The Albion - Pontypridd, Glamorganshire. 23rd June, 1894
Albion in August 1964 by Les Price of Mountain Ash
Thanks to Keith Jones For Sending The Photo In
The colliery was the property of the Albion Steam Coal Company, Limited whose registered address was 12, Bute Crescent Cardiff. It was a comparatively new colliery with sinking operations commencing in 1885 and completed in 1887.
It was in the Taff Valley and this portion of the coalfield was virgin until the colliery was opened. It was to the north of the Ocean Coal Company Lady Windsor Pit at Ynysybwl and Harris’s Deep Navigation Colliery at Treharris. It was near the village of Cilfynydd, near Pontypridd and was one of the largest in South Wales and employed nearly two thousand men but at the time there were only about a sixth of that number below ground on the afternoon repairing shift.
Mr. Henry Lewis, of Walnut Tree Junction. was the managing director of the Company and acted on behalf of the owners. He was a mining engineer with a wide experience in the steam coal collieries of South Wales. Mr. William Lewis who held a
First Class Certificate was resident agent and Mr. Phillip Jones was the certificated manager of the colliery. At the time of the explosion William Jones, son of the manager was acting undermanager as John Jones the regular undermanager, was not at work due to ill health. William Rees was the day overman and John Evans the night overman. The latter was killed in the disaster. There were eight firemen on the day shift and eight at night as well as assistant firemen and bratticemen. Mr. Lewis, the managing director, went underground from time to time and was in daily contact with the officials.
The colliery was about sixteen hundred feet deep and had two shafts, the downcast and winding shaft and the other an upcast shaft. They were 33 yards apart and 19 feet in diameter and walled throughout by 9-inch brickwork.
In sinking the shafts the following seams were met.
The No.1 shaft was 524 yds (six feet seam) with a staple shaft sunk on the Cilfynydd side of the shaft to a depth of 80 yds down to the 5ft/gellideg
The No.2 Rhondd was 606 yds deep and went to the 5ft/gellideg seam,
The No.3 Rhondd, 2 feet 7 inches thick at 226 yards,
The Two Feet Nine, 6 feet thick at 517 yards,
The Four Feet, 6 feet 8 inches thick at 545 yards,
The Six Feet, 6 feet thick at 552 yards
The Nine Feet, at 580 yards.
The Four Feet was known locally as the ‘Upper Four Feet’ and this was the only seam that had been worked up to the time of the disaster. It was first class steam coal and the seam was a clean one varying from about 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet 10 inches in thickness. Immediately above the coal there was a strong cliff or shale which was 11 feet thick but in places that was a clod from about one inch to 15 inches thick. The colliery was well laid out and equipped with modern machinery for a large output.
The coal was worked by the longwall method. One portion, where the main roof rock approached within a few inches of the coal seam, was worked on the ‘Nottingham System in which the stall roads were 50 to 60 yards apart and trams were taken along temporary rails parallel and close to the face, the road being moved forward laterally every 6 or 9 feet as the face advanced. This system was discontinued about a year before the disaster and all the remaining workings were carried on by the ordinary longwall with the stall roads about 12 yards apart which was the practise of the district.
In the longwall method the whole of the seam is removed by the forward working, all the roadways are necessary for ventilation and the haulage has to be made and maintained through the gob or goaf. This is done by stowing any clod or stone taken down by the colliers, most of the small coal that is made, the stone that is ripped in the roadways back from the face and rubbish from falls and debris gathered in the roads and air courses. As well as the gob walls there were cogs of timber supporting the sides of the roadways and double timbers on the roadways supporting the roof where timbering seemed necessary by the management.
