Mostyn Colliery

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Coordinates: 53°19′12″N 3°15′47″W / 53.320°N 3.263°W / 53.320; -3.263 Mostyn Colliery was a pioneering coal mine in Flintshire, North Wales,[1] which was owned in the later part of its operating life by the influential Mostyn family.[2] The mine was located on the banks of the River Dee.

Early history[edit]

The Welsh writer Thomas Pennant wrote that the mines at Mostyn were established as far back as 1261, during the reign of Edward I.[3] Records show that in 1294, together with a stone quarry, the mine had a value of £5 annually, and in 1423 were worth on their own £3 6s 8d.[4]

In the early years, coal was removed from the colliery site by boats, which approached the quayside at high water. However, the changing river bed meant that a partial canal was dug to ensure safe passage.[5]

Records show that Thomas Cowper and Richard Mason of London leased Mostyn Colliery in 1594.[6] Records suggest that by the 17th century Mostyn was possibly the largest colliery on the Western seaboard of Britain. It certainly seems to have been the most profitable in the North Wales Coalfield.[7]

The Mostyn Family[edit]

In 1602 Cowper and Mason sold the remaining 13-year lease to Roger Mostyn for £70, beginning the colliery's association with what was to become one of North Wales' most influential families. He immediately began a programme of expansion, and by 1616 there were three pits on the site. By 1619 the colliery was worth in the region of £700 annually to the Mostyn family, which suggests a fairly substantial output.[8]

In 1639 Roger Mostyn's successor, Sir Roger Mostyn ordered three further deep pits to be sunk. At around this time, it is noted that almost all coal which was shipped from Chester was entered into the city records as 'Mostyn coal'.[9] It is known that there was a serious explosion at the colliery in 1673.[10] Sir Roger Mostyn gives an account of an explosion which occurred on 3 February 1675, which was caused by the presence of firedamp. The explosion "flew to and fro over all the hollows of the work with a great wind and a continued fire, and, as it went, keeping a mighty great roaring noise on all sides". He goes on to describe how the blast was heard fifteen miles (24 km) away, destroyed the winding gear and felled trees. Mostyn also described how the men who were underground at the time of the blast were singed "as if they had been whipped with rods; some, that had least shelter, were carried fifteen or sixteen yards [by the blast] and beaten against the roof of the coal".[11]

Mostyn Coal and Iron Company[edit]

In 1802, an Ironworks was opened at Mostyn, to produce iron using coal from the colliery,[12] and the combined industries took the name 'Mostyn Coal and Iron Company', and were prosperous from the start.[13]

In 1806, two explosions occurred, with the deaths of 36 men.[14] In April 1807 a fire occurred, which resulted in 26 deaths. Several families lost more than one member in this tragedy.[15] Yet another explosion took place on 10 March 1809, this time causing the deaths of 22 men. Between them, the 1807 and 1809 explosions had caused the deaths of 50 men, creating 26 widows, and left 66 children fatherless.[16]

The average price of coal was documented by Mr Robert Anderson, in his 1839 pamphlet The Present State of the Coal Trade. He gave the average price per ton of Mostyn's 'Best Coals' as 8s 6d, with 'Second Coals' at a shilling less, thus showing Mostyn coal to be amongst the cheapest available in Britain.[17]

By the 1840s, the approach to the quayside by boat had been improved, and was able to take vessels of 300 tons, moving between 50,000 and 60,000 tons of coal each year[18]

Work started in 1843 on an embankment, known locally as a 'cop', with the dual purpose of reclaiming land from the River Dee, as well as being a flood defence. The project was funded by the colliery owner, the current Lord Mostyn, and J. P. Eyton, and was known as the Bychan Embankment. The bank was 1,974 yards (1,805 m) long—around 1.2 miles (1.9 km). The total cost was around £4,500 and about 70 acres were reclaimed.[19]

