Beddau, Near Pontypridd (06618639)

Sinking was commenced approximately two miles south of Pontypridd in 1909 by the Great Western Colliery Company Limited, the first sod was cut by Mrs. C.H. James the wife of the managing director, also in attendance were Lady Margaret and Lady Mildred Bramwell who presumably the shafts were named after. H. Bramwell was the first manager. Two shafts were sunk; the Mildred and Margaret pits, with the largest pit bottoms in the South Wales Coalfield being constructed.

Sinking operations were still continuing in 1913 when the pit employed 212 men. The sinkings were completed in 1914, with the Margaret Pit being sunk to a depth of 2,384 feet 9 inches. This was the No.1 or downcast ventilation pit and was 24 feet in diameter, it was capable of raising six tons of coal per wind in four trams on one deck.

On the 28th of January 1912, Richard Morris, aged 26 years, and a sinker in the Mildred Pit, fell off the scaffold he was working on, and was drowned in the sump of water at pit bottom.

The Mildred Pit was sunk to a depth of 2,315 feet 9 inches and was the No.2 or upcast ventilation pit and was 20 feet in diameter. It had double-deck carriages. The Pits were twenty yards apart with the headgear being 70 feet high.

The Five-Feet seam was worked at a thickness of 45 inches. The Middle and Upper-Seven-Feet seams combined were called the Middle Five-Feet seam at this pit and had a thickness of 28 inches. The Yard seam was called the Upper-Five-Feet seam and was worked at a thickness of 66 inches. The Bute seam was worked and had a thickness of 69 inches. The Upper-Nine-Feet seam was called the Six-Feet seam at this colliery and was worked at a thickness of 54 inches. The Upper-Four-Feet seam was worked at a thickness of 51 inches. The Lower-Four-Feet seam had a thickness of 34 inches. The No.3 Rhondda seam had limited workings at a thickness that varied from 19 inches to 43 inches. Based on the Nine-Feet seam this colliery’s coals were classed as type 301B Prime Coking Coals and used for foundry and blast furnace coke. In 1918 it employed 459 men underground and 144 men on the surface with the manager being Isaac Rees. He was still the manager in 1923.

In January 1920 it was reported that Samuel Mead, a miner, had devoted all his spare time for seven years to making a working model of this colliery. It weighed one ton and was nine feet long. As well as detailing all the surface buildings and equipment, he also displayed the underground workings using real coal, model engines and engine drivers, two different methods of coal faces, and every conceivable part of the mine including model miners and electric lighting on the surface. The model was displayed in Merthyr.

In 1926 the Cwm Colliery Silver Band was formed by John Thomas. The manager in 1924/32 was John Evans.

The Great Western Colliery Company Limited had been incorporated in 1890 to sink pits in the Pontypridd area to provide steam coals for the Great Western Railway. In 1928 it became a subsidiary of the Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Company Limited, and in 1934 its directors were; E.L. Hann, W.R. Hann, Sir Frances Kennedy McLean and Evan Williams. The Great Western Company owned three collieries employing 2,270 men who produced 650,000 tons of coal in that year.

This pit was temporarily closed between June 1927 and April 1929 due to poor trading conditions. During this time a link was made with the Maritime Colliery with the intention of diverting Maritime’s coal output to the Cwm shafts. In 1931 a 1,100 yards long tunnel was driven to link the pit with Maritime Colliery.

By 1934 the pit was in full production employing 100 men on the surface and 780 men underground working the Six-Feet and Four-Feet seams. There were 36 coke ovens at the surface of the mine. The manager was T. Powell. In 1938 the Mildred Pit employed 448 men underground and 17 on the surface and the Margaret Pit employed 616 men underground and 93 men on the surface. The manager was W. Hannaford while in 1943/5 it was D.L. Jones. At that time the Margaret Pit employed 365 men working underground in the Six-Feet, Five-Feet and Four-Feet seams and 93 men on the surface and the Mildred Pit employed 586 men working underground in the Six-Feet, Four-Feet, Nine-Feet and Upper-Five-Feet seams.

