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Situated near Ystrad Mynach, the sinking of Penallta Colliery began in 1905. The two shafts – No.1 (downcast) and No.2 (upcast) – were 783 and 750 yards deep respectively and were the deepest shafts in south Wales when they were sunk.


Penallta was built by the Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Company, the largest coal mining company in Britain. At its peak, the company owned over seventy collieries in south Wales and accounted for about one-third of the coalfield’s output. Penallta was the ‘jewel in the crown’ for Powell Duffryn, a status it retained right up until the nationalisation of the coal industry in 1947. Penallta was consistently one of the company’s most profitable pits during the interwar years: alongside Britannia and Bargoed collieries, also in the Rhymney Valley, it played a key role in underpinning the company’s performance through its low-cost production of vast amounts of high quality steam coal. Located a short distance away from the company’s headquarters in Tredomen, Ystrad Mynach, Penallta was Powell Duffryn’s ‘showcase pit’, intended to be one of the best and most modern collieries to be found anywhere in Europe. 

The first coal was raised at Penallta in 1909 and it was considered one of the most advanced collieries of this period, using up-to-date coal-cutting machinery.

In 1923 there were 2,395 men employed at Penallta, producing coal from the Six Feet Seam. At its peak in the early decades of the twentieth century, Penallta was one of the largest and most important pits in south Wales, employing 3,208 men in 1931.

The interwar years saw Penallta consolidate its position as one of the most productive pits in Britain, producing over 3,000 tons of coal a day and regularly breaking national and European output records at this time. Penallta’s maximum annual production figure was reached in 1930, when 2,808 men produced 975,603 tons of saleable coal. 

Penallta was the first colliery in south Wales to install a fully mechanised coalface, when a Meco Moore coal-cutting machine was introduced there in 1945. This was one of the first power loaders (machines that both cut the coal and loaded it onto a conveyor for transportation out of the pit) to be adopted by a British colliery. 

When the coal industry was nationalised in 1947, there were 1,920 men employed at Penallta. 

Penallta’s shaft-winding engines were electrified in 1962-3 and £2.5 million was spent on a modernisation project, which included extending the shafts were extended to a depth of 800 yards to access new working levels. 

In the mid 1970s there were 700 men employed at Penallta, producing 210,000 tons of coal a year from the Lower Nine Feet and Seven Feet seams.

After the 1984-5 strike, Penallta was one of the few pits in the coalfield that to undergo a programme of modernisation, with £3.5 million being invested in rapid coal-winding skips and a new heavy-duty high-technology coalface.  By March 1991, the colliery was producing 590,000 tonnes a year of saleable coal, its highest-ever per-capita productivity rate.

When Penallta closed on 1 November 1991, it was one of the last few remaining collieries in south Wales. When the last shift finished work there, they marched from the pit into nearby Ystrad Mynach, accompanied by a brass band and a crowd of supporters. 

Although much of the land which was formerly part of the Penallta Colliery site is now covered by an industrial estate and a new housing estate, the headgear of the pit’s two shafts and several other important buildings (including the engine hall and the pithead baths) remain standing. 

Penallta RFC was formed in 1952 by a group of miners from Penallta Colliery – the team is still going strong today, and is still known as ‘The Pitmen’.

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