Cwmllynfell and Ystradowen Coal Mining Heritage Trust

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The Clink Pit
Cwmllynfell Colliery 

The Cwmllynfell and Ystradowen Coal Mining Heritage Trust exists to preserve and promote the interest in the coal mining history, of Cwmllynfell and surrounding areas.

Cwmllynfell Colliery [1820-1959].

Introduction.

1820. Cwmllynfell Colliery [was known locally as the Clink] it had a long mining history which can be traced back through the centuries to the first official mention of mining in this area the Colliery was an anthracite drift mine and commenced operations in that year.

1825. Unfortunately, five years later fifty-nine men were killed in an explosion at the mine. [There is no recorded information that can substantiate this as being a true fact].

1849/53, to illustrate local wage levels, at Cwmllynfell colliery a collier earned between 17 shillings and £2.4.3d per fortnight, an overman £1..8...0 per week, a labourer 1/10d a day and a boy with horse 1/0d a day. 

The official Sliding Scale operated locally from 1862.

1853. Powell, Evan, 27 Jun 1853, Collier, Fall of roof.

1854. Lodwick, Thomas, 31 Aug 1854, aged 50, Collier, Crushed between plat-form and side of pit.

1859. Jenkins, Edward, 16 Jan 1859, aged 34, Pumpman, Fell part way down pumping shaft.

1860. In 1860, checkweighers were allowed, and in the 1887 Act, miners' pay depended on the amount of coal gotten by them. The amount of coal was ascertained by placing a weighing machine near the pit mouth. Checkweighers, paid for by the miners, checked the weights, but they were not allowed to interfere with the working of the mine.

1862, Swansea Vale Railway began to extend their railway from Ystalyfera to Brynamman, completed 2 years later.

1864. In the 1864 Act, the number of hours underground was reduced from twelve hours to ten hours a day. This Act was not vigorously enforced.

1865. Williams, Isaac, 13 May 1865, aged 19, Collier, fell from carriage whilst assisting pit carpenter to repair shaft.

1868. Jones, Jonah, 16 Apr 1868, aged 13, Labourer, Killed by trams on engine plane.

1869. Jones, R., 19 Jan 1869, aged 13, Collier, Killed by trams.

1869. A signal boy was crushed between coal trams and the siding wall.

1869. Rowlands, Lewis, 23 Nov 1869, aged 48, Collier, Killed by a fall of coal.

1872. Edwards, R. Collier. killed by fall of coal.

1873. Williams, T. J., 03 Dec 1873, aged 28, Collier, killed by fall of roof.

1878. Slant No: 1 closed.

1880. the No. 2 pit was closed due to flooding.

Following the 19th century closure, it remained idle until 3.4.1908.

1908. Reopened employing 114 men.

1909. Cwmllynfell Railway Station opened to the public, previously opened in 1896 as Gwauncaegurwen Colliery Halt.

‘The Cambrian dated 9th April 1909.

"CWMLLYNFELL PITS. NOTICES EXPIRE •. TOOLS BROUGHT OUT.

The notices received by the workmen of the Cwmllynfell collieries expired on Saturday, and the tools were brought out. The friction has been very great lately and culminated in legal proceedings. 

The men were informed that operations would not be resumed unless the men agreed to abandon the crop workings, to abolish the stint, or the restriction the men have on the number of trains being filled per man per day; also, that Mabon's Day as a holiday be abolished, and that the width of the stalls is to be increased up to 8 yards wide, and also only huge coal to be filled out. 

The two sides met on Monday to discuss the matter in dispute. "

James and Aubrey worked the colliery for a long period.

1909. Rees, Thomas, 12 Nov 1909, aged 45, Assistant pitman, in a shaft; while engaged in releasing pulley-block ropes which had been used in lowering a steam pump from the surface to shaft bottom, the deceased was in a bowk disentangling a rope from the water column, when the rope due to its weight was drawn over the pulley at the top and fell down the shaft.

Rees either fell off the bowk in the jerk when the rope flew upwards, or when the rope fell down the shaft. The deceased fell 50 yards and was killed.

1912. Williams, John, 23 Mar 1912, (accident: 31 Jan 1912), aged 55, Fireman, he slightly injured his knee by falling on some surface rails. He died from septic poisoning and heart failure on March 23rd, 1912.

1913. The colliery now employed 125 men.

In 1913, Cwmllynfell Colliery was worked by Messrs. Ben Thomas and Sons. The National Coal Board found it uneconomical and closed it.

Cwmllynfell Pit B Thomas & Sons, Mount Pleasant, Swansea Manager; TGC Seymour, U/Manager Morgan Davies Workers; U/ground 100, Surface 14 Coal

1914. Harris, William, 23 Jul 1914, aged 34, Hitcher, He appears to have been carried up 5 or 6 yards by the ascending cage and crushed between it and the woodwork. It is thought the automatic catch, for holding trams in cage, failed to act, and in trying to right it before the cage went away, and after he had given the signal, he was carried up. 

1914. Morgan, Bertie, 31 Aug 1914, aged 15, Collier's Helper, Fall of roof near working place. Two other persons were injured.

1917. The colliery was managed by the Colliery Investment Trust Limited.

1918. The colliery employed a total of 155.

1921. Coal mining was a harsh, dangerous occupation. Poverty and hardship were rife. Mine workers were strongly unionised. They had already gone on strike against wage reduction April 1921 but failed in their demands and were forced back to work on lower pay.

