Hafodyrynys Colliery, Crumlin
Hafodryrynys was linked underground with three collieries in a £5.5 million investment scheme begun in 1954.
The new colliery buildings and washery were designed with modern buildings and equipment for maximum efficiency. Architecturally, they were influenced by the functionalism of pre-war collieries in Germany designed by the Bauhaus architect Peter Behrens, by the sinuous forms of the Festival of Britain, and possibly by the nearby Brynmawr Rubber Factory.
All the buildings had reinforced concrete frames filled by brick or glass panels and flat, curved or wave form concrete roofs. Washery plants were key elements in post-war efficiency improvements, as only half of British coal output was being washed in 1945.
The washery at Hafodyrynys contained equipment for extracting coal dust from slurry and drying the remaining waste before tipping: processes which were rare before the 1950s. It was built entirely of reinforced concrete with continuous glazed panels.
The colliery closed in 1966 and the site was cleared in 1985, but the slimes thickener at the washery was retained at the request of Sir Richard Hanbury-Tenison of Pontypool Park Estate, to which the site reverted.
Unfulfilled Plans were drawn up in the 1980s to adapt the building as a restaurant. Its futuristic use of reinforced concrete and the splendid isolation in which it now stands have made it a well-known landmark. It now lies abandoned and somewhat out of context in the landscape.
Back in 1980 I visited abandoned Hafodrynys Colliery whilst on a Geography Field Trip when I was studying for my degree. The mine was abandoned by then but many of the buildings remained in place, as did a lot of abandoned railway track and an a fairly rare former Great Western Railway fully enclosed “toad” brake van – the type without a balcony. I also took some photographs on the Pentax auto 110 SLR camera I was using at the time. Unfortunately, they were of poor quality and have been stored away somewhere and are not in my usual photographic storage files.
As time went on, I forgot the name of the colliery – but often wondered where this modern but abandoned colliery was located, and how much remained.
In late May 2019 when staying at Tintern for a few days I was visiting the Dean Forest Railway and bought another volume of the series of books on abandoned railways Impermanent Way. In the book was a picture of the abandoned colliery and there was that brake van I remembered. I now had a name and location and the following day went off to find it!
I was amazed at the transformation of the landscape in the past 39 years much greener and many more trees at this once rather bleak open location on the valley floor of the Glyn Valley. The railway sidings were now fields, though part of the sidings have been given over to a rerouted main road. All that was left of was the washery building and the remains of a foundation.