The Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Company Limited was founded in 1864 with a share capital of £500000 to acquire 8 collieries in the Aberdare and Rhymney Valleys from Thomas Powell and Sons. The founding directors of the company were George Elliot, Thomas Brassey, Alexander Ogilvie, Edward Potter, Samuel Edward Bolden, John Robinson Mclean, P G Heyworth, William Wagstaffe and John Swift. Early acquisitions included the High Duffryn Colliery, the Aberaman estate from Mr Crawshay Bailey and Cwmneol and Fforchaman Collieries from United Merthyr Collieries Company. In 1882 the company took lease of property of Lord Tredegar, and Bargoed and Elliot pits were built upon it.
Between 1884 and 1886 the company constructed the Cwmaman and Abercwmboi Railways to connect Fforchaman with the Taff Vale Railway, and allowing them to ship at Cardiff or Newport. The company had an ironworks on the Aberaman estate, but this was closed in 1875 during a slump in iron, and the company would never manufacture iron again. In 1876 an explosion at New Tredegar Pit resulted in the loss of 23 lives.
Acting on the suggestion of the Accidents in Mines Commission, the company (along with Nixon's Company, Cwmaman Colliery and the Bwllfa Company) erected a rescue station at Aberaman in 1909. In the same year a hospital at Rhymney Valley was opened. In 1912 a programme of cottage building commenced building new houses at Pengam, Tir-y-berth, Cascade, Hengoed and Aberaman. By 1943 the company owned, either directly or through a subsidiary, nearly 6700 houses as accommodation for workmen (see DPD/5 for records of housing societies).
A French company, under the name of 'Compagnie Francaise des Mines Powell Duffryn' was formed in 1914 to carry on the business in Powell Duffryn Coal at depots in Havre, Rouen, Nantes and Bordeaux.
Throughout its history Powell Duffryn made a number of acquisitions, both of existing collieries and of land in which the company sank new coal pits. (see DPD/4 for records of some associated and subsidiary companies). Notable acquisitions include the 1925 acquisition of Windsor Colliery and the 1928 purchases of ten collieries and related equipment and properties from Lewis Merthyr, the Great Western Colliery Company, and the Nantgawr Colliery. Between 1940 and 1945 Powell Duffryn purchased the share capital of Cilely Collieries Limited, Cory Brothers and Company Limited (12 collieries), Penrikyber Navigation Colliery Company Limited (2 collieries) and North's Navigation Collieries (1889) Limited (3 collieries and coke ovens).
In 1921 the whole of the share capital of the Rhymney Iron Company Limited was acquired for slightly less than £80000 by the issue of Powell Duffryn shares. The Rhymney Company remained a separate legal entity until it was liquidated in 1937, but its fortunes were tied up with Powell Duffryn from 1921.
New colliery offices were built near Ystrad Mynach in 1928 and control of whole colliery organisation was concentrated there. Powell Duffryn was one of the pioneers in research in coal mining and utilisation. The company incorporated new mining technologies, such as coal-cutting machinery, by-products plants, miners' baths, washeries and electrical power. The company later had its own electricity grid with 2 main stations, one in the Rhymney Valley, the other near Aberdare. In 1934 it set up a research laboratory, devising new processes, and increasing the efficiency of carbonising, distillation, coal cleaning etc.
Powell Duffryn were also involved with mining education; they granted scholarships at the Mining Departments of Birmingham and Cardiff Universities. In 1929 the company established a School of Mines in the Rhymney Valley under the management of professional instructors.
Powell Duffyn had formed a partnership with Stephenson Clarke Limited to form the Maris Company, and Stephenson Clarke purchased a half interest in Compagnie Francaise des Mines Powell Duffryn. In 1928 the Maris Company, the French Company and Stephenson Clarke combined to form Stephenson Clarke and Associated Companies, Limited. Powell Duffryn purchased the whole of the capital of the new company. There were now two organisations, Powell Duffryn producing coal and Stephenson Clarke selling it as the sole sales agents. The two were co-ordinated by the Powell Duffryn board through a central committee consisting of Sir Stephenson Kent (Chairman of the Committee), Sir John Hindley, Edmund L Hann, and Sir Evan Williams.
In 1935 all Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Company properties were transferred to Powell Duffryn Associated Collieries Limited, as well as the properties of Welsh Associated Collieries Limited who owned 34 collieries. Welsh Associated Collieries Limited also owned the whole of the share capital of Gueret, Llewellyn and Merrett Limited who were the sole sale agent for all the coal produced by the Welsh Associated Group
In 1940 the share capital of Cilely Collieries Limited was purchased. 1942 share capital of Cory Brothers and Company Limited, owning 12 collieries, coke ovens etc was purchased. This purchase included the share capital of the Penrikyber Navigation Colliery Company Limited, who owned 2 collieries. In 1945 the share capital of North's Navigation Collieries (1889) Limited, owning 3 collieries and coke ovens, was purchased.
The collieries were split into 4 areas (roughly geographical) each under the control of a General Manager;
Northern Area: head office near Aberdare
Rhymney Valley Area: head office at Ystrad Mynach
Rhondda Valley Area: head office at Porth
Western Area: head office at Tondu
In 1944 the 'Powell Duffryn Amalgamation Scheme' came into being, whereby Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Company Limited and Welsh Associated Collieries Limited were voluntarily liquidated and absorbed into one company, Powell Duffryn Limited (which had changed its name from Powell Duffryn Associated Collieries Limited).
Under the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act of 1946 the group's assets began to be valued and transferred before the Nationalisation vesting date of 1 Jan 1947. Powell Duffryn continued to perform the functions of maintenance and production at the collieries for some months, while the National Coal Board (NCB) gradually assumed control. The NCB proceedings were protracted, not being completed until May 1956. Powell Duffryn personnel were given many important positions in the new NCB set-up. Powell Duffryn were forced to turn their attentions to their side-businesses. The company developed a multi-pronged approach, boosting its engineering, fuel storage and distribution, and shipping divisions by a series of acquisitions.
Edmund Mills Hann: Born on 22 Dec 1850, started his mining training in 1865 at the Hetton collieries. He was a member of the Institute of Civil Engineers and of the Institute of Mining Engineers. He was appointed general manager of the whole of the PD collieries in 1883. In 1927, at the age of 77 he relinquished his seat on the board after suffering ill health.
George Hann: assistant general manager under his father E M Hann. He died in 1918 and was succeeded by his brother Edmund Lawrence Hann.
Edmund Lawrence Hann: chairman 1930-1950. He had been acting chairman for 2 years, and deputy chairman since 1926. He was born in 1881. From 1889 he served as a pupil of and under-official at the PD Collieries in the Aberdare and Rhymney Valleys. 1905 appointed manager of Bargoed. Left in 1907, came back in 1918 on the death of his brother George. He remained a director until 1954 when at the age of 73 he resigned.
William Reginald Hann: director from 1922. Died 3 May 1945. He was the eldest son of Edmund Mills Hann. Began his career in the Cardiff Office in 1894. 1913 he was appointed commercial manager and became a director in 1922. In 1928 on the merger with Stephenson Clarke he became a director of that company. Subsequently in 1935 he specialised in the by-products sale side of the PD group. He retired in 1943.