A History of Carmarthenshire


Lloyd, Sir John E., (Ed.). 2 vols., Cardiff, London Carmarthenshire Society (1935, 1939).

With the kind permission of the publishers sundry extracts from this book have been extracted by Gareth Hicks.

Here is a list of the book's contents and contributors.



The Tinplate, Steel, and Coal Industries

By L W Evans

"These are the three industries that flourished markedly in the county during the second half of the 19th century. But to understand their origins and development, we must return first of all, to the early days of the industrial period, when the ironworks were migrating to the edge of the coalfield and adopting coal for smelting purposes. With this change, many of the smaller inland ironworks went out of production, and there was a marked localisation of new ironworks, both on the anthracite and the 'Llanelly' coalfields.

1. The Iron and Early Tinplate Industry

The ironworks which declined in importance were those at Cwmdwyfran, Cwmbran, Whitland Abbey, and Llandyfan. The ironworks at Kidwelly and Carmarthen had commenced making tinplates with a great measure of success and were the sole representatives of this industry for the first half of the 19th century in Carmarthenshire.

Probably the earliest anthracite colliery in the county was that owned by Kymer of Kidwelly, which produced appreciable amounts of this coal in the last two decades of the 18th century. His colliery was just outside Kidwelly at Forest, and he built a canal to convey the coal to Kidwelly quay. From 1800 onwards, experiments were made in the utilisation of anthracite as a fuel in smelting operations, and after 1838 ironworks were established on the anthracite coalfield.

In 1800 Alexander Raby of Llanelly had used Llanelly coal from Penyfinglawdd (Llanelly) in his blast furnace, and in 1817, in conjunction with Simons, opened anthracite collieries in the Gwendraeth valley. Raby's experiments with the use of coal for iron-smelting were , however, not a success. Since 1784, when Henry Cort obtained two patents, one for puddling and the other for the rolling of iron, the iron industry had expanded considerably. Another important advance had been the introduction of the steam engine. This invention helped the mining industry, which in turn produced coal for the smelting industries. Before 1800, therefore, there had been going on careful preparations in the way of new processes and inventions, which created a profound change in the iron industry. From 1800 a new era commenced in the history of the manufacture of iron from the more general use made by the iron masters of the double-power engine devised by Watt.

The main results of the use of the steam-engine were the greater producing capacity of the furnaces and the expenditure of more capital by the proprietors. In 1817, Raby and Simons erected the first steam-engine in the Gwendraeth valley for raising coal, which was sent down to Llanelly for export, though ' a great deal found favour in the immediate district for domestic use'.

The successful use of anthracite coal in the manufacture of pig-iron dates from 1838. About this time Neilson brought out his process of smelting iron by means of the hot-blast, and anthracite coal was admirable for this purpose. In 1839 there were 26 furnaces in operation on the anthracite coalfield producing 65,780 tons of anthracite pig-iron. The position in 1848 is indicated by the following table;

Name of worksOwnersFurnaces; Built      Furnaces; In blast        
GwendraethT Watney & Co32
TrimsaranE H Thomas20
Brynamman                    L Llewellyn & Co        22

These furnaces produced more than 4,000 tons of anthracite pig-iron per furnace pa. For a number of years this production was well maintained. There are no returns after 1851. In 1859 the Amman ironworks passed into the hands of G B Strick and Co. The first ironworks to be built in the Llanelly area during the period 1800-50 were those at Dafen, about a mile and a half to the north-east of the town. They were built by Messrs Motley and Winkworth in 1846. The works had a number of puddling and ball furnaces (ffwrneisi bach), and a mechanical hammer for beating the bars into plates. In 1856, Messrs Phillips, Smith & Co acquired the works , and in 1869 the firm was known as Phillips, Nunes & C0. The pig-iron was still made in the puddling furnace, and the iron formed into balls and treated with the hammer before passing to the mills.

The Kidwelly works were rebuilt in 1801 by Messrs Haselwood, Hathaway and Perkins, and a few years later passed to Messrs Vaughan Hay and Downman. In 1830, Hay, Thomas and Co were the owners, and in 1850 they were directed by H H Downman and Messrs Richet and James. Downman also had interests in the Carmarthen tinworks, for in 1838 there is reference to a lease to Messrs Henry Ridout Downman and H H Downman. In 1850 the Carmarthen tinworks passed to Wayne and Co.

