(From SWWIAS Newsletter no.69, February 1999)

© Paul Reynolds 1999


In September 1998 I attended a Conference on Early Railways at Durham. One of the speakers, Andy Guy of Beamish Museum, presented a paper describing some of the results of his research into early locomotives in the north of England and their builders. During the weekend I took the opportunity of asking whether he had come across any mention of a Stephenson locomotive at Scott's Pit, Llansamlet. My own research, published some time ago indicated that there was almost certainly a locomotive on this line in 1819 and quite possibly that it was the work of George Stephenson. To my great interest Andy confirmed that he had indeed found mention of a locomotive at Llansamlet and he generously followed this up over the course of the next few weeks with a number of transcripts of letters in archive collections in Newcastle upon Tyne, all relating to Scott's Pit. I was very pleased to receive this new information but I soon realised that it did not entirely fit in with what I had hitherto taken to be the history of the pit. The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to identify the changes and additions which this new information seems to have contributed to our understanding of Scott's Pit and its accompanying railway.

The New Sources

Altogether there are five letters. They date from the period 1818 to 1824, and with the exception of the first, all relate in a fairly detailed way to activities at two pits, one of which, I believe, was probably Scott's Pit.

1. Joseph Tregelles Price to Edward Pease, 22 December 1818. Price was a leading member of a group which had taken over Neath Abbey Ironworks earlier in the year and was now the managing partner. Edward Pease was a prominent member of the committee which was promoting what became the Stockton & Darlington Railway. Both were members of the Society of Friends. In response to an enquiry from Pease, Price writes in detail describing contemporary tramroad practice in south Wales. Pease is obviously attempting to secure as much information as possible on tramroads, railroads and canals with a view to deciding on the best means of implementing his committee's intentions.

This letter is in Newcastle City Library's 'Tomlinson Collection on Early Railways', vol. 1, p. 5, letter 3 (acc. no. 6749-53). The remaining four are all in a volume in Tyne & Wear Archives (DX 198/1), the compilation of which is attributed to Nicholas Wood (1795-1865), the Viewer of Killingworth Colliery.

2. Philip Maddison to Nicholas Wood, 24 October 1823. Maddison writes from Church Pit Colliery (which was the name under which John Scott traded) to report in detail on a new winding engine which has recently been supplied from Newcastle and which he is using to raise water in tubs from a new pit that is in the process of sinking. He goes on to complain about a pumping engine which, as appears from other letters, was situated at another pit: the cylinder is in very poor condition and the engine is barely able to cope. He hopes that Scott will agree to the purchase of a new cylinder.

3. Robert Mills to Nicholas Wood, 4 November 1823. Mills reports that the new pit is now sinking well. He is having a lot of trouble in the old pit, which seems to be approaching the end of its life, but he is managing to keep it in production

4. Robert Mills to Nicholas Wood, 18 February 1824. Mills has now reached coal in the new pit at 77 fathoms (462ft). The old pit is still yielding at about the same rate as in the previous year but now has only about two or three months life left. With obvious disapproval he mentions that Scott has not paid any royalties to the landlord, and is concerned that Wood should be paid for the winding engine. Mills is unsettled in his present post and hopes for an offer from Sir John Morris to manage his collieries on the western side of the Lower Swansea Valley.

5. Nicholas Wood to John Scott, 15 March 1824. After a discussion of the coal trade in general and more particularly in the Forest of Dean area, Wood goes on to give detailed advice on adapting a locomotive to pump water at an unspecified pit. In a postscript he refers to a letter from Robert Mills, which makes it clear that the locomotive in question had previously been used for pumping at the new pit at Llansamlet, discussed in the letters of Maddison and Mills.

The writers and recipients of these four letters in the Nicholas Wood volume are all known from other sources.

Nicholas Wood himself was the Viewer (i.e. manager) of Killingworth Colliery in Northumberland, where he collaborated closely with George Stephenson in the development of the locomotive.

Philip Maddison is the recipient of a previously published letter from George Stephenson, written in 1822. He was the engineer at Scott's Pit and, according to an oral tradition recorded in the 1860s, the driver of the locomotive which Stephenson supplied to the colliery in 1819 . I have not been able to trace him in south Wales after the 1820s, so it is quite possible he returned to Northumberland.

