Brynna woods is now part of a beautiful wildlife reserve of Brynna Woods and Llanharan Marsh, but its history is very much more industrial. To walk through the peaceful woodland now would fool you into thinking it had always been this bucolic, but in its recent history it was a hive of mining activity.
It is now a nature reserve managed with ourselves at the Wildlife Trust and the local communities of Brynna and Llanharan.
Coal mining started in Brynna Woods during the 1860's with the sinking of 2 shafts – 51 and 75 yards deep. This operation was know as the Brynna Gwinion Colliery. In 1880 the owners were listed as the Barrow Haematite Steel Company Ltd..
The Ordnance Survey (OS) map for 1874, shows a number of buildings to the south of Brynna Road and where the School is now. These included: Engine House, Coke Ovens, Furnace, Shed, Office and Waterwheel. The Pond/Lagoon at this time was much longer than today – about 85metres. In addition there was a rail line/tramway running from close to the pit head (just south and west from the bridleway/footpath crossroad) south west to the then GWR main line near to the old level crossing. This was used to transport coal from this and subsequent mining operations.
A further shaft was started to the south of the original ones but seems to have been abandoned due to flooding.
The underground workings extended north west (under the School) and then under what would become William Street.
It is uncertain when this Colliery ceased operation but possibly in the 1880's.
Drift mining in Brynna Woods may have started in the 1890's but was small scale into the early 1900's – only 5 men were reported working underground in 1901.
The 1914 OS maps do not show any buildings or workings except for those from the earlier deep mine. However, by the early 1920's 2 main drifts were being worked – No.1 Shaft entrance about 20 metres west of the Pond and No.2 shaft between the west end of the Pond and the Ancient oak.
At this time it was reported that about 400 men were working underground.
No.3 shaft, entrance below Maywood, seems to have started operation in 1922 and was operated intermittently until abandonment in 1928.
The company operating these drifts was Brynna Collieries Ltd.
Buildings that would have been there at this time include:
The Power House, Large building approx. 37metres by 5.3m, to the south of the Pond, no longer in evidence; Chimney stack, just to the west of the Power House, base still visible; boilers and engine house, close to the crossroads; office and screens, to the east of the Pond and south of the path; No.2 ventilation housing (still visible); powder magazine, by ancient oak. In addition there would have been tramways from the shaft entrances taking full drams to the screens and empty drams back. From the screens, coal would have been loaded onto wagons and sent down to the GWR line.
By 1928, there were only about 150 men working underground, with No.2 shaft only used as a return and for ventilation. Mining ceased completely in Brynna Woods in 1933 with many of the workers relocating to the up and coming Llanharan Colliery.
The workings from No.1 and No.2 shafts extended north west under the School and Brynna village and were very extensive. Subsidence was a big problem with William Street badly affected. No.3 shaft workings extended under Maywood (entrance shaft only) and to the north under Hillcrest.
This Colliery was well know to be a dangerous place to work and there were many accidents and injuries. 2 incidents that are recorded are:
6th July 1928 Ernest Witts age 41, collier. Brynna No.1, fall of stone. Injured
2nd December 1929 Henry Humphries age 53, repairer. Brynna No.1, fall of stone. Injured.
Mark Steer 3rd July 2012