Merthyr Vale Colliery

In the nineteenth century, Aberfan was no more than a public house, a farm, and a handful of cottages. This changed with the arrival of Merthyr Vale Colliery in 1875, under the charge of John Nixon, who then named it Nixon Navigation.

The pit joined dozens of new mines across the twenty narrow valleys that stretch some fifty miles from the east of Swansea to north-east of Newport, running parallel to the Bristol channel.The arrival of a workforce drawn predominantly from the remote Welsh countryside and its English borders prompted the rapid urbanization of these rural settlements. Aberfan was no exception.

Bethania Chapel was built in 1885. Terraced houses were constructed for the miners and their families. Most paid their much of wages back in rent to John Nixon as their landlord. When he died in 1899, Nixon left an estate valued at over £1 million – a vast fortune by Victorian standards.

The mine changed hands from Nixon’s Navigation Coal Co. to Sir David Rees Llewellyn in 1929. In 1935, ownership of Merthyr Vale passed to Powell Duffryn Associated Collieries, then the largest coal mining company in Britain. At the time, it produced over twelve million tons of coal per year, representing 32 per cent of the entire output of the South Wales coalfield.

In 1947, upon nationalization of the coal industry, Merthyr Vale became property of the National Coal Board. It would operate until 25 August, 1989. It was one of the last coal mines to close in the South Wales coalfield. A statue of a miner now stands at the site of the colliery, which serves as a memorial to the miners. It was erected in 2015.

Back to top Back to top