THE NAVVIES’ LIVING QUARTERS AND THEIR COMMUNITY
Their huts were of wood, covered in felt, and were sometimes tarred but more often than not, whitewashed. There was a large cooking range in the centre - a most important consideration for the navvy's wife. At each end of the hut were partitioned sleeping quarters, one for the tenant and his wife, and one for lodgers. The latter room had four bedstocks, each to accommodate two men. Where space was scarce, it was common to find 16 men lodging in one hut.
The cooking was the responsibility of the wife of the tenant, who provided nothing but good, plentiful food, only three things being required to furnish the larder - beef, beer and bread. With a substantial diet the men worked 10 hour shifts.
During wet weather the men withdrew to the hut, but while they were at work, it often doubled as a schoolroom for the children, or a "grog shop." The men paid 3d. fortnightly out of their wages for doctors' services, but a death warranted a whip round, often bringing in a shilling from each person for the burial, with any surplus donated to the widow or orphans. In addition there was usually one woman, often nicknamed "Big Ellen" or something similar, who was the midwife or nurse who could be relied upon to do her duty when required.
The navvies had a hard life; they usually moved from job to job in teams, hearing of available work by word of mouth. The usual questions asked were whether the job was good or "middling," how long it would last and so on.
When the first navvies arrived at Newport under the contractor Thomas Savin, the conditions of the job they were to do were not up to the usual standard expected, and within a short while the men were on strike. During this period, there were 170 navvies and their families out of work. Charity organisations were set up to ease their distress. Over 2,000 quarts of soup and 1,000 pounds of bread were distributed, at a cost of £18. Thomas Savin died, and the men returned to work for Messrs Griffiths and Thomas of Newport .learned from their failure to buy the old Rumney Tramroad when it was offered to them by Crawshay Bailey at that special meeting in 1861.
The Brecon and Merthyr Tydfil Junction Railway had purchased the line, and almost immediately after they had done so they made an agreement with the Rhymney Railway and extended the line to make an end on connection with them. Once the connection was complete the Brecon and Merthyr started to ship products down the western side of the Rhymney Valley to Cardiff, with the consequent loss of trade to the Monmouthshire Railway and Newport Docks.
The editorial pointed out the mistake of not purchasing the Company when it was offered to them, and of the subsequent loss of revenue to thy town. Now that the Sirhowy was up for 1884). However, on OS 1901 2nd Edition, it is shown connected to the Tunnel and Fochriw collieries.
The editorial pointed out the mistake of not purchasing the Company when it was offered to them, and of the subsequent loss of revenue to thy town. Now that the Sirhowy was up for sale it would be folly and suicidal for the Monmouthshire Railway if the offer was not taken up, particularly at the bargain price of £23,000, or £1,600 per mile.
Reproduced from The History of the Monmouthshire Railway and Canal Company by Aubrey Byles