The People of the Morfa Pit
A Story about Morfa Pit and its People.
Edited by Allen Blethyn 2009.
Our story deals with the history of the Morfa Pit and with some of the people involved with it.
We will begin our story at the time when the Vivian family, came to Taibach to take over the running of the copper works in 1838 under the management of Capt. Robert Lindsay [ a brother in law of the Vivians ] who settled at Glanavon House Taibach.
It was Dr.William Llewellyn of the Brombil family who built Glanavom House in 1816 [ which had its driveway opposite Condon`s Funeral Home is today].
We can see from the 1814 Margam Estate Map that Mr. Wm. Llewellyn was renting fields 68,69,70, 71, and 72. number 70 was listed as a cottage and garden.
It was this cottage which he converted into a much larger house [ Glanavon ].
The same map shows that he also held the two fields 91 and 92 on the sea side of the main road, these fields today is the site of Condons Funeral Home.
Built on later by the Vivian family as their home farm named Glanavon Farm.
Robert Lindsay was the man who constructed the tram road which ran through Groeswen Woods to the Brombil Colliery, coal was being mined at Cwm Brombil in 1780, but in 1814 Edward Daniel opened a new level there.
Along this tram road the coal was horse drawn from the valley as far as the Constant, where the trams were let down the Incline by ropes and then across the main road into the copper works.
At this time Brombil colliery was producing three-fifths of the coal required by the Vivians.
Many stone sleepers used on this tram road could still be seen when I was a boy walking there, up above Geifr and Pellau Roads,Margam.
By 1845 the Copper Works began minting coins for the Malay States.
Also the production of etched copper cylinders for printing fabrics in the Lancashire mills.
Then a new mill was built for the production of Yellow metal used for the covering of ships keels.
Owing to the increase in production Brombil Colliery could not cope to supply enough coal, and so the colliery agent Edward Daniel advised the Vivians to explore for coal on the Margam Moors.
Sure enough tests suggested that there was coal to be obtained there.
In the Summer of 1847 under the direction of Edward Daniel work began sinking the Morfa Pit.
Conditions were bad and difficulties were encountered with sand and water and operations were abandoned ,and Edward Daniels retired 1848.
In the same year William Gray took up the challenge of continuing the work at Morfa Pit, and the pit was sunk to a depth of 168 yards and a railway was constructed from it to the Taibach Copper Works.
A year later in 1849 the first coal brought up from it and taken along the railway on the old Morfa Bank to Taibach.
The pit had rich seams of coal, some of which extended out under the sea, and others as far as Aberavon. Soon the pit proved successful, as it produced 500 tons daily.
Vivian and Co. now had more coal than they required at Taibach, and so they exported the surplus from the new docks which had opened in 1838 at Port Talbot.
It was not long before the Pit claimed the first one of its many unfortunate victims.
The Cambrian newspaper of Swansea reported in its pages of 6th.July.1849.
Taibach.Dreadful Colliery Explosion.
On Friday last an exploosion took place at one of thye Morfa Pits which we are sorry to say,was attended with the loss of life.It appears that,for some days the air was very deficient,and on the day of question an explosion took place,and three men were dreadfully burnt,another poor fellow,of the name of Richard Williams was driven from his heading by the current right through some distance of fully ninty yards from the place it ignighted, and fell to the bottom of the pit, and was totally smashed to pieces. It was a pitiful sight to witness his flesh and bones brought up to the pits mouth in buckets. An inquest was held and returned a verdict of accidental death.
To date I have failed to find a burial for a Richard Williams in the Margam district.
1850 saw the construction of the main railway line through Taibach,it cut through the works dividing the mill from the copper works.
This railway allowed the company to send coal and copper ware to English towns.
With the building of the new pit at the Morfa, came the need for more housing development, first a large house called "The Barracks"or Dormitory Row was built at the western end of Inkerman Row up on the Side in 1850, it housed four families.
This building was partly demolished in 1960 and converted into a bungalow which we can see from the motorway today.
More houses were added during the 1850s when the area around Gallipoli Field was used.
