Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Welsh Valley (1961)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Welsh Valley (1961)
For Looking at Britain, BBC, tx. 6/2/1961
20 minutes, black & white
Production CompanyBBC
ProducerPeggy Broadhead
Camera OperatorHannen Foss
EditorBarry Toovey
National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales collection

Presenter: Geoffrey Johnson Smith

Show full cast and credits

Anthropological study of the farmers, foresters and miners of the Afan Valley (mainly) in south Wales who, with nature, are changing the face of the countryside.

Show full synopsis

Aimed at 12-14 year olds, the Looking at Britain series (BBC, 1960-64) covered British life, countryside and environment. The three industries shown here - farming, forestry and mining - all harvest different resources from the earth but use and need the products of the others. They are interdependent, sharing skills and often workers. The miners use pit props provided by the foresters; land is ploughed for the forestry commission prior to planting trees; horses are used to move felled trees out of the forest; trees are planted on disused slag heaps. Some miners are also tenant farmers, thus working both on and under the land.

In the Afan Valley, miners are seen leaving work after the morning shift. The narrator mentions that they will use the pit-head baths before going home - perhaps unusual in a film dating from 1961, bearing in mind that pithead baths are presented almost as one of the wonders of the world in Ocean Collieries Recreational Union (c.1934). The producers may have felt that schoolchildren from non-mining areas would not be aware of such a facility or even of the need for it.

Not all mines, however, employ people on such a large scale, nor have the same kind of facilities and equipment. Although pits were nationalised in 1947 (i.e. the government compulsorily purchased them from private operators), some remained independent, too small to be of interest to the National Coal Board. In 1961, as stated in this film, there were between 500 and 600 private mines in the UK, a large proportion of them - over 200 - in south Wales. These small mines, licensed by the NCB, were worked horizontally, each basically a hole in the side of the valley (as Ritchie Griffiths' mine is described) and owned by a miner - or several miners - who would have invested his/their savings (or redundancy money following a pit closure) in the enterprise, employing a small number of men.

The film maintains that the Port Talbot steel works has ensured that the prosperity formerly in the coal valleys is now also found on the coastal plain with its great steel and allied industries - industries fuelled by and therefore dependent on coal.

The programme's narrator, Geoffrey Johnson Smith, later became director of London Weekend Television and a Conservative MP.

Mary Moylett

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete film (19:42)
Ocean Collieries Recreational Union (c.1934)