Robert Mills was Viewer of the Llansamlet Colliery under Charles Henry Smith. He seems to have come to Swansea from Killingworth, the colliery of which Nicholas Wood was the Viewer, in about 1819/20. He settled here and remained Viewer of Llansamlet Colliery until his death in 1853. He was succeeded in this post by his son, also named Robert. These letters make it clear that Mills had originally been Scott's Viewer before transferring to Smith.

John Scott was, of course, the owner of Scott's Pit which he ran, without a great deal of success, between 1816 and 1828.

The Accepted History of Scott's Pit

The history of Scott's Pit, as I understood it before I became aware of these letters, can be summarised as follows. Until 1811 coal under the Gwernllwynchwith estate had been worked with the adjacent, and larger, Briton Ferry estate as the Llansamlet Colliery. In 1811 the owners, Charles and Henry Smith, surrendered the Gwernllwynchwith lease, probably because they were reluctant to make the heavy investment that was required at the principal pit on the taking, Church Pit, to overcome difficulties caused by severe faulting. The mineral rights were soon re-let and passed through various hands until John Scott acquired the rights over the southern half of the estate in 1816. In 1817 he started to sink a new pit, probably what is now known as Scott's Pit, but in the mean time continued to work a number of old pits which were already open. Also in about 1817, he started to build a tramroad from his new pit to a riverside wharf near the White Rock copperworks. Scott's Pit started to produce and the tramroad was ready for traffic in 1819. Traffic was operated, for a short time at least, by a locomotive, probably built by George Stephenson. By this time Scott had taken two partners and they traded as the Old Church Pit Colliery Company, a reference to the old Church Pit which had been abandoned in about 1811. The shaft of Church Pit was on the Briton Ferry estate, and thus not accessible to Scott, but Scott's Pit worked, at a greater depth, the seams which had been worked through Church Pit. Although Scott was able to secure a reasonable output it was not enough to recover his investment and his business was in constant financial difficulty. In 1828 he pulled out and assigned his interest in the business to one of his partners, James Cox, who rapidly sold it all to Charles Henry Smith who had inherited the Briton Ferry lease on the death of his uncle, Henry Smith, in 1827.

While this narrative remains substantially correct, there are a number of areas where the new information from the north of England either corrects it or expands on it. There are five topics in particular where this is the case:

The dating of Scott's Pit

The date of 1817 for the sinking of Scott's Pit derives from an advertisement in The Cambrian, and its completion in 1819 from another advertisement which announces that a constant supply of coal is now available at the Foxhole wharf . In view of the new evidence I am now inclined to believe that while sinking did indeed start in about 1817, Scott's Pit was not completed until 1824: 1819 is the date when the tramroad was completed, not the pit.

The letters from Maddison and Mills refer to three pits in 1823/24. There is an 'old pit' which is nearing the end of its life. Mills is " ... jobbing all around the Pit and making as secure as I can ... ". "The old Pit is very troublesome with the creep ... she is heaving within 50 or 60 yards of the Pit bottom ... " (November 1823). Maddison writes (October 1823) that Mills is " ... taking nearly all the coal away and the surface is falling in ...". By November 1823 there were " ... but two stone Pillars on each side of the pit ...", but " ... the Barrier is yet untouched ... ". The picture is of an old pit which has been worked outwards as far as it can go. They are now starting to work back towards the shaft, robbing the pillars as they go, thus causing the underground roadways to heave and the surface to subside. It was a dangerous time in any pit's life and it must have required all Mills' expertise to ensure that safe and productive working could be maintained.

While Mills' main concern was to keep the pit safe and to ensure continued production, Maddison had an inadequate pumping engine to contend with. He is worried (October 1823) that the pit may be flooded out before the last remaining coal can be extracted. He has been trying to persuade Scott to invest in a new cylinder since the existing one suffered from " ... Honey combs 5/8 In in different places ... " Scott had suggested that the solution might be to line the existing cylinder with copper, but Maddison does not like this idea at all: it would be more expensive (£300) than a new cylinder (£140) and in any case, not safe. Scott was persuaded and by November 1823 had agreed to order a new cylinder from Neath Abbey, the same workshop that had produced the original, unsatisfactory one. There is no mention of either cylinder among the surviving Neath Abbey Ironworks drawings in the West Glamorgan Record Office.

Despite all these difficulties Mills and Maddison managed to keep the old pit going. In November 1823 it was producing about 100 tons a day, and it was still working at this rate in February 1824, a tribute to Mills' skill in controlling the creep. However, by then he reckoned that it had a life expectancy of only about three months, and this forecast seems to have been more or less right.