Cwm Colliery came under National Coal Board control following Nationalisation in 1947 when it was placed in the South Western Division No.3 Area. Manpower now stood at 67 on the surface and 325 underground at the Margaret Pit, and 137 on the surface and 607 underground in the Mildred Pit. The seams being worked were the Six-Feet, Four-Feet and Five-Feet. The manager was D. L. Jones who was still there in 1949.

The Times newspaper dated the 2nd of April 1953 reported that:

Plans are now virtually complete for the £6m, scheme for the re-organisation and development of Cwm Colliery, in the No.3 (Rhondda) area of the South-Western Division of the National Coal Board. The colliery Lies on the southern limb of the coalfield between Pontypridd and Llantrisant and has a proved area of coal of more than 150m, tons, sufficient to provide an annual output of 1,250,000 tons of saleable coal for more than a century. It is planned to have an output of 5,500 tons a day when the undertaking is in full operation, and more than 3,000 men will be employed. The coal at Cwm is eminently suitable for the production of high-grade metallurgical coke, and it is hoped that almost half of the output will be treated at a coke and by-product plant to be set up on site near the colliery. Instead of tubs now commonly used, which carry normally 25cwt, of coal, mine cars, with a capacity of six tons each will carry the coal to the shaft bottom. At the pit-bottom, the mine cars are to be tipped by a rotary machine and the whole then elevated by a conveyor to a skip plant, which will be winding from a depth of 739 yards. More than 600 tons can be passed up the shafts every hour.

Work on the development project is already in hand, and it is planned that the skip shall be put into service during the 1954 holiday period, using the present steam winding engines for the time being. The project is scheduled to come into full operation in 1958. 

The fully automatic, 11,000 volt skip winder was the latest and most up to date model with dynamic braking and automatic speed control.

Pit Bottom

The seams worked in 1954 were the Six-Feet and Upper-Nine-Feet, with the pit employing 243 men working at the surface of the mine and 1,103 men working underground. It was in the No.3 Areas Group No.2. The manager was now J.J. Lewis.

Meanwhile, they were having problems with the old winding system, and on the night 23rd of December 1955, the two cages in the shaft collided causing the men to escape by another route and for the dayshift being sent home. There was more trouble with the winding system on the 21st of August 1956, fifteen men were being lowered to begin the dayshift when the cage started to dangerously increase its speed which caused the emergency brake to come on. Although the NCB claimed to have fixed the problem both the day and afternoon shift men returned home.

In 1955 out of the total colliery manpower of 1,308 men 518 of them worked at the coalfaces, this figure dropped slightly to 489 men on the coalfaces in 1956 but rose to 548 men on the coalfaces in 1958.

An example of the many individual fatalities at this, and other collieries, was the case of Charles Lovell aged 67 years and a rider at this colliery who was injured on the 6th of December 1955 and died on the 17th of December 1955 due to a haulage accident.

Cwm Colliery was linked by underground roadway to Coedely Colliery in 1953, after five years of tunnelling the link was made two miles from Coedely and one mile from the Cwm shafts on the nightshift of the 25th/25th of June.

In 1956 extensive modernisation mentioned by the newspaper and costing £9 million was carried out at the pit with skips installed in the Margaret shaft, these fully automatic skips were claimed to be the largest in existence and needed a 3,000 h.p. motor to operate them. The capacity was 80 men or 12 tonnes of materials per wind. It could raise 550 tonnes of coal per hour from a depth of 739 yards with a winding cycle of 85 seconds. The Mildred or No.1 shaft was used for both men and supplies and had a new 1,800 hp winding engine installed and had double-decked carriages that could operate from three different levels.

In 1956 Cwm employed 548 men on the coalfaces, 1,457 men underground, and 120 contract workers constructing stone headings and roadways.

In 1958 Cwm and Coedely were merged to create the largest colliery in the South Wales Coalfield. At that time Coedely was working the Gorllwyn seam and produced 66% of the Combines output, its workings were 6,000 yards from Cwm’s Shafts. It was planned to raise 5,500 tons of prime coking coal every day from a reserve estimated at 150 million tons. Manpower was planned at 3,000 men.

