South Wales Miners' Federation

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Full name South Wales Miners' Federation
Founded 24 October 1898
Date dissolved 1945
Merged into National Union of Mineworkers
Country United Kingdom

The South Wales Miners' Federation (SWMF), nicknamed "The Fed", was a trade union for miners in South Wales.


The union was founded on 24 October 1898,[1] following the defeat of the South Wales miners' strike of 1898. Numerous local coal miners' union found their funds depleted and decided to merge together. They include:

Union[2][3] Founded Joined Membership (1892) Membership (1898)
Aberdare, Merthyr and Dowlais Miners' Association 1882 1898 7,000 500
Anthracite Miners' Association 1882 1898 3,500 6,050
Colliery Enginemen and Stokers of Neath and District 1892 1900 55 186
Ebbw Vale and Sirhowy Colliery Workmen's Union 1886 1898 2,500 3,500
Garw Miners' Association 1880 1898 3,000 (1890)
Monmouthshire and South Wales District Miners' Association 1887 1898 6,059 70
Monmouth Western Valley Miners' Association 1897 1898 N/A 500
Rhondda District Miners' Association 1872 1898 14,000 (1885) Unknown
Rhymney Valley Miners' Association 1893 1898 2,500 (1893) 1,917
South Wales Western District Miners' Association 1869 1898 4,540 5,588

Despite its name, the new union was not a federation; the former unions were dissolved and became the basis of twenty districts, each with one or more full-time agents. By 1914, four districts had more than 10,000 members: Anthracite, Monmouthshire & Western Valleys, Rhondda No.1, and Tredegar Valley.[4]

The new union affiliated to the Miners' Federation of Great Britain (MFGB) in 1899.[5]

In the early twentieth century, its leadership were aligned with the Liberal Party; MPs Thomas Richards, William Abraham, John Williams and William Brace all took the Liberal Party whip in parliament. However, when the MFGB held a ballot on affiliation to the Labour Party in 1906, a majority of SWMF members voted in favour. As the national federation narrowly voted against, another vote was held in 1908, by which time SWMF members voted 74,675 to 44,616 in favour.[6] Some in the union were radicalised by such events as the Cambrian Combine Dispute and the Tonypandy Riot of 1910.

Over the years, there were a few splits from the union. The Monmouthshire and South Wales Colliery Enginemen, Stokers and Surface Craftsmen's General Association left in 1903.[7] The South Wales Miners' Industrial Union, a moderate breakaway union was set up in 1926 in opposition to the General Strike but was disbanded in 1938. In 1940, the SWMF also started representing miners in the Forest of Dean.

In 1945, the MFGB became the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), and the Fed became the NUM (South Wales Area), with less autonomy than before.

In 1960, the South Wales Area was expanded to include the Somerset coalfield.

Presidents of the SWMF[edit]

Secretaries of the SWMF[edit]

  • 1898: Thomas Richards
  • 1931: Oliver Harris
  • 1941: Evan Williams
  • 1943: W. J. Saddler
  • 1946: Evan Williams
  • 1947: William Arthur
  • 1951: W. H. Crews
  • 1958: D. D. Evans
  • 1963: David Francis
  • 1976: George Rees


  1. ^ Lewis, E.D. The Rhondda Valleys, Phoenix House: London, (1959) pg 172
  2. ^ Arthur Marsh and Victoria Ryan, Historical Directory of Trade Unions, vol.2, pp.201-258
  3. ^ Robin Page Arnot, South Wales Miners, p.60
  4. ^ Robin Page Arnot, South Wales Miners, pp.74, 334
  5. ^ The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. John Davies, Nigel Jenkins, Menna Baines and Peredur Lynch (2008) pg827 ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6
  6. ^ David Howell, British Workers and the Independent Labour Party, 1888-1906, p.51
  7. ^ Robin Page Arnot, South Wales Miners, p.184