Cymdeithas Hanes Resolfen History Society

A web log for the Resolven History Society which publishes articles and stories related to Resolven and the immediate surroundings.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summer Trip 2009

Summer trip 2009

In many ways this has been one of our most successful years as a History Society, however in one particular sense there has been a distinct lack of communication. Once again, the rugby union authorities have failed to give us advanced warning that the last Lions test in South Africa would clash with our annual history trip. Despite this, some twenty six members ventured on a mini tour of the Rhymni valley. Photo: Gwyn Thomas

Our first visit was the model housing at Butetown, Rhymni. This three row terraced settlement was built around the 1830s to service the local ironworks. The Rhymni valley had not developed as quickly as others nearby owing to the fact that a ready source of limestone was not easily accessible. However, the Marquis of Bute saw fit to build these model swellings (which were built around the same time as Robert Owen’s model town at New Lanark) even though he was not noted for his philanthropy. The dwellings are rather more substantial than is first apparent, since they are four or five stories tall, with the cellar used originally for a separate family of lodgers. Originally, y Drenewydd (literally “New Town”) also housed a museum and the Society is very grateful to Mr Steve Richards for opening up the old museum for our viewing. Y Drenewydd also contains an Anglican church and a public house. Eliott Colliery in its heyday.

The second stage of the visit included the highly impressive Elliot Colliery Winding House museum at New Tredegar. George Eliot, T.E Forster and William Armstrong had established the Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Company in 1884 (later nicknamed Poverty and Dole by their long suffering workers). They began their business venture by purchasing a number of pits from the Thomas Powell business empire. Amongst the pits purchased were the New Tredegar colliery and the White Rose Level. The company then went from strength to strength and sank other pits in the area including Bargoed, Britannia and Penallta Collieries.

The Elliot Colliery was sunk in 1883 (1320 ft) and a second shaft was sunk in 1888 (1590 ft). Following problems with underground flooding in 1891, a new winding engine was installed at the East shaft in order save the colliery and the company's investment. The colliery was very productive and by 1912 ( when the south Wales coalfield was near its peak in terms of production ) over a million tons of steam coal was being produced annually much of it for use by the Royal Navy. Following the First World War, production declined gradually and the Elliot colliery finally closed in 1967. In its final year the colliery produced only 50,000 tons yet still employed some 1200 men. However, the winding engine and winding house were saved and now form the main attraction of the museum. The newly refurbished Winding House Museum

The engine is now serviced by a group of enthusiasts who have restored it to its gleaming glory. The History Society were lucky enough to have the engine set in motion and its awesome power was obvious to all present. The driver, was essential to the running of the colliery and the winding house was often locked and a toilet installed so that he did not have to leave his post ferrying men and materials to the surface.

Following a refreshing cup of tea the members made their way to the ancient castle at Caerffili. It was gratifying to see that almost all the members now possess a Cadw pass which makes future excursions more economical to the Society. The elements were rather against us at this point and the local hostelries and Glanmor’s tea shop had a rather busy afternoon.