Tareni Colliery 1902-1949


This book is the story of a deep coalmine in Cwmtawe; the Swansea Valley, one of forty-six coalmines that were recorded as working in this valley in the period just prior to the First World War. Tareni Colliery worked at depths of up to 1000 feet below the surface in the disturbed geology underground that made mining coal difficult and dangerous in this region, and is the stories of the men and boys known as miners. That term took in the trades of colliers, miners, hauliers, timbermen, riders, engineers, winding men, blacksmiths, and many other trades employed in the coalmining industry. At its peak period of employment Tareni Colliery employed about 1000 miners, mostly underground, with nearly 200 employed on the surface in the preparation of coals for sale and transport. This is those miners’ story, put together from interviews with Tareni miners and mining families over the past five years. To mine the coals required a large amount of machinery both below and above ground and this publication describes those in detail.

This book came about quite by accident; it was not an intentional research project. An acquaintance of mine from years past loaned me the Sale Catalogue of Tareni Colliery after its bankruptcy in 1928. After having read the eleven-page catalogue, which was primarily on the equipment to be offered for sale with the colliery it immediately grabbed my interest. I had worked on conveyor systems in steelworks, on blast furnaces, on steam boilers aboard ships, in ship’s engine rooms, and in confined spaces below the cargo holds of many sea-going ships, and in pipework installation in industries and construction sites. I understood how the equipment listed worked and the terminology used in the catalogue. I was very heavily involved in the restoration of the Swansea Canal between 1981 and 2005, and carried out considerable research into the industries that formerly used the Swansea Canal for transport, including several collieries. I initially set out to write a short engineering type article for a local newsletter. All that changed as I spoke to friends whilst shopping, and many of them had members of their families who had worked at Tareni Colliery, and importantly, had a large number of documents and photographs of their family members. An added bonus to all of that was the records of the Cilybebill Estate housed at the West Glamorgan Archive Service. Those leases and agreements identified the coalfields and the problems associated with deep mining under Mynydd Marchywel, which were considerable. The intended short article became a five-year research project. However, the book was completed and is being printed and bound by Y Lolfa in Aberystwyth in October 2016.

The story of Tareni Colliery was a long one, it was owned by three different companies or industrial conglomerates over its lifespan of 47 years, commencing with the South Wales Primrose Coal Company Ltd who sank the Tareni pits, and then after bankruptcy in 1928 was owned by the Mond Nickel Company with a nickel refinery at Clydach who required top-grade anthracite coals for their nickel refining purposes. After nationalization of the coalmines of Britain in 1947 Tareni Colliery was owned by the nation. That did not save the mine from closure and the few remaining miners were given notice to quit their work in November 1948, with the mine finally closing in 1949.

Tareni Colliery is the history of 100 years of coalmining in the mountains of Mynydd Marchywel in the parish of Cilybebill and the nearby village of Rhos, and in Mynydd Alltygrug at Godre’r Graig with which the colliery was closely associated, both physically by road access and in the Company address. The Primrose Colliery at Rhos was the original founding colliery, which later became The South Wales Primrose Coal Company Ltd, who took out several new leases for coal at Waun-Coed and Cwm-nant-Llwyd before deciding to mine for coal at Tareni Gleision Farm, which became the Tareni Colliery, with two shafts named after the farm; the Tareni Shaft and the Gleison Shaft. The Gleison Shaft was the deeper of the two, and worked below the River Tawe to access the anthracite coals under Mynydd Alltygrug under lands owned by the Gough family of Ynyscedwyn Estate.

The communities that provided many of the skilled miners, many of who lost their lives in tragic accidents lived mostly on the eastern side of Cwmtawe between Clydach and Ystalyfera. This book is a tribute to the Tareni miners and their families and to the other miners who worked in the coalmines of the Swansea Valley.

It has been an honour to interview those surviving miners and the families of miners to learn what it was like to work in filthy dusty places underground where visibility was often two yards at the most, and to learn about the problems associated with the “dust”, the dreaded silicosis, pneumoconiosis and anthracosis, the miners diseases that killed and crippled thousands of miners annually. In addition to the dust problems were the added dangers of working underground in disturbed geology, with strikes, lockouts, mine closures, and, the bitterest strike of all, the 1911 Strike which saw the Metropolitan Police of London drafted into Cwmtawe to put down that strike. That was a bitter five-month battle, which saw women, men, and even children attacked by the police. Local miners leaders shone out in their eloquence and compassion during those sad times, yet, they are hardly remembered today.

Amidst all that struggle and poverty of the mining families artistic lights shone out from ordinary homes, like the man who became a champion judge of hens at national shows and who was respected by London chicken breeders attempting to improve the egg laying quality of chickens to feed the poorer families in Britain, or of “Llaethferch”, the young “milkmaid” from Godre’r Graig who sold milk from earthenware jugs on her way to school to help her parents pay for their smallholding in Cwmtawe. She loved literature and reading and went on to participate in local eisteddfods all over South Wales, and won a bardic crown, many bardic chairs, cups, and over three hundred awards for her poetry. Many miners became members of the Ystalyfera town and brass bands and were accomplished musicians. Other sons of miners became nationally respected artists.

Those and other interesting stories make Tareni Colliery a must read for everyone who had an ancestor who was a coalminer, or whose families lived in Cwmtawe between 1900 and 1960, or who have an interest of what happened in the near past history of this valley, or of the social injustices of the past, or who have an interest or love of local history.

The book is 300 pages in length, and contains 190 images of miners and miming families, mining documents and plans, photographs of the mine and its equipment, and contains eleven chapters. On Coals and geology, Tareni Colliery Above Ground, Tareni Colliery Below Ground, the Mond Years 1928-47, Transport – Rail, Road, Ropeway and Canal, Dust and Accidents, The 1923 Robberies, Strikes and other Disputes, Social Events and Recreation, The Closure of Tareni Colliery, and Godre’r Graig village.

The book is hard back and priced at £30.00, available from mid October onwards from Clive and Lynne, 01792-830782, or from lynnegent46@Gmail.com and from Clive’s stall at the Waterfront Museum Local Family History Fair on 15th October 10.00am to 4.00pm, and from The Royal Institution Book Fair at Swansea on 22nd October, 10.00am to 4.00pm, and numerous outlets in Pontardawe, Rhos, Clydach, Ystradgynlais and Ystalyfera including book signings at local libraries, and at local history society meetings. PP extra for those requiring a postal copy. This book is a must read, and we are very confident that everyone who reads this book will be captivated by it. This book will be a wonderful Christmas present for many.

Give us a ‘phone call to order your copy now.


Due to forces beyond our control we have had to change the time of one of Clive’s talks on Tareni Colliery at Clydach Library.
The talk on October 31st will now be in the morning at 11am, NOT at 1pm as advertised.
Apologies if any of you have to change your plans.

 Clive Reed and Lynne Gent 2016