Six Bells

Six Bells memorial  < Back To Places >

At 10.45 on the 28th June 1960, an explosion took the lives of 45 men working at the Six Bells Colliery. The number of casualties would have been more if the explosion had occurred at any other time. On that date maintenance was being carried out on the O.10 coal face, in the West District of the Old Coal Seam, so the number of men working there was reduced from the regular 125.

Explosive gasses known as “firedamp” mixed with the lethal addition of coal dust and were believed to have been ignited by falling rocks hitting metal mine ware which caused a spark.

Out of the 48 men working in that district at the time, only 3 survived. High level concentrations of carbon monoxide were found suggesting that the men would have passed out quite quickly with death following minutes after. A public enquiry was held at Number 2 Court, Newport Civic Centre. It started on the 19th September and ended on the 28th.

Today there is little evidence of there ever being a coal mine on the site. It is now a leafy picturesque spot on the Ebbw Fach trail. The 20 meter high monument named “The Guardian of the Valleys” commemorates the location of the old colliery and the 1960 disaster.

The statue, designed by Sebastian Boyesen, is fabricated with thousands of steel ribbons. It was unveiled by The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams on 28 June 2010.

Originally opened as Arael Griffin, the colliery was on the site of an earlier balance shaft, which had been sunk in 1863 by Thomas Phillips Price. However, two 322 meter shafts were sunk on either side of the Ebbw Fach river by John Lancaster in 1892.

Coal winding started at Six Bells in 1898 after it was acquired by Partridge Jones and Co. in 1896. There were 173 men employed in the shaft sinking supported by 101 workers on the surface. The coal made it’s way to the Newport coal port via the later known Great Western Railway line.

Due to a lack of trade Six Bells was mothballed in 1930 for a number of years until John Paton took over the mine in 1936. In 1947 the mine was nationalised and it employed 1,534 men.

Six Bells was integrated with Cwm’s Marine Colliery to form a super pit in the 1970’s, however the coal came to the surface at Marine rather than Six Bells.

The mine closed in 1988 meaning no other men died at work since.

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