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Home, Childhood, Family Life

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Between 1881 and 1914, 16,000 houses were built in the Rhondda. These houses were often not built by Colliery Companies for their workmen, but by private builders, usually using locally quarried stone. Although little thought was given to the planning of the terraces of houses which were built on the hillsides, the houses did tend to be of a better standard than those built in the iron making towns. Even though there was an enormous amount of house building going on, there were still not enough houses to meet the demand of those moving into the area in seek of work.

In South Wales there was a high number of home owners amongst the miners – 60% in Rhondda Fach in 1914. Many miners aspired to own their homes to avoid exploitation of landlords. They often financed them via Building Clubs. The houses built via Building Clubs tended to be of superior standard and comfort. Due to the shortage of housing, home owners often took in lodgers. This income also helped with the family finances.

The shift system in the pit was another reason why some households took in many lodgers. This must have made the working day of the house very long as it  would have seemed like there were always miners going to or just coming home from the pit. In some houses, beds were never empty as a result!

Before pithead baths were built, as soon as the miners arrived home, they would have a bath in front of the fire.

The women had to work very hard in the home, preparing food for the miners before they started their shift and then preparing baths for the miners who were finishing their shifts. Women also had to get the children ready for school, do all the washing (by hand), mend the clothes, cook the meals, bake the bread – and of course keep the house tidy and clean. The Valleys ‘Mam’ took a great deal of pride in the appearance of her home and could often be seen scrubbing the front door steps and flagstones in the back yard.



Andrews, Elizabeth. A woman`s work is never done. (Cymric Democrat publishing society 1957).

Arundell, Lucy. Living with grandma: a Hull woman recollects her childhood in Monmouth and Rhondda. (Highgate, 1987).

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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