As well as keeping the 'old pit' in production, Mills and Maddison also had major problems with water at a new 'sinking pit' which was making it impossible to make any progress with sinking. A solution was found In September 1823 when Wood and Stephenson supplied a winding engine which was used to extract the water, winding it up in 90-gallon tubs. In October Maddison was able to report that the new engine had been at work for nearly four weeks and was winding up 15 tubs an hour (1350 gallons). By November the rate of extraction was up to 2200 gallon p.h. and by the following February, by which time 140-gallon barrels were being used, to 2800 gallons p.h. This winding engine is probably the one referred to by Jeaffreson in his Life of Robert Stephenson. He cites a letter from Robert to George Stephenson, dated 5 March 1824, in which he reported on a visit to the Cornish mines, Bristol, Neath Abbey and elsewhere. "He mentions also having been at Swansea where the engine for drawing coals, put up by George Stephenson, was seen working admirably." Even though the engine may still have been in use for raising water, its real purpose, of course, was coal winding.

This new engine was obviously just what was needed to make some impression on the water and at last, in November 1823, Mills was able to report that " ... we have got under way with the sinking pit ... " By then he was 66« fathoms down (399ft) and was expecting to strike coal at 77 fathoms (462ft). In February 1824 he finally reached the coal: "It is with pleasure that I have to state to you that I have got down to the Coal with the sinking Pit [at] the depth of 77 Faths. and the vein is 3 feet 7 Inches thick ...". This must have been the Swansea Four Foot seam which Church Pit had been working at 129ft. The great difference in depth is caused by the steep dip of the seams despite the effect of the intervening Bethel Fault which threw the coal up by over 300ft. Mills had already sunk a further one fathom below the seam, presumably in search of the Swansea Five Foot, and claimed that he could continue at the rate of a fathom a week.

Once real progress was being made with sinking the new pit, a start was made on the foundations of the pumping engine which would be used to keep it dry during its future productive life. Work was in hand on this by November 1823. It seems that Scott's original intention had been to transfer the entire engine from the old pit. As we have seen, he had been convinced by Maddison's objections to re-using the old cylinder and it had been agreed to obtain a new one from Neath Abbey; but perhaps the remaining components of the engine were transferred to the new pit.

Apart from the 'old pit' and the 'sinking pit' the only other pit to be mentioned in this correspondence is Round Pit. Mills found that when he reached coal in the new pit it was " ... much like that in the round pit, but rather more tender". This does not tell us very much, apart from making it clear that neither the old pit nor the new pit can be identified with Round Pit.

Is it possible, then, to make any identification between the 'old pit' and the 'sinking pit' of Mills and Maddison and the three or four pits which Scott is known from other sources to have worked? When he acquired his mineral estate in 1816 he probably found three pits which were workable, even if they were probably not actually working. These were Gwern Pit, Cwm Pit and Round Pit. They are shown on an estate plan of 1808 and many years later, in 1842, in connection with a legal dispute between Charles Henry Smith and the Duke of Beaufort, aged colliers were produced who claimed to have worked for Scott at Scott's Pit, Round Pit and Combe [sic] Pit . In addition to these pits there was also Cwm Level, which came to the surface on Scott's taking; but since most of the coal which it accessed lay under the Briton Ferry estate, it is unlikely to have been much worked by Scott.

If we consider first the 'sinking pit', the new pit where Mills struck coal in February 1824 after the water problem had finally been overcome, it should be noted that there is no evidence that Scott ever sank more than one new pit, i.e. Scott's Pit. Also, we know something of the history of the other pits on this taking and all of them were opened before Scott came on the scene. This means that the 'sinking pit' can very probably be identified with Scott's Pit itself, and the date of completion is therefore 1824 rather than 1819. Also, since work on the foundations of the pumping engine at this pit started in about October 1823, that puts the date of construction of the surviving engine-house to 1823/24 rather than 1817/19 as previously believed.

If the 'sinking pit' of 1823/24 is not to be identified with Scott's pit, then it is necessary to show that another major sinking took place on Gwernllwynchwith in the 1820s in addition to Scott's Pit. I know of nothing to indicate the existence of such a pit.

