Varteg, Afan Lwyd Valley

The Abersychan/Talywaun/Varteg area is a nightmare to trace, in this area the outcrop of the Coalfield is up to two miles wide with all the workable seams of the Coal Measures, ironstone veins, and clay easily accessible from the surface. Many mines started before decent records were kept, others had duplicity of names which were changed with the different owners, many had local names different from the correct ones, some were simply named after the owners on official records, and scores of others were just return airways or water drainage adits. For example, local names such as; Harmonium, Hole in the Field, Taverns, Bucks and Ladder Pit are not recorded on the records that I refer to.

The yield per acre in this area was estimated to be 15,000 tons of iron and 30,000 tons of coal, with some of the average seam sections being; Meadow Vein: coal 0.3m, dirt 0.06m, coal 2.23m, dirt 0.3m, coal 0.2m. Yard (Bute): coal 0.55m, dirt 0.2m, coal 0.7m., Nine-Feet coal l.07m, dirt 0.25m, coal 0.81m. Upper-Four- Feet (Red): coal 1 .2metres.

The main exploiter of the Varteg area was John Vipond, who came down from Cheshire after working in the Midland Coalfield to cash in on the coal boom of south Wales, his first sinkings were the Varteg Pits in 1860. Vipond then formed a company called John Vipond and Company, which although he died in 1865, and left no direct heirs, survived until nationalisation in 1947. In 1888 this company operated the Big Vein Pit, Elled Pit, Rock Slope, New Slope, No.2 Mine Pit, and Rock Pit that worked the Big Vein, Elled, Jack and Ball Mine (iron ore), Rock, Meadow Vein and Old Coal seams. The Rock Pit employed 312 men underground and 56 men on the surface in 1896 and was working the same seams while the Rock Slope employed 236 men underground and 54 men on the surface working the Rock and Meadow Vein.

In 1899 the Big Vein pit employed 130 men and in 1900 it employed 200 men. In 1913 the company’s Varteg Hill Co consisted of; Top Pits, New Slope and Rock Pit, and employed 926 men. By this time John Deakins’, Varteg Deep Black Vein Collieries Limited had also made an appearance in the Varteg area, and controlled the Lower Varteg and Slope No.10, with the manpower of 403. They were still two separate concerns in 1917, when the Varteg Deep Company operated the Deakins’ and No.10 Slopes, and Viponds operated the Big Vein, Rock, Mine Slope, Pandy, Waun Hoskins and New Slope. By 1932 all these concerns were under John Vipond and Company, with T.H. Deakin as Chairman, they were then simply listed as Varteg Hill for the old Viponds pits, and Lower Varteg for the old Varteg Deep pits. In 1935 John Vipond and Company operated; Varteg Hill Top Pits, New Slope, and Mine Slope which employed 79 men on the surface and 292 men underground. The Red Ash Level which employed 9 men on the surface and 86 men underground, and the Deakins No.10 Slope which employed 64 men on the surface and 451 men working underground. These collieries produced steam, house, gas, and manufacturing coals from the Elled, Big, Rock, Meadow Vein, Old Coal, Yard, Three-quarter and Red Ash seams.

By Nationalisation in 1947 only the Deakin’s and the No.10 Slope were left in operation and they were placed in the National Coal Board’s, South Western Division’s, No.6 (Monmouthshire) Area, and at that time employed 140 men working at the surface and 490 men working underground in the Garw, Big, Yard, Meadow Vein and Elled seams. In 1957 the whole of the mineral take in the Blaenavon/Abersychan area, i.e., Big Pit, Garn Slope, Kay’s Slope, and Vipond’s were merged into one scheme centred on Big Pit.


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

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