*CANOE TRAINING DAY CANCELLED due to inclement weather  *



Canals and Coals


Tareni Colliery, The Mine, the Miners and Their Communities


Tareni Colliery Flyer


The Swansea Canal was one of the shortest canals constructed in the UK, only sixteen miles long, but conveniently situated in the Welsh coalfield in the mid Swansea Valley. It was one of the most heavily industrialised canals with over sixty companies using it to transport their products. Among those industries were twenty-two colliery companies who transported fifty million tons of coal to industries in the valley and to Swansea for export between 1798 and 1900. Clive Reed, a member of the Swansea Canal Society for the past thirty-six years, has spent over five years researching one of those coalmining operations. This was The South Wales Primrose Colliery Company which operated seven collieries in the Swansea Valley, the largest and most modern being Tareni Colliery. Clive has produced an authoritative history of this mine and of its parent company.

That Company took its name from the first mine of the group, and one of the larger coalmines using the Swansea Canal for transport, the Primrose Colliery at Alltwen near Pontardawe, opened in 1840 and that subsequently became The Primrose Coal Company in 1846. That mine had extensive coal wharves at Swansea for exporting its coal in addition to supplying industries in the Swansea Valley with that fuel. The Primrose Coal Company was expanded over the following years to include the Cwmnantllwyd Colliery, Waun Coed Mine, Rees’ Drift, Gwyns Drift, and eventually Tareni Colliery.

The Primrose Colliery and the Cwmnantllwyd Colliery were both at an elevation of approximately 300 feet above the valley floor and the Swansea Canal at Pontardawe, and were connected to the canal by means of inclined tramroads. The latter mine used an ingenious system of a self-acting winding drum to lower the full trams of coal to the valley floor and to haul empty drams back up the hillside.

The Primrose Colliery produced over 100,000 tons of coal between 1840 and 1860, all of it transported by Swansea Canal barges, whose carrying capacity was twenty-two tons of cargo.

Tareni Colliery was the last mine sunk by The South Wales Primrose Coal Company Ltd; between 1902-1904, and which used the Midland Railway to transport its coal instead of the Swansea Canal due to its location alongside the railway. The coals mined at Tareni Colliery were anthracite coals, Red Vein, Big Vein and the celebrated Peacock Vein. Those coals were used extensively at the nearby Mond Nickel Refinery at Clydach that required that high-grade coal in the production of nickel.

The publication Tareni Colliery is a technical, social, political and historical study of the coalmine and its parent company, and focuses on 100 years of coalmining in the mid Swansea Valley and beneath the mountains of Mynydd Marchywel and Mynydd Alltygrug on either side of the River Tawe.

This is a new publication on coalmining in Wales (2016) and is the first complete history of a coalmine in the Swansea Valley region which at one time boasted over fifty collieries. The publication contains eleven chapters that discuss the geology of the Swansea Valley region and the anthracite coalfield, the technical and engineering aspects of coalmining in addition to the social and political lives of the miners and their families. The earlier chapters discuss how the pits were sunk and operated, and describe the different types of mine equipment and how it was used both below and above ground. The uses for anthracite coals in industry, agriculture and domestic markets are discussed; specifically those of the nickel refining processes at the nearby Mond Nickel Refinery, whose parent Company eventually purchased Tareni Colliery in 1928. The markets for anthracite coals in Europe, Canada and the United States of America are outlined with their impact on the development of the anthracite coal industry in south Wales. The transport systems of canal, sea transport, rail and road used by the mines are discussed, some of which were innovative at the time they were in use.

Social issues are very well documented from reports in Llais Llafur, (the newspaper of the upper Swansea Valley region). The reports describe many bitter strikes that took place in the mining industry as Trade Unions attempted to unionise the workforce, and also the mine owners’ and the government’s responses to those actions, which resulted in the notorious and vicious strike of 1911 that witnessed violence by the police forces on an unprecedented scale against the wives of striking coalminers and watching bystanders. That prolonged strike led to the local newspapers outlining the effects of that strike on the families of those locked out of work by identifying hundreds of starving schoolchildren who were unable to attend school because of their under nourishment.

The many accidents and deaths caused by coalmining are described, along with the curse of “the dust”, the miner’s term for the silicosis and pneumoconiosis that damaged the health of thousands of coalminers in this region and that led to the untimely deaths of many of them.

Tareni Colliery has also been written from interviews with the few surviving miners who worked at Tareni Colliery and at the neighbouring mines, using their words and terminology, and from interviews with widows of miners and children of miners who had passed away before them. We are proud to have recorded for posterity the stories of those now elderly men, some of whom sadly passed away before this publication went into print, and of their wives and children and what some of them achieved in their communities. The book is hardback, 286 pages, sewn not glued, and contains 197 images, the majority of them previously never seen outside of the owning families. Clive Reed is the author of this work, but my wife Lynne Gent is the technical genius behind the design work and the laying out of the images and chapters.

Mr Stephen Hughes, B.A, M.Phil., FSA., F.R. Hist.S. Secretary-General of the International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage said of Tareni Colliery, “Some of the explanation of types of coal I have found impossible to define from standard works elsewhere and for the anthracite coalfield of South-west Wales this is a very valuable source”, and “Craft skills and artisan practices, unknown from other sources, are made clear here”.


ISBN 978-1-5272-0129-3, price £30.00, p&p £4.95. Please quote the following reference if ordering from this site SCSTARENI






WRG 19.7 (2)

The Swansea Canal should be a premier visitor destination.

Swansea Canal Society is applying for Welsh Government funding to regenerate the canal between Clydach and Trebanos.

SCS volunteers are already repairing the historic structures along the waterway. If our application to the Rural Communities Development Fund is approved, contractors will dredge the water channel under the supervision of Canal & River Trust staff.

The dredging will be the next phase of our vision to regenerate the historic waterway as a premier water-based activity centre.

A beautiful but underused canal is being transformed into a major visitor destination. This will help support local businesses by raising the profile of the rural areas of Neath and Swansea as a base for tourism, with more money spent in the local economy by visitors.

With a trip boat, a small boat Festival, canoeing, disabled angling, and high-quality interpretation of our valley’s heritage, the Swansea Canal will be an exciting place to visit, as well as offering healthy lifestyle activities such as walking and cycling.

As part of the application for funding, Swansea Canal Society must show that the project will benefit the local tourism economy.

If you know anyone with a business based in the rural areas, can you please ask them to show their support for this exciting project by completing a very brief response form at:-





We are  a society run by volunteers who are all enthusiastic about maintaining, improving and restoring the canal. We are always looking for new volunteers to help us in a range of ways from administration, fundraising, working on the canal, to working on our Canoe Hire Project. All abilities and ages are welcome.

Mike with his bag of litterWP 22.3 (2)








David rescued H&S training day.                      Walkers 18.8 (9) 
If you would like to join us in any capacity, you will be given a warm welcome. Just go to the Contact Us page and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

If you feel that volunteering is not for you, then perhaps you would like to support us by becoming a member. Whatever you decide to do, please come and visit the canal and take a walk or ride along it, and enjoy its beauty and the wildlife it supports.

Thank you for looking at our website and we hope you enjoy reading our blogs, looking at our photographs and seeing what we are doing.


Upcoming Events

Date/Time Event
10:30 am - 2:30 pm
Canoe and Kayak Hire
Coed Gwylim Park, Clydach Swansea