Tom Mathias Photographs

This remarkable collection of photographs represents the work of two exceptionally gifted photographers from different eras and very different backgrounds.

The original photographs were taken by Tom Mathias, a self-taught photographer, at the turn of the 20th Century. Using simple equipment, Tom Mathias recorded the daily life around the Cilgerran district of Dyfed, west Wales.

Following Mathias's death in 1940 all his negatives were dumped in an outhouse, where they lay, forgotten, for more than thirty years.

James Maxwell (Maxi) Davis, a professional photographer living in the area, discovered them in the 1970s. The glass negatives were in a very poor condition. Many were broken and damaged beyond repair. Most of the reminder were very badly degraded, meaning a slow and painstaking process to print what images could be saved. Enough had survived however for Maxi to appreciate the importance of what he had found and set about the task of conserving and restoring the photographs.

It is thanks to these efforts that Tom Mathias's remarkable photographs have been saved for posterity.

Click on the thumbnails below for more infomration.

Comments (5)

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Jonathan Haydn-Williams
19 May 2019, 15:35
My maternal grandmother came from Pontrhydyceirt and my grandfather from Llechryd. She was of the Mills family. Her father, Samuel Mills, was a clogblock maker from Rochdale who travelled to the Cardigan area when the railways arrived in the 19th century. He and his men would harvest trees and carve them into rough clog soles, which they would dry in pyramids in the camps they would make in the woods (of which I think there are Matthias photos). When dry enough, they were sent by train to Rochdale to be finished and have leather uppers added, to be worn in the cotton mills. He met a local lady and stayed. My grandmother was the first born of six children. The two sons, Sam and Jimmy, survived the First World War and became butchers, having learn the trade with cousins in Rochdale. The butchers van in the picture is their's, pictured in the small quarry on the 'Mill Road' that links Cilgerran with Llechryd.

I remember James Matthias, son of Tom, who lived in the family house next to the hump back bridge over the Morganau stream (there is a photo of the bridge being rebuilt). He used to visit my grandmother for tea when she moved back to Pontrhydyceirt at the age of 80, living at Bryn Heulog in the 1960s and 1970s just up the road from him. His father's photographs were well remembered then and prints of them were held by families. I don't recall mention of the plates, though James must have known they were there. I vaguely recall some mention of a ruinous piece of litigation having affected his father, but that may be a total misrecollection.

One of the photos is of my other great-grandfather working as a gardener in Llechryd. He was a keen fisherman. My mother can remember him being keen to be left alone while fishing, as the presence of others on the bank would frighten off the fish.

My grandmother told us of skating on the old canal near Castle Malgwyn. It is mentioned in a book on the South Wales tinplate industry as the water supply for the tinplate works there, one of the first in Wales.
Tim Reeves
7 December 2018, 13:54
What a wonderful find. Tom Mathias was my Great Uncle's Father in Law. My Grandmother was born in Cilgerran and my father spent his school holidays in Cilgerran, poaching for salmon/trout with his uncle in a coracle on the River Teifi.
Steve Johnson
7 February 2018, 23:05
What a fantastic resource. My Grandmother and Great Aunt were both born In Cilgerran. I believe they are in the picture of the Children’s Choir.
17 January 2018, 15:44
Alan Waters
19 November 2016, 17:09
Masterly use of the web, a superb site full of interest. So many sites use 'bells and whistles' not for any practical purpose but simply because they are easy to deploy. This site keeps it simple and right on target.