1923. Cwmllynfell pit sunk.

1923. The colliery had a workforce of 285, producing anthracite coal from the big vein. 

1925. 30 June 1925, the mine owners demanded a further wage cut and an extra hour on the working day as coal was being produced at a loss.

1925. The colliery closed the ‘Big Vein’.

In 1926 they reached the Lower Seam having only worked the Big Seam.

There was a stoppage here in 1934

In 1932 Penry Davies was the previous manager, and Dan Bowen had replaced him - later on it was Dick Davies (20Mem)

In 1926 they reached the Lower Seam having only worked the Big Seam.

1926. General Strike.

On the 3 May 1926, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) called a general strike across Britain to start at one minute before midnight - the purpose of the General Strike was to obtain justice for the miners, miners had been locked out for refusing to accept wages of £1 11s 7½d.

The response of union members was fantastic: all ceased work when called upon, and practically none returned to work until the strike was over.

Coal miners had been locked out and after a long-running dispute with the government and with the mines’ private owners, who wanted them to work longer shifts for reduced pay. The miners' lock-out dragged on through the months of 1926 and was really petering-out when the decision came to end it.

St. Mary’s church hall, Ystradowen occupies the site of an old hut which was used as a soup kitchen for local miners and their families during the 1926 General Strike.

The bitter General Strike lasted 9 days and ended in betrayal and defeat of the miners. It divided Britain, brought the country to a standstill, and saw sporadic disturbances, vandalism and 9,000 arrests.

In October 1926 hardship forced men to begin to drift back to the mines. 

By the end of November most miners had reported back to work. Hardship forced men to begin to drift back to the mines.

 Many miners found they had no jobs to return to as many coal-owners used the eight-hour day to reduce their labour force while maintaining productions levels. Victimisation was practised widely.

Militants were often purged from payrolls. Blacklists were drawn up and circulated among employers; many energetic trade unionists never worked in a pit again after 1926. 

Following months of existence on poor lockout payments and charity, many miners' families were sucked by unemployment, short-term working, debts, and low wages into abject poverty.

Cwmllynfell Colliery had a poor industrial relations history (hearsay) but reopened 14.1.1929 after being idle fourteen months the men agreed to return to work on reduced pay due to the colliery being idle for 13 months.

By 1932 it was in the hands of Henderson's Welsh Anthracite Collieries Limited which was by that time a subsidiary of the Amalgamated Anthracite Collieries&nbsp Limited. Penry Davies was the previous manager, and Dan Bowen had replaced him - later on it was Dick Davies.  

1934. The Colliery closed in March 1934 and there is a reference "During the 1934 stoppage at Cwmllynfell Colliery....miners went up to the Black Mountain Colliery, it had closed some years before, but we entered the drift .... used a donkey to carry the coal down as far as Llwynrhitie where it was put on a cart pulled by a horse".  

1934. Work resumed on 21. Nov. 1934 after a lapse of eight months.

1935. The colliery employed 45 men on the surface & 170 men working underground on the middle & lower vein.

1937. The colliery closed again and reopened in Apr.1937 having been idle for fourteen weeks.

 1938. The colliery had 396 men, working on the middle & lower vein, seven years later there were 404 men employed.

1943. Bevin Boys scheme brought in, meant that one in ten men eligible for call up to the armed forces was chosen by ballot to work down the mines instead.

1944. "Under manager assaulted at Cwmllynfell colliery on March 9th, 1944 – the assailant fined £3 + costs.

1945. The colliery employed 323 men working underground on the middle & lower vein.

1947. Collieries were nationalised and was placed in the South Western Division’s No: 1, [Swansea area] of the National Coal Board]. At this time, the colliery employed, 71 men on the surface and 289 underground working on the middle & lower vein.

1951. On the 07th of June 1951 a fire in the middle vein stopped the colliery working and nearly closing it. The water pumps were turned off, which resulted in water reaching up to an inch from the ceiling in the coalface.

Eighty-Two [82] fully equipped rescue men sealed the district off until the fire had subsided.

It was established that the fire had extended 86 yards from the coalface and down the supply road, the fire was due to ‘Shot firing’.

1951. The colliery restarted work on the 12th of June 1951 and 350 men were. producing 250 tonnes of coal a day.

1955. saw the colliery employ 363 men, of which 165 worked on the coal face. These figures dropped to 313/142 respectively, by the following year and stabilised to 145 men at the coal faces the year before it closed.

1955. Colliery Yearbook shows the Managers Post as vacant. Manpower of 315 underground and 67 on the surface producing just 46,874 tonnes Saleable.

1956. The Colliery Guardian 'Guide to the Coalfields ' show I. Roach as Colliery Manager of Cwmllynfell.

1956. Cwmllynfell Colliery had a work force of 370, of which 319 workednunderground and 51 worked on the surface.

In 1956 'Go-slow' allegations by the NCB had been made against the neighbouring collieries of Pwllbach, Cwmllynfell and Brynhenllys.

1957. Saw the closure of the ‘Middle Vein’.

1959. In 1959 there was outcry over the closure of the Cwmllynfell anthracite colliery. This isolated village at the top end of the Twrch Valley now faced economic ruin. Cwmllynfell Colliery closed the ‘Lower Vein’ on the 02nd of February 1959.

The number of men who lost their jobs were 253 men underground and 41 men on the surface.