Bunkers & Underground, Factories

CWM Coking Works – South Wales

A Little History

In 1861 Beddau only consisted of four farms meeting at a crossroads. Beddau means Graves in Welsh. It may have got it’s name from the hangings that used to take place at the crossroads. Felons were hung from a tree and buried beneath the gallows. The location may also have had importance in older tribal wars.

The Great western Colliery Company dug pits at the site in 1909 as well as other areas of the Rhondda. No coal was extracted until 1914. Collieries were rather common in early 20th century. Very few remain today. They usually had cooling towers, as with power stations, chemical works and other sites where cooling water was necessary. In the late 19th century the cooling towers were wooden. They were replaced with concrete in the 1920’s. Even though they were built late, the towers at CWM were built using 19th century building methods.

The Colliery

The north tower is 12m long, oblong and tapers slightly to a flat open top about 15m high. The timber planks which make up the walls are placed vertically and supported on horizontal and diagonal members which are in turn fixed to an exterior wooden frame of vertical posts. The base consists of spaced slats to permit ventilation to the tower. A steam pipe enters the tower on the west face. The draft from beneath caused the steam to condense. One pair of cooling towers were located opposite the offices in the centre. It was immediately south and aligned with the north tower.

There were two pits called Margaret and Mildred, both with a depth of 750 yards (2,250 feet). Margaret was upcast with a diameter of 20ft and Mildred was downcast with a larger diameter of 25ft.  2″ thick rope connected the lift to 2,400hp and 3,000hp winding engines for Mildred and Margaret respectively. Underground there are still over 4 miles of conveyors, 13 miles of roadway and 6 locomotives.

By 1923 there were 1043 men employed at the colliery and in 1928 it was taken over by Powell Duffryn Associated Collieries Limited.

In 1938 there were 1269 employees and by the end of the war in 1947 this number had dropped to 1154. 1948 saw the establishment of the National Coal Board to oversee the industry in the UK.

Coking Works

It didn’t become known for it’s coke until 1958. This is when the coking ovens and associated machinery for producing coke and refining the by-product of the coking process were installed, south of the colliery. Coke is a solid fuel made by heating coal in sealed ovens for 26 hours. The coal was supplied from the adjacent colliery as well as others in the area.

The Nant Myddlyn is a tributary of the River Clun (Afon Clun) that flows through the site and is culverted for roughly three quarters of it’s length.

£9m investment took place between 1952 and 1960 that including linking CWM Colliery with Coedely, Tonyrefail. By the 1970’s 1580 men were employed producing 515,000 tonnes of coke per annum.

It continued its production of coal until privatisation of the National Coal Board in 1986. Then the colliery closed and just the coking plant remained. Coal was then brought by road and rail even though there is still 30 million tonnes of coal still underground.

Remained in use until 2002 producing low sulphur for the foundaries of Port Talbot. The works supplied coke to the four sites of the British Sugar Corporation and to Britannia Zinc at Avonmouth. It also produced by-product of gas that it sold to a local hospital. Also tar and ammonium-sulphite.

Owned by CPL Industries. There has been talks of 800 homes including a school, although some time has past since then without further word. Nothing remains above ground of the colliery apart from one building. The explore is of the coking plant that still exists.

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