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British Industrial History

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Thomas Powell and Sons

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Thomas Powell and Sons, colliery developer and owner

Thomas Powell (1779-1863) worked initially as a timber merchant at Newport.

c.1829 Powell purchased a small colliery between Llanhilleth and Aberbeeg.

1829 Powell sank two shafts at Gelligaer, proving a vein of coal nearly six feet thick.

1833 Powell asked Sir Charles Morgan whether he could work coal under the Place Bedwellty farm, adjoining his own colliery at Buttery Hatch, but no agreement could be reached.

1833 Powell together with his close business associate, Thomas Prothero of Malpas, and John Latch of Newport, founded the short-lived Newport Coal Association to control prices, the first coal ring in South Wales.

1840 Powell sunk the first deep mine at Tir Founder, Cwmbach, Aberdare, producing steam coal

1841 Sir Charles was awarded damages against Powell for trespass and working coal under the Place Bedwellty farm from his Buttery Hatch pit without permission.

1842 Powell struck the famous 4-foot seam. He followed up this success by sinking the Plough, Lower Duffryn, Middle Duffryn, and the Upper and Lower Cwm Pennar pits. Through the agency of John Nixon he secured a ready sale for his coal in France but fell out with Nixon over the payment of commission.

1840-1863 Powell opened many further deep mines, both in Aberdare (Cwmdare, Abernant, Abergwawr, Middle Duffryn and Cwmpennar) and in the Rhymney Valley. At their peak these collieries produced over 400,000 tons of coal each per annum.

The increasing dominance of steam over sailing ships and the preference of the Admiralty for the South Wales smokeless steam coal provided Powell with a rapidly expanding markets

Powell was one of the chief promoters of the Taff Vale Railway and the Monmouthshire Railway.

Opened a series of small pits at Llantwit Fardre for the house-coal trade

Later sank a large pit at New Tredegar.

He eventually owned sixteen pits. Powell was unusual amongst coal-masters at that time in owning several pits.

1862 exported over 700,000 tons of coal - probably the largest coal exporter in the world.

1863 Thomas Powell instructed T. E. Forster, William Armstrong and George Elliot (originally a Durham pit-man; later to become Sir George) to put a valuation on all his collieries.

1863 Thomas Powell died at his home, the Gaer, near Newport, on 24 March. Powell had been married three times.

1864 George Elliot formed the Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Co (PDSC) with a capital of £500,000 to take over Powell's steam coal undertakings in the Aberdare and Rhymney valleys and the house-coal level called White Rose at New Tredegar .

See Also


Sources of Information

  • Welsh Biography Online [1]