John Cornwell was a freelance photographer who took many photographs of collieries, mostly in south Wales and the English Midlands, both underground and on the surface, during the 1970s and early 1980s. He perfected a method of underground photography using the standard colliery lighting and was able to photograph coal faces, roadways, shafts and equipment with amazing clarity. In addition to photographing working mines he also recorded abandoned mine workings, above and below ground.

John Cornwell was also well respected in the broader field of industrial archaeology. He published a number of books on Welsh and English collieries.

The copyright of his south Wales images is now owned by National Museum Wales.


Ceri Thompson, Curator of Coal Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales Staff
2 March 2021, 10:31

Dear Mr Wray

I don’t think that the compensation was for the same accident.

Another John Lewis was killed on 16th January 1903 under a fall of coal at Castle Pit which was owned by the Plymouth Company. The compensation probably refers to this incident.

If I can be of any further help, please let me know.

Best wishes


Philip Wray
26 February 2021, 14:27
On 10 June 1900 John Lewis of 30 Bridge Street Troedyrhiw Merthyr was killed while working at the Plymouth Colliery Level according to a news report.
There was an inquest during which it was stated that he was working at the Clynmill Coal Level belonging to the Plymouth Company.
On 3 April 1903 an Ann Lewis (John's widow was named, Ann) and her children received a compensation award of £300 from Messrs Crawshay Brothers Cynfarthfa Ltd following the death of her husband.

I'd be grateful for your observations, please, about 1) whether this payment was for John's accident (I can't tie Clynmill to the Crawshays) and 2) in exactly which colliery did the accident occur. An OS map dated shows the Clyn mil Pits levels 1 and 2 being disused.
David Lee
13 December 2020, 12:10
I worked in the mining industry in North Derbyshire all my working life, and find the photos and comments very interesting. A question for Nia Evans. Were the memories of Faith Anderson's Grand Father ever made public ? I would be extremely interested to read them if possible.
Alcwyn Elliott
30 October 2020, 16:22
Great photographs, I have worked at many of these mines in South wales working on installing training and repairing the AB shearers that cut the coal on the Longwall. Some of these mines were Big Pit, Marine Lady Windsor Bargoed Britannia Bedwas Six Bells, Nantgarw, Merthyr Vale Tafff Merthyr, the list goes on.
I started at Bargoed Pit and moved on from there to Anderson Mavor (Anderson Boyes eventually Anderson Strathclyde)
Ystrad Mynach College gave me the education I needed for my career.
Now retired with 45 years in coal mines.
Robert Keith Redfern
30 July 2020, 05:54
I worked at Church Gresley in the 60s. I loved these photos, they brought back great memories of a great era of my life. The best blokes in the world to work with. I wonder if any of the blokes from Kilburn 7s face remember ,it was our last face before they closed the Pit. It was sacrilidge, so much beautiful coal left in the ground. I also played Euphonium in the pit band. Thanks for the memories, love your work. Bob.
Robin Thomas
6 June 2020, 08:44
My great grandfather worked in the Stannard colliery Ynyshir from around 1870 by 1890 was inventing safety features for the miners lamp. ( Thomas Thomas) My grandfather started in the mine when he was 12 in 1890, studied at night school went to Cardiff University in 1901 became a lecturer in mining, eventually principal of Nuneaton school of mining, 25 years, retired 1945. Wrote a number of books on mining engineering . David Edmund Thomas 1877 to 1949
Nia Evans Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales Staff
28 February 2020, 12:09

Dear Faith Anderson,

Thank you for your enquiry, I have passed your message on to my colleague who is one of our industry curators, he will be in touch with you via the email address you've provided to discuss this further.

Many thanks,

(Digital team)

Faith Anderson
27 February 2020, 18:44
My Grandfather wrote a fascinating few pages of his first day down the pit at 10 years and 8 months in 1881, at what could have been Farchol Drift Foch Draw. It was probably around Pontrhydyfen, where he lived and had to walk with the railway line to get there. Does anyone know about this pit? He couldn't speak Welsh, so I expect his writing of the name could be just as he heard it.
Michael Mantle worked down pit as a fitter
9 February 2020, 23:30
I hope you will be able to let me join this group I worked in Markham colliery for seven years am now I'm seventy six years young now
Jan Davies
17 September 2019, 22:13
Lovely photos the younger generation can see how hard the Miners worked for years

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