Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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GRIFFITHS , RICHARD ( 1756 - 1826 ), colliery pioneer .

The second son and third of nine children of William Griffiths and Elizabeth ( Davies ) , of Gelli-fendigaid , Llanwynno, Glam. , he was christened 13 Jan. 1756 . His family connections, by birth and by marriage (see Morgan , cited below), are very interesting; members of his family were among the earliest and strongest supporters of Methodism in Llanwynno and Pontypridd ; and his youngest sister's marriage with EVAN MORGAN of Hafod Ucha was to have important consequences for Griffiths . He practised medicine at Cardiff ; but the Methodist associations of his family would not seem to have affected him very deeply, for he was a ‘sporting man’ and an inveterate practical joker — he even arranged a comic funeral for himself ( Morgan , 44-5). He d. in 1826 (will proved May 31 ), and was buried at Llanwynno .

His fame rests upon the fact that his enterprise turned him into the first systematic exploiter of coal in the Rhondda valley . In 1790 , he leased rights to open a level at Gyfeillon , connecting it with the canal at Treforest by a tramroad which crossed the Taff over a bridge. Before 1802 , he had also leased from his brother-in-law Evan Morgan (above) the mineral rights under Hafod , and soon leased rights to open a level there; under his successors, the Thomases , pits were sunk at both places.


  • O. Morgan , History of Pontypridd and Rhondda Valleys (1903) , 38-45;
  • Elizabeth Phillips , A history of the pioneers of the Welsh coalfield (1925) , 153-5;
  • E. D. Lewis , The Rhondda Valleys: a study in industrial development, 1800 to the present day (1959) , p.39.


Emeritus Professor Robert Thomas Jenkins, C.B.E., D.Litt., Ll.D., F.S.A., (1881-1969), Bangor

Published date: 1959