Images of Wales
Cwmdŵr Colliery, Clydach
Photography by John Ball - 5th October 1998
(with Agfa ePhoto-307 digital camera)
This Images of Wales feature explores Cwmdŵr colliery (also known as Gwndwn-Cadi Slant Colliery), perched high up on Gelliwastad Mountain, above the village of Clydach in the Swansea Valley. The mine was opened in 1860 by Samuel and John Hill, two of the three sons of Samuel Hill senior.
Above: The tall chimney stack of Cwmdŵr mine can just be seen (circled) in this view from
Clydach village. The hill overlooking the village is Gelliwastad Mountain or Mynydd Gelliwastad.
Samuel Hill senior was an Englishman raised amongst Quakers. He migrated to Wales, settling in Morriston, north of Swansea, at the end of the 18th century. Soon afterwards, he moved to Clydach where he and his descendants ran a boat-building business for service on the Swansea Valley Canal. He lived in a cottage at the boat-builders yard, and there his sons were born. They became well-known and respected citizens in the area.
The eldest son, Benjamin Hill, born 1801, became engineer to the Swansea Valley Canal and was also a chemist and a noted astronomer. For years he lived in seclusion at Cwmdŵr, Clydach, and died in 1888 (see below).
Above: Probate Calendar entry for Benjamin Hill, dated 10 May 1888.
The younger sons were Samuel, born 1810, and John, born 1813. They were described as quiet, pleasant and religious, and their children were well regarded in Clydach and elsewhere. The two brothers carried on with the family boat-building business and added to it by opening the Cwmdŵr colliery in 1860. The colliery needed a tramway down a steep incline to the canal. Cwmdŵr mine continued to operate until 1925, being the last of the old collieries to use the Swansea Valley Canal.
Above: Looking out across the Swansea Valley from the hillside near Cwmdŵr mine. The tall
chimney stack is the only surviving part of the buildings, now overgrown by dense vegetation.
Above: It was difficult to get a clear view of the whole chimney stack.
Above: The base of the chimney stack.
The chimney stack once carried away the smoke and fumes from the furnace powering the steam engine that drove the winding gear at the colliery. The winding gear operated the inclined tramroad that hauled drams between the colliery and the canal (see below).
Above: The remains (left) of the inclined tramroad down which coal was conveyed to
the canal 300 foot below. Viewed from below, the approach to the mine (right) is
barred by a gateway bearing an unwelcoming sign!!
Above: The steepness of the hillside down which the coal was transported can be seen in
this view. The canal is out of sight on the floor of the valley.
Above: The Swansea Valley Canal near where the coal was loaded onto narrowboats, for
transporting to Swansea docks.
I am most grateful to Welsh exiles Diana Davies (in Canada) and her sister Gaynor (in Australia), for providing me with much of the background information for this feature.