John Cory 1828 – 1910

Ship Owner, Coal Owner, and Philanthropist
John Cory
He was born on the 28 March 1828 at Bideford Devon he was the eldest son of Captain Richard Cory I, hisfather, and his mother Sarah Cory. RichardCory was the owner and master of small vessels and traded between Cardiff, Bristol, and Ireland. John Cory was the eldest son of five. Captain Cory decided to take up his residence in the Welsh town where he opened a store for supplying vessels frequenting the Glamorganshire Canal, then the only dock in Cardiff. He opened a ship-chandler’s store and also traded as a provision merchant, near the Custom House, Cardiff, and brought over his wife and three young sons John, aged 10, Richard, aged 8, and Thomas, aged 5, to Cardiff, which was around 1835. Where he began exporting coal, first as agent and later on his own account.

John and Richard Cory I, eagerly seized the advantages now offered by the opening up of collieries and the improved methods of transport and of export in the forties in order to extend their business. They moved to the docks district about 1842 and added a ship-broking business to that of the chandler and provision dealers. They soon became agents for Wayne and Co. Gadlys Ironworks Aberdare, and, at the end of their agency, became shippers of coal on their own account.

When in 1836 teetotalism was first advocated in Cardiff,  Captain Cory is reputed to have been the first to sign the pledge, and he soon became the recognised leader of the movement in the town, his co-workers being nicknamed ‘Coryites’ Though  a churchman, and for a time a church warder, he was led by his zeal for total abstinence to associate himself with one of the minor Methodist bodies, while his second son, Richard, became a Baptist and the eldest, John, a Wesleyan Methodist, all three being noted for their interest in temperance and evangelical work.

In 1844 Mr John Cory and Mr Richard Cory I entered, their father’s business, and later on, under the title of Messrs Richard Cory and Sons, the firm  (which at the time was confined to ship-broking) acted as agents for Messes Wayne and Co., colliery proprietors.  Subsequently Messrs Cory and Sons became coal shippers on their own account. Up to 1857, the offices were at 106 Bute Street, but in that year they were removed to a building on the site of that now occupied by the London City and Midland Bank at the corner of James Street.

In 1856, Richard Cory I with his two sons, began to trade as ‘Richard Cory and Sons’ concentrating on their business as ship-brokers, ship-owners, coal merchants and exporters, and colliery agents. In 1859 the father retired, and the business was then carried on by the two sons, John and Richard, as ‘Cory Brothers and Co.’, becoming a limited liability company in 1888. With the universal demand for Welsh steam coal for shipping in all parts of the world, and especially after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, the firm established coal depots, offices, and agencies along all the great trade routes of the world. In addition, they became coal-owners in their own right by acquiring the Pentre colliery in the Rhondda in 1868, and, later, the Gelli, Tynybedw , and Tydraw collieries in the same valley, Aber colliery in the Ogmore valley, Rheola and Glyncastle in the Neath valley , and the Penrikyber[sic] colliery in the Aberdare valley. They also became the largest private wagon-owners in the United Kingdom. In addition they erected coke-ovens and washeries at the Gelli colliery.

Penrikyber Colliery

In 1859 the elder Cory retired from the firm leaving his two sons in charge, under the title of Cory Brothers and Co. Ten years later, that event of far-reaching effect to the commerce of the world, the opening of the Suez Canal, took place, and with it commenced the policy Messrs. Cory Brothers of planting depots for the storage and supply of Welsh coal to ships and others at convenient places in all parts of the globe. It was not until 1888 that the Company was brought under its present name of Cory Brothers and Co., Limited. The head offices of the Company have always been at Cardiff Docks; in 1857, at 106, Bute Street; and in 1875, at commodious offices on the corner of James Street, still known as “Cory’s Corner” On Jan. 1, 1891, a move was made into their present splendid building, a building which they found it necessary to erect on account of the rapid progress made by their business. These buildings are thoroughly up-to-date with every convenience, and it is only fitting that a company of the dimensions of Messrs Cory Brothers should have the finest offices in the City of Cardiff In addition to these headquarters, the Company find it necessary to have branches at other ports, in order that the 4,000,000 tons of coal which they export from the United Kingdom annually may be properly attended to.  These branches are situated at London, Liverpool, Glasgow, Newport and Swansea. The bulk of the shipments, naturally, are made at Cardiff, Penarth, Barry and other South Wales ports, but Messrs. Cory Brothers also shipped from almost every coal port in the Kingdom.It is said that the coal wagons were the property of the Company, who, owning over 5,000 of them, are probably, the largest private wagon owners in the United Kingdom.
Cory’s Brother’s Head Office Cardiff Bay
Cory’s Brother’s Head Office Cardiff Bay
In 1883 Mr John Cory associated himself with late Mr David Davis, Llandinam; the late Mr Lewis Davies, Ferndale; the late Mr Archibald Hood, and others, in promoting the Barry Dock. He was one of the first directors of the Barry Dock and Railway Company in which he holds a very large interest; and he is also chairman of Millers’ and Cory’s Cape Verde Islands Ltd. and director of the Vale of  Glamorgan, Railway, the Barry Estate Company Ltd., &c