The workings were divided into three districts and at the date of the explosion there were eight of these working. There were four on the west side of the shaft which was known as Grover’s Side and four of the east side which was known as the Cilfynydd side. On Grover’s side the main level extended 1,136 yards from the shaft and the last 53 yards had been stowed and it was not being extended. On the right hand side of this level at a point 708 yards from the shaft was the Llanfabon dip. At 118 yards further on was John Morris’s Dip and a further 254 yards on was Ned Owen’s dip, 108 yards from the shaft. The workings reached from these three dips were called the No.1 district. It contained 2,521yards of roadways and 41 working places which occupied a face 545 yards long. The total length of the face opened out was 844 yards at the time and a portion of it had reached it’s boundary.
Eight hundred and twenty yards from the shaft along Grover’s level there was an entrance to Asket’s heading, 112 yards was Tom William’s heading an 97 yards beyond this was Nelson’s heading. The workings in these three headings formed another district which was described as No.2 district in which there were 3,260 yards of roadways and 41 working places in an unbroken line 528 yards long. In addition there was short length of face adjoining this level but was not in operation. This made a total length of face in this district of 623 yards.
Coming back towards the shaft and within 185 yards of it was the entrance to Dudson’s heading which was extended 1,126 yards to the rise, the workings on both sides of which, above Wedging’s heading, forming No.3 district. This embraced 3,244 yards of roadways and 59 working places extending for 792 yards all of which were working. The workings reached by Dan’s heading which branched off to the left 396 yards up Dudson’s heading were included in the No.4 district. This was made up of 12 working places 176 yards long and there was a further 286 yards which were not being worked at the time. Dan’s heading was 484 yards long and the average length of the branches and stall roads in operation was 875 yards.
On the Cilfynydd side branching off to the left at 194 yards from the shaft along the level was the Pantduu dip which had been driven 814 yards passing Mordecai’s level at 473 yards, D. Thomas’s level at 616 yards and Parker’s level at 686 yards. The 44 working places in this district was called the No.5 district and 594 yards of face were being worked. The total length of the workings in this district was 2,590 yards. Following the Cilfynydd level, William Rees heading was to the rise at 806 yards from the shaft and David Rees heading 180 yards further are reached and beyond this there was one short heading to the rise and another to the dip. The total length of the Cilfynydd main level was 1,100 yards. The number of working places in this No.6 district was 27 with a length of face of 338yards. The total length of roadways in the main level was 1720 yards.
Opposite the entrance of the Pantddu dip was Bodwenarth incline which was driven1092 yards to the rise. On the left side of this incline were David Rees level at 608 yards, Boucher’s level at 862 yards and Mathew’s level at 963 yards from the entrance. These workings formed the No. 7 district and comprised 43 working places with a face length of537 yards and a total length of roadways amounting to 2,602 yards. On the right hand side of the same incline were Dobb’s level at 711 yards and Curley’s level at 824 yards and included 42 working places on a length of 540 yards without a break and 2,438 yards of roadways that made up the No.8 district.
At the date of the explosion there were 4,041 yards of working face and over 17 miles of roadways in use for haulage and ventilation at the colliery.
The principle haulage was by main and tail ropes which were driven by two steam engines, one on each side of the downcast shaft, fixed immediately over the main road, 42 yards on Grover’s side and 28 yards on the Cilfynydd side. These engines were supplied with steam from two boilers placed in two separate galleries on each side of the shaft between the main intake and main return 33 and 37 yards respectively from the downcast shaft.
The engine planes on Grover’s side comprised that working to Asket’s heading with branches down Llanfabon and John Morris’ dips. Another worked on Dudson’s heading to within 150 yards of the face with a branch along Dan’s heading 385 yards from it’s entrance off Dudson’s heading. On the Cilfynydd side of the shaft the engine plane extended toWilliam Rees heading on the main road. There was branch down Pantddu dip 600 yards and another up Bodwenarth incline 600 yards long. The total length of the haulage worked by engine power was 4,543 yards. All other haulage was done by horses of which there were 121 in the pit.
