Tower

There have been several ‘Tower’ collieries in the Hirwaun area, named after the Crawshay ironmasters’ folly built nearby in 1848. Tower Graig mine began production in 1864. Tower Colliery opened in 1878. Its No.3 Drift was driven in 1920, its No.4 shaft was sunk in 1944 and its No.3 New Drift opened in 1958–9. During the 1984–5 strike, Tower did not see a single strikebreaker. In 1994, Tower famously became the only British colliery to be owned by its workers. The last deep mine in Wales, it closed in January 2008. 

Work and Technological Change

Coal mining was tough, physical work in the 1940s. Elwyn Marshall started work in 1941 and described his experiences. 

Elwyn Marshall
00:00 / 00:38

Interview with Ben Curtis, 6 April 2019, Transcript

Windsor Lewis started work in 1953 and witnessed significant technological change.   

Windsor Lewis
00:00 / 03:18

Interview with Ben Curtis, 20 May 2019, Transcript

In the following decades, increasing mechanisation transformed every aspect of working at Tower. Wayne Thomas transferred there from Abernant Colliery in 1988.   

Wayne Thomas
00:00 / 01:24

Interview with Ben Curtis, 24 May 2019, Transcript  

Black and white image of a coalface underground at Tower Colliery. The main focus of the image is the large and high-powered machinery installed at the coalface, especially the hydraulic chock supports and illuminated steel roof canopies.

A coalface scene at Tower Colliery, November 1996 (National Union of Mineworkers South Wales Area) 

The 1962 Disaster 

 

Collieries always remained dangerous workplaces, despite safety improvements. An underground explosion at Tower on 13 April 1962 killed nine men and injured a further nine, the worst accident in the pit’s history. Windsor Lewis was an overman at Tower and recalled that day.

A black and white image with two vehicles in the foreground.  One vehicle is behind the other and there is a person next to the vehicle.  Tower Colliery is in the background
Windsor Lewis
00:00 / 03:24

Tower Colliery in the aftermath of the April 1962 explosion. (National Union of Mineworkers South Wales Area; courtesy of South Wales Miners’ Library) 

Interview with Ben Curtis, 20 May 2019, Transcript

Miners and their Families

The two clips below both involve children of mining communities describing their fathers doing caring and domestic work within their families.  The stories are very interesting and complicate common ideas about the strict segregation of work within mining families.  They also show a feature of oral history; people are more likely to talk about what is unusual that what is normal.  

Jenny Williams
00:00 / 00:43

Interview with Ben Curtis 20 May 2019, Transcript  

Glyn Roberts
00:00 / 01:19

Interview with Ben Curtis 22 November 2018, Transcript  

Women Colliery Workers

Ever since the Coal Mines Act of 1842 prohibited female employment underground, coal mining in the UK was overwhelmingly a job done by men. Within this, though, there were several colliery jobs which were almost always done by women: particularly canteen work, but also clerical and secretarial work in the colliery offices. Jenny Williams worked in the Tower canteen.

Jenny Williams
00:00 / 02:10

Interview with Ben Curtis 20 May 2019, Transcript  

NUM lodge committee

The NUM lodge played a key role at Tower Colliery, in day-to-day mining operations and also representing the workforce. Lyn Evans described how he saw the committee.

Lyn Evans
00:00 / 00:55

Interview with Ben Curtis 13 March 2019, Transcript  

Eleven white men posing for a photograph in front of the Tower lodge banner.  Some are wearing suits and ties, some are dressed more informally.

Tower NUM Lodge committee, 1993. (National Union of Mineworkers South Wales Area) 

'Everyone ended up at Tower'​

 

As other pits in South Wales closed, miners transferred to Tower and it became a 'receiver pit'.  Tower miners described the dynamics of new workers arrivnig at the pit.

Lyn Evans
00:00 / 00:19

Interview with Ben Curtis 13 March 2019, Transcript  

Glyn Roberts
00:00 / 00:29

Interview with Ben Curtis 22 November 2018, Transcript  

Wayne Thomas
00:00 / 00:58

Interview with Ben Curtis, 24 May 2019, Transcript  

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