Nearly all drifts and levels in the Fochriw area were initially driven by the Dowlais Iron Company (D.I.C.) and these works commenced during the early 1800’s. However, following the abstraction of the “easy” coal, the D.I.C. were then forced to sink deep mines to access similar seams and other seams did not lend themselves to extraction by the drift or level methods. Some levels around the Penybanc area were originally opened by the Bargoed Coal Company.
Workings were of the stall and pillar type and when the levels and drifts were thought to be uneconomical to work they were closed, only to be reworked in future years by private individuals such as the Llewellyn’s, Morgans, Bakers and Pullens who were all local to Fochriw, Pentwyn and Penybanc, and the coal that was left in the original pillars was taken.
The original workings were driven straight into the coal seams which made them very economical since the minimum amount of rock was required to be excavated in order to access the coal.
It is interesting to note that the road from Cwmllwydrew farm below Penybanc, to Pentwyn and Fochriw follows the line of the inclined outcropped coal seam. Thus an initial limestone “road” was constructed and the spoil from the levels was taken across this road and dumped on the other side as is still evidenced today.
Fochriw Drift (SO 101 057) Approx.
From the report on the inquest of the murder of one Richard Jones during 1870 (link www.welshcoalmines.co.uk/htmpoems/Tunnel%20Pit%20Mystery.htm), Fochriw Drift (Level), which was situated between a half and one mile from the Tunnel Pits, was open on 12 June 1859, since it was reported that the dram wheel used to weight the body which was found at the bottom of one of the Tunnel Pit shafts, came from the level. However, by July 1870 the level had closed.
A report dated 10 July 1863 compiled by a W Jenkins, advises that the average length of underground haulages from pit bottom to the collier’s working faces was 48 chains (1056 yards).
Another D.I.C report dated 21 August 1863 advises that the vertical height of the drift was 772/3 yards (233 feet)..