The Glamorganshire canal, which transported iron and coal from
Merthyr down to the docks in Cardiff, ran through Abercanaid and on
its completion in 1798 a remote rural area was suddenly along a
busy transport route. It was alongside the canal lock and Graig
dock that the first settlements were established here.
In the early nineteenth century, Abercanaid consisted of around
20 houses, a Welsh Baptist chapel, and a pub.
In the second half of the 19th century the population continued to
grow, and many collieries were opened at Abercanaid.
Robert & Lucy Thomas
Robert Thomas opened the Waunwyllt Colliery at Abercanaid in 1828.
Unlike the ironmasters who sank pits to feed their furnaces Robert
planned to earn his money by selling the good quality steam coal
found at Abercanaid directly to whoever wanted to buy.
The quality of coal the pit was producing was considered to be the
best in the Valleys.
Waunwyllt closed in 1834 and the Thomas family opened their second
colliery at Abercanaid, Graig Colliery.
Graig was famously run by the "Mother of the Welsh Steam Coal
Trade'" Lucy Thomas (1781-1847), who managed after the death of her
John Nixon Visited to the pit in 1840:
"Mrs Thomas - she may be called the mother of the coal trade -...
sat in her office, a wooden hut near the pit mouth, and traded for
cash, placing in a basket over her head the moneys which she
received for her coal. "Laughing girls", like those who trod the
wine press of old (save that they were grimy with coal dust)
handled the coal, sorting it by hand and picking out the lumps,
which were afterwards placed on boats, "as carefully as if each
lump was an egg"
Gethin pit was sunk by William Crawshay in 1849 not only to
provide coal for his ironworks at Cyfarthfa but also to follow in
the Thomas' footsteps and sell steam coal as a commodity.
Abercanaid Pit was sunk by the Hill family who ran Plymouth
ironworks. Abercanaid Pit is notable for the fact that it was one
of the first coal mines is South Wales to use an electric powered
haulage system, and as a result electricity was also used in the
village. As the Merthyr Illustrated of 1893 stated;
"The village of Abercanaid is entirely lighted by electricity, an
advantage its little community enjoyed for a long time before the
city of London"
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