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Mining for coal in Victorian times
  'Stone coal' for the iron makers

The coalfields around the Ystradgynlais area mostly contained anthracite, also known as stone coal because it was much harder and cleaner than bituminous coal, which contained a tarry substance and produced smoke when burned.
Anthracite was not seen as valuable at the start of the Victorian years because it was difficult to burn, but new developments in the hot-blast process for making iron at Ynscedwyn in 1837 was to change the situation. This stone coal burned at higher temperatures and became very important in the production of good quality iron for the rapid growth of Victorian industry.

From a
document for
Old Ynscedwyn documentPowys County Archives

The coal mining and iron making industries around Ystradgynlais could only survive if they could have access to Part of 1903 mapreliable and cheap transport in order to get their very heavy and bulky products out to their customers. The Swansea Canal provided this service in the early years of the Victorian age but the canal was later to face competition from the railways.
A railway line was built on the other side of the River Tawe to the canal, and it reached Ystalyfera in 1859 and Ystradgynlais in 1861. The new steam railway was later to take away much of the trade in carrying coal and iron from the canal, which had to cut its charges.

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The former Ynscedwyn
Iron Works alongside the
River Tawe as shown on
a 1903 map.
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