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The Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Co. Ltd.


Thomas Powell sunk the first deep mine at Cwmbach, Aberdare in 1840, between then and 1863 he 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.

In 1863 Thomas Powell instructed T. E. Forster, William Armstrong and George Elliott (Later to become Sir. George) to put a valuation on all his collieries; as a result Mr. George Elliott formed the ‘Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Company Limited' in 1864 for the purpose of working the whole of Thomas Powell's collieries. At this time the wealth of the South Wales Coalfield was only just being realised.

Middle Duffryn Colliery In 1867 the P.D.S.C. Co bought the Aberaman Estate off the iron master Crawshay Bailey this included Aberaman Colliery, Ironworks, Brickworks, the Mansion and all adjoining land. The acquisition of the Aberaman Estate was an important purchase, as underneath lay some of the best ‘steam coal' in the world and all within easy access to the ports. Aberaman became the headquarters of the company. P.D. coal reached markets worldwide including the railways of India, Argentine, Uruguayan and Brazil. The market in France was so large in 1914 they registered as ‘Compagnie Francaise des Mines Powell Duffryn' with their main offices at Rouen.

An able businessman, E.M Hann who had started his career in the company in 1879 was made director of the P.D.S.C.Co in 1916, he enabled the company to become the greatest coal-producing company in the world. Hann acquired all the adjoining collieries (Aberaman, Lletysiencyn, Abernant, Gadlys and Blaengwawr); He succeeded in sinking every one of the company's collieries in the Aberdare Valley to the lowest seam. Hann also saw the erection of the Coal Washery and Electric Generation Station at Middle Duffryn, Aberdare introducing electric power for lighting, haulage, winding, pumping, coal cutting machines etc. Hann's activities also influenced the social welfare and local government of Aberdare, he was elected the first President of Aberdare General Hospital in 1918 where today we still have a ward named after him and a tablet to his memory Hann died in 1931 and his sons continued his work.

The Company registered as ‘Powell Duffryn Associated Collieries' in 1935 with the amalgamation of the P.D.S.C.Co Ltd and Welsh Associated Collieries Ltd. A later amalgamation was witnessed with ‘Messrs. Cory Brothers and Co. Ltd' towards the end of 1942, the name then changed to ‘Powell Duffryn Ltd.'

The National Coal Board took over all ‘Powell Duffryn Ltd's' interests in 1947, but they indirectly retained a considerable influence on the management of the coal industry with many of their management retaining senior level posts with the N.C.B. particularly in the South Wales area.

After 1947 with their coal interests being divested, ‘Powell Duffryn Co.' diversed and expanded in other directions and by the early 1980s, they had worldwide recognition in the field of engineering, shipping (travel), bulk liquid storage, fuel distribution, construction, wagon manufacture to name but a few. In 1980/81 the turnover reached £456m.

Their commercial interests in South Wales include: -

  • Powell Duffryn Engineering (Llantrisant)
  • Powell Duffryn Travel (Cardiff)
  • Cory Brothers (Cardiff)
  • Powell Duffryn Timber (Barry)
  • Powell Duffryn Quarries (Merthyr, Machen
  • Caerffili, Penhow and Newport)
  • The Dan-y-Graig Brick Co. (Risca)
  • Powell Duffryn Wagon Co. Ltd., Cardiff)
  • Powell Duffryn Oil and Chemical storage Co. (Barry)
With all this achievement it is quite unbelievable to think that this multi-million, multi-national company's origins can be traced back to Cwmbach, Aberdare 1840.
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