Moving a coalface to the museum

When a miners hospital closed in 2001, a working coalface that was used to exercise the patients for work again was dismantled and moved to the collections of Amgueddfa Cymru.

Talgarn House

Talygarn House: a view along the full size model coalface
Talygarn House: a view along the full size model coalface

Talygarn House, Pontyclun, South Wales, was a large stone mansion that became a hospital in 1880. The interior is decorated with wood panelling and painted ceilings. The house is surrounded by extensive parklands on which were grown, according to legend, specimens of every tree that can be cultivated in Britain.

Talygarn as a Convalescence Home

In October 1923, Talygarn House was opened as a miners' convalescent home and in 15 years of its opening had more than 41,000 patients.

In 1943, the Miners' Welfare Commission was asked to organise a rehabilitation service for injured mineworkers. Due to a serious shortage of manpower at that time, it was vitally important for injured colliers to return to work as quickly as possible. For this purpose Talygarn House was purchased as a centre for the coalfields of south Wales.

By 1964, 95% of patients treated at Talygarn returned to the mining industry. It continued to serve as a rehabilitation and physiotherapy centre until it was put up for sale in August 2000.

Miner rehabilitation and the 'Model Mine'

Due to the need to harden the men up to return to the collieries, a carpentry shop was provided where patients cut wood and sawed logs. Miniature stairs and static bicycles were available to exercise unused muscles.

Talgarn House was also equipped with a grand 'Model Mine' in which patients could get used to working back in a mining environment. The structure was a long concrete tunnel supported by arch girders. The roadway was equipped with rails and the metal framework known as 'horseheads', which prevented falls of stone on a real coalface.

Relocating the mine

In 2001, the contents of the 'Model Mine' were donated to Amgueddfa Cymru as a 'permanent reminder to visitors of the work of the Talygarn rehabilitation centre'.

The coalfaces were dismantled as if they were the real thing. Despite working in only four feet of height, the thirty feet long chain conveyor was successfully disassembled and removed.

All the items were safely transported to the Collections Centre at Nantgarw. The Talygarn donation is a unique survival of a complete thirty feet section of a typical semi-mechanised coalface of the early 1960s.

Article Date: 11 April 2007

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