Between 1850 and 1875 the iron industries heralded the tinplate and steel industries of the last half of the 19th century. South-east Carmarthenshire became a highly industrialised region. The early efforts of the iron-masters at the beginning and the pioneers of the Llanelly and anthracite coalfields had, long before, started a tradition of industrial development, which was further emphasised by the establishment in the area of other metallurgical industries and the complete development of the Llanelly Coalfield after 1850. After this date, other ironworks came into the area, and with the invention of new processes in the production of steel-bar, these ironworks turned to the manufacture of tinplates.

Between 1850 and 1870, when the non-ferrous industries reached their maximum development, numerous ironworks were established in and around Llanelly. In addition to the foundries, one or two of the ironworks had started making tinplates. Ironworking had been started in this area in the last decade of the 18th century and its resuscitation in the middle of the 19th century is significant for two reasons;

  • a) The ironworks started the tinplate industry
  • b) The tinplate and steel industries replaced the languishing non-ferrous industries which had made the area so important since 1804.

Among the important factors contributing to the establishment of the ironworks were the coal supplies of the district; proximity to tidal waters; abundant supplies of fresh water, and relatively cheap sites on marshy ground near the docks.

The ironworks established in the Llanelly district around the mid century were as follows;

  • Dafen; 1847
  • Morfa; 1851
  • Old Lodge; 1852
  • Marshfield (Western); 1863
  • Old Castle; 1866

Each of these works had furnaces and forges. Most of them made tinplates, but one of them --- the Old Lodge--- made only bar-iron. The Morfa works were built in 1851 by Octavius Williams for John S Tregonning and Co. Two mills and a tinning plant were erected, and later Williams left to erect the Hendy works, near Pontardulais. In 1857, a forge was added for the manufacture of charcoal iron, and in 1872, two mills and a second charcoal forge were added, and other extensions carried out. In 1885, two steel furnaces were erected.

The Old Lodge Ironworks were built by Messrs William Nevill and J Thomas, but no tinplates were made until Morris started their manufacture there in 1880.

The Marshfield Ironworks were erected by Messrs Nevill, Everitt and Co in 1863, but closed down in 1879. In December the same year, the Western Tinplate Co was formed.

The Old castle Iron Co was started in 1866 by Messrs Maybery, Thomas, Rosser and Samuel. These works made their own iron until 1886. The original two mills were built on the site of an early British fortification called Pen Castell, from which the works were named. 'Puddled coke' was mainly used for smelting. In addition to the Llanelly area, ironworks were established in the anthracite coalfield after 1838, and these were still important after the mid-century.


   Furnaces built                    Furnaces in blast          Pig-iron               
1868BrynammanHenry Strick & Co        32---
 GwendraethDaniel Watney3----
 Amman ValleyAmman Iron Co6 (puddling furnaces)3 (rolling mills)---
1876Amman valley    Amman Iron Co7 (puddling furnaces)3 (rolling mills)---

When the Amman Valley works went over to tinplate manufacture they specialised in the making of blackplates, and this may be correlated with the long established iron industry of that valley. When the local blackband ore was used these ironworks were flourishing. When the utilisation of this ore was discontinued, new processes came into being which could not utilise the local low-content phosphoric ores, so that imported ores took their place after 1875. This marks the beginning of the establishment of steelworks along the seaboard."


2. The Tinplate and Steel Industries

"The inventions of Siemens-Martin and Bessemer revolutionised the tinplate industry. Until about 1870, most of the iron made in the tinplate works of South Wales was either pig-iron or wrought-iron, made from pig-iron in a puddling furnace. It was from wrought-iron that steel was first made, though very occasionally. On account of the length of the operation, and the expense of steel, it did not come into general use. In 1851, Bessemer invented a method of making steel on a large scale, and therefore the cost of production was lowered. A second method of steel manufacture, the open hearth system, devised by Siemens and Martin in the works at Landore, near Swansea, was introduced at a later date. The steel industry became more and more dependent on imported ores, with the result that the centres of these industries became established on the seaboard. The main centres are at Llanelly, Swansea, Aberavon, and Briton Ferry.