If Scott's Pit is the 'sinking pit' of Mills and Maddison, what do we make of the 1819 advertisement which offered a "constant supply" of "Old Fox Hole Church Pit Coal"? I would now suggest that this indicates, not that Scott's Pit was in full production, but that Scott's railway was completed and delivering coal to the Foxhole wharf from his other pits. Hitherto he had been compelled to cart his coal by road to the Swansea Canal near Wychtree bridge and barge it down to the harbour. A railway under his own control was obviously much more dependable, and would indeed help to maintain a "constant supply" of coal.

If the 'sinking pit' was Scott's Pit, which of the other pits can be identified with the 'old pit'? The possibilities are Gwern Pit, Cwm Pit and Round Pit. Round Pit can be ruled out because Mills' letter of February 1824 implies that it was distinct from the 'old pit' or the 'sinking pit'. I would suggest that the 'old pit' was probably Cwm Pit. Cwm Pit (like Round Pit) lies directly on the course of Scott's railway, whereas Gwern Pit is a little way off. The letters of Mills and Maddison suggest that the 'old pit' was the principal source of coal on Scott's taking until his new pit was on stream. As such, Scott would have made sure that it was served by his railway. The identification of Cwm Pit with the 'old pit' is also consistent with the evidence given in 1842 (see above) that Scott's Pit, Cwm Pit and Round Pit were being worked in the 1820s with no mention made of Gwern Pit

In February 1824 Mills reckoned that the old pit had about three more months left. Coal had been reached in the new pit, but it would still take time to bring it up to a full commercial rate of production. This fits in well with a further advertisement in The Cambrian (9 October 1824) in which the Old Church Pit Colliery Company announced that " ... they will recommence shipping coals of a superior quality on Monday next, the 11th instant." It would appear that the old pit had indeed been exhausted by about May 1824, as Mills had anticipated, and that there was then an interruption to supplies until the new pit was on stream the following October. This advertisement marks the start of regular production from Scott's Pit.

When one combines the existing and the new evidence, the history of Scott's activities changes to something along these lines. In 1816 he took possession of part of the Gwernllwynchwith mineral estate; the following year he started to sink a new pit (Scott's Pit) and to build a railway from the river at White Rock to Cwm Pit and Round Pit and on to the new pit. The railway was ready by 1819, but work on the new pit was seriously delayed by flooding which was not brought under control until 1823 when a powerful winding engine was supplied by Stephenson and Wood. This successfully kept the shaft dry and coal was eventually won in Scott's Pit early in 1824. Meanwhile, thanks to the efforts of Mills and Maddison, the 'old pit' (probably Cwm Pit) was kept in production until about May 1824. However, despite their best endeavours, it was not possible to avoid an interruption to the supply of coal until Scott's Pit came fully on stream in October 1824. Besides these two pits, Round Pit and Gwern Pit were probably both in production, but without contributing much to Scott's total output The engine-house at Scott's Pit was not started until Scott and his officials were confident that coal could be won and worked economically, and it is thus dated to 1823/24 rather than 1817/19.

The type of track on Scott's railway

Was Scott's railway a tramroad using L-shaped tramplates, the normal style in south Wales at this period, or was it a railroad with edge-rails, far less common but not unknown? Up to now I have considered it to have been a tramroad for two reasons. In the 1970s, during the restoration project at Scott's Pit, a number of tramplates were found. They were not in situ but it is difficult to imagine how these tramplates came to be on site, but no edge-rails, if the railway was not a tramroad. The other evidence to suggest that Scott's line was a tramroad is a letter from Edward Frere, the ironmaster of Clydach (near Abergavenny) to his solicitor in July 1819: "A person by the name of Scott living in London but having coal works near Swansea bought some tram plates [my italics] here, for which he paid by acceptance of Bills drawn upon him directed to him in London." These bills were now overdue and Frere wanted advice on recovering the debt. On the other hand the 1830 Ordnance Survey map marks Scott's line as a 'Rail Road', but I have doubts as to whether the surveyors used the designations 'tram road' and 'rail road' systematically to differentiate between different types of track. The Oystermouth Railway is marked on the same map as 'Tram Road' on one stretch and 'Rail Road ' on another.

This presumption is now challenged by the letter of December 1818 from Joseph Tregelles Price to Edward Pease. He writes that in south Wales tramroads are definitely preferred to railroads: " ... I suppose 9/10ths of the intelligent men in Wales would be in their favour in preference to Rail roads." However, he continues, " ... there is at this time a line of Rail road making within 4 miles of this place by a person who, as Surveyor etc., has had a great deal to do with tram roads. He is however doing it by direction of his Principal and his decided judgement in favour of either remains to be governed by the experience he may yet have. Meantime, the degree of favourable influence he has received is from seeing the improved Rail road in use in the North, where Steam Engines are employed as the moving powers."

