Ynysybwl, (ST 0629 9426)
This colliery was approximately 16 miles to the north of Cardiff. The colliery had a mineral area of 2,120 acres which was divided into two parts by the Ynysybwl geological fault. That fault was on a north-west to south-east angle about 400 yards to the south-west of the No.1 pit. There was a wide band of disturbed ground associated with this fault which created a down-throw of the seams to the south-west of about 200 yards.
The sinking of the Lady Windsor Colliery cost £95,875 and was started in 1884 and completed in 1885 after twenty months by Davies, Scott & Company, a company especially formed in 1886 by David Davies & Company to cover the costs of opening this colliery. The Ocean Coal Company took over when formed in 1887.
To accommodate the workers for this new venture around 300 terraced houses were constructed to form the shape of the crowded Ynysybwl of today, their closeness also formed the basis of the great mining communities that developed throughout the Coalfield, although no stranger could tell the difference between the rows of houses in, say, Llanhilleth, than those at Ynysybwl each community developed their own unique brand of existence that was based on caring and sharing with each other, and of a grim determination to bring a better future for their children.
By 1891 the population of Ynysybwl had risen to almost 4,000 souls, this huge increase in the population increased during the boom years of the Coalfield and was 5,150 in 1911. With the strikes and trade depressions of the 1920s and 1930s, the population dropped somewhat and had dropped to 3,950 in 1971.
Interestingly an article (undated) on early steam engines gives the title “Erected at Lady Windsor Pit, Black Rock Colliery”. The Black Rock bit is new to me but it links up to Graig Ddu as the area. This mine was sunk deep into the steam coal seams, mainly to work the famed Four-Feet seam which it found at a depth of 544 yards and with a thickness of 60”. The Six-Feet seam was found at a depth of 561 yards, and the pit bottom formed at the Nine-Feet seam level at a depth of 601 yards. The No.1 or downcast ventilation shaft was 19 feet in diameter and sunk to a depth of 600 yards, with the No.2 or upcast ventilation shaft being 17 feet in diameter and 620 yards deep. They were 82 yards apart.
The winding engine for the downcast shaft was constructed by Daglish & Co. and consisted of two horizontal cylinders 42 inches in diameter and with a seven feet stroke. The drum ranged from a diameter of 33 feet down to 19 feet. It was 13 feet 2 inches wide overall. The drum alone weighed 60 tons with overall the winding engine weighing 200 tons. It was designed to lift four tons of coal from a depth of 700 yards but due to the weight of the cage, ropes etc., the total weight lifted became 12 tons per wind. Ventilation was by a steam-driven Schiele type fan which was 14.5 feet in diameter, with a horizontal 26-inch cylinder which had a three-foot stroke.
Initially, underground haulage was by four steam-driven haulages with the steam conveyed down the shaft by 8-inch pipes. The No.1 haulage had two horizontal cylinders each 16 inches in diameter with a two feet stroke. It worked four drums each four feet diameter and two feet wide. The haulage system was electrified in 1924. There were also 80 horses employed to haul the coal to the engine planes.
Coal production started in 1886 and up to 1903 only the Six-Feet, Upper-Four-Feet and Nine-Feet seams were worked. It was opened up in the Upper-Four-Feet seam which had a section of Top Coal 18 inches, dirt 9 inches and bottom coal 50 inches, the seam was worked on the old longwall system with stalls 12 yards wide and cross-cut headings every 60 yards. In 1896 the manager was Edward Jones and in 1908 it was Morgan John.
This mine was served by the Taff Vale Railway and by 1897 the sidings capacity for the colliery was; 294 full wagons, 66 empty wagons, and 56 other wagons. By 1913 Lady Windsor employed 1,102 men with the manager being William Jenkins but in 1916/18 Morgan John was back as manager; he was still there in 1930. It wasn’t until 1916 that a 50 yard long heading was driven to join both pits to give the pumpsmen a second way out.
The Ocean Company certainly hit the jackpot with this sinking and came across some of the best, and most lucrative coal seams in the boilers, and particularly sought after by the navies of the world due to their capabilities of lasting longer, being smokeless, and giving that extra bit of zip to the ships speed. The likes of the Royal Navy and the Cunard Line of luxury liners were banging on the door for more. It is claimed that the profits from Lady Windsor helped and encouraged the Ocean Coal Company to purchase the nearby Deep Navigation Colliery.
