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Mine Exploration Forum

Author John Bennett
davel

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Joined: 24/07/2007
Location: Gwynedd

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John Bennett
Posted: 30/04/2019 21:28:10
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It is with sadness that I report the death of my friend and co-author John Bennett.
John was one of the first Directors of the Welsh Mines Preservation Trust.

I first met John about 1975 when both of us responded to a notice in a mining society newsletter. There was to be a meeting at a public house in Alderley Edge for anyone interested in the Gwydyr Forest mines. Four of us attended, and for John and myself, it initiated a research interest that would keep us occupied for nearly 30 years, and resulted in the co-authorship of eight books. It was also the start of a friendship and I soon met Elizabeth, his wife, and heard about their two children, Nicholas and Susan.

John was born in Warrington on the 21st April 1935. He was educated at Rydal School, Colwyn Bay and it was whilst at Rydal that he first visited the Gwydyr Forest during his free time, and of course was able to see first-hand Parc lead mine in production. At University, he was awarded a degree in Dentistry, and practiced at Knutsford, assisted in the administration of the business by Elizabeth, by then his wife.

Along with mining, I quickly learnt that John had another interest - Golf! He was a prominent member of a local Golf Club, and when I first met him, he was very pre-occupied with the state of the golf course and the supervision of maintenance staff. Unfortunately, John developed a shoulder problem, which meant that he could no longer play golf, and ultimately led to his early retirement from dentistry, an event that perhaps steered him more towards mining history. With the formation of the Welsh Mines Society in 1979, the door was opened to bring John into contact with many like-minded people, and he remained a member of the Society until just a few years ago.

There is no doubt that one of the biggest assets John had was his ability to communicate with people. Whilst researching Mines of the Gwydyr Forest we visited many archives together, that included the National Library of Wales, and all the Record Offices in North Wales, and the National Archives at Kew, but perhaps the most significant were the records of the D'Eresby family of Ancaster, located at Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincolnshire, who once owned much of Gwydyr. It was John's persuasive nature that eventually gained us entry to the estate records that included a significant number of volumes relating to early lead production.

Between 1989 and 1997 the seven volumes of 'Mines of the Gwydyr Forest' were published. During that research, we had also collected other material about the Llanengan lead mining area. That volume, Metal Mines of Llanengan, was published in 2002. Writing and research were clearly now to the fore of John's interests, and he also wrote other tomes - a centennial history of his golf club was produced in 1991, for example. For mining, he co-edited the 1st NAMHO handbook (1991), and edited Minera: Lead Mines and Quarries. (1995). He later helped Jeremy Wilkinson with the publication by NMRS of several papers on the Bettws Garmon iron mines and alluvial gold extraction on the Mawddach. The first twenty years of the Welsh Mines Society also demanded recognition, and so John co-wrote a special publication to mark the occasion.

For a number of years WMS members had been involved with ad-hoc conservation on Welsh mine sites, and it had been suggested by external bodies that we should be more pro-active. In April 1992, the Welsh Mines Preservation Trust was formed at a meeting held at Ironbridge, to formalise those endeavours. John was there, and became one of the first directors of the Trust. The first significant project was the restoration of the Pearl Engine House, Anglesey, supervised by John. This was followed by involvement with other mine sites that included, Pennant lead-barytes mine, Aberduna and Nant Engine Houses, and Glyn Pits, to name just a few.

A few years after the formation of the WMPT, because there were no formal field meetings as such, WMPT Directors, and others would have an annual summer 'get-together' which he hosted. With the deaths of fellow WMPT associates Damian McCurdy, David Bick, George Hall and particularly Jeremy Wilkinson, with whom John had formed a friendship, John's interest in mining waned and he became more involved with his research on the Starkey side of his family.

I last saw John in Summer 2018. He chuckled when I gave him a bottle of red wine, Chateau Parc! We heard about his family, particularly his grandchildren, and we found him in good form. He died in particularly tragic circumstances, the result of a car crash from which he never recovered. His life support was stopped on the 30th March 2019. I have many fond memories of John, and the research we shared together, and so will many of the mining history fraternity, who I am sure would wish to offer their condolences to Elizabeth and family.

Rob Vernon
April 2019
IP: 80.47.178.131
davel

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Joined: 24/07/2007
Location: Gwynedd

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John Bennett
Posted: 30/04/2019 21:36:01
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As I'm sure people will realise, I've posted the above on behalf of Rob Vernon. I imagine that anyone familiar with the mines in Gwydyr Forest will be aware of John and Rob's multi volume work on the mining history of the area.

John's funeral in Warrington yesterday was well attended and included a contingent from Welsh Mines Society and Welsh Mines Preservation Trust in the congregation.

Dave
IP: 80.47.178.131
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