Site of Cwmcarn Colliery
It may seem hard to believe today, but the green and peaceful area around Cwmcarn Visitor Centre hosted the surface buildings and equipment of Cwmcarn Colliery until 1968. Before the mine shaft was capped, miners’ lamps and other objects were thrown down it to prevent anyone benefitting from selling them.
If you’ve just scanned the QR codes at the picnic area, you’re now in the vicinity of the pithead and shaft (the vertical tunnel which gave access to the coal deep below). If you’ve scanned the codes at the visitor centre, look at the level area around you and try to picture it covered with railway sidings, and imagine the constant noise of steam engines and coal wagons moving around.
The shaft at Cwmcarn was sunk in 1876-77 to ventilate the underground workings of the Prince of Wales Colliery in Abercarn. On 24 July 1876 an explosion killed three men as they were lowered down the shaft, which had been dug to a depth of c.150 metres. The men should have been using safety lamps instead of naked lights, but Thomas Jones and Henry Atkins, both of Risca, were killed instantly when the flame from a candle ignited gas in the shaft.
William Williams of Cwmcarn died of his injuries soon after being returned to the surface. The press noted that the accident had happened close to the site of the dam burst which had killed 12 people a year earlier.
A third tragedy would soon strike the community. In 1878, an explosion in the Prince of Wales Colliery killed 268 men and boys. Rescuers entered the workings via the Cwmcarn shaft.
Cwmcarn Colliery operated separately from 1912. At its zenith it produced 1,000 tons of coal daily, hewn and processed by 700 employees. It was the first pit in South Wales to use electric machinery. Pit ponies continued to haul coal drams underground until 1965.
The National Coal Board closed the colliery in 1968. Shortly before the shaft was capped, miners’ lamps and other saleable items were taken from the pithead buildings and loaded into drams, which were then freewheeled into the shaft. Police were in attendance, because the redundant miners felt they should be allowed to retain their lamps as keepsakes.
The colliery buildings were demolished in 1972, when work began on reclaiming the area and creating the popular Cwmcarn Forest Drive, more than 10km long. Forestry has been a feature of the area since the first trees were planted in 1922. Today visitors explore the forest in cars, on bicycles or on foot.
With thanks to David Jandrell
Postcode: NP11 7FA View Location Map