The question, of course, is what railroad did Price have in mind, and there are two possibilities. One is the Clydach Railroad and the other is Scott's railway. The southern terminus of the Clydach Railroad was just within a four-mile radius of Neath Abbey. It was in existence by 1798 (when it was shown on Yates' map) and, very unusually for south Wales, was an edge-railway throughout its history. Von Oeynhausen and von Dechen visited it in 1826/27 and their description is certainly that of a railroad, using what sounds like Losh's fish-bellied rail with overlapping joints. Losh rail was only patented in 1816, so the Clydach Railroad must have been relaid at some date between then and 1826. The original owner died early in 1818 and the colliery and the railroad were sold later in the year. Possibly - but there is no corroborating evidence - the new owner decided that the first thing he needed to do was to re-lay the 20-year old railroad, and so long as he did not waste any time, work could just have been in hand by December 1818.

There is an element of clutching at straws in this scenario, and in any case Price's phraseology suggests the construction of a new railroad, not the renewal of an existing one. We know that almost certainly Scott's railway was under construction in 1818 whereas there is no firm evidence relating to the Clydach Railroad. The situation which Price describes is exactly what one would have expected in the case of Scott's railway, since Scott unquestionably brought in expertise and methods from the north of England. If it were not for the use by Frere of the term 'tram plate' I would have no hesitation in saying that Price was referring to Scott's railway. As it is, the question remains unresolved, although there is now a much stronger possibility that Scott's railway used edge-rails.

Scott's locomotive

Undoubtedly the most interesting feature of Scott's railway is his use of a locomotive at what was a very early date, especially for Wales. I have presented the evidence for the existence of this locomotive elsewhere . Wood's letter of March 1824 appears to relate to this locomotive. It reinforces the case for attributing it to Stephenson and extends its history by a number of years.

Wood's letter seems to indicate that Scott has a locomotive which he intends to use for pumping at an unspecified pit. He gives us some idea of its size: " ... the cylinders of the Locomotive Engine are 9 In. Dia. and the Length of stroke 2 feet ... ". Theoretically, says Wood, steam pressure could reach 40lbs, but he reckons that for practical purposes 25lbs would be a more realistic figure. He calculates that the engine could raise 6400lbs of water by 2 feet for each stroke, and the cylinders might make 30 double strokes a minute " ... if the Boiler had been proportional to the Cylinders." But since this was not the case, then Scott might reasonably expect 20 strokes a minute. Wood concludes by suggesting various modifications, including attaching gears to the driving axle, and then signs off.

So far there has been nothing to give any clue as to the identity of this locomotive which, like Trevithick's Penydarren locomotive before, was to have its wheels removed and be used as a stationary pumping engine. But then Wood adds a postscript: "On referring to Mills Letters I find that the Locomotive Engine when employed in drawing Water at the sinking Pit at Lansamlet [sic] worked 20 strokes per Min ... ". Unless we are prepared to assume that Scott had two old locomotives at his disposal (most unlikely!), the locomotive discussed in the body of Wood's letter must be the same as " ... the Locomotive Engine ... at Lansamlet ... " and " ... the Locomotive Engine ... at Lansamlet ... " must surely be the one that we know was in use on Scott's railway in 1819 - again, unless we are willing to accept that Scott had more than one locomotive. Thus Wood's letter provides further evidence for the existence of this locomotive; we can extend its history to 1824; and the detailed knowledge of the locomotive which Wood exhibits makes it very much more likely that this was indeed a Stephenson locomotive, as the local tradition claimed it to be.

The locomotive was probably supplied for the opening of the railway in 1819. It does not seem to have come up to expectations. Local tradition had it that it was too heavy for the rails (or plates?) and caused unacceptable levels of damage. The letter from Mills referred to in Wood's postscript suggests another reason for this. When the locomotive was pumping at the pit her performance was disappointing and Mills attributed this to poor steaming: " ... she could do so much more if she could be supplied with steam", he told Wood. If she was no better at hauling coal than she was at pumping water, that is another reason for her short career on the railway.