In 1915 the Business Statistics Company, in its book called ‘South Wales Coal and Iron Companies’ reported that the Company was called the Ocean Coal and Wilsons Limited and that this company “was registered in March 1908, to acquire and hold all or any of the shares of the Ocean Coal Company Ltd, and Wilson, Sons & Co, Ltd, and any Company in which either of such Companies has or have any interest. The Ocean Coal Co, work 9 collieries…the normal annual output of the Collieries is about 2,500,000 tons of coal. Wilson, Sons & Co, has Coal Depots… In addition to their regular business of Coal Merchants and Steamship Agent, the Company owns engineering shops and foundries at Pernambuco, Dakar, Bahia, and Rio de Janeiro, and have executed many important engineering contracts.” The book continued to state that the assets of the combined company were £4,886,982 with profits of £301,266 available for distribution. The board of directors was; David Davies, Chairman, A.E. Bowen, William Jenkins, Edward Jones, Thomas Evans, Henry Webb, Alfred Harley, E.E.M. Hett and F.J. Yarrow. This company was a member of the Monmouthshire and South Wales Coal Owners Association. In 1920 the Company’s annual output stood at almost 2,250,000 tons of coal, and by this time the Company controlled the mineral rights to 15,000 acres and had an estimated reserve of 500,000,000 tons of coal.
Lady Windsor Colliery employed 142 men on the surface and 949 men underground with the manager being J.H. Jones. This colliery now had a ‘dry’ washery.
In 1931, Lady Windsor was among the first collieries in Wales to provide pithead baths and a first aid/medical treatment room. The baths were also available to the general public to use for between 1 and 2.5 pence. with the residents of the village were also allowed to use the baths for a small fee (3d to 6d). In 1935 the colliery was employing 142 men on the surface and 949 underground.
The recession of the early 1930s hit South Wales particularly hard. The unemployment figures for the early 1930s are terrifying; in the Rhymney, Merthyr and Aberdare areas in 1931, 37% were unemployed, this rising to a staggering 54% in 1934, when the situation eased somewhat in 1935 still 39% were unemployed and this was after around 7,000 men plus their families had left the area during this period. For all of Wales a massive 390,000 people left to find work elsewhere between 1925 and 1939 and it wasn’t until 1973 that the population returned to pre-1925 levels. It was only the re-armament and WWII that halted this despair.
The unemployment benefit was subject to a means test and anyone applying for unemployment pay had to have an inspection by a government official to make sure that they had no hidden earnings or savings, undisclosed source(s) of income or other means of support. For many poor people, this was a humiliating experience and was much resented by those who were destitute.
Amidst the trade depressions, Lady Windsor also hit underground problems; in 1931 the North Four-Feet District hit severe geological problems and was stopped, leaving the South Four-Seam working but with only 40 stalls. In 1932 they drove a cross measures drift from the Nine-Feet seam and down to the Bute seam which was a wise move due to in 1936 gob fires in the Nine-Feet seam causing the district to close. It was re-opened in June 1937. At that time the working stalls in the Six-Feet seam stretched for 793 yards but in the Bute seam conveyors were installed on shorter longwall coalfaces. It wasn’t until 1940 that conveyors were installed on coalfaces in the Six-Feet seam. June 1938 signified problems with selling the coal forcing the Red Vein and Nine-Feet workings to close.
On Nationalisation in 1947, Lady Windsor Colliery was placed in the National Coal Board’s, South Western Division’s, No.3 Area, and at that time employed 197 men on the surface and 801 men underground working the Four-Feet, Six-Feet, Nine-Feet and Bute seams. The manager was still T.H. Harding.
It had one of the most modern washeries in the U.K. About 150 tons of coal could be washed in an hour. First, the dust is extracted and the smallest particles of coal are fed onto the conveyor. The final sorting is in four sizes; less than 1.5 inches, 1.5 to 2.5 ins, 2.5 to 4 ins and 4 to 8 inches. Bigger coal went onto a handpicking belt. A new medical centre was opened in June 1949 by Mr. Aeron Thomas, the divisional director. He heaped raise onto Lady Windsor by stating; “If all our collieries worked with the same harmony and results as the Lady Windsor, many of the reasonable requests that have been put forward would have been easily within the power of the N.C.B. to accede to.”
