Neal relations at Cuckoos Cup, The Wrekin

Tonypandy Riots

A Struggle for a Living Wage in the Mines

The book commemorating a hundred years since the Tonypandy Riots of 1910/11 is well worth getting if you have ancestors who were in the area at the time. There are plenty of photographs giving a flavour of life, the coal mines, shops, entertainment and politics in the Rhondda valley. (Updated) The connected Tonypandy 2010 website appears to have closed, at January 2012, and the book may be hard to find.

A short extract: “The Tonypandy Riots were a series of violent confrontations between coal miners and police that took place at various locations in and around the mines of the Cambrian Combine, a business network of mining companies formed to regulate prices and wages in south Wales. The riots were the culmination of an industrial dispute between workers and the mine owners who went on strike for a year in an effort to fight for a living wage.”

While the strike did not achieve a great deal for those immediately involved, overall it had a significant impact on the politics of the time and the development of Labour policy.

Wikipedia’s Tonypandy Riots entry. Also see Rhondda Cynon Taf Library’s Heritage Trail page on Tonypandy.

BBC Blog (Nov. 2010) on the riots. Also, a BBC programme from 1965, The Long Street – Road to Pandy Square (which, in its 28 minutes, covers conditions from the turn of the century to the 1921 national coal strike) has a section on the 1910 Cambrian Combine strike – video available at Nov. 2017 but may disappear.

Open Learn (part of Open University) course on ‘Welsh history and its sources‘ has a chapter from Wales 1880–1914 by Professor David (Dai) Smith, ‘From Riots to Revolt: Tonypandy and The Miners’ Next Step’ (pdf, 2.23MB), with photos and background on the riots in amongst discussion of the growth of unionism.

Our family’s role – unknown

Granddad, Levi (Len) Watkins, was a coal miner living in David Street at the time, in the 1911 census age 16 shown as ‘Coal miner helper’, and at time of signing up in 1916 was employed by Cambrian Colliery. His elder brother William was in 1911 shown as ‘Engine Plane (below ground)’ and father John, age 42 ‘Coal miner – hewer’. They, and many relatives in the valleys, must have been involved in some way in the events of that time, from suffering the extra hardships of limited strike income to being onlookers or maybe participants in the less justifiable actions of the workers. But sadly there aren’t any known family stories.

Update: I am told that one of the book’s authors, Gwyn Evans, is related to the Osborne branch of our family. He was Head of art and design at a Tonypandy school, and a founder member of the Rhondda Group of painters.

Also see

The show must go on … the railway.

More about  part of the local community, Bush Houses.


16 responses to “Tonypandy Riots”

  1. steve sheridan avatar
    steve sheridan

    hi my great great uncle was herbert greenslade he was a police constable 23yrs old he was at blaenclydach on the 23rd of march 1911 where he was injured,,im looking into my family tree sheridans/greenslades on my dads side and on my mums side toye and wienskowitz thats the hardest to find anything about changed names 4 times crossing europe to usa in the 1880s and coming to britain in 1890s regrds steve sheridan

    1. ahcutlock avatar

      Thanks for the comment Steve. Do you have a copy of the book? I’ve had a quick look and found the passage on incidents on 23rd March – I’ll copy it for you if you want.

      Best of luck with your researches.

    2. Deirdre McCumiskey avatar
      Deirdre McCumiskey

      Hi. My name is Deirdre McCumiskey and I am the partner of David Herbert Greenslade (whose grandfather was your great-great uncle Herbert Greenslade). I am very interested in genealogy (having traced my family tree back to 1500) and have done some research into David’s family history. Would love to hear what information you have about the Greenslade Family. Best Wishes. Deirdre

  2. steve sheridan avatar
    steve sheridan

    deirdre please get intouch and tell me how you are doing

    thanks steve

  3. steve sheridan avatar
    steve sheridan

    hi would love a copy also ,,,any ideas how i research the police history of herbert,,i have is a photo of him in uniform and records of birth marriage death etc,,but want find out more about him when he was alive the times around him etc

    thanks steve

  4. ahcutlock avatar

    The Police History Society website has links to various police museums, which may be worth checking out as well as contacting the society – I’ll scan that entry in the book for you shortly.

  5. Sue Spiller nee Russell avatar
    Sue Spiller nee Russell

    mY NAN was only 4 during the riots and I dont know how involved or not her family were at the time. but 80 years later after an operation to replace her knee , she was halcinating about the riots crying and wanting to hide – how horrible must it have been for those people involved

  6. Susan Waddy avatar
    Susan Waddy

    I am the granddaughter of Tom Sellick who was a miner in Tonypandy at the time of the riots, he was married to Caroline Jennet Powell who was from Tonypandy. I am compiling a family history and would love to find out more about them, any ideas please?
    I seem to recollect murmurs in the family that he was on the rescue team in case of accidents ?

    1. Cutlock & Co avatar

      Thanks for the comment, Susan. I can see from the 1911 census that Tom was a ‘colliery fireman’ – as was my grandfather Levi Watkins. See for a job description. At 1911 Tom, Caroline and 6 children were at 35 Berw Road. There are a few trees on Ancestry which might be interesting, although do check for accuracy.

      1. Susan Waddy avatar
        Susan Waddy

        Thank you very much for the info, It will give me a good start. Also somewhere to visit with my son
        I am very grateful, as I get older it seems more important to pass on anything I can remember to my family, I imagine that you are doing similar.

        1. Tim Morris avatar
          Tim Morris

          susan – You have identified my great-greatgrandfather, Tom Sellick. I have tried to work out why the whole family left the valleys in the 1920s, Oddly I live quite close now in Cardiff so would like to meet up if you are in Wales,

          1. Tim Morris avatar
            Tim Morris

            I have some knowledge of what happened to some of the sellick family later – mainly those that moved to Hereford, anyway hope to speak to you soon,

          2. Susan Waddy avatar
            Susan Waddy

            Hello Tim, are you related to Glynn or Derek Morris? If so these are my cousins. I do have some
            Information regarding the family in Hereford

          3. Susan Waddy avatar
            Susan Waddy

            Hi again Tim, I live in Cheltenham and are very happy to travel to Cardiff, please email me to set a date should you want

  7. jayson avatar

    My great great grandfather who was an ex miner disabled by a fall in the colliery was wheelchair bound during the time of the riots, and he lived in the huts on Tonypandy square where Mitchell court flats are now. During the riots a young striking miner was carried in to his home and placed on the floor with a head injury from either a saber or truncheon enforced either by a soldier or police officer. The young man died of his head injuries. i believe his last name was Samual and he was single and had moved down to the Rhondda from England i think he is buried in Trealaw cemetery.

    1. Cutlock & Co avatar

      Good to hear from you. On checking the Trealaw burial register (transcribed by Glamorgan FHS) I can’t see any adult male Samual/Samuels buried there in 1910/11. The transcription isn’t perfect so there is a small chance he’s been missed off.

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