Five workable seams occurred within a vertical depth of 120 yards and it was anticipated to mine them all, working the top seams first and transferring the coal by spiral shutes to the bottom seam where double-ended diesel locomotives worked on roadways that were 16 feet wide and 13 feet high.

In all, there were 16 staple pits, the deepest 120 yards. The third north-west level was the link up to Coedely. Stations to load up to 2,000 tons daily will be at the bottom of each spiral chute, Six-ton capacity box-type cars, the largest in the U.K. are hauled, twenty at a time, by diesel locomotives of 102 h.p. and fifteen tons in weight, with a top speed of 7 m.p.h. From the mine car, the coal goes to a rotary tippler and then an elevated conveyor takes it to skips in the shaft of 12 tons. The shaft can wind 600 tons per hour. The skip winding plant is believed to be the largest in the world and is driven by a 3000 h.p. motor.

The construction of the massive Coke Works was also started around this time and completed in 1958. In 1981 another £20,000,000 was invested in this works which then gave employment to 300 men and produced 325,000 tonnes of coke.

The 900 h.p. surface fan was capable of producing 450,000 cubic feet of air every minute. While the shaft pumps pumped up the pit 120,000 gallons of water every day.

In 1961 both the pits were still in the No.3 Rhondda Area’s, No.2 Group, along with Maritime Colliery. The total manpower for the Group was 2,922 men, while the total coal production amounted to 569,721 tons for that year. The Group Manager was J.J. Lewis, while the Area Manager was G. Blackmore.

In 1966 the surface of Coedely and underground roadways were extensively reconstructed.

In 1969/70 the manager was T. Pugh, with, at that time, was working the Six-Feet, Lower Nine-Feet, Bute and Yard seams while the Coedely section was working the Six-Feet and Yard seams. In 1971/80 the manager was B. Williams.

In 1974 the market for coking coals in South Wales stood at 4.6 million tons a year, the NCB predicted that this figure would rise to between 5.5 and 6.5 million by 1980. To increase the output of coal from the coking coal pits the NCB made certain proposals including driving two 1,600 metre drifts from existing workings into an area east of the pit in which boreholes had proved a reserve of 9 million tons. One road would be for the trunk conveyor and the other a locomotive road for transporting men and materials. The cost was estimated at £2 million with a projected annual output of 550,000 tons and an output per manshift of 36.6 tons.

In 1978 there were six coalfaces in operation giving an output per manshift of 5.1 tonnes on the coalface and of 1.38 tonnes overall. The seams being worked were the Yard, Six-Feet and Five-Feet. At that time the colliery’s mineral take was around eight miles square with fifteen miles of roadways and six miles of conveyors in use. Further investment of £2.7 million was put into the combine to drive roadways into new reserves.

In 1981 Cwm/Coedely worked five coalfaces in the Five-Feet and Six-Feet seams. The Six-Feet seam had a section of between 1.35 metres and 1.82 metres, and the Five-Feet seam was with a section of between 1.48 metres and 1.6 metres. Coalface length varied from between 120 metres and 200 metres, with coal cutting by ranging drum shearers and coalface roof support by the self-advancing type. The expected output per manshift on the coalface was 6.64 tonnes, and overall 1.96 tonnes.

Driving through the faulty ground

The saleable yield of coal was 70% of the total output. Manpower deployment was; development 232, coalfaces 329, others underground 387, on the surface of both mines, 218. The manager was still B. Williams. The coalfaces in the Six-Feet seam were prefixed by a “6” or a “4” with the 630 coalface closing in July 1981 having advanced at an expected rate of 1.5 metres per day on a double shift basis. This face was replaced by the 631 coalface which was to advance at a rate of 1.24 metres on double shift producing 600 tonnes a day and had a life of 390 metres. The 60 coalface was expected to advance at a rate of 1.64 metres on a double shift basis producing 600 tonnes per day and closing in February 1982. It was to be replaced by the 61 coalface which was expected to advance at a rate of 1.43 metres on double shift also producing 600 tonnes a day with a life of 630 metres. The 481 coalface advanced at a rate of one metre per day on double shift giving a daily tonnage of 450. It was expected to close in September 1981. This one was to be replaced by the 482 coalface which had a life of 500 metres with a daily output of 350 tonnes. In the Five-Feet seam, the coalfaces were prefixed by a “5” with the 504 advancing at a rate of one metre per day on a single shift producing 350 tons a day and closing in July 1981. It was to be replaced by the 505 coalface which was also expected to advance one metre per day. This coalface had a life of 600 metres.