Along the eastern side of this field were two large pillars marking the entrance driveway of a large late Georgian residence called Underhill House built in 1774 for Copper Works manager Mr.Tyler. Later occupied by Thomas Gray son of William Gray who sunk Morfa Pit.
By 1851 the first eight cottages had been built near the pit at Morfa, and named in the 1851 Census as Morfa cottages but probably those later named Overmans Row.
From that Census I will only give the name of the head of the family living in each cottages and his details.
No 1. Francis Cole head aged 47 a labourer born in Baglan.
Francis Cole son aged 16 a blacksmith born Margam.
No 2. Peter Mitchel head aged 37 a coal miner born Cornwall.
No 3. Aaron Charlton head aged 37 a collier born Durham.
William Barrass lodger aged 37 overman born Durham.
No 4. William Barrett head aged 25 a labourer born Devon.
No 5 John Lock head aged 25 a labouer born Devon.
No 6 William Rosser head aged 28 a blacksmith born Carmarthenshire.
No 7 Evan Cox head aged 31 engine driver born St. Brides Miner.
No 8 James Badge head aged 33 engine fitter born Cornwall.
At this point, I like to say that I think that some of the first people, involved with the sinking and working of the Morfa Pit, were not in Margam totally by accident.
To try and explain this,we will first look at Mr. William Gray, who had come to Margam from the County of Durham arriving in the district by 1847.
He was a Durham man chosen by the Vivian family, when they wanted a replacement for the retired Mr.Edward Daniel, to continue the work of sinking the Morfa Pit.
He had already married Jane Newton at Durham at the end of 1839, and by 1841, he was working as a coal miner, living in West Rainton,Durham,together with his wife Jane and daughter Elizabeth .
The above location in West Rainton was close to the Adventure Pit Railway, and two large collierys Adventure Pit and Resolution Pit.
William would have been working at one of these.
Also not far away was Lumley Colliery where on the 11th.Oct.1799. 39 men were killed in an explosion, including a father and son both named Thomas Gray ages 50 and 17.
Near bye was a school master named Robert Gray.
The Gray family name was common in the district.
Other families living in the immediate area of Durham at the same time were named,
Barrass. Charlton,Cuthbert,and Holliday to name but a few.
I have found entries of the above named families in the Durham Parish registers, including some intermixing marriages.
And so when we find the same family names present at Morfa and Taibach 1848-1890, I suspect that the families knew each other in Durham, before coming to Margam.
The first High detailed map available to us is the 1st. Series map of about 1880.
By that date all the cottages had been built around the Morfa Pit.
As we can see from our copy they are clearly marked and named as follows.
OVERMANS ROW.. The nearest row to Taibach was a row of attached cottages about ten dwellings.
OFFICE ROW. A smaller row of eight attached cottages, 100 yds closer to the Pit, also at the sea side of this row, a marked out plot of land with a center pathway and two out buildings, I suggest this plot to be an allotments for the miners use. Possibly this row was the first development of cottages, as it corresponds in numbers with the above 1851 Census?
PIT ROW.Another row of eleven attached cottages separated from the Grange Pit by the railway from the Pit built to take the coal to the Taibach Copper Works and later to the Docks.
The total number of cottages about 29 would suggest that they were all in being at the time of the 1861 Census, see below.
