David Alfred Thomas – Lord Rhondda. Following on from his father’s interests, the father of D.A. Thomas, Samuel, commenced his mining ventures by sinking at Yscuborwen in 1849, and then at Bwllfa in 1856. He commenced sinking the Cambrian Collieries at Clydach Vale in 1871. Samuel Thomas died in 1879 and passed his business interests onto his sons. D.A. Thomas was born in 1856 and following a formal education started work in the sales department of Cambrian Collieries. His father’s death and his own business acumen soon brought him to the Board of the Company and by 1895 he had formed the Cambrian Collieries Limited with a share capital of £600,000. Prior to this he had entered into politics and became MP for Merthyr Tydfil under the Liberal banner in 1888, although he continued as an MP until 1906 after his failure to obtain a cabinet position he returned his energies back to coal mining.

He acquired controlling interests in the Glamorgan Coal Company in 1907, 67% of the Naval Colliery Company in 1908, and in 1910 Britannic and Penrhiwfer Collieries came under his control. In 1913 his mining interests were formed into the Consolidated Cambrian Limited which obtained output of 3,000,000 tons of coal per annum. In 1916 he attained a peerage and became Lord Rhondda of Llanwern, by this time he was one of the thirty coal owners on the Board of Conciliation. 1916 was also a year of rapid expansion for him and by July he had acquired controlling interest in David Davis and Sons Limited, by September he had control of North’s Navigation Collieries limited, and by October he controlled the Gwaun-cae-Gurwen Colliery Company.

He was also appointed to the wartime cabinet of Lloyd George and became Chairman of the Monmouthshire and South Wales Coal-owners Association. David Alfred Thomas, one the Coalfields leading capitalists died in 1918.

Cambrian Collieries Limited

In 1870 J.O. Riches submitted to Samuel Thomas plans to sink the Cambrian Pits. The Six-Feet seam was reached at a depth of 400 yards (one of the deepest sinkings in south Wales up to that time) in the No.1 Pit in 1875. Sinking had also commenced in the No.2 Pit in 1874 with the No.3 Pit being sunk in 1891. In 1879 Samuel Thomas died followed by the death of J.O. Riches in 1887. Following his death, Samuel Thomas’ sons became managing partners, and it was they who formed the Cambrian Collieries Company Limited in 1896. In 1908 one of the brothers, David Alfred Thomas (later Lord Rhondda devised the plan to link the Cambrian, Glamorgan, Naval and Britannic Merthyr Companies together which gave them an undertaking which at that time was greater than any other in the Coalfield.

The Glamorgan Coal Company

Archibald Hood (1823 to 1902) was the son of a colliery manager in Kilmarnock in Scotland. He became a mining engineer and colliery manager in South Ayrshire before coming to south Wales in 1860. He bought a lease for mineral rights in 1862 under Gilfach Goch and formed a company called Ely Valley Coal Company Limited. Further properties were then leased in the Rhondda Fawr Valley and in July 1862 the Nos. 1 and 2 Pits at Llwynypia were sunk to the Nos. 2 and 3 Rhondda seams.

The Glamorgan Coal Company was then formed with a Board consisting of; Archibald Hood, G. Mitchell Innes, WS. Innes, H.M. Innes, Archibald Campbell, John Campbell and James Campbell In 1864 a decision was made to go for the steam coal seams and the lease was extended, the company then obtained a mineral lease at Tyntyla and in 1872 sunk the Nos. 4 and 5 pits followed in 1876 by the No.6 Pit. Archibald Hood died in 1902 and control of the company passed to his son, William Walker Hood, in 1907 he sold out and the Glamorgan Coal Company came under the control of the Cambrian Group. At that time production stood at 950,000 tons of coal. William Walker Hood died when he fell out of a train near Swindon in 1922.

The Naval Colliery Company

This company was formed by Moses Rowlands who was the major shareholder in the Penygraig Coal Company. In 1875 he started to sink the Pandy Pit to the Pentre seam. This seam proved to be unsatisfactory and the pit was abandoned in 1878. It was then re-opened and sunk to the Upper-Nine-Feet seam to a depth of 1,241 feet in 1879.

Mr. Rowlands, due to financial difficulties, lost control of the Pandy Pit to the New Naval Collieries Company Limited who in October 1887 extended the mineral lease for the company. The Board for this company consisted of Messrs. Hunt, Wood and Gregson. They then purchased the Adare Level and opened three new pits; the Ely, Nantgwyn (1892) and Anthony (1910). The New Naval Collieries became part of the Cambrian Combine in 1908 when it employed 2,640 men and produced 595,000 tons of coal.

The Britannic Merthyr Coal Company Limited

This company had purchased the Britannic Colliery from the Dinas Main Company and was brought into the Combine in 1910. It had a mineral lease for an area of over 2,000 acres at the extreme end of the Gilfach Goch Valley and worked it from the Britannic and Trane Collieries.

Some Notable Dates

  • 1895 – Cambrian Collieries Limited formed.
  • 1907 – Formation of the Cambrian Trust Limited. Acquisitions of the Albion Steam Coal Company and the Glamorgan Coal Company.
  • 1908 – Acquisition of the New Naval Collieries Company.
  • 1910 – Acquisitions of; Britannic Merthyr Coal Co. Ltd. Fernhill Collieries Co. Ltd.
  • 1911 – Acquisition of; Cynon Colliery Ltd, Celtic Collieries Ltd.
  • 1913 – Consolidated Cambrian Limited formed.
  • 1916 – Acquisitions of; David Davis and Sons Limited, North’s Navigation Collieries Limited, International Coal Company, Imperial Navigation Coal Company, Welsh Navigation Steam Coal Company, Gwaun-cae-Gurwen Coal Company Limited.
  • 1929 – Merged into Welsh Associated Collieries Limited.
  • 1935 – Welsh Associated Collieries Limited merged with the Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Company to form the Powell Duffryn Associated Collieries Limited.

This information has been provided by Ray Lawrence, from books he has written, which contain much more information, including many photographs, maps and plans. Please contact him at welshminingbooks@gmail.com for availability.

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