The history of Osbourne House



Corner shopping

(From 'Through the Decades' ISBN 0 9524554 04 )

The extract  is abbreviated to the original data supplied by the family;

The history of Osbourne House in Garnant ................

Owner Mrs Margaret Evans was known as Mrs Evans Siop y Lamb or even Mrs Evans Siop Fach.
Her story began more than half a century earlier. In 1891, the mother of five children, she lost her husband after an accident in the tinworks. At that period, there was no compensation in such cases. The young mother brought up her family alone.

Margaret tackled the task with great energy and enterprise. When the railway line and viaduct were being constructed behind her house, she rose very early to bake individual small loaves, which she sold, with butter, cheese and cans of tea, to the navvies for their breakfasts.

A billiard room was built alongside. Siop y Lamb became noted for such things as quality confectionery, lovely Belgian dolls - and other toys - at Christmas.

Although she prospered commercially, Margaret Evans was not finished with tragedy. In 1895, one of her daughters died suddenly, a few days after her eleventh birthday. Another daughter died in 1913 at the age of 30, leaving an eight-year old son to be fostered. Her only son was killed in a car crash at the age of 34.

Margaret Evans survived until November, 1945, keeping an active interest in the business until the end. The shop remained open until January 1966, when it closed after the sudden death of Mrs Evans' daughter, Mrs Maggie Hanson.

No trace of the business now remains. The building was sold as a dwelling house. The billiard room has been pulled down to make room for a garage. Mrs Evans' descendants are scattered throughout Wales, England, Scotland and even New Zealand.

And yet the memory of the enterprise is not dead. There are several people who still treasure tea-sets and other articles of china from Siop Mrs Evans.

See photographs in Garnant section of Picture Gallery


Gwaith Y Lamb mine

There seems to be very little written about the coal mine named after the adjoining Lamb pub in Garnant.

The book History of Coal Mining in the Amman Valley by Ifor Davies mentions it in a short list of  'small mines in the area .... not having a long life......or employing many men...'.

It isn't listed by Joseph T. Robson, H.M.Inspector for the South Wales District in his Report for 1896.

Quite obviously, Osbourne House was there before the mine. It's hard to think that anyone would build a house knowing it would end up surrounded so closely on 3 sides by mining buildings, railway, dust and noise; indeed, the third photograph below shows clearly how the fabric of  Osbourne House's outbuildings had suffered.

The mine itself was on the Lamb side of the main road, a drift mine, under Betws Mountain. The overhead tramway allowed coal to be taken to the screening machines and then on to the trucks on the railway tracks below.

Additional comment from John Miles (12/04)
From what I know about the anthracite coalfield collieries, they were relatively small (the east Glamorgan mines often employed over 1000 men and this is typical for other parts of the UK), were fairly cheap to set up because they were slants on the outcrop and seem to have gone broke or changed ownership fairly frequently so this mine is typical

Further information;

Bobby Hunt from Garnant, who is now over 80 years, old remembers playing billiards in Mrs Chart's family billiard hall shown in the photo; he says it contained two billiard tables.
He also remembers Gwaith y Lamb working and says that it was on three levels.
One level was at the level of the railway line shown with the large trucks , another was at the same level as the shop (i.e.road level) and one overhead level which is shown in another picture.
The winding house is the large brick building shown behind the car in another picture. This winder pulled drams up from two drift mines, which constituted Gwaith y Lamb, as far as the winder itself. Men had then to manually push the drams across the road on two levels to the screening shed and also had to manually tip the coal from the drams when they arrived at the screening plant. The screened coal would then be tipped into the trucks waiting on the lower level.
The track and sidings on which these trucks operated ran to the main GWR line which was situated about 100 yards away from and behind the winding house.

Not far away there was another colliery called the Doctor's Colliery which was situated near Doctor's Road and the piece of land which was between the winding house and some cottages further along the road was used as allotments by the people who lived in the neighbouring cottages.
Further down the road some inhabitants of Bryncethin Road used to be able to dig best quality Peacock Vein coal from outcrops in their own gardens.