s its ventilation was by a 17 feet 6 inch diameter Schiele type fan. They were managed in 1878 by E. Rees, and in 1888 by J. Nixon. In 1896 the Top Pits employed 47 men underground and 9 men on the surface. The manager was F.H. Davies.

A major problem with the mines was the amount of water that had to be cleared from the workings, to help solve this in 1893 one of the most powerful electric pumps in South Wales was installed. Constructed by the Uskside Works in Newport it could shift 2 to 3 tons of water every minute. By 1902 it was producing gas, house and steam coals. The HMI report for that year shows that this was the only mine in Monmouthshire that was using a compressed air-powered coal cutter. It produced 5,690 tons of coal in that year.

In 1908 they were managed by A.K. Edmunds and employed 663 men underground and 161 men on the surface. In 1915/8 F.H. Davies was manager and in 1918 it employed 859 men, but in 1938 manpower had dropped to 9 men underground and 72 men on the surface while in 1945 it was 2 men underground and 59 men on the surface. It was managed by A.K. Edmonds in 1913 when it employed 926 men, and by J.R. Jones in 1930/5 when in 1935 it employed 371 men.

In 1934 J. Vipond and Company Limited was based at the Varteg Hill colliery with the directors being; T.H. Deakin, F.H. Davies, W.H.V. Bythway, H. Greenland and T.C. Deakin.

These are some of the men who died in the mines of this area:

  • 17/11/1846, Samuel Buckle: Roof fall.
  • 3/02/1849, Edmund Cardy: Fell down shaft.
  • 27/03/1855, Daniel Carpenter, Age: 16: Collier: Fall of coal.
  • 13/01/1863, William Grey, Age: 45: Roadman: Went alone into an old heading to draw timber whilst so employed he probably brought down some of the roof for when found he was buried under a fall and quite dead.
  • 11/05/1864, Jesse Smith, Age: 32: Fireman: Severely hurt this day by getting in the way of the descending cage at the bottom of the shaft
  • 6/11/1865, James Orchard, Age: 30: Miner: Injured on 4th by fall of roof from face of workings which pressed so severely on the region of his heart that he died on the 6th.
  • 15/06/1869, Thomas Sides, Age: 13: Crushed by trams.
  • 8/06/1870, John Minton, Age: 51: Miner: Fall of ground in bottom vein pits.
  • 10/08/1871, Henry Marsh, Age: 30: Labourer: Crush of trucks on incline.
  • 30/08/1871, John Williams Age: 45: Roadman. Fall of stone 30th Aug. Died 1st Sept.
  • 30/05/1873, William James, Age: 40: Collier: Fall of coal.
  • 18/12/1875, Joshua Jeffries, Age: 36: Haulier: Fell under trams.
  • 30/05/1878, John Chilcott: Collier: Fall of coal.
  • 16/08/1878, William Davies, Age: 26: Screener: Was standing on a railway waggon and directed those above to tip
  • coal down. He neglected to get out of the way and was crushed by the shoot of the screen.
  • 5/02/1880, James Davies. Age: 35: Collier: Fall of stone.
  • 23/12/1886, William Collard, Age: 45: Roadsman: Fall of stone.
  • 24/07/1888, John Witcombe, Age: 17: Collier: Fall of clod and coal at the face while passing to get a pick. It was holed and the sprags had been withdrawn.
  • 13/08/1888, Thomas Pike, Age: 30: Collier: Crushed by trams on the engine plane while with five or six other men on their way to work. He appears to have miscalculated his position with regard to the trams.
  • 29/12/1888, Stephen Evans, Age: 21: Collier: Fall of roof.
  • 15/05/1889, Thomas Teague, Age: 35: Sawyer: A piece of timber which was being removed from the front of a circular saw caught in the teeth and was thrown violently against him causing death in a few minutes.
  • 23/07/1892, Thomas Morgan Age: 17: Collier: He died on 6th August from the results of a fall of roof
  • 30/07/1892, Joseph Williams, Age: 45: Night haulier: While stooping in front of a full tram trying to get it on the rail the horse suddenly jerked it against his head and dislocated his neck.
  • 13/06/1893, Ernest Davies, Age: 21: Collier: Fall of roof from slips in Elled Seam.
  • 24/04/1894, George Alvis, Age: 56: Foreman: Having coupled three trucks together on the pit timber siding for a horse to pull out he stood on a pile of timber at the side and in reaching forward to raise a brake he fell in front of the wheels which passing over him caused immediate death. He had been foreman for six or seven years.
  • 19/07/1895, Samuel Davies, Age: 24: Rider: While riding in a tram of an empty journey a fall of roof suddenly took place and buried him.
  • 7/10/1897, Henry Cullimore, Age: 60: Surface foreman: Leg injured by a tram on surface engine plane between the entrance to the slope and the screens. A sprag which had been inserted in the wheel of the tram breaking allowed it to run wild down to the screens where he was engaged. The sprag evidently was not a proper one for the purpose or the accident would not have occurred through its breaking.
  • 08/01/1898, Stephen Rawlings: Collier: Died suddenly on the 8th January while waiting to descend to his work
  • 17/03/1899, James Morgan, Age: 19: Collier boy: Fall of roof from a slip in his working place.
  • 08/09/1913, George Hill, Age: 47: Hitcher: He was fatally injured by two runaway trams
  • 22/04/1914, John Powell, Age: 18: Collier: Fall of roof
  • 21/06/1916, Thomas Jenkins: Crushed by a tram.
  • 23/05/1917, Morgan Davies: Knocked down by trams.
  • 3/01/1920, Albert Gratton: Large stone fell on him.
  • 25/06/1920, Jonah Elliot: Roof fall.
  • 27/10/1923, Edward Jones: Roof fall.
  • 1/01/1925, Samuel Jones: Collapsed and died while walking to his work
  • 9/02/1928, Charles Vey, Age: 40: Steeplejack: Fell from a ladder.