A major reorganisation came about in early 1952 when three loading points were bypassed by a new 300 tons an hour conveyor belt that took the coal to the pit bottom where it was loaded into trams. It was also decided to open up the Nine-Feet seam. The result was that the colliery broke a 70 year old production record by winding 2,255 tons of coal in a single shift.
By 1954 manpower had increased to 959 men underground and 211 men on the surface with the pit producing 418,700 tons of coal from the Four-Feet, Nine-Feet and Bute seams. The manager was now T. Pugh.
In 1954 each coalface worker was producing 14.4 tons of coal per week which gave the colliery a profit of £0.90 per ton of coal produced.
The annual output per man at Lady Windsor 1955 – 1958, 1961. Figures are in tons.
- 1955 – 331.22.
- 1956 – 333.93.
- 1957 – 309.66.
- 1958 – 321.12.
- 1961 – 337.01.
By 1956 the Four-Feet and Six-Feet seams on the shaft side of the Ynysybwl fault had been almost exhausted and this colliery relied on the reserves in the Nine-Feet seam which the NCB estimated had 15 years of production left. In 1961 this colliery was still in the No.3 Area’s, No.1 Group along with Lewis Merthyr, National and Ty Mawr collieries. The total manpower for this Group was 3,157 men, while total coal production for that year was 961,855 tons. The Group Manager was J.H. Jones and the Area Manager was G. Blackmore.
To extend the life of this productive colliery underground boreholes were driven down which proved further reserves of 44 million tons of coal. In 1958, there were 50 contractors employed at Lady Windsor Colliery working on surface reconstruction and underground drivages which ultimately resulted in the complete modernisation of the colliery which included £4.5 million for a new pit bottom area, trunk conveyors and diesel locomotive haulage system in 1964. Although the NCB had invested heavily in this colliery they had failed to invest in improving the wages of the miner, and with cleaner, better paid jobs now coming, particularly at the new Treforest Industrial estate there was an acute shortage of labour at Lady Windsor. Refugees from Eastern Europe had provided some extra manpower and further men came all the way down from County Durham on the closure of their pits.
Two ten-ton, 68 h.p. diesel locomotives were supplied for the 630-yard horizon and were capable of hauling trains of 54 mine cars of coal or 27 mine cars of rubbish. The No.2 pit headgear was replaced by a stronger 123 feet high one, and the pit was deepened by 84 yards and equipped with a new skip that could raise 240 tonnes per hour from a depth of 687 yards giving a winding cycle of 90 seconds. The lower deck of the skip was hinged so that a platform could be positioned to carry 15 men.
The No.1 Pit was deepened by 89 yards. The No.1 Pit winder then had a speed of 30 feet per second and a winding time of 83 seconds plus a decking time of 15 seconds. It was capable of winding 37 times per hour with a capacity of 180 tons of rubbish per hour. The engine was 1,250 hp.
The No.2 Winder had a maximum speed of 36 feet per second and a winding time of 70 seconds and a decking time of 15 seconds. The 1,400 hp engine was capable of 42 winds per hour raising 240 tons of coal per hour.
It was planned to increase output to 3,000 tons of coal per day or 572,000 tons of saleable per year at an estimated output per manshift of 39 hundredweights, which was 10 cwt above the current levels. This was thought to be the maximum production figures available considering the diameters of the shafts and the ventilation system at the colliery. It concluded in the 1970s with two parallel roadways, one 1,000 metres and the other 1,500 metres long to Abercynon Colliery; they cost £450,000.
The link-up with Abercynon Colliery
Abercynon’s coal was then diverted by an underground roadway to Lady Windsor’s shafts. Skip winders were installed and the working level of the shafts deepened to 687 yards with the bottom of the sump being 720 yards deep. The 400-tonne capacity spiral bunker shaft that was installed was the first in the U.K. The NCB estimated that there were 20 million tons of workable reserves available to the complex in an area of about six square miles which was bounded by the Ty Mawr geological fault in the west and the Werfa fault to the east. In 1966 Lady Windsor Colliery became the first in South Wales (along with Treforgan) to use pocket radios underground.
In March 1968 this colliery was averaging a rather mundane 35 cwts output per manshift, but because the coal was so clean, and the ash content was very low it was one of the most profitable pits in South Wales.