The ventilation of the colliery was produced by a Schiele fan fifteen and a half feet in diameter exhausting from the upcast shaft and providing 235,000 cubic feet per minute. The air splits were well arranged and the air crossing with the exception of two were made in the solid. The mine made firedamp in considerable quantities and had a history of strong blowers and outbursts. Gas was seldom reported by the firemen in their statutory reports and they stated at the inquiry that they did not report gas that had collected by brattice sheets being down or from other accidental causes. Mines inspectors found that accumulations of gas were rare in the 12 months before the explosion and believed the mine to be unusually gas free. No complaint had ever been made to Mr. Robson, the Inspector for the district about accumulations of gas.
The mine was light by bonneted Clanny lamps in accordance with the provisions of the Coal Mines Regulation Act 1887. There were electric lights at the colliery but these were out of order and had been for some time before the accident. Open Comet lamps were used near the bottoms of the shafts and naked lights were allowed at each of the lamp stations of which there were seven in use for the day shift and two for the night shift, one on the main level and the other at the entrance to the Pantddu dip. The only other naked lights that were allowed in the mine were the boiler fires of each side of the shaft.
Explosives were not used to get coal nor in the removal of the shale immediately above the coal but they were used in ripping rock to maintain the height of the roadways. Explosives were also used for removing timbers when the roof subsided. The officials said that the timbers were only blasted down when they were supporting a strong roof and in positions where the span was less than 13 feet. This was an unusual procedure and will be referred to later. The explosive used was gelatine-dynamite and gelignite. Shots were fired by a fuse and the firemen and overmen were the only ones permitted to fire shots. A man in each shift was appointed to take charge of the detonators, explosives and fuse. The manager had given instructions that shots were to be fired only in the intervals between shifts but this had not been carried out, at least on the day of the explosion.
The seam produced large quantities of dust which was deposited on the roadways and was shaken and blown by trams as they passed on they to and fro the faces. With the exception of a few stalls which were damp all the stalls were dry and dusty. A little water passed through the roof but generally this had little bearing on the dryness of the mine. On Grover’s side a little water was pumped by a horse pump from a short dip through lines that were laid to the sump of the shaft. It was said that water was allowed to leak from the joints in the pipe and through holes bored in the pipe. About seven casks of water per day were filled in the Llanfabon dip and this was put in the roads of the Nos.1 and 2 districts.
Water that was collected in No.5 district in the Pantddu dip was pumped to a tank 418yards from the entrance of this dip off the Cilfynydd level which was on the rise side of an upthrow fault and was high enough for the water to run through a line of pipes out of the level. As a result of the road rising there was a swamp hollow in which the water lay.
On the left hand side of the Bodwenarth incline a small quantity of water was pumped from the face straight on to the road and allowed to find it’s way to the shaft. This wet the floor for only 160 yards and it got drier nearer the shaft. A supply of clean water was brought from the surface by pipes for the horses and sometimes the tap was left on and water flowed along Grover’s level but the mine was dry and dusty with deposits of coal dust on the sides floor and roof of the roads.
Coal was worked by day and by night but only twenty five percent of the production was made at night. There were about 1,020 people working underground during the day shift and 524 on the night shift. On the first five working days of the week there was an interval between the day shift ending at 5 p.m. and the night shift starting at 7 p.m. and there was also an interval between the night shift finishing at 5 a.m. an the day shift starting at 7a.m. On Saturdays no coal was raised after 2 p.m. at the end of the day shift and the nightshift immediately began to descend with no interval between the shafts. This had been in operation for five or six weeks before the disaster and the alteration had been made on the request of the workmen to enable them to finish at 8 p.m. instead of 9 p.m.
Road repairing and cleaning was carried out during the week in both shifts but Saturday afternoon was devoted to clearing away the rubbish and dust from the main roads of the colliery. The colliery had been rapidly developed since work commenced in the latter half of 1887. Before the end of that year as much as 1,000 tons a day had been raised. The output for the week ending 23rd. June, the day of the disaster was 9,542 tons of which 7,170 tons was cut by day and 2,372 tons cut at night. 338 acres of the seam had been exhausted at the time of the disaster.
Thanks to Keith Jones for the information about the shafts