Some Statistics:

  • 1889: Output: 58,402 tons.
  • 1894: Output: 88,844 tons.
  • 1896: Manpower: 56.
  • 1903: Manpower: 1,007.
  • 1907: Manpower: 807.
  • 1909: Manpower: 794.
  • 1915: Manpower: 824.
  • 1918: Manpower: 859.
  • 1923: Manpower: 946.
  • 1924: Manpower: 1,009.
  • 1925: Manpower: 824.
  • 1927: Manpower: 676.
  • 1928: Manpower: 391.
  • 1930: Manpower: 486.
  • 1938: Manpower: 81.
  • 1940: Manpower: 609.
  • 1941: Manpower: 766.
  • 1942: Manpower: 720.
  • 1945: Manpower: 61.

On Nationalisation in 1947 this colliery was merged with Deakins Slope by the National Coal Board.


SPOTTED PIN MINE – Varteg (255067)
On the 3rd of December 1855, Charles Foote died under a ‘huge’ fall of stone in this mine. This mine was worked for iron ore and coal by John Vipond and Company. It was listed in 1878 but not in 1888.


ELLED LEVEL (272016)

This mine was opened by Hoskins and Llewellyn.

There was an Elled Pit in the Varteg area in 1888 which was managed by J. Nixon, and the Elled Colliery Company worked a pit of that name in 1896 employing 7 men underground and 2 men on the surface, the manager was Hugh Caldwell. They also owned a level of that name in 1908 when it employed 113 men underground and 12 men on the surface, and in 1913 when it employed 128 men. In 1918 it employed 222 men underground and 29 men on the surface with the manager being G.J. Fisher. This company was a member of the Monmouthshire and South Wales Coal Owners Association.

The New Elled Colliery Company Limited was in existence in 1934 when it employed 15 men on the surface and 135 men underground producing 40,000 tons of coal from the Meadow Vein (Yard/Seven-Feet) and Old Coal (Five-Feet/Gellideg) seams In 1938 it employed 135 men underground and 23 men on the surface and in 1945, 147 men underground and 35 men on the surface, by that time it had merged into the Mynydd Maen Colliery. The manager in 1938 was F.S. Harvard and in 1945 it was A. Davies. It was not worked by the National Coal Board.

Just some of those that died in these mines:

  • 19/01/1886, Alfred Lewis, Age: 19: Striker: Run over by a railway truck. Extra help being required he was assisting in moving the waggons under the screens with a horse. Taking the chain traces off the coupling he dropped them they twisted round his leg and he was thrown under the wheels.
  • 21/09/1887, James Ashruan, Age: 74: Engineer: Through the breakage of a wire rope fence (about some pumping machinery) by which he was assisting himself up to the level of the ground he fell back about half a dozen feet and although apparently not feeling it at the time died within two or three days. The shock at his age would be a serious matter.
  • 8/03/1891, John Cox, Age: 17: Collier: Fall of following stone from a slip. It had been overhanging the coal face about 10 inches. He and his comrade omitted to sprag it as they considered it unnecessary. Another added to the list of lives thrown away by not spragging.
  • 16/06/1891, Thomas Dee, Age: 21: Tram coupler: When descending to his work with others he stepped out of the cage about 20 yards from the bottom thinking that they had reached the landing. His spine was injured and he died that night but was conscious all day and able to explain how it occurred.
  • 31/05/1895, John Ivory, Age: 37: Roadsman: Having fired a shot at a double parting where the main road had become too narrow he was filling up the debris into trams when a stone fell from the side and struck his leg causing a compound fracture. His leg was subsequently amputated and he died on May 1st 1895 from the effects.
  • 20/08/1895, Jacob Purnell, Age: 35: Collier: While examining and pulling down some roof coal which he was sent to attend to at the junction of his stall road a large fall occurred from between cross slips and buried him causing his death and injury to his son Jacob Purnell jnr. a lad of 14 years who has since retired.


Information supplied by Ray Lawrence and used here with his permission

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