Marine Colliery 1989 Copyright © Roger Geach and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Marine Colliery 1989
Copyright © Roger Geach and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Cwm, Ebbw Vale (SO 1887 0397)

Link to map

The sinking of this colliery was started in 1889 by the Ebbw Vale Steel, Iron and Coal Company Limited and was completed in 1891. Its mineral take was bounded by Waunlwyd Colliery to the north, Pochin Colliery to the west, Roseheyworth Colliery to the east and Crumlin

Navigation/Oakdale collieries to the south. The downcast ventilation shaft was 18 feet in diameter and sunk to a depth of 418 yards. The steam winding engine had cylinders that were 42 inches wide and with a 72-inch stroke. The maximum winding capacity for this pit was 800 tons of coal per shift.

The upcast ventilation shaft was also 18 feet in diameter and sunk to a depth of 414 yards. The cylinders on the winding engine were 36 inches in diameter and with a 72-inch stroke, they could raise 1,000 tons of coal per shift.

In 1892 the chairman of the company reported that:

the Marine Colliery at Graig Fawr, upon which £120,000 has been expended, extending over the last three years, and which is now commencing operations, will ultimately be capable of producing 2,500 tons per day…

A third shaft was sunk in 1914 which was 70 yards further north than the main shafts, its depth and purpose are unclear but it never reached the steam coal seams. On the 8th of January 1914, the Times newspaper reported that the sinking of a third shaft had been started. It added that the Ebbw Vale Company was starting to electrify underground equipment with power being obtained from a central generating plant at Victoria. Ventilation was by a Schiele-type fan which had a 21 feet diameter and could produce 120,000 cubic feet of air per minute.

In 1896 it employed 748 men underground and 85 men on the surface working the Old Coal, Three-quarter, Big Vein and Elled coal seams. The manager was J. Jones. In 1900 the manager was J. Tinsley. In 1908 the manager was Thomas Jones. In 1913 the Ebbw Vale Company owned 8 pits employing 6,881 men, Marine Colliery being one of the largest of these concerns, the No.1 pit employing 923 men, and the No.2 pit 1,484 men with the manager being William Moore. Mr. Moore was still the manager in 1916. In 1918/30 the manager was E.J. Gray. This company was a member of the Monmouthshire and South Wales Coal Owners Association.

There was a fall of the roof on the 30th of June 1925 that killed two men and injured two others. They were engaged in repairing a drift in the Big Vein seam when the roof just suddenly collapsed burying three of them, the one man managing to escape with light injuries. The rescue teams went into action with a surgeon standing by and after five hours one man was brought out alive. The other two were already dead. Those that died were Charles Price, aged 40 years, married , and Edgar Francis, aged 36 years, and also married, both were repairers, and like the two that were rescued were from Cwm.

On the 1st March 1927, a methane explosion occurred in the Black Vein Seam at 350 yards down, killing 51 men. The full report can be found here.

In October 1929 the largest washery in the UK was constructed at Marine Colliery. On the 4th of November 1933 pit head baths were installed at this colliery at a cost of £26,000.

In 1934 the Ebbw Vale Steel, Iron and Coal Company Limited was still based at Ebbw Vale with the directors being; Sir John W Beynon, Sir Arthur Lowes Dickinson, David H Allan and Trevor L Mort By then it controlled five collieries producing 1,940,000 tons of coal and employed 6,020 men. In 1934 this colliery employed 210 men on the surface and

2,000 men underground with the manager being Hadyn Davies. In 1943 the manager was still Mr. Davies and this mine employed 1,245 men underground working the Old Coal, Black Vein, Big Vein and Three-quarter seams and 295 men working on the surface of the mine.

On Nationalisation in 1947 this colliery was placed in the National Coal Board’s, South Western Division’s, No.6 (Monmouthshire) Area and at that time employed 289 men on the surface and 1,225 men working underground in the Old Coal (Five-Feet/Gellideg), Black Vein (Nine-Feet) and Big Vein (Four-Feet) seams.

In 1951 the sparks from the winding engine’s brakes started a fire which completely gutted the No.1 winding engine house. It took just over a fortnight to repair the building and equipment and resume coal production.

