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Coal production in the Cynon Valley had continuously increased from the 1850s and there was a huge increase in coal production between 1890 and 1900.

“The industry was very labour intensive.”

The actual cutting of coal was unmechanised and relied on man, muscle, pick and shovel. The consequence of this was that more and more colliers were needed to produce the coal. The industry was very labour intensive and when there were not enough local men to fill the vacancies immigrant manual workers were sucked in by the pull of high wages and long term employment. With the war in South Africa swelling up the South Wales Borderers travelled through South Wales in the 1890s trying to recruit young men. The Battalion record book recalls how difficult it was to persuade men to join up but reveals the reasons. “From the recruiting point of view the march was less successful than in other respects. These were prosperous days in South Wales, unemployment was hardly known, both coal mining, and iron and steel industries were flourishing and afforded ample outlets at high wages for the ambitious and for the surplus labour of the population of the rural areas. A fair number of recruits were obtained for the Militia but barely twenty for the Live.”

(Ref: ‘The South Wales Borderers 24th Foot 1689-1937’ by C. T. Atkinson, page 373.)

“Many miners aspired to own their homes.”

Housing and Living Conditions.

Housing accommodation for this expanding influx of people lagged behind the need. Private builders used local quarried stone to build terraced houses that spread up and along the sides of valley towns. Some employers built housing for their employees. The rush to complete the properties for the immigrant workers and their families held back careful town planning, however the standard of housing was much better than that built previously. Many miners aspired to own their homes. Building Clubs were a popular way of financing the building of houses. Groups of working men collectively would borrow money to finance the building of a house for each member. Members would pay subscriptions to pay off the loan. The houses built in this way were often of a superior quality and comfort. However, in many places there were not enough houses for working coal miners and their families. The pressure on house owners to provide accommodation sometimes resulted in property becoming badly maintained. Throughout most of the years of the century, villages and towns in the valleys of South Wales had no mains water, no sanitation or easy and free access to medical treatment. (continued on page 3)

Population: At the end of the C19th, the county of Glamorgan held over a third of the total population of Wales. By 1900 Glamorgan had became one of the most densely populated parts of Britain.

Population of Wales and Glamorgan:

Year

Total Wales (000)

Total Glamorgan (000)

Glamorgan %age of Wales

1881

1572

511

32.5%

1891

1771

687

38.79%

1901

2013

860

42.7%

1911

2421

1121

46.3%

Occupations: For the same period, Wales from 1881 to 1911 (000s), the number of men employed in metal manufacture, engineering, transport and communications also increased. Agriculture was the only occupation with a declining male workforce.

South Wales Coal Production:


year

manpower

Saleable output (tons)

1855

NA

8,552,000

1875

NA

14,173,000

1885

NA

24,343,000

1895

126,199

33,040,000

1900

147,652

39,328,000

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