In 1888 Cory’s firm was converted into a limited company, but its entire control remained in the hands of members of the family, his three sons becoming directors, and John Cory himself chairman of the board.

The control of the affairs of the Company was in the hands of five directors, Messrs’ John and Richard Cory and their sons Messrs’ S. Campbell Cory, Herbert B. Cory and Clifford John Cory, Mr John Cory being chairman. The secretary of the Company is Mr Richard Morgan. Seeing that the chairman of the company Mr John Cory now 78 years of age has throughout his life been intimately connected with colliery owning, coal exporting, ship-owning and railway work, it goes without saying that he possesses an unequalled commercial experience. But, in addition, Mr John Cory presents an example of untiring energy. Irrespective of his own firm, which is the largest exporting firm in the world, he is deputy-chairman of the Barry Railway and a director of the Vale of Glamorgan Railway.

Foreign Coaling Stations

Here are some of the coaling stations that the Cory Brothers had established depots:


Aden, Algiers, Bahia Blanca, Bombay, Bordeaux, Buenos Ayres, Cape Town, Colombo, Constantinople, Corunna, Corcubion, Genoa, Gibraltar, La Plata, Le Rochelle, Las Palmas, Madeira, Malta, Marseilles, Monte Video, Nantes, Naples, Oran Para,  Pernambuce, Piraeus; Port Said, Rio
Janeiro, Rio Grande, Rochefort,  Rosario, Saigon, St. Lucia, St. Thomas, St. Vincent Seychelles, Santos, Singapore,  Smyrna, Suez, Syria, Tenerife, Tunis, Venice, Vigo, Zanzibar, and Zea.

Rio De Janeiro

The brothers became very wealthy, but they assisted all kinds of movements which helped in the social, educational, and moral progress of the people, especially of Cardiff. Both brothers, like their father, assisted the temperance movement.
John Cory's Statue, Cardiff
John Cory’s Statue, Cardiff

On Friday morning Mr Richard Cory, Cardiff assisted Miss Shepherd at the services at Shiloh Chapel; she has held services at all chapels in the district. Miss Shepherd said that the mode the Salvation Army administrators do in the rite of baptism is by sprinkling. She did not say that the Rev. Mr Booth will have to employ a watering pot at Pentre.

Among the most influential and prominent of the Christian workers who invited William and Catherine Booth to Cardiff in 1863 were John and Richard Cory well-known ship and colliery owners who, with rare consistency and increasing liberality, provided financial support for their work then and later in the days of The Christian Mission and the Salvation Army.

Richard Cory, being a Baptist, ardent and impulsive, differed on some lesser doctrinal questions from the Booths, but his intense zeal for the cause of Christ usually carried him with bound over his objections, and minor theoretical distinctions were not allowed to stand in the way of his anxiety to see souls saved.

Mr John Cory has been identified with the Wesleyan Methodist connexion practically all his life, being received into full membership when he was about 21 years of age. Like many other Cardiff lads, he came under the influence of that patriarch of Methodism, the late Mr W. Price, of whom he often speaks even now in terms of great eulogy. For many years Mr Cory was a prominent worker at the Roath Road Wesleyan Church, and contributed largely towards the cost of erecting that handsome edifice. He has held the office of class leader in the Roath-road circuit, and is at present the trustee of a large number of Wesleyan Methodist chapels.

On many occasions he has acted as representative to the Conference. In this connection it is interesting to recall that it was through the generous offer he made that the late Rev. H. Price Hughes and the Rev Mark Guy Pearse were able to commence the singularly successful London West-end Mission. At one time Mr Cory was as energetic a worker as he was a giver. Thus, when residing at Vaindre, he conducted services regularly in the Wesleyan Chapel, taught a Bible class, and kept a colporteur in connection with the chapel. There is scarcely a Wesleyan Methodist chapel built in South Wales in recent years towards which he has not subscribed on a generous scale. He contributed £2,000 towards the, Wesleyan Methodist Century Fund, a sum of 500 guineas also being subscribed towards the same object by his son, Mr Clifford Cory, M.P.