In 1956 out of a total manpower of 1,211 men employed at this colliery, 384 of them worked at the coalfaces, the coalface figure increased to 422 men in 1958, but in 1961 out of a total manpower of 758 men working at this colliery, 265 of them were at the coalfaces. In 1958 the NCB estimated reserves of coal of 25 million tons for this colliery in the following seams:

  • Elled: None
  • Big Vein: 5,779,000 tons
  • Three-quarter: 2,274,000 tons
  • Upper Black Vein: 4,554,000 tons
  • Lower Black Vein: 5,453,000 tons
  • Meadow Vein: 4,466,000 tons
  • Old Coal: 2,490,000 tons

The pit was completely re-organised and it was decided to work the virgin southern half of its take in descending order beginning with the Big Vein. A 1,500 yard long road was driven into the seven feet thick seam and coalfaces were opened out mining only the bottom 64 inches of the seam by power loading. Methane gas was drained from the Black, Big and Old Coal seams in this area at a rate of 200 cubic feet per minute. At that time the washery was also washing Waunlwyd and Six Bells coal and had a rate of 150 tons of coal every hour.

Ventilation of the colliery was by a Walker double inlet fan of 17 feet diameter, electrically driven with a capacity of 300,000 cubic feet of air per minute. Pumping of the excess water up the pit averaged 256,000 gallons per day.

In 1961 this colliery was in the No.6 Area’s, Crumlin Group, along with Waunlwyd, Llanhilleth and Six Bells collieries. The total manpower for this Group was 3,333 men, while total coal production for that year was 824,000 tons. The Group Manager was L.G. Jarman, while the Area Manager was Lister Walker. In 1964 Marine Colliery was merged with the neighbouring Waunlwyd Colliery with Waunlwyd’s coal production being diverted by underground roadway to Marine’s shafts.

In January 1965 this colliery became the first in South Wales to have a remotely operated coalface (ROLF) installed. When the winding engines at Marine were electrified, two motors of 1,200 and 1,540 hp were installed. This gave a winding capacity of 18 men or 6 tons of material per wind the main shaft.

The pit came to a stop in early October 1965 when management refused permission for six men to light a fire on the surface of the mine near the washery to keep their tea warm and to dry out their clothing. The rest of the men, 640 in all walked out in sympathy with the men involved.

In June 1971 this colliery obtained an output per manshift of 53 hundredweights which was the best figure in the East Wales Area since it had been formed in 1967. At that time the Area average was 24 hundredweights. For the week ending the 15th of May 586 men produced 7,089 tons of saleable coal.

After forty hours underground on a stay-down strike, seven overmen returned to the surface on the 17th of February 1972. They were protesting over the NUM’s refusal to allow them to work during the NUM’s national strike over wages.

In 1977 following the link up with Six Bells Colliery and that colliery’s coal being diverted by underground roadway to Marine’s shaft it was found that Marine was struggling to raise the production of both the pits. Shaft capacity was increased to 300 tonnes of coal per hour by fitting double-decked cages at a cost of £90,000. However, production was still exceeding the shaft capacity and bunkers were installed underground and the excess wound on the night shift. In 1981 Marine Colliery was working the Lower-Nine-Feet seam at a section of 1.59 metres, the Four-Feet seam at a section of 1.75 metres, and the Five-Feet seam at a section of 1.6 metres. Coalface length varied from between 183 and 200 metres with all coal cutting being done by ranging drum shearers, and coalface roof supports of the self-advancing type. Output per manshift on the coalface was expected to be 11.08 tonnes, and overall 2.45 tonnes. The saleable coal yield was 80% of total production. In the Lower-Nine-Feet seam, the coalfaces were prefixed by the letters BL with the BL14 expected to advance 1.15 metres per day on dingle coaling shift giving a coal tonnage of 430 per day. Its life was 300 metres. This face was to be replaced by the BL15 which was expected to advance at the same rate but being slightly thicker would give 500 tonnes of coal a day. It had a life of 620 metres. In the Four-Feet seam, the B19 coalface was expected to advance at a rate of 2 metres a day on two coaling shifts giving an output of 960 tonnes a day. It had a life of 660 metres. Manpower deployment was; coalface 120, development 110, elsewhere below ground 217, and on the surface 120. The manager of that time, N. Mainwaring was very concerned about the shortage of manpower at this pit, he was not allowed to recruit new miners as part of the NCB’s Area run-down policy.

In 1982 the National Coal Board carried out extensive improvements to the colliery spending £2.5 million on improvements that included skip winding with 425 tonnes per hour capacity skips, an 800 tonne bunker at pit bottom, and a new coal preparation plant. These improvements eliminated the bottleneck at pit bottom and output increased from an average of 8,676 tonnes a week total for both collieries to 12,610 tonnes a week in total for both collieries. In 1983 Marine Colliery was making £5.90 for every tonne of coal it produced, the third-best performance in the South Wales Coalfield. Manpower at that time was 640 men.

