Technological Changes and vested interests: plus ca change!!
We assume that technological change is new and has appeared in the last few years in our current digital age. In fact, it has always been with us and innovation is something which has caused change and innovation. The Neath canal was built between 1791 and 98 and ran between Briton Ferry and Oddfellows Street in Glynneath where it is still noted by the two cottages at Canal Place. The canal carried coal and other commodities including gunpowder and was at its peak around the 1840s before the arrival of I.K.Brunel's Vale of Neath Railway in 1851. Evidently, the railway afforded an easier mode of transferring coal to the exporting docks at Swansea and Jersey Marine( 1/3 of maritime coal in the nineteenth century was Welsh). The rivalry however, between the Canal and Railway is largely forgotten, but this would be untrue as this extract from the Aberdare Leader shows conclusively. The role of vested interests in maintaining an outmoded if profitable mode of operation is clear from the piece. Many thanks to Glyn Davies for this fascinating cutting.
ABERDARE LEADER 23rd May 1914 (Page 6)
ABERDARE LEADER 23rd May 1914 (Page 6)
Mr Stanton and the Use of Canals
The question of whether canals afford any effective competition with a railway company serving the same district was a matter again before the Select Committee of the House of Commons, presided over by Mr Soames on Monday on the resumption of the recommendation of the Great Western Railway Bill. This Bill amongst other matters, seeks powers to construct two small railways across the Neath Valley to assist colliery development on the west side of the valley.
Mr John Williams , MP for Gower, said there was practically a virgin coalfield on the west side of the Vale of Neath, and his opinion was that there were no facilities to get the coal away and had been responsible for the failure to develop the coalfield. The building of the railways proposed would enable the present output to be enormously increased. Witness said in certain circumstances it would be possible to ship coal by canal , but not by this canal. Given a canal 300 yards width and modern tipping machinery it would be satisfactory . But the Neath Canal could never be of any use.
Mr Charles B. Stanton, Miners' Agent for Aberdare and District, said he wanted to see these developments to take place because it would afford further employment and thus conduce to better conditions.
Answering, Mr Balfour Browne,KC, witness said that he did not think that canals as a rule were any use for traffic in these days. He like to use them, but to his mind they were only to use for boys to go "tiddling", in ( laughter).
Mr Rhys Howells, mining engineer and agent for the Aberpergwm Colliery, and Mr Daniel Davies of Messrs Daniel and Co, mining engineers of Swansea gave evidence in favour of the proposed railway facilities. The latter said that they were only waiting for the railways to be started in order to sink new pits.
Mr Thomas Jones, managing director of Rock Colliery Glynneath and Mr George Barnard, chairman of the Parish Council of Neath Lower ( which included Abergarwed at that time Ed.,) also gave evidence in favour of the proposed development.
This concluded the Great Western case.
Mr Talbot, KC ., then addressed the Committee for the opposition of Colonel Edwards Vaughan, stating that the effect of the Bill if passed and the railways built would be to enable the Ynysared Colliery Company to get the coal on to the railway without crossing his land. He would the lose the wayleave, which amounted to a about £600 a year.
Evidence was given by Colonel Edwards Vaughan D.L, K.C., J.P., in support of Counsel's statement.
Cross-examined, witness said there was a clause on his lease with the same company regarding the Glyn Merthyr Colliery Company, which bound them to send all their coal over his land and pay a 1d. a ton, but there was no binding clause with regard to Ynysarwed . There was no legal right to compensation, but he thought that he had a strong moral right to receive something.
Railway and canal at Abergarwed
The canal closed in the late 1920s though there is evidence of loads being carried as late as 1934.