Trust Regional Historic Environment Record
Berw Colliery, Llanfihangel Esceifiog
Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 5792 Trust : Gwynedd Community : Llanfihangel Ysgeifiog Unitary authority : Ynys Mon NGR : SH4633972457 Site Type (preferred type first) : POST MEDIEVAL COAL MINE Status : Scheduled Ancient Monument
Description : Berw colliery is situated on marshland drained by the Malltraeth enclosure. Work had been going on here on a small scale since perhaps the end of the eighteenth century. <2>
Berw colliery was sunk in the early C19th and is the best preserved of a number that once formed the Anglesey coalfield. The Berw colliery had a relatively short working life. Without the change and development seen at many other collieries, Berw illustrates many of the typical features of a small early C19th Welsh coal mine. It was established following the drainage of the Malltraeth Marsh (which began in the 1780's) and is known to have been extensively capitalised in the late 1840's, operating until it was flooded in the late 1860's.
The monument comprises the remains of several buildings and structures, including the engine house, a possible boiler house and a fine chimney stack. The site of the shaft itself lies close to these structural remains. The ruinous domestic and working ranges of a small farmstead are situated immediately adjacent to the colliery.
The site is a well-preserved and rare example of a small early Victorian colliery. It is the only colliery site of the Anglesey coalfield at which significant built structures are preserved. The close association of the mining remains with those of a small farmstead also illustrate the important links between agriculture and industry which characterised the early phases of industrialisation. The structures may be expected to contain archaeological information in regard to chronology, building techniques and functional detail. <3>
The surviving structures at The Old Colliery, Pentre Berw, consist of a house range, barn, smithy and colliery chimney with an enclosure which is walled on three sides. The site of the colliery shaft was probably in the W corner of the enclosure and is now marked by a concrete block. <5>
Berw Colliery is situated on marshland drained by the Malltraeth enclosure. After the failure of Holland Griffith and Plas Newydd interest to agree on any plan for joint operations at Berw in 1811, the initiative passed to Holland Griffith. Work had been going on here on a small scale since perhaps the end of the eighteenth century, perhaps a consequence of the draining of the marsh ; a map of the period 1790-1800, though it shows no workings, nevertheless marks some of the fields as ' Pwll George' and ' Pwll Dyfrig'.
Though it is possible that the Berw site may have formed part of the 'Llanvehangel' Colliery which Holland Griffith offered on lease in 1814, and that the grandly-styled Anglesey Coal Company was at work here, rather than Tyddyn Mawr, from 1815 to 1828, the first evidence of activity comes in 1837. Discussions with a new group of prospective lessees began that year, but were held up owing to Holland Griffith 's death. In 1839 Richard Trygarn Griffith, the then owner of the estate, confirmed the lease to Henry Pritchard esq. of Bryngola and Owen Williams of Gaerwen Fawr for 31 years. The map which forms part of this document shows no existing workings on the site, suggesting that earlier work had indeed been very small-scale. They were able to extend the area of their interest by leasing from Lord Boston a small parcel of land he owned in 1840.
They took over the 'pits, gins and engines' already on the site but soon began to sink a pit which came to be known as the New Berw Mine. Possibly the capital here had come from a company known as the Anglesey Coal and Coke Company, who acquired an interest in the venture, and which gave it its colloquial name of Gwaith y Saeson or Pwll y Saeson ('Englishmen's pit'). Hugh Roberts, one of the last of the Anglesey miners, born in 1839 and still alive in 1927, recalled a Captain Durant, who installed a 240 h.p. steam engine, almost certainly around this time. Durant, he said, did a good job then sold out to 'a man from Northampton' - possibly the Mr Laurie who offered to buy a moiety of the colliery in 1860, then defaulted. By this stage miners were beginning to leave the colliery for Flintshire.
Incidental references suggest that the main shaft (5,792: 6) was being sunk from about 1844 - on 27 February that year and on 10 March the year following Lord Boston paid small doles to the widows of men killed at the colliery, and in 1845 he was also paying a 'tallyman' to compute the amount of coal raised under his strip of land.
In 1861 John Williams referred to a 'very large and powerful Steam Engine, which has its energies well taxed to keep the mines free of water - let alone to lift the coal' and lamented that the Company to whom it was leased had not had the success they deserved because of the 'inky, stinking water' which frequently invaded the workings.' In 1863 they disposed of their interest in the colliery to the Anglesey Colliery Company, whose shareholders were mainly professional men in the Home Counties. This was liquidated in 1865 and wound up in 1868. Tradition preserves a memory of a night of torrential rain, when miners were summoned to the Collier's Arms to be given their instructions for working the engine pumps, only to find the mine overwhelmed by the flood. Local knowledge suggests that the chimney for the steam engine was subsequently used for ventilation. In that it was not demolished when the engine house was taken down, it is possible that it was adapted for this purpose in the later period of the mine's history, perhaps when it was on a 'care and maintenance' basis. (Gwyn, 2001).