After the locomotive ceased to be used on the railway, it appears that she was transferred to the 'sinking pit' at Llansamlet (which we have reason to believe was Scott's Pit) and used there as a pumping engine in an attempt to keep the water down and so allow sinking to continue. This was obviously not a success, because Mills was unable to make any progress until the new winding engine arrived from Newcastle in September 1823. Presumably the locomotive was then retired from pumping and stood idle until Scott hit on the idea of using her for pumping once again.

And that is as far as we can take the story. We do not whether the locomotive was actually re-used for pumping, and if she was, where she was so used. Perhaps Scott was thinking of putting her to work at Scott's Pit once it was in production. She might not have been able to keep the water down during sinking, but he could have hoped that she would have been up to the task once the pit was completed and lined. He might have been having second thoughts about buying a new cylinder from Neath Abbey for Scott's Pit.

It is still not possible to say whether Scott's locomotive can be identified with a locomotive which Charles Henry Smith is known to have been using in 1833, but the evidence of Wood's letter would seem to make this increasingly unlikely. Either the 1819 locomotive ended its days as a pumping engine at one of Scott's pits, or it was simply scrapped. If Scott was thinking of using it again for pumping in 1824, he obviously did not see much of a future for it in hauling coal on the railway. If the plans for pumping failed to materialise, then he is more likely simply to have got rid of the locomotive.

Robert Mills and Philip Maddison

Robert Mills is already known as the Agent of the Llansamlet Colliery under C.H. Smith. The introduction to south Wales of the Davy lamp is attributed to him and in 1851 he was awarded a medal at the Great Exhibition for an arrangement of levers that enabled underground doors to be opened by the passage of drams: this made it possible to maintain an efficient flow of air without the need for door boys to sit in the dark to open and shut the doors (a truly humanitarian achievement) .

The Davy lamp is known to have been in use in south Wales by 1827 . Until these letters came to light it was assumed that Mills had been Agent at the Llansamlet Colliery (then in the hands of Henry Smith, the uncle of Charles Henry Smith) at the time the Davy lamp was introduced. It is now clear that he was originally Scott's Agent. When Scott's undertaking passed to C.H. Smith in 1828, Mills must have changed masters at the same time (almost as though he were part of the fixtures and fittings). In 1827 he was still working for Scott, and so the introduction of the Davy lamp in south Wales must have been at Scott's Pit. This is fully consistent with Scott's adoption of northern technology and his employment of an Engineer and an Agent from the north.

Mills comes over in his two letters as conscientious, but also as a bit of a worrier. He appears anxious to justify himself and to receive the approval of others. He does not have a high opinion of Scott and his business methods and is clearly unsettled in his position. In both his letters he mentions that he hopes to receive an offer from Sir John Morris to manage his collieries on the western side of the valley. Sir John called on him at the colliery on a number of occasions, but it appears that he never made Mills a firm offer - or if he did, it was not accepted.

Maddison's letter adds nothing to what we know of him already. In both this letter and in Stephenson's previously published letter to Maddison of 1822 he comes over as a competent and reliable young man, but perhaps still needing guidance and reassurance. To use modern jargon, he is perhaps a bit of a 'techie'. He was very probably sent down to Llansamlet from the north in 1819 along with the locomotive, since it was Stephenson's practice to supply a driver with his locomotives.

John Scott

Several interesting pieces of additional information regarding John Scott come to light in these letters, either reinforcing what is known already or adding to our knowledge of what, admittedly, still remains a rather dim and shadowy figure.

We already know that Scott had cash-flow problems: he was late paying for his tramplates; he had difficulties in repaying a grant which he had received from the Exchequer Bill Loan Commissioners; and on more than one occasion he was not able to pay his workmen. Mills' revelation (February 1824) that he had not paid any royalties is all of a piece with this.

Perhaps one of the reasons for Scott's poor financial record is that he had over-stretched himself. Evidence from the Wood letter book suggests that the Llansamlet venture was may not have been his only undertaking. Wood's letter to Scott of March 1824 discusses the coal trade in the Forest of Dean, which suggests that Scott might have had interests in this region as well. Harry Paar, an authority on the history of railways and industry in the Forest of Dean, once suggested to me that John Scott might be the same man as Edmund J. Scott who leased Millwood Moorway level in 1817 and built a tramroad to the River Wye in 1820. Both John Scott and Edmund J. Scott were solicitors and both gave their address as 'Poultry' in the City of London. Perhaps they were not one and the same, but they could well have been related - father and son, perhaps, or brothers?

