When coal was king in the Welsh valleys of the Rhondda – by Dana Huntley (British Heritage Travel – June 15, 2023)


The scars left behind by the collieries of Wales’ Rhondda Valley are beginning to heal, but some things never change.

Scarcely an hour’s drive west of the pristine villages, prosperous cottage gardens, and sylvan landscapes of the Cotswolds lies the southern Welsh county of mid-Glamorgan. Throngs of touring coaches, camera-wielding photojournalists, and well-heeled tourists don’t come here. These are the valleys of the Rhondda.

In the Valleys

Fanning out above the Welsh capital of Cardiff, these valleys are the coalfields of South Wales, narrow glens snaking their way south to north, from the Bristol Channel coast toward the Brecon Beacons. Every few miles up and down the hills lie the skeletal remains of a pit head, rusting silently, majestic.

Though in popular parlance the name Rhondda has become synonymous with the mining district, the Rhondda itself is a dual-pronged valley rising north of Pontypridd. The “Little Rhondda” threads its way from Trehafod north to Maerdy, where the road runs over the hills to Aberdare. The “Great Rhondda” branches west to Treorchy and Treherdert, then winds north to meet the Head of the Valleys Road at Hirwaun. The people here just call them “The Valleys.”

For more than a century, high quality, smokeless coal was extracted from the earth here. Collieries dotted the valleys, and tens of thousands of men made their livelihood cutting coal from the rich seams that ran from several feet to more than a quarter-mile under the surface.

For the rest of this article: https://britishheritage.com/history/coal-mining-wales-rhondda-valley