Gwaun-cae-Gurwen, Amman Valley

The last of the series of pits sunk by the Gwaun-cae-Gurwen Colliery Company in 1924, it was 400 yards from the Maerdy Pit and was completed on the 17th of December 1924. The shafts were 18 feet in diameter and sunk to a depth of 354 yards to the Lower Vein. The winding of coal was carried out from a landing at the Middle vein level at a depth of 340 yards. As it was the deepest of the Gwaun-cae-Gurwen pits all water was drained to its sump and pumped up from there. The headgear was 80 yards high and the pulleys were 16 feet in diameter. The cages were 13 feet six inches long and four feet wide with the trams holding two tons of coal. Compressed air was carried down the shaft in a nine-inch pipe which was then divided into two seven-inch pipes that continued to the east and west to operate the coal cutters. The formal opening of this colliery was carried out on Friday the 7th of October 1927 and was done by D.R. Llewellyn. By the time of the sinking of this pit the Company had come under the control of Lord Rhondda. In 1928 it became part of the mighty Amalgamated Anthracite Collieries Limited which by 1935 employed 20 men on the surface and 80 men underground at the Steer Pit.

On Nationalisation 1947, Steer Pit was placed in the National Coal Board’s, South Western Division’s, No.1 (Swansea) Area, and at that time employed 172 men on the surface and 590 men underground working the Middle, Black, Brynlloi and Lower seams. The manager at that time was E.J. Thomas.

Almost immediately a battle developed between the new NCB management and the men, in 1948 the Steer pit was temporarily closed due to alleged restrictive practices by the men, in 1949/1950 this pit was again closed for eighteen months, and on the 24th of April 1956, the men came out on unofficial strike over the sacking of some colleagues, with eight other anthracite pits coming out in sympathy. On the 11th of May 1956, the NCB gave notice that it intended to close the Steer and East pits from the 26th of May, stating that there had been 238 unofficial stoppages since 1947.

The NCB issued a statement saying; “owing to continued restriction of effort, lack of co-operation by the workmen and low productivity resulting in serious financial losses…Steer Pit will close on the 26th of May 1956.”

The situation at the colliery had become so bad that in 1954 each collier was only producing four tons of coal a week, with losses amounting to £3.07 for each ton of coal produced. In 1956 face output had dropped to 3 tons per collier per week and losses were £5.50 per ton of coal produced. Both pits eventually re-opened, with the Steer Pit finally closing in 1959. On closure, there were 315 men working underground at the mine and 59 men working at the surface of the mine.

For further details please see Gwaun-cae-Gurwen Colliery.

Some statistics:

  • 1923: Manpower: 30 sinking.
  • 1924: Manpower: 61.
  • 1927: Manpower: 100.
  • 1928: Manpower: 239.
  • 1930: Manpower: 100.
  • 1933: Manpower: 480.
  • 1937: Manpower: 532.
  • 1947: Manpower: 742.
  • 1948: Manpower: 759. Output: 120,000 tons.
  • 1950: Manpower: 81.
  • 1953: Manpower: 334. Output: 79,800 tons.
  • 1954: Manpower: 380.
  • 1955: Manpower: 391.
  • 1956: Manpower: 378.
  • 1957: Manpower: 407.
  • 1958: Manpower: 395.


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

Return to previous page