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18 June 2014
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Abergorki Colliery, owned by the Ocean Coal Company in the 1920's
The Birth of Barry – When Coal was King

The Founding of the Port of Barry and the Barry Railway Company

Between 1870 and 1880 coal shipments through Cardiff nearly doubled, from 3246 to 5856 tons, an increasing amount coming from the Rhondda Valleys. Coal was moved continuously from the coal-face into railway wagons and then to the port, where ships were loaded at specialist waterside coal depots called staithes. The pace of growth, however, brought urgent problems in transport and dock capacity. Because of the tides and the haphazard arrival of ships, coal trains were often kept waiting at the docks, prompting the construction of extensive sidings to accommodate them. Delays in shipping cost the coal owners in both lost revenue and increased expenditure.

Abergorki Colliery, owned by the Ocean Coal Company in the 1920's
The Rhondda coal owners had disputes with both the Taff Vale Railway, which carried their coal to Cardiff and Penarth, and the Bute docks over freight rates and congestion. They complained of delays in taking coal to the port, in loading cargoes, in getting ships in and out of the docks in the shortest possible time and in returning the collieries' trucks quickly. To make matters worse, despite obtaining parliamentary approval to build Roath Dock in 1874, the Bute Trustees and the Marquess of Bute himself had become cautious so did not proceed with the scheme. Thus, between 1870 and 1880, although coal exports nearly doubled, the number of coal staithes at Cardiff and Penarth only increased from 62 to 66.

Words: Richard Watson

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Look back into the past using the Legacies' archives. Find nearly 200 tales from around the country in our collection.

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Internet Links
Axis Historical Society
– Local History For Barry, South Wales, UK
Welsh Coal Mines
– Photos, stories, and poems about Welsh Collieries
Barry, South Wales
– More about Barry
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