The colliery recovered quickly after the 1984/85 miner’s strike and by July it was one of only six pits in south Wales that was making a profit with 90% of expected output being gained within a month with 6,000 tonnes of coal going to Llanwern Steelworks every week. Six Bells Colliery’s coal was diverted by underground roadway to Marine until Six Bells Colliery closed in 1988. In November 1988 British Coal stated that Marine Colliery had lost £12.4 million in 1987/88 and was in line to lose £13.3 million in the current year, despite union protests BC stated that they saw no viable alternative to closure.

On the 3rd of March 1989, British Coal announced that Marine Colliery would close with the loss of 758 jobs. They blamed geological difficulties but stated that there would be no compulsory redundancies with jobs being offered in other pits. Marine Colliery was the last deep mine to work in the Ebbw (Western) Valleys of Gwent when it was closed by British Coal in March 1989.

Attempted negotiations by the privately owned Ryans International to work the Meadow Vein (Yard/ Seven- Feet) seam reserves at the colliery came to nothing.

This colliery generally produced type 301A Prime Coking Coal which was used for foundry and blast furnace coke. The ash content was between 5% to 9% and the sulphur content was between 0.6% to 1.5%. In all, there was a thickness of coal of 63 feet, of which 41 feet was in seams of two feet thick or over.

Average sections:

  • Old Coal (Five-Feet/Gellideg) seam was coal 7 inches, stone 1 inch, coal 29 inches, clod 5 inches, coal 29 inches, clod 2 inches, coal 9 inches.
  • The Meadow Vein (Yard/Seven-Feet) was coal 32 inches, rock 9 inches, coal 12 inches.
  • The Upper Black Vein (Upper Nine-Feet) was generally coal 41 inches, clod 6 inches, coal 3 inches, coal 10 inches.

The Big Vein Group was:

  • Big Vein coal 69 inches, measures 15 feet 2 inches.
  • Three-quarter seam 42 inches, measures 22 feet 7 inches.
  • Lower Three-quarter seam, coal 13 inches, clod 4 inches, coal 9 inches, clod 24 inches, coal 28 inches.
  • The Elled (Two-Feet-Nine) seam varied from between 24 inches to 54 inches.

Some of the others that died at this mine;

  • 8/08/1892, John Harris, Age: 33: Sinker: An explosion of firedamp.
  • 4/01/1895, David Hopkins, Age: 28: Collier: While in the act of examining the roof (having stripped off the top part of a face slip of coal) it broke over the prop supporting it and fell on him, fracturing his spine between the shoulder also his right arm.
  • 8/02/1895, William Morgan, Age: 31: Roadman: Some roof having fallen adjoining where he and another timberman were engaged repairing. a stone rolled down over the timber and injured him. Consumption supervened and he died on the 16th of April 1895.
  • 9/03/1895, John Meyrick, Age: 42: Collier: While passing to the upper end of his working stall a piece of coal burst off the face and struck him on his right side forcing him against a prop fracturing his ribs and causing them to penetrate his left lung. He died on the following day.
  • 23/12/1895, James Tiley, Age: 31: Collier: Fall of roof from slips in the Old Coal. It fell from between supports while he was wedging down coal from the face.
  • 10/04/1896, John Edwards, Age: 21: Collier: Whilst getting coal in the face of the stall a large stone in from the roof fell on him and he died on his way home.
  • 17/05/1896, Boaz Henry Mason, Age: 24: Collier: Fall of roof at the face in Nottingham long wall.
  • 6/11/1896, Thomas John Jones, Age: 19: Collier: While filling a tram at the working face a large stone fell from the roof killing him instantly and injuring another collier named Bull. The place was well timbered.
  • 26/01/1897, Thomas Williams, Age: 39: Collier: Roof coal which was being drawn down fell suddenly and knocking him down.
  • 14/12/1897, Thomas Jenkins, Age: 34: Timberman: When with others cutting out timber to enlarge a level the timber gave way unexpectedly and let down about eight tram loads of rubbish. One of the timbers fell across his neck and suffocated him.
  • 15/3/1898, Evan James, aged 41, collier, roof fall.
  • 14/02/1899, Richard Bevan, Age: 25: Collier: Fall of roof from slants at his working face in front of a heading in consequence of insufficient timbering.
  • 3/07/1899, James Rich, Age: 27: Repairer: Fall of roof.
  • 26/02/1910, Thomas Retallic, Age: 38: Pumpsman: Crushed in gearing of a pump.
  • 8/04/1910, Edgar Tranter, Age: 34: Haulier: Fall of roof on road at a double parting where he was shoving a tram, a sudden squeeze appeared to have come on the road, which seemed to have been in good repair.
  • 18/01/1911, Thomas Griffiths, Age: 33: Rider: It is supposed he was riding on front of a journey of trams, and in going round a curve the tram left the rails and he fell off and was run over. Died 20th February.
  • 6/07/1911, A.J. Unkley, Age: 15: Asst. collier: Fall of roof on haulage road from an unseen slip.
  • 6/09/1912, Arthur Furber, Age: 15: Asst. collier: Fall of roof at face.
  • 31/05/1913, William George Bromley, Age: 15: Collier boy: Fall of roof in an airway. He was killed by being struck by a stone.
  • 18/06/1913, Walter Norton, Age: 31: Shackler: He was caught by a runaway journey of empty trams, which ran into the parting owing to the breaking of a shackle higher up.
  • 9/12/1913, George William Roffey, Age: 14: Collier boy: As he was on his way to the shaft he was knocked down and killed by a tram.
  • 23/06/1914, Frederick Sharpe, Age: 35: Collier: Fall of roof at face of workings.
  • 28/07/1914, Thomas Pugh, Age: 30: Labourer: Owing to some confusion in the signalling the hitcher knocked the cage away before he had a signal from the upper deck, and as the deceased was pushing a tram out of the cage. He was carried up some distance and fractured his skull.
  • 29/09/1914, Henry Applin, Age: 42: Collier: He was crushed against a post as a tram moved slowly in a “barry” face. He died from his injuries on December 28th, 1914.
  • 21/02/1929, James Shea, Age: 20: Asst. collier: Fall of stone from roof. Died 22nd of February.


