Big Pit National Coal Museum, May 2022

Saturday, 28th May 2022.

The Big Pit National Coal Museum is located in Blaenavon, Torfaen, Wales. A working coal mine from 1880 to 1980, the site is now an industrial heritage museum, which has been open to the public since 1983 under the auspices of the National Museum of Wales. The underground tour of the mine is fantastic and guided by former miners, who provide excellent exploration through the mine. Big Pit is located adjacent to the preserved Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway and is part of the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape World Heritage Site.

Tony and parents about to enter the cage and descend into the mine shaft at the Big Pit mine.
Tony and parents about to enter the cage and descend into the mine shaft at the Big Pit mine.
A relatively modern wagon with seats used to transport miners from the pit to the coal faces.
A 20th century wagon with seats used to transport miners from the pit to the coal faces.
 view of the Big Pit from the museum up the hill. The photo shows the pit head, including the headstocks and surrounding industrial buildings.
A view of the Big Pit from the museum up the hill. The photo shows the pit head, including the headstocks and surrounding industrial buildings

Besides the pit shaft with its lift and the mine itself, several historical buildings are preserved on the site. These include: the Powder House, which stored dynamite for use in the mine, Saw Mill, Office, Electrical Workshop, Pit Head Building, Winding House that operates the lift, Headframe and Tram Circuit and Miners’ Bathhouse.
The pit head baths built in 1939. This picture shows a corridor with showers in open white-tiled compartments at either side. Before these washing facilities were built most coal miners would have to travel home covered in coal dust and often soaked with sweat and mine water. At home they would typically wash in a tin bath in front of the fire. These conditions would leave them at risk of contracting pneumonia, bronchitis or rheumatism.
The pit head baths built in 1939. This picture shows a corridor with showers in open white-tiled compartments at either side. Before these washing facilities were built most coal miners would have to travel home covered in coal dust and often soaked with sweat and mine water. At home they would typically wash in a tin bath in front of the fire. These conditions would leave them at risk of contracting afflictions such as pneumonia, bronchitis or rheumatism.
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The Pit Head Baths plaque. The inscription reads: "The Pit Head Baths. These baths transformed the lives of both the miner and his wife. Built in the 'Modern' or 'Continental' style in 1939, the baths were part of the wider social reforms of the time. This listed building has been carefully restored to its original condition. One of the last of its kind in Wales, it now houses exhibitions that trace the history of the mining people and their industry."
The Pit Head Baths plaque. The inscription reads: “The Pit Head Baths. These baths transformed the lives of both the miner and his wife. Built in the ‘Modern’ or ‘Continental’ style in 1939, the baths were part of the wider social reforms of the time. This listed building has been carefully restored to its original condition. One of the last of its kind in Wales, it now houses exhibitions that trace the history of the mining people and their industry.”
The pit head lockers. A row of metal lockers. Miners would have had two lockers one for clean clothes and the other for working clothes.
The pit head lockers. A row of metal lockers. Miners would have had two lockers one for clean clothes and the other for working clothes.
Tony sat underneath a large statue of a miner in the museum.
Tony sat underneath a large statue of a miner in the museum.

According to Wikipedia, Big Pit was originally an iron mine, driven into the side of the mountain not far from the surface due to the shallow iron deposits. Historians disagree about when a mine eventually called The Big Pit first began operating, but a mines inspector report of 1881 is the first to describe a mine called the Big Pit due to the elliptical shape of its shaft with dimensions of 18 feet (5.5 metres) by 13 feet (4.0 metres), making it the first mine in Wales large enough to allow two tramways. By 1908, Big Pit provided employment for 1,122 people, and by 1923 at its peak, there were 1,399 men employed. The peak of production was more than 250,000 tons of coal per year. During the height of production, coal from Big Pit was shipped as far as South America, and also to other points worldwide. On nationalisation in 1947, the National Coal Board took over the mine from the Blaenavon Co. Ltd, which employed 789 men. By 1970 the workforce numbered only 494, as operations had focused solely on the Garw seam, with a maximum thickness of only 30 inches (76 cm). Operations at the Big Pit slowly wound down and the pit finally closed on 2 February 1980 with a loss of more than 250 jobs.