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Thomas Lewis (1821–1897)

by Don Dingsdag and Henry Lee

This article was published:

Thomas Lewis (1821-1897) coalminer, trade union official, parliamentarian and colliery inspector

Birth: 1821 at Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, United Kingdom, son of David Lewis, coal miner, and Mary, née Richards. Marriages: (1) date and place unknown to Mary (1827-1879). (2) 20 January 1881 at Wollongong, New South Wales to native-born Catherine Maria Hewlett (1881-1964). They had one daughter. Death: 16 April 1897 at his residence in Crown street, Wollongong. Religion: buried with Congregational forms. 

  • Worked as miner in Welsh collieries. Arrived in NSW about 1857.
  • Worked as a miner in the Newcastle district. Chaired meeting which formed miners’ union on Newcastle coalfield in 1860.
  • On 8 December 1860 was elected member for seat of Northumberland in the Legislative Assembly of NSW as representative of ‘a political labor movement’ based on the miners’ union, the ‘very first direct representative of Labor in the NSW Parliament’.
  • Supported financially by levy of Newcastle union members for a time. An infrequent speaker. Resigned seat on 11 December 1862 to take up position as first inspector of collieries in the Hunter River district, at a salary of £300, in 1863.
  • Assumed responsibility for inspection of all NSW collieries upon retrenchment of the colony’s two other inspectors, from 1864.
  • Together with Newcastle miners’ union was the instigator of the first Coal Mines Regulation Act, passed in 1862, which provided for the appointment of inspectors to oversee minimum safety requirements in NSW collieries.
  • Resigned as mine inspector, Northern District, in 1882 and was reputed to be ‘in independent circumstances financially’. Became a speculator in mining and other ventures, resulting in near bankruptcy.
  • Appointed Justice of the Peace.
  • In poor health for some time before death. Cause of death: senile decay and diarrhoea.

, 10 December 1860; C. N. Connolly, Biographical Register of the New South Wales Parliament 1856-1901 (Canberra, 1983); NSW Votes & Proceedings, 1864 vol. 1 p  972 and 1875/6 vol. 6 p 909.

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Citation details

Don Dingsdag and Henry Lee, 'Lewis, Thomas (1821–1897)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan, Wales


16 April, 1897 (aged ~ 76)
Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

general debility

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.