Some Statistics:

  • 1894: Output: 254,000 tons.
  • 1896: Manpower: 833.
  • 1899: Manpower: 1,136.
  • 1900: Manpower: 1,146.
  • 1901: Manpower: 1,226.
  • 1902: Manpower: 1,474.
  • 1903: Manpower: 1,557.
  • 1905: Manpower: 1,720.
  • 1907: Manpower: 2,100.
  • 1908: Manpower: 2,418.
  • 1909: Manpower: 2,000.
  • 1910: Manpower: 2,498.
  • 1911: Manpower: 2,000.
  • 1912: Manpower: 2,317.
  • 1913: Manpower: 2,407.
  • 1915: Manpower: No.1: 938, No.2: 1690.
  • 1916: Manpower: 2,628.
  • 1918: Manpower: 2,336.
  • 1919: Manpower: 2,728.
  • 1920: Manpower: 2,566.
  • 1923: Manpower: 1,920.
  • 1924: Manpower: 2,064.
  • 1925: Manpower: 2,050.
  • 1927: Manpower: 1,970.
  • 1928: Manpower: 2,011.
  • 1929: Manpower: 2,000.
  • 1930: Manpower: 1,980.
  • 1932: Manpower: 2,050.
  • 1934: Manpower: 2,295.
  • 1935: Manpower: 2,210. Output: 600,000 tons.
  • 1937: Manpower: 1,885.
  • 1938: Manpower: 1,886.
  • 1940/4: Manpower; 1,750.
  • 1945: Manpower: 1,540.
  • 1947: Manpower: 1,514.
  • 1948: Manpower: 1,389. Output: 492,500 tons.
  • 1949: Manpower: 1,461 Output: 314,000 tons.
  • 1950: Manpower: 1,461.
  • 1953: Manpower: 1,272 Output: 371,000 tons.
  • 1954: Output: 309,000 tons.
  • 1955: Manpower: 1,189. Output: 299,650 tons.
  • 1956: Manpower: 1,211. Output: 273,233 tons.
  • 1957: Manpower: 1,166. Output: 248,431 tons.
  • 1958: Manpower: 1,121. Output: 257,344 tons.
  • 1960: Manpower: 816. Output: 222,000 tons.
  • 1961: Manpower 758. Output: 216,435 tons.
  • 1962: Manpower: 766.
  • 1969: Manpower: 612.
  • 1970: Manpower: 627.
  • 1971: Manpower: 577.
  • 1972: Manpower: 562.
  • 1974: Manpower: 564.
  • 1978: Manpower: 582. Output: 189,295 tons.
  • 1979: Manpower: 591. Output: 148,000 tons.
  • 1980: Manpower: 619. Output: 147,631 tons.
  • 1981: Manpower: 613.
  • 1984: Manpower: 640 1986: Manpower: 562.
  • 1989: Manpower: 648.

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


Return to previous page