In the earlier days, the coal that was mined was extracted by individuals or local groups for supplying domestic and local needs. Their pits were worked where the coal seams came near the surface and were "bell pits" or small holes on the surface of the ground which were increased in size with depth until their sides collapsed.
An account book dated 1711, gives the price of coal as 2d. per bag at the pit.
The coal was sent down the valleys in bags carried by pack horses.
Such small-scale mining of outcrop coal continued until the early years of the nineteenth century when the construction of tramroads and railways made it possible to move large quantities to the seaports of Cardiff and Newport. At about this time also the Rhymney Iron Company and the Dowlais Iron Company were mining for their extensive ironworks and later for export also. Indeed it was the rise of the iron working in this vicinity that first brought about the expansion of the coal industry.
The demand for coal was increasing all the time; steamships and railways were the great consumers and south Wales became the great exporter of coal that made its name famous all over the world. Thomas Powell, the owner of the Gelligaer Colliery, who had extended his interests to Aberdare, was at this time the greatest single coal exporter in the World.
The map opposite shows the various coal leases and land owners in the Fochriw area during the mid 1800’s.
It is a tracing of the original which is dated 22 September 1860 which is part of the Dowlais Papers kept at the Glamorgan Records Office, Cardiff