What was, at the time, believed to be one of the largest steam engine cylinders in the world was manufactured in November 1848 by Haigh Foundry, in Wigan, Lancashire, for installation in a direct action pumping engine at Mostyn Colliery. It was 17 feet (5.2 m) long, eight feet four inches diameter, and weighed 22 tons. It was said to have used 30 tons of molten metal in its manufacture, and a sizable crowd of interested observers went to view the casting.[20] Mostyn is also notable in that in 1852, it became one of the first collieries to fit an experimental 'air pump'.[21][22]


With the opening of the Chester and Holyhead Railway in 1847, it was only a matter of time before the coal and iron companies took advantage, with the railway passing literally within feet of the site. In 1855, sidings were constructed with access to both the colliery and the ironworks, although the colliery had had its own internal horsedrawn system since the early 18th century.[13]

From 1872 until 1888 the Mostyn Coal & Iron Co, was owned by Joshua Lancaster.[23]


The Mostyn Coal and Iron Company went into liquidation in 1879, in no small part due to changes within the ironworks business, however the full circumstances may never be known, as much of the historical record has been lost. The lease to the colliery was sold as a going concern by the liquidator.[24]

Disaster beset the colliery in 1884 when the river broke through and completely overwhelmed the pits.[23] The event inspired a Welsh-language song.[25] The colliery never re-opened, despite a takeover in 1887 by a Lancashire company to form the Darwen and Mostyn Iron Company,[23] thus ending over 620 years of coal production at Mostyn.[24] However, by this time, serious explorations were under way at the nearby Point of Ayr site, which would ultimately become one of the last deep coal mines in Wales when it closed in 1996.[2]


  1. ^ The Statistics of Coal; Richard Cowling Taylor, 1848, pp. 349–50
  2. ^ a b "Point of Ayr Colliery". Welsh Coal Mines. Retrieved 2007-12-02. 
  3. ^ The History of the Parishes of Whiteford and Holywell; Thomas Pennant, 1796, p. 133
  4. ^ The History of the British Coal Industry: Vol. 1 - Before 1700; John Hatcher, 1993, p. 131
  5. ^ View of the Coal Trade, Mathias Dunn, 1844, p. 135
  6. ^ Hatcher, Ibid., p. 249
  7. ^ Hatcher, Ibid., p. 132
  8. ^ Hatcher, Ibid., p. 132
  9. ^ Hatcher, Ibid., p. 133
  10. ^ Modern Wales: A Consise History; Gareth Elwyn Jones, 1984, p. 19
  11. ^ Coal Mines Inspection: Its History and Results; Robert Nelson Boyd, 1879 pp. 8–9
  12. ^ "Mostyn Coal & Iron Co.". Merioneth Manganese. Retrieved 2007-12-16. 
  13. ^ a b "Mostyn History". Mostyn History Preservation Society. Retrieved 2007-12-05. [dead link]
  14. ^ The Monthly Review, Ralph Griffiths, 1818, p. 178
  15. ^ "Mostyn Colliery Fire". Rootsweb Genealogy. Retrieved 2007-12-02. 
  16. ^ The Beauties of England and Wales, Rev. J. Evans, 1812, p. 734
  17. ^ Dunn, Ibid., pp. 204–05
  18. ^ Dunn, Ibid., p. 135
  19. ^ The Practise of Embanking Lands From The Sea; John Wiggins, 1852, pp. 184–86
  20. ^ The Yearbook of Facts in Science and Art, John Timbs, 1849, p. 77
  21. ^ Boyd, Ibid., p. 117
  22. ^ Gresford: The Anatomy of a Disaster, Stanley Williamson, 1999, p. 20
  23. ^ a b c "Joshua Lancaster". Merioneth Manganese. Retrieved 2007-12-16. 
  24. ^ a b "Mostyn History". Mostyn History Preservation Society. Retrieved 2007-12-05. [dead link]
  25. ^ "Song about the Mostyn Colliery Disaster, 1884". Culturenet Cymru (in Welsh, with English notes). Retrieved 2009-10-17. 

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