Ystradgynlais, Swansea Valley (796099)

This was an anthracite slant whose railway agreement commenced on the 2nd of December 1875. It was worked by the Ystradgynlais and Swansea Company Limited in 1878/87 when it was managed by John Hopkins in 1883 and by T. Lloyd Davies in 1884/7.

In September 1886, due to a lack of orders, some of the men were laid off at this mine. Two, father and son, William and John Jones, took
exception to this and claimed wages in lieu of the month’s-notice that was expected. The miners of Ystradgynlais packed out the magistrate’s court but were disappointed when the decision went against them.

In 1887 it was working the Four-Feet seam. In that year it installed a Cappell-type ventilating fan which had a 10 feet diameter and was 4 feet 3 inches wide. It was still owned in 1893 by the same company with Thomas Lloyd as the manager. In June of 1893 the Ystradgynlais and Swansea Colliery Company was wound up due to flooding at the colliery which had made the company insolvent. It was reported that the company had debts of £17,000 but hoped to raise £18,000 by selling the mine once it had been pumped out. This company had previously paid £30,000 to purchase Ystradgynlais and £20,000 in equipping it.

In 1896 it was owned by E.H. Davies of Hereford who employed 155 men underground and 29 men on the surface, the manager was still Thomas Lloyd. It had the same owner and manager in 1900/01 and in 1900 employed 123 men underground and 22 men at the surface.

In 1901 the colliery was described as consisting of the No.1 Pit, No.2 Pit and the New Drift. They were working the Four-Feet and Nine-Feet seams by pillar & stall with safety lamps in use. The upcast shaft was 10 feet in diameter and 186 feet deep and ventilated by a Capel fan which was 10 feet in diameter and 4 feet 3 inches wide.

In 1907 it employed 180 men and in 1908 the manager was W. Williams and it employed 190 men underground and 40 men on the surface. It was owned by the South Wales Anthracite Coal Company Limited and managed by W. Williams in 1909/11 and in 1913 when it was managed by George Robbings it employed 340 men 1913 was a boom year for the Coalfield and the miners were starting to expand their communities. At Ystradgynlais the Workmen’s Hall was leased and a library was established. All the local miners agreed to pay one penny a week towards it.

The colliery manager was in a spot of bother in September 1914 when he refused to employ men of fighting age, it was countered that only the Government had the right to decide who joined the military, or not.

There was a strange case up before the magistrates in June 1914, John Jones a repairer was summonsed for having a match and cigarette underground. William Lewis, a fireman, confirmed that he had searched Jones before he went underground and did search the pocket where the contraband was found. Another fireman, William Hughes, informed the court that another man called Edward Kilner had told him that Jones had contraband, but when Hughes searched the pocket he failed to find it, and it took Kilner to show him where they were. Kilner claimed that he went into Jones’s coat pocket looking for nails when he found the contraband. The company’s solicitor stated that they had to, under law, prosecute although they had grave doubts about the case. The magistrates dismissed the charge.

It employed 350 men in 1915/6. It was in 1916 when the colliers at Ystradgynlais were fortunate that they were not riding the shaft when a breakdown with the winding gear rendered the colliery idle for the day.

In mid-June 1917 the colliery was stopped due to ‘war conditions’ and 780 men were thrown out of work. It was reported that many of them had gone elsewhere to work (during the war anthracite was not so much in demand as the steam coals in the middle and east of the Coalfield).
On the 16th of August 1917, the newspapers reported that the colliery would restart at any time and that men were flocking back to the district, falsely though, for on the 23rd of August 1917 it was reported that eleven businesses had had to close down due to the colliery closure.

It was still owned by and it employed 190 men underground and 40 men on the surface. It was still owned by the South Wales Anthracite Coal Company Limited, which was a member of the Monmouthshire and South Wales Coal Owners Association. But change was coming.

In 1918 it employed 42 men on the surface and 181 men underground. The Yniscedwyn Anthracite Company owned it in 1920/1 followed by the Gurnos Anthracite Collieries Company (1922/4) when it was managed by A. Lloyd.

