Hirwaun, Cynon Valley

This was a series of seven anthracite drifts that were started in the 1920s and included the British Rhondda Colliery. Their mineral take was severely restricted by “thrusts” in the seams between the Cnapiog and the Lower Peacock seam in the north of the area. They were owned prior to Nationalisation by the Rigos Anthracite Coal Company Limited of Mount Stuart Square, Cardiff whose directors in 1927 were W. Higson Lewis and Miss W.M. Lewis, it employed 450 men at this mine with the manager being James Evans.

In 1930 they produced 55,000 tons of coal and in 1935 it employed 23 men on the surface and 200 men underground working the Big Vein seam. In 1945 they were owned by C.L. Clay of Cardiff with the manager being I.L. Williams.

In 1943 the No.1 employed 255 men working underground in the Bluers seam and 95 men working at the surface of the mine, the No.4 employed 159 men working underground in the Nine-Feet seam and 72 men on the surface while the No.6 employed 78 men underground working the Nine-Feet seam and 35 men working at the surface of the mine. In January 1944 a new canteen was constructed to provide hot meats for up to 550 men. It cost £3,000.

On Nationalisation in 1947, Rhigos was placed in the National Coal Board’s, South Western Division’s, No.1 (Swansea) Area, and at that time consisted of:

No.1 Drift; 91 men on the surface and 339 men underground working the Bluers, Big and Peacock seams.
No.4 Drift: 63 men on the surface and 164 men underground working the Big Vein seam.
No.6 Drift: 51 men on the surface and 110 men underground working the Big Vein and Peacock seams.

The No.7 Drift was in the process of sinking and was part of Tower Colliery in the No.4 Area. The manager was J. Williams. By 1954 Rhigos Colliery was placed in No.4 Area, Group No.2, and at that time the No.1 Drift employed 107 men on the surface and 472 men underground working the Peacock and Nine-Feet seams, the No.7 Drift employed 52 men on the surface and 96 men underground working the Upper-Four-Feet and SixFeet seams. The manager was T.A.G. Martin. This colliery had its own coal preparation plant (washery).

In 1955 two new drifts (Rhigos No.7) were driven to replace the exhausted No.6 Drift. They were 205 yards apart and driven 300 yards at a dip of 1 in 4.5. The intake ventilation drift was 14 feet high and the return drift was 10 feet high. It was estimated that there were 2.5 million tons of workable coal from the Four-Feet and Six-Feet seams that would give this mine a life of 13 years. A conveyor belt would bring the coal to the surface where it would be loaded into trams and taken by diesel locomotive to the No.1 Drift.

In 1955 out of the total colliery manpower of 691 men, 283 of them worked at the coalfaces, in 1956 the coalface figure was 299 men, in 1957 there were 303 men working at the coalfaces and in 1958 the coalface figure was 222 men.

In 1961 the Rhigos Nos. 1 and 7 Drifts were in the No.4 (Aberdare) Area’s, No.2 Group along with Tower, Aberpergwm, Cwmgwrach and Rock Collieries. The total manpower for this Group was 3,126 men, while the total coal production of this Group was 726,000 tons in that year. The Group Manager was D.M. James, and the Area Manager was T. Wright.

The last of the Rhigos Drifts was closed on the 27th of February 1965. The NUM at the mine protested over the closure and three hundred of them went out on strike and lobbied an NUM Area Conference for support in the means of strike action, but although nineteen of the nearest lodges supported them it was not enough to sway the conference.

On the 10th of July 1941 an explosion in Rhigos No.4 Drift killed 16 miners. James Evans the manager was fined £20 and Owen James the under-manager was fined £10 at Neath magistrate’s court for breaches of the Coal Mines Act. Those that died were:

  • William Henry Burton
  • Evan Idwal Edwards
  • David Emlyn Evans
  • Richard Howells
  • William Richard Howells
  • Dan Jones sen
  • Dan Jones jnr
  • John Jones
  • Phillip M Jones
  • David Jordan
  • David Morgan
  • Lewis Thomas Macdonald
  • John Mochan
  • Leslie Alexander Morris
  • Leslie S Morris
  • William D Waite.

The Times newspaper of the 12 of July 1941 reported:

Fifteen men and boys, including a father and son, were killed when an explosion occurred at the Rhigos Colliery, Vale of Neath, Glamorgan, on Thursday night. The explosion was so violent that falls of roof were caused at other parts of the colliery. All the dead were believed to have been killed instantly by the blast. The cause of the disaster is at present unknown. An evacuee boy aged 14 who had started work at the mine only a few hours before, was able to stagger dazed but uninjured from the pit.

Some Statistics:

  • 1922: Manpower: 300.
  • 1925: Manpower: 450.
  • 1932: Manpower: 1,000.
  • 1933: Manpower: 570 with British Rhondda.
  • 1935: Manpower: 228. Output: 55,000 tons.
  • 1938: Manpower: 811.
  • 1945: Manpower: No.1: 350. No.4: 231. No.6: 113.
  • 1947: Manpower: 818.
  • 1948: Manpower: 813. Output: 200,000 tons.
  • 1949: Manpower: 822. Output: c200,000 tons.
  • 1950: Manpower: 819.
  • 1953: Manpower: 742 Output: 154,000 tons.
  • 1954: Manpower: 727. Output: 169,000 tons.
  • 1955: Manpower: 691. Output: 153,005 tons.
  • 1956: Manpower: 725. Output: 139,017 tons.
  • 1957: Manpower: 733. Output: 145,661 tons.
  • 1958: Manpower: 666. Output: 130,416 tons.
  • 1960: Manpower: 467. Output: 112,000 tons.
  • 1961: Manpower: 407. Output: 81,425 tons.
  • 1962: Manpower: 464.


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

Return to previous page