It has been noted that after 1870 there were changes in the methods of manufacturing the raw material for the tinplate industry. The raw material of the industry before 1870 had been iron, made usually in charcoal forges, and puddling furnaces attached to the tinplate works. Just before 1875, the Bessemer method of steel manufacture was introduced, and Siemens produced a kind of steel suitable for rolling into tinplates. Eventually, steelworks were erected in the Llanelly and Swansea areas to produce Siemens steel; these steelworks worked as feeders to the adjacent tinplate works. From that time onwards, the tinplate manufacturers required tin bars (flat bars of steel) which led to a further concentration of the tinplate industry in the Llanelly and Swansea districts. Thus , in the peak year, 1891, there were twenty works (119 mills) in Carmarthenshire and fifty-one works (277 mills) in Glamorgan; and only eleven works (86 mills) in Monmouthshire.

Another reason for the concentration of the steel and tinplate industries on the seaboard was the heavy importation of the richer ores of Spain and other countries, bringing these heavy industries in close proximity to tidal waters.

An equally important reason for localisation was the presence of chemical industries in the region. The smelting of copper in the area had started one or two important side-industries, one of those being the manufacture of sulphuric acid. Large amounts of this acid are used in tinplate manufacture, and it could therefore be obtained at a relatively cheap rate. One other vital factor was the availability of fresh water. Water is indispensable to the tinplate industry, and in this region there are abundant supplies from rivers and artificial reservoirs. Finally, advantageous road and rail transport to the ports for export, and to the Midlands and London, where sheet, blackplates, and terneplates are largely used, is another advantage. In addition to the tinworks mentioned in the previous section, the following were also erected in south-east Carmarthenshire between 1866 and 1890;


Hendy Tinplate Works      Broughton, Smith     1866  
Llangennech Tinplate WorksThomas Harries1867
St David's, ByneaLord Glantawe1869
South Wales, LlanellyMorewood, Rogers1872
Glamorgan Tinworks, Pontardulais  (on county border)Webb, Shakespeare & Williams1872
Morlais Tinplate Co (Llangennech)                      James Griffiths & Co1873
Burry Tinplate Works (Llanelly)William Rosser1875
Clayton Tinplate Works (Pontardulais)Jenkins, Bright & Williams1875
Dynevor Tinplate Works, PantyffynnonWilliams, Stanford1880
Raven Sheet & Galvanising Co, GlanammanMessrs Rees & Morris1881
Aberlash Tinplate Works, Tirydail, AmmanfordMessrs Elias, Phillips & Jones1889
Ashburnham Tinplate Co, Burry Port, LlanellyLord Ashburnham, Griffiths & Bevan1890

The tinplate works situated in the interior (notably those at Pontardulais and in the Amman Valley) are in the actual zone of coal production, and are also favoured by low local rates, cheap fuel, and abundant water supplies. They suffer from higher transport costs and poor means of communication, often on branch lines, in marked contrast to the works on the seaboard, which are on the main lines. Furthermore, these peripheral works concentrate upon blackplate and not tinplate, and are therefore able to accept more specialised orders unacceptable to the larger works.

It is well to describe at this juncture the important changes witnessed in the modus operandi of tinplate manufacture during the 19th century. In 1829, scaling was done away with, and sulphuric acid was used for pickling. In 1829, Thomas Morgan introduced cast-iron annealing pots as a substitute for annealing in open furnaces.  Black pickling was introduced  in 1849 and steam was introduced into the vitriol bath  by John Cann in the same year. The year 1866 witnessed a marked step forward, when Edwin Morewood (Llanelly) and John Saunders introduced what is familiarly known as the 'Morewood pot'.

As has already been noted, the substitution of Siemens soft steel (1875) and Bessemer steel (1880) inaugurated a trade of greater dimensions, which necessitated a more efficient organisation of  the commercial aspect. In 1890 the 'washman' was relegated to the background by the introduction of patent tin-pots, and the century closed with the introduction of patent cleaning machines.

The rapid expansion in the tinplate industry from 1870 to 1890 was due in a large measure to the monopoly of nearly all the foreign markets enjoyed by the home producers. Previous to 1891, the United States bought 75% of the South Wales output of tinplates, a demand sustained by the use of hermetically sealed tin-can containers for the packing of fruits, meat, and fish. The use of terneplates (i.e sheets of thin steel or iron coated with an alloy of lead and tin) for roofing purposes increased the demand for South Wales tinplates from 1865 to 1895. In 1883 approximately 77% of the output of the 316 mills at work was annually exported to the USA. In this year the number of and the output of the works engaged in the manufacture of tinplates were as follows. (in the book is technical output data comparing Carmarthenshire and the rest of Wales).