MORFA MAWR FARM WILLIAMS JOHN HD U 31 FARMER 150A GLA TYTHEGSTON
MORFA VILLA BARRASS WILLIAM HD M 45 OVERMAN IN COAL MINE DUR WASHINGTON
MORFA VILLA HOLLIDAY MATHEW HD M 46 OVERMAN IN COAL MINES CUL CAMERTON
ROBSON JOSEPH - U 20 BLACKSMITH DUR KELLOE
MORFA COLLIERY COX EVAN HD M 41 ENGINE DRIVER COAL MINE GLA ST.BRIDES MINOR
MORFA COLLIERY KEENLYSIDE JOHN HD M 37 BLACKSMITH NBL HEXHAM
MORFA COLLIERY COLE FRANCIS HD M 57 LABOURER GLA BAGLAN
MORFA COLLIERY BADGE JAMES HD M 43 ENGINE SMITH CON MARAZION
BADGE WILLIAM PREAD SO U 21 BOILER SMITH CON ST.ERTH
BADGE JAMES SO U 19 ENGINE DRIVER COAL MINES CON ST.ERTH
MORFA COLLIERY EVANS JOHN HD W 39 OVERMAN IN COAL MINES CMN KIDWELLY
EVANS JOHN SO U 13 HAULIER IN COAL MINES GLA ABERAVON
MORFA COLLIERY THOMAS JOHN HD U 23 COAL MINER GLA ABERAVON
MORFA COLLIERY THOMAS JOHN HD W 56 BLOCK LAYER GLA MARGAM
MORFA COLLIERY GRATTON JOHN HD M 33 ENGINE STOKER COAL MINES DEV LITTLEHAMPTON
MORFA COLLIERY MUNDAY JAMES HD M 39 ENGINE DRIVER COAL MINES CON ILLOGAN
MUNDAY JOHN SO U 16 STRIKER IN BLACKSMITHS CON ST AGNES MUNDAY JOSEPH SO U 14 STRIKER IN BLACKSMITHS GLA MORRISTON
MORFA COLLIERY SMITH GEORGE V HD M 30 HITCHER, COAL MINE SOM SUCKEM [SUTTON ?]
MORFA COLLIERY WARE HENRY HD M 31 BLACKSMITH GLA PYLE
MORFA COLLIERY JENKINS MARY HD W 49 SHOEING SMITH'S WIDOW CMN LLANBAR [LLANFAIR ?]
JENKINS MARGARET DA U 20 COLLIERY OFFICE WOMAN GLA LALESTONE
MORFA COLLIERY JONES THOMAS HD U 32 LABOURER CMN LLANGADOG
MORFA COLLIERY STRIDLING THOMAS HD U 24 COAL MINER GLA COITY
MORFA COLLIERY JOHN DANIEL HD U 19 LABOURER PEM CAMROSE
MORFA COLLIERY SMITH ALFRED HD M 22 COAL MINER PEM ST.EDRENS
MORFA COLLIERY WATERS ABRAHAM HD U 18 LABOURER PEM ST.EDRENS
MORFA COLLIERY WILLIAMS THOMAS HD U 17 COAL MINER GLA TYTHEGSTON
MORFA COLLIERY CALLAGHAN TIMOTHY HD M 30 COAL MINER [IRL]QUEENSTOWN CO.CORK
MORFA COLLIERY COLLINS PATRICK HD U 20 COAL MINER [IRL]SCARBOROUGH CO.CORK
MORFA COLLIERY KEEN SAMUEL HD W 39 LABOURER DEV GEORGE NYMPTON
MORFA COLLIERY COLLINS DANIEL HD W 50 COAL MINER IRL KELLIRNOA ?
MORFA COLLIERY GLOAK JOHN HD M 36 LABOURER DEV CLOVELLY
MARGAM TOLLGATE GUBB HENRY HD M 35 STONE MASON DEV MARWOOD
MORFA COLLIERY DEVERX JOHN HD M 25 OSTLER (UNDERGROUND) PEM CAREW
MORFA COLLIERY DAVIES THOMAS HD U 20 COAL MINER GLA TYTHEGSTON
CARREG RHEW FARM BARRETT WILLIAM HD M 35 AG.LAB. DEV WESTLEIGH
ARNALLT BRIDGE LLEWELLYN DAVID HD M 36 COAL MINER GLA TAIBACH
LLEWELLYN DAVID SO U 10 LABOURER GLA MARGAM
ARNALLT BRIDGE JENKINS HUMPHREY HD M 34 LABOURER GLA CWM BROMBIL [MARGAM]
ARNALLT WALTER ANN HD W 75 - GLA MARGAM
MORFA COLLIERY JOSSLIN JOHN HD M 33 BANKSMAN AT COAL MINES DEV TAVISTOCK
By taking a closer look at the above 1861 Census and comparing it with the earlier 1851 Census, we should be able to gain more information about the people living down next to the Morfa Pit.
Out of the nine family surnames given in 1851, four remained by 1861,
William Barrass. Francis Cole. Evan Cox. and James Badge.
TO BE CONTINUED