Photo: Swansea Canal at Godre’r Graig in 1911 (Mr Edward Tucker)

Swansea Canal and Coal Carrying

The completion of the Swansea Canal from Swansea to Hen Noyadd (later to be named Abercraf) in 1798 was responsible for the creation of the vast majority of the industries that developed in the Swansea Valley pre 1861. Twenty-two coalmines were sunk along the canal corridor or in the tributary valleys and by the 1890s over 400,000 tons of coals were carried annually along the Swansea Canal. The South Wales Primrose Coal Company, the owners at a later date of Tareni Colliery and a further five pits in the area, came into being prior to the construction of the Swansea Vale Railway, later to be the Midland Railway. The collieries used the Swansea Canal extensively to convey coals from their mines to industries in the Swansea Valley and down to Swansea Harbour for export abroad. The Primrose Coal Company had extensive riverside wharves between the Swansea Canal and the River Tawe above the North Dock at Swansea. Barges would lie up in the canalside docks adjacent to the Swansea Canal to have their cargoes of coal unloaded and stockpiled at the company’s yard, prior to the coal being trammed to ships waiting at the river wharves.

Ynysgeinon Colliery (in the upper Swansea Valley, adjacent to the Tareni Colliery site) was another deep mine working coal from below Mynydd Marchywel, but in the period 1819 and 1861. The Swansea Canal Navigation Company Toll Books (PRO Rail 876/11) give an indication of the coal mined from this mountain by this one colliery. The average output carried by canal barges in the period c1820-1850 was 6,600 tons per annum. This increased to 44,000 tons per annum in the 1850s. During its working life of 42 years Ynysgeinon Colliery produced 638,000 tons of coal, which was all transported by canal barges to Swansea. That coal was all worked by the pillar and stall method of working.

Every community, village and town in the Swansea Valley and the adjacent tributary valleys owes its existence to the Swansea Canal and the industries that developed along its corridor, such as coal mining, iron production and other industrial concerns.

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