In South Wales Mr John Cory has established a great reputation as a keen educationist. For 23 years, from 1875 to 1898, he was a member of the Cardiff School Board, and it was his custom to contribute £50 per annum as prizes to the school children for proficiency in Scripture knowledge. When the South Wales and Monmouthshire University College was established at Cardiff Mr Cory and his brother contributed £2,000 towards the funds of the institution, and has since been a generous donor to the new building fund. He subscribed largely also towards the University
Colleges at Bangor and Aberystwyth; the University of Wales, and the Aberdare Hall of Residence for women students at Cardiff. He was one of the original governors of the University College, Cardiff, and for very many years occupied a seat on the College Council. In 1889 Mr John Cory gave to the College £500 for the purpose of founding a John Cory scholarship of the value of £15 per annum.

Public Benefactions

John Cory’s purse has ever been open for the relief of distress and the support of all deserving objects of charity, religion, and philanthropy. Many of these gifts have been anonymously given. He has been equally liberal in wider spheres. The Salvation Army, for instance, has found in him one of its staunchest friends. One of the first of the larger sums given to General Booth in the earlier years of his enterprise was a, thousand pounds from Mr John Cory. Often since he has during a self-denial week contributed £500 to the General’s funds. The Army’s Rescue Home and Metropole in Moira Terrace, Cardiff, was materially assisted by him. The Christian Homes for aged women in the same street were supported entirely by himself and his brother, Mr Richard Cory.

The most substantial gilt presented to the Salvation Army in the Rhondda Valley was that given by Mr John Cory, who in 1888 handed over to General Booth, with whom he is on intimate terms of friendship, the hand, some building known as Maindy Hall, Ton Pentre, together with about 30 acres of land.

Bust of John Cory, Cardiff Museum
Bust of John Cory, Cardiff Museum
The Hall is situated on an eminence on the Maindy hillside, commanding a picturesque view, and is stated to have cost £8,000 in building. This commodious mansion was intended by Mr Cory as a convalescent home for members of the Army, and for some years it was used for this purpose under the superintendence of Staff Captain Ward. Subsequently, however, owing to its remoteness from the headquarters, it was found more desirable to sub-let the ball and to apply the proceeds for the purpose of erecting another convalescent home at Clacton-on-Sea, which is at present under the superintendence of the same gentleman. Latterly the property has been re-acquired by Messrs Cory Bros., and the money realised devoted to the work of the Army. At present considerable building operations are in course of progress upon this spot. Mr Cory also contributed £100 towards the £1,000 required by the army for the building of their barracks a Pentre shortly after the presentation of the munificent gift referred to.

Cardiff Infirmary

An interesting chapter might be written concerning Mr John Cory’s connection with the Cardiff Infirmary, of which he has been treasurer. He has contributed freely toward the extension fund of that institution, and, in conjunction with Dr. W. T. Edwards; he on one occasion undertook to collect money to extinguish the then debt and to build another wing.

Other Charities

For the Cardiff Young Men’s Christian Association he built the old premises in St May Street (afterwards sold for over £7,000) and gave nearly half as much again towards the cost of the magnificent new premises the Association opposite the Taff Vale Railway Station. In 1895 he presented to the trustees of the Young Women’s Christians Association the block of buildings situated in Charles Street, Mrs Cory providing the furniture. In 1891, he gave £1,000 towards the Rest at Porthcawl. He was a donor of £2,000 towards the building fund of the new Seamen’s Hospital. It was through Mr Cory’s initiation some 22 years ago the movement in connection with the Sailors and Soldier’s Rest in Bute Street, was started, and when the original accommodation was outgrown, be built at his own expense a hall at the back, capable of seating about 130. It was at his expense too at an outlay of £7,000, that the present commodious and handsome premises were built for the “Rest” in Bute Road, and the cost of furnishing (about £1,500) was defrayed by Mrs Cory.

The Police Institute, in Westgate Street, Cardiff, participated largely of Mr Cory’s beneficence. He erected the building at a cost of about £3,000 and contributed annually towards its maintenance. Temperance movements in all their many forms he has heartily supported. In 1897 he erected at a cost of £5,000, a much needed, temperance hall, as the Cory Memorial Hall, which provides accommodation for 1,500 persons.

