The 19th century
Last updated: 15 August 2008
The end of the 18th century saw the beginnings of a canal and rail network across south Wales.
This enabled the transport of coal, extracted with the help of new steam engines for pumping and winding, to the coast or cities.
The cities of south Wales expanded with the increased levels of coal passing through the docks. Cardiff, Swansea and Newport experienced huge population growth through the 19th century due to the economic expansions enabled by the trade.
By 1840 the canal and rail network enabled 4.5m tons of coal to be produced. Of this, 2.25m went to the steel industry, one million to the domestic market and other industries and 750,000 tons for export.
Just 14 years later, 8.8m tons were produced, with 2.6m exported. The Rhondda Valley experienced the highest growth in production.
By 1874, 16.5m tons were produced, with a quarter of that figure exported. The rise of the Welsh coal industry seemed unstoppable, with high quality coal available in massive quantities.
The mines were privately owned throughout the 19th century. It was viewed as an area of industry with potentially huge rewards for the investors and speculators, who obtained licences to sink shafts or expand existing mines.
Some of the men who owned mines became members of the gentry, and many more made huge sums of money. It had knock-on effects for related industries and areas.
John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, the second Marquis of Bute, landed gentry of Scotland and south Wales, owned much of the land in which the growing industry operated. He and his son were able to amass vast wealth which made the third Marquis one of the richest men in the world.
The Butes' fortunes had an impact on south Wales and especially Cardiff, which can be still be felt to this day.
Explore the celebrated and lesser-known incidents in Welsh history, watch rare clips from BBC Wales' own archive, find out about history events in Wales.
Missed an episode? Catch up on the BBC iPlayer.
Tracing your Welsh roots? Pick up some tips in our guides.