Penarth Dock, South Wales - 150 years - the heritage and legacy  
Penarth Dock, South Wales - the heritage & legacy . . .

Index to Volume Seven - The People - Dock Family Trees - Railway and Dock Company Officials . . .

Nixon, John - (1815 -1899)

John Nixon.

John Nixon, [991] one of the original promotors of the Penarth Dock, Harbour and Railway Company, (also the Baroness Windsor, the Hon. Robert Clive, Crawshay Bailey and Lewis Davis).

The 1908 Coal Annual stated : The early history of the Penarth Docks forms one of the most interesting phases of the romance of the growth of the trade and port of Cardiff. A span of just fifty years bridges its original and its present-day position, and during the greater part of this period its career has been that of an enterprise distinguished rather by a steady than a rapid growth. But it is quite safe to say that the annals of the great port of Cardiff contain nothing of more striking interest than the piece of bold, far-seeing enterprise which was responsible for the conception, first of the old Ely Harbour, and then a year later of the Penarth Dock, and the unflinching courage with which the works, despite the failure of the contractors, were successfully carried through by the original Board of Directors, and the undertaking started on its career under the aegis of the Taff Vale Railway Company. The pioneers of the trade of Cardiff played for high stakes, but as in the case of Lord Bute with the Bute Docks, and in the case also of the promoters of the Barry Docks in recent times, the great risks undertaken by Mr. Crawshay Bailey, Mr. John Nixon, and others, when they launched the Penarth undertaking, and by the Taff Vale Board when they took over the works before they were actually completed, were justified by results, and to-day the Penarth Docks, though comparatively small in area, rank among the best administered and most efficient in the United Kingdom, and have transformed a wild, uninhabited region into a thriving, well-built and populous seaside resort. . . .



We regret to record the death of Mr. John Nixon. Born in 1815, the son of a yeoman farmer in North Durham.

Mr. Nixon was one of the brilliant band of mining and civil engineers who passed through Dr. Bruce’s famous academy at Newcastle, and, between them, exercised immense influence in the industrial development which this dying century has witnessed.

He was apprenticed to Mr. Gray, of Garesfield, then chief mining engineer to the Marquis of Bute, and then became overman at the Garesfield Colliery at 3s. 6d. per day. He then undertook an important survey of the underground workings of the Dowlais Company. It was during this stay in South Wales that Mr. Nixon’s attention was first directed to the superior qualities of South Wales coal, out of which he was destined in after years to accumulate a vast fortune.

He then became mining engineer to an English company working what was believed to be an extensive coal and iron field at Languin, in the neighbourhood of Nantes. Some time after his return to England he chartered a small vessel and took over a cargo of coal to Nantes at his own risk. This coal he supplied gratis, for purposes of experiment, to sugar refineries, and he was successful also in inducing the French Government to make an official trial of it, at which, apart altogether from the merit of smokelessness, it was found to be 33 per cent superior to Newcastle coal in evaporative quality. In the end he succeeded in establishing his coal firmly on the Loire and in persuading the French Government to adopt it for naval purposes.

Mr. Nixon then took to coal mining in South Wales, and being successful, he acquired and made many collieries, including Navigation and Deep Duffryn, until, a year or two ago, the output of the Nixon group was 1,250,000 tons per annum. His success was due in large measure not only to indomitable determination and to resolute use of the best appliances and methods, but also to no mean share of inventive talent. To him, for example, is due the introduction into South Wales of the long wall system of working, in the place of the wasteful pillar and stall system. Nixon’s ventilating apparatus and his improvements in winding machinery are also well known. Of the sliding-scale system Mr. Nixon was one of the original movers, and one of the original members of the committee.

He was one of the founders of the Monmouthshire and South Wales Coalowners’ Association. He was for 15 years chairman of the earlier South Wales Coal Association, and for many years he represented South Wales on the Mining Association of Great Britain.

With all this he found time for field sports, and was, until quite recently, able to carry a gun on his moor. - Engineering [627] 1899.

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