The Cardiff Temperance and Band of Hope Union, in addition to his regular contribution of £50 a year, recently received from him a cheque for £1,000. To the Cardiff City Un-sectarian Mission, of which Mr W. H Pethybridge is hon. secretary, Mr Cory has long acted as president and treasurer. One of his most recent acts, indeed,, was to come to the rescue of that mission at an opportune moment when it seemed on the verge of losing its mission hall and premises in May Street. He purchased the premises for the mission, thus securing it from interruption and placing it on a firm basis.

Varied Participators

There are not many chapels in Cardiff and district that have not at some time or other received generous assistance from Mr John Cory. The Free Churches Girls’ Guild and other similar institutions have shared his benefactions. The Jubilee Hall at Barry was his gift, and be has been a regular contributor to the Barry Nurses Association and similar agencies for relief of distress among the poor. Dr Barnardo’s   Home has been favoured largely, for a late report acknowledges a donation of £1,000 from him. Similar are acknowledged in the reports of the British and Foreign Bible Society. The Sailors Society has probably benefited to the extent of no less than £10,000 from his gifts. The Prisoners Aid Society, Dr. Stephenson’s Orphanages, Spurgeon’s Homes and others, including Church of England and many un-sectarian charitable institutions tell in their reports the same story. The Sailors and Soldiers Homes erected in many of the principal ports of the world record substantial help from time to time.

The Forward Movement efforts of every denomination are largely indebted to Mr John Cory, and so too are the Navy Mission, the Mission to the Jews, and indeed missions of every sort in South Africa, South America, North and West Africa, Spain, Armenia, and elsewhere. To the China Inland Mission, one of the most remarkable movements of the last decade, he has given without stint.

No good work appeals to him in vain. The Lifeboat Institution the Boys’ Brigades, Cymmrodorion Societies, the Eisteddfod, Cabmen and Railwaymen’s Missions secure his hearty support, Miss Weston, whose remarkable labours among seamen are so well-known, acknowledges in her reports how largely to the extent of some thousands of pounds, “Mr John Gory, of Cardiff,” he aided her enterprise. There is in Poplar, in the East End of London, a sailors rest, a “John Cory Hall,” so called after the Cardiff philanthropist, who gave £1,000 towards it, with another £500 from Mr Cory for the erection of a dispensary.

John Cory’s Grave, Cathays Cemetery
John Cory’s Grave, Cathays Cemetery
In the palatial offices of the firm of Cory Brothers and Co., at Cardiff, a special room known as the Tract Room is reserved, where thousands of tracts are kept ready for distribution amongst those who need them. Throughout Wales are colportage agencies, which are supported by Mr Cory, for the distribution of evangelistic literature.

When the late Mr D.L. Moody visited Cardiff with Mr Ira D. Sankey many years ago Mr Cory was amongst the most earnest workers on behalf of the mission.  He was the principal guarantor of the expenses of that work, Mr Moody and Mr Cory were firm friends, and the latter rendered much help to the great Moody Bible Institute in Chicago Alter Mr Moody’s death Mr Cory gave still more liberally to that work, and even now annually contributes a substantial donation to its funds.

In all Mr Cory is believed to assist nearly 2,000 societies annually. One writer in referring to him remarked: “He has shown by his life and conduct during a long commercial career that the doctrines of the Christian faith, have been his guide. He has always been at the head of a great and busy concern, yet he has found time, even when business pressed the hardest, to think of the weak and erring, and those who have suffered shipwreck in the struggle for life.”

Dyffryn House

Shortly after his removal to Duffryn, he bought the licence and premises of the, Rose and Crown Inn, in St, Nicholas village, and transformed it into a temperance house, with reading and recreation rooms and mission hall added.One of his laudable ambitions as the generous squire of Duffryn is to found here a Garden City, to be called “Coryville,” and already be has instructed architects and surveyors to take preliminary steps with that end in view.

John Cory married Anna Maria on 19th September 1854, daughter of John Beynon, colliery proprietor, Newport, Monmouth. By whom he had one daughter, Florence Cory, and three sons: (1) Herbert Cory (died 1927); Sir Clifford Cory, Bart., president of the South Wales Coal owners Association, 1906 (died 3 Feb. 1941); and (3) Reginald Cory (1871- 1934 ).