The geographical distribution of the tinplate works in South-east Carmarthenshire in 1880 shows three well-marked concentrations;

  • a) Around Llanelly, including Burry Port and Kidwelly
  • b) The Pontardulais area, including Hendy and Llangennech
  • c) The Amman Valley, including Pantyffynnon, Ammanford, Glanamman and Brynamman

The complete list (in 1880) included 14 works with a total of 65 mills;


Name of works                                      Name of firm                                      Total mills                
AvondaleAvondale Tinplate Co1
Burry (Llanelly)Burry Tinplate Co4
CarmarthenThomas lester & Co5
Dafen (Llanelly)Phillips, Nunes & Co4
Glanamman (Cwmamman)Glanamman Tinplate Co2
Gwendraeth (Kidwelly)J Chivers & Son10
Hendy (Pontardulais)E Boughton & Co4
Lion Tinplate WorksH Thomas2
LlanellyJohn S Tregonning & Son4
LlangennechLlanegennech Tinplate Co8
Morlais (Llangennech)Llansamlet Tinplate Co2
Old Castle, LlanellyOld Castle Iron & Tinplate Co6
South Wales LlanellyE Morewood & Co9
Western LlanellyWestern Tinplate Co4


(the book has a section with production figures for tinplate boxes in 1880 and other years)

In connection with the ports that were exporting tinplate, it is important to note that Liverpool was the first in importance, with the Bristol Channel ports --- Cardiff, Swansea and Llanelly--- coming next. The great market up until 1890 was the USA, so that Liverpool merchants sent their tinplates to the States on the American liners. In the closing years of the century, the rapid developments in the South Wales coalfield, and the localisation of the chemical industries in the Swansea and Llanelly districts, resulted in many of the tinworks in Monmouthshire and West Carmarthenshire being abandoned and also the transference of the export trade in tinplates from Cardiff to Swansea. (Exports from Swansea increased from 12,420 tons in 1878 to 418,725 tons in 1890).

The South Wales tinplate trade suffered a hard blow in 1890 when the McKinley tariff came into operation. This signified the end of the export of Welsh tinplates to the USA, and the beginning of the American tinplate industry. In spite of this the South Wales tinplate trade continued to flourish, and in 1910 approximately 370,360 tons of tinplates and blackplates were exported from the ports of South Wales to the Far East, Argentine, Brazil, Canada and France. ...........................................................( the book now has a section illustrating price differences seen over time).

We have already seen that most of the tinworks had interests in the new steelworks, because the raw material of the tinplate works was now the steel bar. A still closer association is the distinctive feature of the post 1891 period, but before we proceed to describe this it should be noted that the Carmarthen tinplate works continued to produce tinplate until 1900. The site of these works was on the spot where the early furnaces and forge were built by Robert Morgan. In 1850, the tinplate works were taken over by Messrs Wayne and Co, who specialised in the manufacture of blackplates. From 1868 until they were closed down in 1900, they were carried on by Thos Lester and Co. This was one of the earliest tinworks in the county, and in 1820 had two mills each composed of two pairs of rolls, worked by five men. The weekly production was 464 boxes and the tinplates were sold to markets in Liverpool, London, Bristol and Glasgow. The iron ores were imported from South Wales and Lancashire, and the pig-iron was made from a mixture of these ores --- this mixture having been found to produce ' a metal plate of such pliability as the iron-plates designed for tinning require'. These tinworks were a natural development from the forge at Carmarthen, but were able to carry on until 1900, in spite of the fact that larger and more modern works were built in the Llanelly area.  There were abundant water supplies at Carmarthen, the coal was imported along with the ores, and for the first half of the century a fairly steady demand for a special type of plate for the French market kept the works going very successfully.

After 1900, with the greater advance of American competition and the large imports of American and Continental steel and iron bars at a cheap rate, the Carmarthen works eventually closed down. The works were away from the ports of the south-east of the county and could not compete for orders with the coastal works, and thus there ended a great tradition of iron and tinplate manufacture extending over a period of 150 years.

