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Volume Twelve - Pre-Victorian to the Present Day - further aspects - Trials of Welsh and Mixed Coals . . .

1864 - The Welsh Steam Coal Question was debated in Parliament [931] on 6th May : -

Mr. Hussey Vivian : said, he wished to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty, Whether the experiments on the relative value of Welsh Steam Coal alone, and Welsh and North Country Coal mixed, detailed in the Return dated 15th February, 1864, are regarded by the Admiralty as final, or whether practical trials at sea upon this question are about to be made?

Lord Clarence Paget : in reply, said, he had to state that those trials were not by any means considered as final. The Admiralty had ordered practical trials at sea to take place as regarded the Welsh and North Country Coal, and the Reports of the experiments were to be made to the Admiralty.

The background to this is summarised within Mr. Michael Asteris educated article entitled 'The Rise and Decline of South Wales Coal Exports 1870-1930' [1234] [499] : -

During the early stages of the transition from sail, the British Admiralty conducted a number of trials in an attempt to establish the types of coal most suitable for marine use. Soon after buying its first iron steamship, the Admiralty financed coal tests by Sir Henry de la Beche and Dr. Lyon Playfair. Their three reports, published between 1846 and 1851, contained observations on the qualities of a wide range of coal samples. The two experimenters emphasised that :

It is rare to find one coal in which is combined all the qualities essential for the requirements of a ship of war, viz. a quick production of steam-large evaporative powers - a smokeless combustion - a capacity for storage in small bulk - the powers of resisting attrition - a freedom from the qualities which tend to spontaneous combustion, in addition to other properties of less importance.

Despite such exacting requirements, the tests indicated that Welsh coals were particularly suited for naval purposes. Amongst their other characteristics, the steam coals of south Wales had high evaporative power, gave off little smoke and required the minimum of stoking.


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