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Pay and Living

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Most South Wales miners were pieceworkers, which meant that they were paid for the amount of coal they extracted. The miner would load his coal onto a dram to be weighed, he was then paid according to the weight of the coal. By 1914 the average wage of a miner was about 9 shillings a day, but this could vary across the coalfield. Also, pay would be deducted for equipment, oil for the lamps and for loss of work due to strikes, illness or injury. Boys would be paid by their “butties”, the more experienced miner they worked with, but the amount they received depended on the miner himself.

With the growth of the coalfield between 1881 and 1914, new housing was desperately needed. Builders speedily constructed houses, they were of a better standard than previously found in the iron making towns, but little thought was given to planning, with the houses packed tightly into the narrow valleys. Many houses were rented from the coal company or private landlords, but South Wales had a high percentage of home ownership, up to 60% in some areas. Although 16,000 new houses were built in the Rhondda between 1881 and 1914, there was a great deal of overcrowding, due to sheer number of people coming to the area. Some houses had 10 or more inhabitants. Many people took in lodgers to earn a little extra money, which added further to the overcrowding.


Egan, David. Coal society: a history of the South Wales mining valleys 1840-1980. (Gomer, 1987)

Evans, R.Meurig. Children in the Mines 1840-1842. (National Museum of Wales, 1972).

Douglas, David. A miner`s life. (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983).

Jones, I.G. Mid-Victorian Wales: The Observers and the Observed. (Cardiff, 1992).

Paget, William. Man of the Valleys: recollections of a South Wales miner. (Allan Sutton, 1985).

Parnell, Mary Davies. Block salt and candles: a Rhondda childhood. (Seren Books, 1991).

All items listed in the further reading are available for consultation in either the South Wales Miners’ Library or the Library and Information Centre, University of Wales Swansea. Click here to link to the library catalogue. 


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