Also in the Wood letter book is a draft lease, dated 1824, of Halbeath Colliery to John Scott, of Penge Place, Surrey. Halbeath is in Scotland, near Dunfermline. There is no indication in this source that the lease was actually completed, but it seems very likely that it was. In Durham Record Office there is a letter from a John Scott, of Halbeath Colliery, dated 1825, seeking advice from John Buddle on high-pressure pumping engines, followed in 1826 by another letter asking for the names of the best makers. The Llansamlet Scott and the Halbeath Scott are almost certainly one and the same, and it would be interesting to know why he apparently started to favour Buddle as his expert adviser at about this time in preference to Wood.

Both the Halbeath and the Forest of Dean connections could well repay further investigation.

Something else about Scott which these letters suggest is that he may actually have known something about mining and was not merely a remote and grasping capitalist. He had views on prolonging the life of the defective cylinder at the 'old pit', although Maddison did not think much of them and Scott did not press them. More interestingly, Wood's letter to Scott goes into technical matters in great depth. There could be several explanations for this. Perhaps Wood recognised that Scott had knowledge enough to understand what he was saying. Or perhaps Wood was so immersed in his profession and this style thus came to him so naturally that it never occurred to him that it might be above the head of many others. A third possibility is that in adopting this style Wood was trying to put Scott down. Maddison did not take to Scott's engineering suggestions and Mills did not like his business methods. Perhaps Wood shared their views and this was his way of telling Scott to leave the running of the colliery to the experts and not to interfere in things he did not understand. But nothing in the tone of the letter suggests that this was Wood's intention: it reads as a discussion of technical matters between equals with no ulterior motive or hidden agenda. Perhaps Scott did indeed know a thing or two about mining engineering.


Our knowledge of John Scott and his activities has been modified and enhanced by these letters in a number of ways, of which the principal are:

Scott's Pit. Sinking probably started in 1817, but soon ran into difficulties because of excessive water. The locomotive supplied in 1819 was used for a time to pump the shaft, but no real progress was possible until a new winding engine was supplied by Stephenson and Wood in 1823. Coal was won in February 1824, but the pit was not producing in commercial quantities until October 1824. The engine-house was probably not started until about October 1823, and so can be dated to 1823/24 rather than to 1817/19.

Scott's Railway. It is still not possible to say definitely whether this was laid with edge-rails or tramplates, but the case for it being an edge-railway is considerably strengthened.

Scott's Locomotive. Yet more evidence can be offered for the existence of this machine and it is increasingly likely that it was indeed built by George Stephenson. After its (probably) short life as a locomotive it was adapted for use as a pumping engine at Scott's Pit during the sinking of the pit. It was unable to keep the workings dry and probably ceased to be used for this purpose in 1823. In 1824 Scott considered its re-use, perhaps with modifications, once again for pumping, but it is not known if anything came of this. It looks to be increasingly unlikely that this locomotive can be identified with Smith's 1833 locomotive.

Robert Mills. It is now known that Mills was Agent at Scott's Pit before he became C.H. Smith's Agent. This in turn demonstrates that when he introduced Davy lamps to south Wales it was at Scott's Pit and not in the adjoining Llansamlet Colliery as has hitherto been supposed.

John Scott. There is the possibility, which merits further investigation, that Scott also had mining interests in the Forest of Dean and in Halbeath (Scotland). It is also possible that he had some knowledge of mining engineering.


1. P.R. Reynolds, 'Scott's Tramroad, Llansamlet', Journal of the Railway & Canal Historical Society, v.26 (3), Nov. 1980, pp.85-95.

2. W.O. Skeat, George Stephenson: the engineer and his letters (1973), pp.61-2.

3. The Cambrian, 27 Sept., 1 May 1819.

4. J.C. Jeaffreson, The life of Robert Stephenson (1864), vol.1, p.70.

5. Abandoned Mines Record Office, SWR 2465.

6. Extracted from notes taken by the late W.C. Rogers from papers in the possession of the Duke of Beaufort at Badminton Castle.

7. National Library of Wales, Maybery Papers 3288.

8. C. von Oeynhausen and H. von Dechen, Railways in England, 1826 and 1827 (1971), pp. 55-6.

9. R.P. Roberts, 'The history of coalmining in Gower from 1700 to 1832' (unpublished M.A. thesis, University of Wales (Cardiff), 1953), pp.120-1.

10. ibid., pp.122-3.

11. p.c., 7 July 1987.

12. Durham Record Office. NCB1. JB/1260, 1264