The following steel and tinplate works were erected in the period 1891-1912;


                    Name of works                                                   Proprietors                    Date
The Welsh Tinplate & Metal Stamping Co, LlanellyThe Welsh Tinplate & Metal Stamping Co, Llanelly1897 
The Llanelly Steel Co (1907) Ltd, LlanellyMessrs Briton Ferry Steel Co; The Old castle Tinplate Co; The Western Tinplate Co1898
The Wellfield Galvanising Co Llanelly---as above---1908
Glynhir Tinplate Co, Pontardulais---as above---1910
Dulais Tinplate Co, Pontardulais---as above---1910
The Pemberton Tinplate Co, Llanelly---as above---1911
The Gorse Galvanising Co, Dafen, Llanelly---as above---1911
The Bynea Steelworks, Llanelly---as above---1912
South Wales Steelworks , LlanellyR Thomas & Co, eight new mills erected in.......1911

(the book has two diagrams showing 'Distribution of Steel and Tinplate Works, 1935' and Distribution of Anthracite Collieries, 1935' )

The development of the steel and tinplate industries in the Llanelly area after 1900 is intimately bound up with the importation of foreign steel and iron bars, produced at a cheaper rate in America and the Continent. Another outstanding feature was the extent to which various groupings took place among tinplate and steel works, i.e amalgamations between steel and tinplate works. This feature is a further factor in industrial development in recent years, because the steelworks specialise in the production of steel bars  from pig and scrap iron for sheet and tinplate manufacture, imported at Llanelly and Burry Port. In order to appreciate these changes, evidence must be drawn from the entire metallurgical area in SW Wales. This is roughly the region contained within the triangle formed by the towns of Port Talbot, Burry Port and Ystradgynlais. Within this area there are fourteen steel works capable of an annual output of 2,800,000 tons pa. In the tinplate trade also grouping has taken place to such an extent, that of 480 mills in the trade, 389 or 81% are covered by groupings.

The controlling body of this triangle is the South Wales Siemens Steel Association, formed in 1906, having within its membership eight firms owning and controlling fourteen steel works. The Llanelly and district works in the Association are the Llanelly Steel Co Ltd; Messrs Richard Thomas & Co Ltd; and the Bynea Steelworks Ltd. Several Llanelly tinplate works had interests in the Llanelly Steelworks, eg Dafen Tinplate Works and The Old Lodge Tinplate Works.

In 1923 the South Wales Tinplate Corporation Ltd was registered which represented a selling organisation for a) Richard Thomas and Co Ltd (who own six works in Carmarthenshire); b) Kidwelly Tinplate Co Ltd; c) Ashburnham Tinplate Co Ltd, Burry Port; d) The Old Castle Iron and Tinplate Co Ltd, Llanelly; e) The Western Tinplate Works Ltd, Llanelly. The last four works resigned from the Corporation in 1931.

Throughout the new century the deep-rooted tradition of production for export held the field but slowly tinplate manufacture was forced to become more diversified in character to meet the increasing demands of the home market. The growth of the automobile industry kept the tinplate trade well occupied until 1914. In addition to the manufacture of tinplates, blackplates and galvanised sheets, one firm --- the Llanelly Metal Stamping Co --- started manufacturing enamelled hollow ware. This industry makes such articles as basins, buckets, and bowls from sheet metal or steel usually by stamping and then coating with enamel.

Between 1920 and 1930 the steel and tinplate industry had to face serious competition with foreign countries, such as Belgium, France, and Germany, who exported steel bars at 15s per ton less than Welsh steel bars. Foreign bars have literally been 'dumped' into Welsh ports and large quantities have been used by tinplate manufacturers.

The steelworks produce steel ingots from imported pig-iron and scrap. The quantity of scrap smelted is over twice that of pig-iron and is obtained from the Midlands and the shearings and 'wasters' from the tinplate works. The transport costs of the scrap iron contribute to the high cost of home steel bars, hence the reason for the large import of foreign bars. Some protective measures for these industries were therefore vital and were forthcoming after 1930.

At the same time new methods of manufacture were making headway, chief of which has been the manufacture of tinplate by the strip mill method. This is, in the main, an American development, and the tonnage produced by this method is rapidly increasing year by year. The major variations are mechanised mills, reversing strip mills, production of steel plates electrolytically, electrolytical tinning, and the production of the continuous narrow strip of tin only a few inches wide for direct manufacture of car bodies.

