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John Nixon

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John Nixon (1815-1899) A Durham engineer who successfully developed several collieries in South Wales, with appreciable capital investment to introduce the latest mining methods.

A comprehensive biography was published in 1900.[1]


1899 Obituary [2]

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.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. [1] John Nixon, Pioneer of the Steam Coal Trade in South Wales, a Memoir, by James Edmund Vincent, 1900
  2. Engineering 1899 Jan-Jun: Index: General Index