The Gurnos Company was based at Pembroke Buildings, Swansea and overall produced 300,000 tons of anthracite coal annually. Its directors were, David, Daniel, O.C., and Glyn Daniel, Guy Dobell, E.B. Edwards and D.T. Jeffreys. It owned:

  • Diamond Slant which employed 400 men.
  • Gurnos Slant which employed 250 men.
  • Yniscedwyn which employed 600 men and
  • Ystradgynlais shaft which employed 450 men.

In 1935 the Amalgamated Anthracite Company controlled 26 anthracite collieries producing 4,300,000 tons of coal and employing 13,779 men. The headquarters of the company was at Gresham Street, London, with the Board consisting of Chairman, F.A. Szarvasy. Deputy Chairman, Lord Melchett. Managing Director, Sir Alfred Cope. Directors, Lord Carnrose, T.P. Cook, Daniel Daniel, David Daniel, D. Thomas, J. Waddell, T.H. Henderson and W.M. Llewellyn.

Sir Alfred Cope was born in London in 1877 son of a wine cooper. He started off his career as a clerk at 14 years and then worked for the Inland Revenue until promotions got him the heady position of Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions. His efforts in trying to obtain peace in Ireland gained him a knighthood in 1922. He then took up employment with Mond as first secretary of AAC in 1925 and rose to become deputy chairman. With the £5 merger between AAC and WAC he became the managing director of the combine.

Along with the Nation’s other colliery companies that employed more than 12 men underground, Amalgamated Anthracite Collieries Limited was Nationalised in 1947.

In 1930/2 they employed 450 men at this colliery. It was managed by T.J. Rees in 1928/35 but doesn’t appear to have been in production in the
latter year.

The Ystradgynlais pit was sunk to the Cornish seam which it struck at a depth of 190 feet. It found that the Two-Feet-Nine seam had a thickness of 24 inches. The Upper-Four-Feet seam was 38 inches thick. The Six- Feet seam was 36 inches thick. The Red Vein seam was worked at a thickness of 46 inches. The Nine-Feet seam was worked and had a thickness of 78 inches. The Bute seam was called the Brass in this area and was worked at a thickness of 39 inches. In one part of this colliery, a geological disturbance in the Brass Vein seam in the form of a fold gives a vertical section of 115 feet of coal. It finally abandoned the Nine-Feet and Peacock Seams in December 1938.

Just a few of those that died in this mine:

  • 22/1/1891, John Jones, aged 28 years, collier, roof fall.
  • 15/11/1899, E. Morgan, aged 38, collier, shotfiring incident.
  • 7/2/1912, David Francis, aged 30 years, collier, roof fall.
  • 12/11/1928, Joseph Williams, aged 28, collier, roof fall.

Some statistics:

  • 1896: Manpower: 184.
  • 1899: Manpower: 142.
  • 1900: Manpower: 145.
  • 1901: Manpower: 124.
  • 1902: Manpower: 100.
  • 1903: Manpower: 111.
  • 1905: Manpower: 127.
  • 1907: Manpower: 180.
  • 1908: Manpower: 230.
  • 1909: Manpower: 230.
  • 1910: Manpower: 303.
  • 1911: Manpower: 225.
  • 1912: Manpower: 360.
  • 1913: Manpower: 340.
  • 1915: Manpower: 350.
  • 1916: Manpower: 350.
  • 1918: Manpower: 223.
  • 1920: Manpower: 350.
  • 1922: Manpower: 350.
  • 1923: Manpower: 415.
  • 1924: Manpower: 452.
  • 1927: Manpower: 483.
  • 1928: Manpower: 355.
  • 1929: Manpower: 215.
  • 1930: Manpower: 450.
  • 1932: Manpower: 450.
  • 1933: Manpower: 480.
  • 1937: Manpower: 418.
  • 1938: Manpower: 408.


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

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