The increased demand for steel sheets in the motor industry, together with the development of the canning industry and the demands for heavy steel in rearmament programmes, have made a marked change for the better in the fortunes of the steel and tinplate industries during the third decade of the present century. The full range of the diversified character of the modern period can be gathered from the fact that one Llanelly brewery --- the Felinfoel Brewery Co--- has commenced canning beer. The tinplate is obtained from the St David's Tinplate Co, Llanelly, and the lacquered containers made by the Metal Box Co for the firm. Other works in the region supply the home market with tinplate to firms such as Heinz, to biscuit manufacturers at Reading, and to the fruit-canning factory opened at Worcester in 1930. In 1932, the Gorse Tinplate Works, Llanelly, started to make building requisites, such as gutters, rain-water and drain pipes from sheet metal, which is welded and coated with a special kind of vitreous enamel in several colours. This product is called Vitreflux, which, owing to its power of withstanding weather conditions is now in steady demand on the market. Thus since 1932 the home market for tinplates in Britain has consumed an ever increasing proportion of the total output. In that year it amounted to 35.61 % of the total output; in 1933 37.9%; 1934 42.26%; 1935 47.33%; and in 1936 it reached 51%, thus for the first time outstripping the proportion exported."

(in the book is a photograph 'Modern Industrial Llanelly, 1935)


3. The Anthracite Coal-Mining Industry


Up until 1800, the mining of anthracite coal had been limited to 'scourings' on the outcrops, and there was no deep mining. It was not until about 1815 that the steam engine was introduced into the Gwendraeth Valley and real coal mining started in earnest. Before the time of the steam engine and the opening up of the mines on a large scale, anthracite coal was used for lime-burning. This had been carried on even in the very early part of the 18th century, when wood was normally used as a fuel in lime kilns.

After 1800, however, anthracite coal was used to a greater extent for lime-burning. The canals and tram-roads brought the coal and limestone of the Llandebie and Gwendraeth areas into the ports. An interesting survival of this practice was the export of Llandebie lime to South Africa via Llanelly for the purpose of sugar refining at the close of the 19th century. Generally speaking, however, although new pits were opened in the anthracite coalfield during the first part of the 19th century, the industry exhibited no great expansion, although new avenues of utilisation were found.

Kymer's colliery has already been noted, and between 1824 and 1830 collieries were in operation at ;

  • Floy Farm owned by Captain Scott, at Tynywern and Tynywaun, Ponthenry, the latter owned by J Arthur;
  • at Old Pentremawr, Pontyberem, owned by Elkington;
  • at Old Cae-Pont-bren, Pontyates, owned by Herbert Lloyd;
  • and at Cross Hands, under the ownership of Colonel Wray and Norton.
  • Messrs Christopher and Jones opened the following pits at Gorslas; Gilfach pit, Millers pit, George pit, Pwllylledrim pit. These collieries were described as ' prosperous little concerns' and the output was about 100 tons a day. The coal from Cross Hands and Gorslas was conveyed to the Llanelly 'docks' by means of Raby's tram road (the Carmarthenshire 'railway'). Raby was also the first iron master to venture the use of anthracite coal for smelting, although his efforts met with limited success.

Between 1800 and 1850 the coal was mainly used for malting, hop-drying, and lime-burning. Small quantities were exported, especially after 1841, when the railway was opened from Llanelly to the Amman Valley. The development of the coalfield after 1865 is closely related to extension in the demand for this type of coal by foreign countries. In 1868 France imported 14,369 tons and Italy 558 tons; by 1921 these figures were 848,297 tons and 238,474 tons respectively. In addition, the number of foreign customers had risen from two to seventeen in the same period.

By the middle of the 19th century technical inventions enabled deep mining to be carried on at a time when foreign demand increased. This demand in its turn depended on other inventions, such as the anthracite burning stove of the Baltic lands about 1880, as well as on large scale advertising organised by Frederick Cleeves, 'the father of the anthracite industry', who introduced the coal to the continental consumers. Between 1887 and 1902 the output of Welsh anthracite increased by 287% and 50% of this was absorbed by the export trade.

The most important buyers of anthracite are France, Italy, Germany, the Low Countries, Norway and Sweden, the USA, the Argentine, and the little island of Guernsey, which imports 200,000 tons for its hot-houses alone.

