Big Pit

The National Mining Museum of Wales, Blaenafon

Useful Information

Location: Near Blaenafon.
M4, exit 26 eastbound or exit 25 westbound, A4046 to the north to Blaenafon.
Open: MAR to NOV daily 9:30-17, underground tours 10-15:30.
Fee: free.
Classification: MineCoal Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: D=80 m.
Bibliography: Anon (1985?): Big Pit Mining Museum, Blaenavon, South Wales ND, 16 pp A4, colour, The Windsor Davies edition?
Anon (1992): Big Pit Mining Museum - A Visitors Guide, Big Pit/Pwll Mawr/The Big Pit Story/...A Look into Coalmining in South Wales, 30 pp, illus colour.
Cornwell John (1985): Enter the World of Blaenavon South Wales, 24 pp illus.
Anon (): Big Pit / Pwll Mawr / Mining Museum / Amgueddfa Lofaol Study Pack / Pecyn Astudio., 7 information sheets, worksheets and teachers' notes and answers to worksheets.
Address: Big Pit National Mining Museum, Blaenafon, Torfaen, NP4 9XP, Tel: +44-1495-790311, Fax +44-1495-792618.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1780 coal mining begins in Blaenavon.
1880 coal mining begins at Big Pit.
1980 Big Pit closed.
1983 reopens for visitors.



The Underground Tour

All visitors must be 5 years of age or at least 1 m tall to go underground because the safety equipment that everyone has to carry weighs around 5 kilos. You will need warm clothing and stout footwear. Wheelchairs can go underground but please book in advance. Big Pit is a real colliery. It was the place of work for hundreds of men, women and children for over 200 years - a daily struggle to extract that precious mineral that stoked the furnaces and lit the household fires of the world. Coal also ran the world's railways and navies.

Kited out in helmet, cap-lamp and battery pack, you descend the 90 m shaft in the pit cage to another world; a world of shafts, coal faces, underground roadways, air doors, stables and an engine house. Your pit lamp lights up an inky darkness - darker than you can imagine. But you are never alone. Guided by an ex-miner, with easy good humour and first hand knowledge, you get a real sense of life at the coal face.

The Surface Tour

At first glance Big Pit looks very much as it did on that February day in 1980 when the last miners clocked off. Frozen in time the same clutter of building still surround the pit shaft. But the wheels of the winding gear still revolve every day as thousands of visitors a year wander around the site. The colliery buildings, the sawmill, the winding engine-house, the blacksmith's workshop and pithead baths, all complete the picture of a working pit that at its height employed 1,300 men and produced 250,000 tons of coal a year. Learn more about the story of coal from exhibitions and displays. The miners' canteen is now a licensed cafeteria and the old fitting shop is a gift shop full of books, crafts and popular souvenirs. A picnic area, free car parks and all the amenities one would expect at a major tourist attraction.

The surrounding area.

Blaenavon [Welsh for head of the river] is a community with its structures still intact. It evolved during centuries of iron making, it was ideally situated, surrounded by mines of coal, and iron and quarries of limestone. The 18th century ironworks, the ironmasters houses, church and schools, the workmens' Institute, the ”Co-op„, chapels and the town itself are living images of more than two centuries of industrial history. Coal is still mined here, in levels on the hillside and by opencast on the valley floor. The impact of this unique industrial heritage has been recognised in the recent award of World Heritage status.

Text by Tony Oldham (2002). With kind permission.