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Report - - Tower Colliery - July 2017 | Industrial Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk
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Report - Tower Colliery - July 2017

GreyAliyah

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
#1
Met with two non members in Wales who have a love for mining history unlike anything I'd ever seen before! On a Saturday morning we drove down to Hirwaun ready for a quick explore - we definitely misunderstood the place! After wading through knee high shrubs and thorns for what seemed like forever, we got to the site. We were quite cautious at first, looking out for cameras as we didn't wanted to be busted so early on in an explore.

Having looked into the history a little before going, I was still surprised by the size of the land itself. Not only that, but as trashed as it was in certain places, the really important stuff (in my opinion) was still there! Rebreathers, all of the original documents in their filing drawers, plans/schemes of the site, massive and intact machinery, and most amazingly a notepad detailing minutes from all of the meetings with directors and stakeholders discussing cost cutting measures in the run up to the closure of the site.

As minor as it may seem, the notepad was the highlight of the trip for me (alongside bumping into Glyn, but more on that in a bit). I can't put the pictures of each page up, as there are so many, but the level of detail in there was astounding. The first entry (would have been 2003, couldn't make out the date) details issues of strikes, the fact that the plant was at that time losing £40,000 per week, and the need for restructure (to include a change in shift patterns, 20% reduction in wages, cutting pensions, getting rid of overtime, and reducing staff hours). A later page containing the minutes of a meeting on 10/10/2003 (again detailing names of those taking part) revealed that the plant was now losing £80,000 per week and had scribbled down a number of sums to calculate those losses. The meeting on 15/10/2003 noted the intention to fire 16 contractors and 40 permanent staff, amongst other losses to try to save a total of £1.2M in a last ditch attempt to make the colliery profitable again. The minutes of the 22/10/2003 meeting showed the agreement of the cost cutting measures previously suggested. I thought I'd taken picture of the final page but couldn't find it; the final redundancy packages agreed for the staff ranged between 3-6 months pay. The Colliery finally closed its doors in 2008, having suffered financial difficulties for a while.

In the fight over pay and against redundancy/closure, the miner's slogan was "COAL NOT DOLE". A few stickers strewn around which definitely made it feel all the more closer to home.

Just a thought; maybe they'd have saved a bit more money if they didn't have an on-site sauna and gym ;)

Half of the buildings were sealed, however the headstock and pit head baths are listed structures. We had a mooch about and giggled at all the porno posters. Clearly the lack political correctness and fact that it was illegal for women to work in a mine created an interesting atmosphere, one could say. Top laughs achieved when we came across a sex story mag in which one sorry chap described his wife's bits as a "deep cavern".

Towards the end of the explore we got a bit lazy and ended up walking past a CCTV camera, and realised exactly what we had done. Figuring we had nothing left to lose, we had a look around all of the old machinery which was now in a different outbuilding, and waited to be found. We bumped into Glyn, who was amazing on all accounts. Once he realised we weren't the group of local 15 year old lads who had been regularly coming down to trash the place, he was really friendly! Glyn had worked as a miner at the Colliery for over 50 years, and now worked as a security person for the site whilst also helping to clear it of all the detritus. He hired a few local boys to help clear the place, and they were also selling the remaining coal for £5 a bag (vs £15 a bag up the road, he proudly told us). When Glyn first started working for the plant, they employed over 1200 people. At time of closure, there were just 540 still working there.

The site is being cleared and has been earmarked for industrial development and new housing to start within the next 18 months. Locals are hoping that keeping the listed structures and utilising them for new business will help to revitalise the area whilst still paying tribute to its history.

Just a note: Glyn has said anyone wanting to visit only needs to knock at the security hut which is down the road, and they'll unlock the gate for you to have a look. Beats trundling around in bushes, and he's amazing to give you a full history on the place if you're up for hearing it.


Potted history from Wikipedia:
With coal located so close to the surface, it was known by locals to be possible to drift mine coal from Hirwaun common. This activity increased from 1805, until in 1864 the first drift named Tower was started, named after the nearby Crawshay's Tower, a folly built in 1848 and named after Richard Crawshay.

In 1941, a new shaft was sunk to a depth of 160 metres. From 1943 until closure, this shaft was used as the main "return" ventilation shaft and for the transport of men. In 1958 Tower No. 3 was driven to meet the No. 4 colliery workings, and was used as the main "intake" airway, conveying coal to the surface and transporting materials into the mine working areas.

The Aberdare branch of the Merthyr line continued north from Aberdare railway station to the colliery. While passenger services terminate in Aberdare, freight services operated several times a day along this stretch of line, directly owned by the colliery.

Post the 1984/5 UK Miner's strike, the Conservative government authorised British Coal to close the majority of the UK's deep mines on economic grounds, nominally including Tower. But from 30 June 1986, with new underground roads having been driven, all coal from Mardy Colliery was also raised at Tower, the two mines effectively working as one coalfield system. Mardy closed as an access shaft on 21 December 1990.

In October 1993 the red flag was raised on Hirwaun common as a symbol of unity between workers of Tower Colliery during a march to commemorate the Merthyr Rising in 1831, and highlight the plight of their own pit. In 1994, the constituency MP, Ann Clwyd staged a sit-in in the mine to protest against its closure, accompanied by the late Glyndwr 'Glyn' Roberts (Senior) of Penywaun.

British Coal closed Tower Colliery on 22 April 1994, on the grounds that it would be uneconomic in current market conditions to continue production.


On with the pictures!

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Last edited:

Oxygen Thief

Admin
Staff member
Admin
#2
Nice set of pics that is.

The place is deteriorating faster than I would have imagined.
 

GreyAliyah

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
#3
Nice set of pics that is.

The place is deteriorating faster than I would have imagined.

Thanks! Found it difficult to whittle them down. It's deteriorating due to a local bunch apparently, but it's nice that all the little historic bits are still left alone.
 

GreyAliyah

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
#5
Will definitely give Glyn a knock, be nice to see it before it gets redeveloped
Great report
Thank you! And yes do give him a knock and mention 3 people you know were there and recommended you ask for him. He's honestly lovely.
 

GreyAliyah

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
#10
That's nicely covered. The fence at the foot of the headstocks is new though, you could walk straight up them last year!
Apparently they've had a shitload of trouble from some local lads, probably trying to secure what they can. They were certainly very quick as soon as the camera caught us.
 

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