In the early 1970s, it was decided to merge it with Lady Windsor Colliery. This involved connecting the underground coal transport systems of both pits and centralising coal winding at Lady Windsor which already had sufficient coal washing facilities. The cost of the scheme was £430,000 and it was estimated that this would yield an annual output of 340,000 tons of coal and an output per manshift of 1.75 tons. Abercynon was then linked by two parallel underground roadways (1,000 and 1,700 yards long) to Lady Windsor Colliery in 1975, with Abercynon’s output diverted to Lady Windsor’s shafts and the two pits merged.
In 1977 it was the safest pit in South Wales and the second safest pit in the UK. In 1977 and 1981 the NUM Lodge Secretary was Norman Goodair. In 1969/78 the manager was S.R. Rawlings and in 1979/80 it was G. Pritchard. A ‘merry-go-round’ system of loading the coal into British Rail wagons was installed in 1982.
In 1980 a £3 million scheme to open up reserves to the west in the Four-Feet seam was completed. The money was part of a £31 million payment from the European Coal and Steel Community and Lady Windsor/Abercynon was the only pit in the South Wales Coalfield to benefit from the grant.
In 1981 the combine was working the Seven-Feet seam at a section of between 88 cm and 102 cm, with coalface length being between 170 and 205 metres, coal cutting was by Gleithobel plough, and roof supports were the self-advancing type. The Bute seam had a section of between 107 cm and 123 cm with a coalface length of between 205 to 240 metres. The Four-Feet seam had a section of between 151 cm to 165 cm and a coalface length of 135 metres. The Five-Feet seam had a section of 140 cm and a coalface length of between 144 to 220 metres. Apart from the Seven-Feet seam all coal cutting was done by ranging drum shearers, with all roof supports the self-advancing types.
Output per manshift was 5.21 tonnes at the coalface and 1.32 tonnes overall for the complex. The coalfaces in the Seven-Feet seam on one side of the complex were suffixed by a 7, the 74 coalface advancing 1 metre a day on one shift and was expected to close in July 1981. The 75 coalface had a life of 570 metres and was expected to commence coaling at a rate of 1.91 metres a day on one coaling shift in February 1982. On the other side of the complex the Seven-Feet seam was prefixed by the letter B with the B6 coalface advancing 1.6 metres per day on a single coaling shift. It had a life of 1,190 metres and was expected to commence coaling in October 1981. The coalfaces in the Bute seam were prefixed by the letter P, the P12 was advancing 1.23 metres on single coaling and had a minimum life of 800 metres. The coalfaces in the Four-Feet seam were prefixed by the number 4. The 41, 42 and 43 coalfaces were expected to advance at a rate of 1.83 metres per day on double coaling shifts. The 41 was expected to close in December 1981, the 42 would then take over with a life of 530 metres. The 43 had a life of 600 metres. The coalface in the Nine-Feet seam was called the N15 and had an advance of 1 metre per day on single-shift coaling, it was expected to close in September 1981. In the Five-feet seam the V1 coalface was expected to advance at a rate of 1.4 metres on a single coaling shift and had a life of 700 metres, the V10 was planned to advance at a rate of 1.4 metres on single coaling with a life of 1,100 metres. The saleable yield of coal was 55% of total production. Manpower deployment was; coalface, 292, developing new coalfaces, 216, others working underground, 342, working on the surface, 305. The manager was G. Pritchard. This colliery was one of the few deep mines in South Wales to use underground diesel locomotives. In 1983 the colliery was losing £11.90 for every tonne of coal that it produced with manpower at that time being 1,116 men.
Following the return to work after the 1984/85 strike this colliery made a remarkable recovery obtaining 93% of expected production levels by the end of April 1985: Lady Windsor/Abercynon: Adverse roof conditions and horizon control difficulties on the V3 face were affecting full recovery; 93% of normal output had been achieved.
The combine managed to produce coal for almost another three years until British Coal could find a reason to close it. In the Autumn of 1987, the production targets for the colliery were raised with the stipulation that they had to be achieved by January 1988, Ron Price, the area director, bluntly stated that the decision would be made within hours of the target not being met. On top of this, a new coalface that was to be installed over the Christmas period was postponed making it impossible for the pit to continue.
Lady Windsor/Abercynon Colliery was closed by British Coal in February 1988.
Information supplied by Ray Lawrence and used here with his permission.
The plans below have been prepared by Lee Reynolds and used here with his permission.
Composite plan of all seams
4 Foot Seam
5 Foot Gellideg Seam
6 Foot Seam
7 Foot Seam
9 Foot Seam
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