Dyffryn Tanat and Region Development Trust
Chairman Kenton Owen QGM
Consultant David Higman MBE
Charity Reg. No. 1139072
Company Reg. No. 6905623
The Drill Colliery (commonly named The Gronwen) was sunk in about 1836 and according to The Geological Survey, Thomas Ireland & Co carried out the work. However, very shortly afterwards Croxon & Co were working the colliery. This pit was probably the most important in the district for all the seams of the coalfield could be worked from here - something that was not the case with any of the other pits. Indeed, this fact decided the Croxons to gradually close down their other mines.
Bricks were made here from the clay raised, and for some fifty years Morda was the scene of much activity. In order to transport the coal to the canal at Maesbury, a tramway was laid down. This crossed the fields to Nant y Caws and, after running up the valley for 200 yards, descended again across the fields to the Welshpool road at Pwll-y-Cwrw before going on to the wharf at Redwith. The latter was built for this operation and called Gronwen Wharf.
In addition to the coal sent by canal, considerable trade resulted from direct sales to farmers and others; during the winter months, large quantities of coal were used throughout the district for lime burning. It is not possible to give details of the colliery's output, but this would have been small compared with modern coal production.
When the collieries were working, coal was in a way plentiful and cheap - in fact, during the 1860s it could be bought for the low price of 4d per cwt. About 100 men were employed at The Drill at this time, including the pit manager (a Mr Hawkins), the clerks and the farm bailiff (Cadwallader Evans). During the period 1850-1860, the pit manager was Mr Edward Jones of Llwyn-y-mapsis, who was known locally as 'Jones the coal'. He was reputed to be the biggest man in the area, turning the scales at 22 stone, and at his funeral, his coffin was so big that it had to be taken out through the window.
In 1872 the concern was transferred to a group of Lancashire businessmen who formed the Oswestry Coal & Brick Co. Ltd. At the outset, they were very active - deepening the mine and making other changes by means of which it was hoped that a large increase in output would be achieved, resulting in an increase in the workforce. By this time, however, coal mining in the Oswestry coalfield had begun to decline. The chief reason for this was the expansion of the Cambrian Railways which brought coal from the larger collieries of North Wales and Staffordshire. In spite of being re-organised, the new company did not succeed and after struggling on for a few years, ceased mining for coal altogether at The Drill. The pit was abandoned in 1879 after a period of over 40 years. Whether the final decision came suddenly is not known, but old miners stated that all the tools were left in the pit. Brick making carried on for several years, after which the site was abandoned altogether.
In 1896 Mr W.H.Thomas, an Oswestry builder, bought the concern from the mortgagees, Manchester & District Bank, and resumed brick making for some years. On taking over, Mr Thomas sold the winding gear and the familiar landmark, which had stood at The Drill for 60 years, finally disappeared.
1875 map showing the Drill colliery.
Diagram of the underground workings at the Drill Colliery. The Drill pub can be seen at the top right with the Hen and Chickens pub at the far left. These workings were at a depth of about 600 feet.
Source Mr Gordon Hillier.
Breakdown of the Drill Colliery showing the different stratas.
Source Memoires of the Geological Survey of the Oswestry District.
Tracing taken from a 1818 drawing of the mines south of Morda showing the Drill, Sweeney pit, Clays colliery, Roberts Colliery and Parkers Colliery in Nant-y-Caws. This document was the property of Thomas N.Parker, Esq, from Sweeney Hall. It also shows an accurate diagram of the tramway from Coedygo heading towards the Gronwen Wharf. Note that this shows the underground workings of the Drill Colliery and Sweeney pits as they were in 1845, 1859 and 1884/5.
Source Gordon Hillier
Excellent original print from 1880 showing the underground workings of a coal mine. To the right shows a coal truck being lifted to the surface with a young boy leading the horse away from the shaft with an empty truck. This would have been a similar scene at the bottom of the Drill pit.
Source Gordon Hillier.
Map showing the route of the tramway from Drill Colliery to canal at Gronwen wharf
Source Gordon Hillier
1875 map showing the coal mine at Llwyn y Mapsis Farm (map reference 1939 ). This mine was locally known as the Red Pit and was believed to be about 230 feet deep.
Source Wilf Jones
The Drill pub in Morda where the weary miners would have relaxed after a hard days work. Now called the Miners Arms
Source Ken Owen.
Early section of rail found in the canal at Gronwen wharf by present owner of the wharf, Mr Barrie Tuffin
Source Barrie Tuffin.
Photo of two of three wheels found in the canal at Gronwen wharf, these would be from the horse drawn trucks operating on the tramway. They were double flanged and sat on the above rail.
Source Barrie Tuffin..
Barry Tuffin showing one of the wheels sitting on a rail.
Source Ken Owen
Side on view of the wheel sitting on top of the rail.