A mild winter on the continent may cause a fall in the imports, as very much less would be needed for central heating purposes. Again, good harvests in Europe affect the return cargoes of ships taking coal to Canada, USA, and South America from South Wales ports. An important feature of the anthracite export trade between 1913 and 1930 was the tremendous growth in the Canadian trade. In 1913, 48,000 tons were exported to Canada; in 1930, 975,000 tons. Ice on the St Lawrence river retards the anthracite export trade during the winter months. The excellence of its quality --- the best in the world according to a well known authority --- and the enormous reserves --- over 6,000 million tons in 1904 according to the Lord Merthyr report --- all help to enhance the export trade.

Before 1800 the leading port in South Wales for the export of anthracite was Milford. Afterwards with the development of communications facilities around Llanelly, this port supplanted Milford. After 1880, with the greater development of the coalfield and the opening up of foreign markets, Swansea took the place of Llanelly as the great exporter of anthracite coal.

The results of this foreign demand emphasised the need for the proper and efficient preparation of the coal for the market. The entrepreneur himself was obviously too busily occupied with the opening of new works, so that the marketing problem was taken over by a selling agent, whose contribution to the South Wales anthracite coal trade has been very great. In America, anthracite was graded into commercial types in order to meet different users. Similarly Welsh anthracite was graded and crushed into different types by special crushing, screening, and washing plants, and this, of course, involved the use and investment of more capital in the industry. The old and shallow workings of the early period were in the main closed down. New collieries were opened, tapping deep seams; better machinery was introduced, and electricity was used. The individual owner or entrepreneur gave way to the company who, with more capital and energy, opened better-equipped collieries. This created a great demand for labour, which up to 1900 was only moderate, because of the time that elapsed before the new mines could develop fully. After this, progress was rapid.


The following figures bring out very clearly the development of the industry between 1890 and 1930, obscuring, of course, the troubled conditions from 1914 to 1918;

          Year    Total Output, Tons

  • 1890   1,221,000
  • 1900   2,204,000
  • 1910   4,032,000
  • 1920   4,231,951
  • 1930   5,568,238

Depending as it was on its foreign customers, the anthracite coal industry suffered a great shock during the war period through the dislocation of the market. Up until 1917 the industry was badly hit, but from 1917 to the end of government control in March, 1921, it greatly retrieved its position. What the government actually did during this period was mainly to stimulate the home demand for anthracite. Its use was extended mainly by the use of anthracite stoves and central heating appliances. In 1917, 2,123,000 tons were consumed, and in 1920, 2,604,000 tons. After 1921 the anthracite industry continued to expand, and in 1923 4,873,000 tons were produced --- the highest figure in its history until 1930.

The development of large-scale organisations in the anthracite industries did not reveal itself until the early decades of the 20th century. In 1903, an attempt was made to establish a combination in the anthracite coal district, but this was wrecked by the difficulty of valuation. In 1905, the idea of an anthracite coal trust was revived. During these two years, a period of depression in the industry accentuated the materialisation of the idea. Certain firms were invited to form the proposed amalgamation, but the prices they demanded for their properties were prohibitive. Once again, valuation shattered the project. In 1911, amalgamation was again discussed, but it did not advance beyond that stage until the post-war period.

Then, in 1923, came the formation of the Amalgamated Anthracite Collieries, Ltd. On its formation it acquired the whole of the issued capital of the Cleeves Western Valley Anthracite Collieries, Ltd, which owned four collieries in the anthracite area and held practically the entire share capital of the Gelliceidrim Collieries, Ltd; also the share capital of the Gurnos Anthracite Collieries, and the Cawdor and Cwmgors collieries were acquired. Its capital at the time of its formation amounted to £2,500,000. In the same year (although the prospectus was not issued until June, 1924), the United Anthracite Collieries, Ltd, was formed. The United Anthracite Collieries, Ltd acquired and developed the Great Mountain Anthracite Collieries (including the business of Waddell & Sons, London and Llanelly), the Ammanford Anthracite Collieries, the Pontyberem Anthracite Collieries, and the New Dynant Anthracite Collieries. The Amalgamated Anthracite Collieries, Ltd had an output capacity of about 750,000 tons, and the United Anthracite Collieries Ltd, approximately 600,000 tons.

On the other hand, the highly organised protective machinery of the miner is the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. This is composed of some score of constituent trade unions, some of which, such as the South Wales Miners' Federation, had originally a federal structure. The anthracite area of Carmarthenshire and west Glamorgan is known technically as Area No 1. Anthracite wage conditions are determined by the South Wales Conciliation Board.


Gareth Hicks  

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