History

 

In 1873 the first of three pits in the Taff Bargoed Valley was sunk in the farmlands of Graigberthlwyd by entrepreneur Mr Frederick W. Harris and his partners. The building of accommodation for the men employed to sink the pits, known locally as the "Huts", was the first step in a period of rapid expansion in the valley, which saw a small farming hamlet of only 27 families (1811 Parish Register) become a thriving a centre of industrialisation. By 1897, the mine employed 2,500 men and the local community had grown to 7000 strong.

Deep Navigation Colliery

The first saleable coal was raised in 1879. The pit was to be known as Harris' Navigation Colliery and the town built to house the mine workers also bore his name-Tre Harris, "Town of Harris". At this time, Harris' Navigation was the deepest pit in the south Wales coalfield, reaching 760 yards depth, around 200 yards deeper than any other shafts in the area. Sinking the mine was a difficult, dangerous and expensive process, costing £300,000 and seven men their lives.

To make way for the new mine, the Taff-Bargoed River was culverted and diverted underground. Colliery waste was piled high on the former river course, reaching 14m in height at the top of the valley and 30m at the lower end. Water from the Taf Bargoed River was used for "washing" of the coal and thousands of tonnes of dirty black water was returned to the water-course.

In 1873, Ocean Coal, one of the giants of south Wales mining, bought out Harris' Navigation, renaming the mine Deep Navigation, which it remained until closure in 1991.

Taff Merthyr

The second mine to be opened in the Taf Bargoed Valley, Taff Merthyr Colliery, was sunk in 1922, between the villages of Trelewis and Bedlinog. The resultant increase in demand for workers accommodation saw the construction of new housing in Trelewis, namely the Taff Bargoed Garden Village, which became known locally as "Storm Town" due to its elevated position on the side of a hill.

The pit opened in a time of great unrest within the mining community, just after the general strike of 1926, and it was to become one of the most militant of all the south Wales collieries. Throughout the late twenties and early thirties, Taff Merthyr was on the front line of great unrest, as the South Wales Miners' Federation competed with company unionism. This dispute saw many clashes between the men of the two unions and many police were brought in to the area. The bitterness of the rivalry spilled over into everyday life, seeing friends shunned, windows smashed and much violence.

The Bedlinog riots of 1935 saw clashed between rival union members and police, resulting in 53 men and 3 women being sentenced to hard labour for periods ranging from 3 to 15 months. On their return from their punishment, the sentenced miners were given heroes welcomes. It was a difficult time for the colliery and its men, but by the end of the thirties company unionism was defeated and the South Wales Miners Federation was able to gain the initiative.

Taff Merthyr was a large mine which employed 1,380 men underground and 195 men on the surface by 1936, producing an annual output of 600,000 tons of steam coal per year. As the years passed, modern equipment and techniques meant that the collieries employed fewer and fewer men, so that following nationalisation in 1947, the colliery employed only 153 men on the surface and 874 underground.

In 1992 this colliery was amongst 31 pits scheduled for closure, despite protests and the widely held opinion that there were at least 10 years reserves of coal. Safety and maintenance work continued during a review, but it seemed inevitable that 368 coal workers would lose their livelihood when tons of rubble and other material for filling the shafts were delivered before the review was even concluded. The final shift was worked on 11 June 1993. There was talk of a miners' buy-out but it never materialised and the winding gear was demolished by explosion on 22 July 1994.

Trelewis Drift

The final pit in the valley began production in 1954. Originally envisaged as a short term project, the mine quickly became one of the most productive mines in south Wales, producing over 1 million tons of coal a year and continued to function until the early 1990s. A dozen men were employed on the surface and 164 employed underground.

In 1983 it was reported that Trelewis Drift was operating at a loss, and despite a great effort by the miners that saw the mine create profit again, Trelewis Drift was closed in 1989.

Modern day Parc Taf Bargoed.

From 1993 onwards, the ravaged landscape of three former colliery sites in the Taff Bargoed Valley has been transformed into a haven for wildlife and a centre for community activities. The Taf Bargoed Community Park was designed to create recreation, landscape restoration and a diverse ecology.


In the 7 years between 1995 and 2002 a collaboration between Groundwork Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taff, Taff Bargoed Development Trust and supported by the Local Authority, the Coal Authority and the WDA, successfully drew in £14 million of funding to transform what was a once derelict 'no go' waste land into a new heart for the community.

 

The culvert was sealed off and the river brought back to the surface. Two lakes were built, including weir pools for canoeing and a steep cascade channel was installed. A network of pathways and bridleways were installed to link the former mining communities of Treharris and Trelewis. The site of Trelewis Drift was converted into the Taff Bargoed Centre which houses one of the biggest climbing walls in the UK, offering leisure opportunities to local people, as well as providing jobs and bringing money into the Merthyr Tydfil Borough.

"We believe that this will be one of the most successful projects in the whole of Wales in terms of transforming the environment for the local community and creating a range of facilities. The whole project has also been a model of effective team work by the local authority, the WDA and Groundwork Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taff."

Gwyn Griffiths (WDA Director of Land Reclamation for south East Wales) 1995.

 

In 2006 the management of the park was handed back to the council who have continued to work with the key stakeholders to provide this valuable community resource.

Despite the presence of heavy industry for more than a century, the wildlife did not go far and has very quickly returned to the park. It is fortunate that the mature woodland on the slopes of the valley was left untouched by mining operations and provide excellent habitat for wildlife. Over 70 species of bird have been recorded on the park and 19 species of butterfly. Sightings of mammal have included fox, otter and a (possibly!) water vole.

With the closure of the mines, the Valleys changed forever, however, Park Taf Bargoed provides the local community with a facility to be proud of, which enhances their lives and helps them to celebrate the nature and heritage of the area.

Return to Parc Taf Bargoed Home Page


Tel: 01685 724952
Last updated: 14.01.2015
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