In 1983 Cwm/Coedely Colliery was losing £7.80 for every tonne of coal that it produced and employed 1,274 men.

Following the return to work after the 1984 strike, this colliery had a disappointing start, and by the end of April there were still adverse roof conditions affecting the 482 and 634 coalfaces, and the 62 coalface had yet to produce a single tonne of coal due to a roadway crush. The results from the other two coalfaces, the 505 and 506 were disappointing and total output only reached 64% of expected levels.

Following the strike, attempts to develop the Six-Feet seam hit severe geological difficulties and during the first six months of 1986 the pit lost £7 million or a loss of £67 per ton produced.

Cwm Colliery, with the exception of anthracite, produced coals that covered the whole spectrum of the types of coals in the South Wales Coalfield; coking, gas, house, steam and manufacturing. The last coalfaces to have worked at this mine were the; 482, 485 and 484.

The No.3 Rhondda seam was abandoned in 1945. The Upper-Four-Feet seam was abandoned in October 1958, the No.2 Rhondda seam was abandoned in December 1960, the Two-Feet-Nine seam in January 1964, the Lower-Four-Feet in February 1920, the Yard seam in March 1980, and finally on closure the Five-Feet, Upper-Nine-Feet, Six-Feet, Lower-Nine-Feet and Bute seams were abandoned.

The Coedely section of the mine was closed in April 1985 and the Cwm section on November 28th 1986.

Some Statistics:

  • 1912: Manpower: 189.
  • 1913: Manpower: 212.
  • 1915: Manpower: 220.
  • 1916: Manpower: 220.
  • 1918: Manpower: 603.
  • 1920: Manpower: 730
  • 1922: Manpower: 850.
  • 1923: Manpower: 940.
  • 1924: Manpower: 1,180.
  • 1925: Manpower:1,023.
  • 1926: Manpower:1,023.
  • 1927: Manpower: 1,057.
  • 1928: Manpower: 1,000.
  • 1929: Manpower: 173.
  • 1930: Manpower: 978.
  • 1931: Manpower: 878.
  • 1932: Manpower: 837.
  • 1933: Manpower: 937.
  • 1934: Manpower: 529.
  • 1935: Manpower: 880. Output: 250,000 tons.
  • 1937: Manpower: 1,222.
  • 1938: Manpower: 1,274.
  • 1940: Manpower: 1,230.
  • 1941: Manpower: 1,186.
  • 1942: Manpower: 1,188.
  • 1943: Manpower: 1,154.
  • 1944: Manpower: 1,141.
  • 1947: Manpower: 1,136.
  • 1948: Manpower: 1,100. Output: 330,000 tons.
  • 1949: Manpower: 760. Output: 298,000 tons.
  • 1950: Manpower: 1,149.
  • 1954: Manpower: 1,346. Output: 263,974 tons.
  • 1955: Manpower: 1,303. Output: 256,187 tons.
  • 1956: Manpower: 1,381. Output: 298,606 tons.
  • 1957: Manpower: 1,466. Output: 298,871 tons.
  • 1958: Manpower: 1,457. Output: 270,291 tons.
  • 1960: Manpower: 1,470. Output: 324,794 tons.
  • 1961: Manpower: 1,463. Output: 300,275 tons.
  • 1962: Manpower: 1,703.
  • 1969: Manpower: 2,134.
  • 1970: Manpower: 1,926.
  • 1971: Manpower: 1,854.
  • 1972: Manpower: 1,783.
  • 1974: Manpower: 1,580. Output: 515,000 tons.
  • 1976: Manpower: 1,774.
  • 1978: Manpower: 1,565. Output: 405,000 tonnes.
  • 1979: Manpower: 1,358. Output: 473,000 tons.
  • 1980: Manpower: 1,342. Output: 472,727 tons.
  • 1981: Manpower: 1,166.
  • 1986: Manpower: 1,259.


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

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