On 12 October 1949 a wagonload of the best Welsh Anthracite was dispatched from Swansea to the little country station of Avonwick in Devon on the Kingsbridge Branch. This was quite unremarkable at the time because thousands of such wagons would have been dispatched every day from collieries all over Britain to thousands of goods yards all over the newly nationalised British Railways. Anthracite is still mined in Wales in open-cast pits, but not from deep shaft mines. We know a bit about this particular wagonload of coal because the wagon label has survived the 70 years in between 1949 and 2019. In the 1940s and 1950s coal, burnt in open grates, would have been the main form of heating your home; supplemented by an electric fire or a paraffin heater for shorter durations. The last two would have been moved around from room to room as necessary. At decimalisation in February 1971 the price of electricity was one old pence per unit (one kilowatt hour). There were 240 pence in a pound so you could use your one bar fire for 240 hours at a cost of one pound. My electrictity bill arrived today and shows a cost of 18.440p per kWh from 5 October 2019. This is 44d per unit.
It can be seen from the attached scan that this is not a standard BR or GWR wagon label but came from someone or some firm called Rose Richards Ltd of Swansea. This suggests to me that when the wagon left the colliery no-one knew exactly where the coal was destined for and that the wagon was probably tripped to holding sidings in the Swansea area until a buyer was found for the coal. The wagon was sent to Hawke & Hawke at Avonwick Station. Although I have many wagon labels from Avonwick this is the only wagon destined for Hawke & Hawke. I do have other wagons of coal arriving at the station but they are destined for the Station Master to heat the station buildings, and they came from a different colliery every time, which was about twice a year. The Kelly's Directory for 1930 lists Hawke & Hawke as coal merchants under the village of Avonwick. In 1939 there was a Frederick Hawke (born 9 June 1891) living at Rock Park, South Brent who gave his occupation as Miller and coal & corn merchant; was he one half of Hawke & Hawke ?
The coal in the wagon came from Yniscu Anthracite Colliery which was situated at grid reference SN 7753 0838. The site was alongside the former Swansea Vale and Neath & Brecon Junction Railway branch from Colbren Junction to Ynysgeinon Junction which carried Midland Railway and later LMS passenger trains between Swansea and Hereford until the passenger trains were diverted to an alternative route in 1932 and operated by the Great Western Railway from then on. The colliery previously went by various names including Daren Colliery which can be found on old Ordnance Survey maps just east of the Ystalyfera Iron & Tinplate Works. The firm of T P Rose Richards were coal exporters and coal factors matching loads with buyers, and its interesting to note that the wagon was numbered NE 224440 which means it possibly dated to before 1923. The label is an interesting survivor from the days when coal was king.
Scan attached: 2820
MLR/10 October 2019
Many thanks Mike for your extensive research and photographs
Craig Munday Part 2