“To live in Wales is to be conscious at dusk of the spilled blood that went into the making of the wild sky.”
RS Thomas, Welsh poet

“I seldom weep, but this story moved me. A dead and honourable man accused of negligence for a pit disaster that was clearly the fault of the company. It underlines the horror faced by a family who not only lose a father, husband, breadwinner, their very home, but have to face an undercurrent of local disdain because of the comment of the Chief Inspector of Mines.”


Wales, 1875. The cruel history of King Coal.

Abraham Phillips
John Phillips
Jemima Phillips
Shon o’r Lan
Philip Phillips
Elizabeth Phillips
Dan Malone
Hannah Thomas
Collier Evans
Will John
William Peters
Thomas W. Booker
Coroner Reece
William Galloway

King Coal is the story of a family thrown into chaos by disaster. There is conflict and danger, but also love and friendship. Torn apart by tragedy, the Phillips family must find a way to face the future.

With child miners dying underground in rat-infested corridors, immigrants enduring daily prejudice, and the threat of a roof fall or explosion never far away, this is a moving tale. Its themes of love, hate and forgiveness are universal.

This is a high-quality show set in Victorian Wales with an A-list cast and visually powerful locations.


December 1875. Preoccupied by a rebellious son, falling coal prices and the threat of the mine’s closure, Overman Abraham Phillips trudges to the Lan entrance through falling snow. And then a hurried conversation. Gas at the work face. What should they do? No pit, no wages, no food. And they have worked in gas before …

The men are irritable, the door boy asleep again. A deep breath; a quick decision: “C’mon lads. Let’s get down there. Quick in and out. It’s nearly Christmas.”

The gas explodes. Men are praying, scrambling over dead bodies. William Peters is covered in flames. Abraham beats them out with his bare hands, shouting “Keep calm, boys” as the roof falls away. He calls to his son, “John, get out lad. Get out!” Then a sickening crash as a truck is thrown through the air …

John Phillips runs to the exit with Dan Malone in his arms. He hears a shout – “The Overman is dead” – but takes no notice. He can only think of Dan.

Abraham is carried home. Jemima Phillips falls to her knees – she had thought him invulnerable. Now she must hold the family together, winning back an angry son and putting the pit master in his place.

John is beside himself as rumours spread. His father knew there was gas and took men down – that’s what people say. Traumatised and broken-hearted, John believes the worst. Will the Inquest find the truth?


ABRAHAM PHILLIPS – a family man in his mid to late fifties who sees the world differently from his father and his eldest son. He is an experienced miner who has spent his life in mining, working up from the ranks. Promoted to overman at the Lan mine, he is still a collier at heart, well liked and trusted by his men. Abraham is the voice of reason, always prepared to listen to others and to find the middle way.

JOHN PHILLIPS – the eldest son of Abraham Phillips. A miner like his father, John is a handsome, charismatic tear-away in his early twenties, something of a local hero. He finds a soul mate in Dan – they see the world the same way and want to stir the miners to action. It’s a friendship that develops into love.

JEMIMA PHILLIPS – a strong-willed mother and wife in her forties. Jemima is fiercely independent and makes her views clear. The disaster at the Lan takes away her family’s reputation and her status as an overman’s wife. But even as she faces poverty and is rejected by her community, she keeps her family together through the crisis.

SHON O’R LAN (JOHN OF THE LAN) – Abraham’s father. He is a man who believes in progress and argues, like his grandson, for the role of unions as the only way to improve their lives. A bit of a philosopher and a man of strong views, he is often at odds with his son. The disaster at the Lan breaks Shon, but he is a constant and calming presence, helping to bring the family back together.

PHILIP PHILLIPS – the younger son of Abraham. Philip leaves the village to work in Thomas Booker’s Liverpool offices. Like his father, Philip is a peace-maker. He returns to the village after the disaster to help his family, trying to make John see sense, to make him understand his father’s impossible decision.

ELIZABETH PHILLIPS – the youngest member of the Phillips family. Elizabeth loves listening to her grandfather’s stories, but she is expected to work hard in the house to support her mother.

DAN MALONE – a young Irish man. In spite of his experience as a miner back home, Dan works as a labourer in the Lan. He is disliked and distrusted by many of the miners, but he and John believe they can change the world together. Only death can break their bond.

WILLIAM GALLOWAY – a young Scottish mining engineer. Galloway’s father is a coal and iron master so he has seen first-hand the working conditions underground. His life’s work is to make mining safer. When he investigates the Lan disaster, he comes to a unique conclusion for the time – an understanding that was to change mining practices across the world.

HANNAH THOMAS – a local girl who works at the pub. She’s ambitious and looks to life beyond the village. Hannah dreams of freedom – and Philip could be her way out. There is an unspoken connection between them and a stormy night on the mountain changes both their lives.

COLLIER EVANS – the voice of reason amongst the miners. Around Abraham’s age, Evans is a decent man who understands life. He supports Abraham and takes the middle ground in any debate, looking for ways to find agreement. After the explosion, he suffers physical and emotional trauma from his terrible injuries and the guilt that haunts him.

WILL JOHN – fireman at the Lan. Will is an experienced miner responsible for checking gas levels each morning and for carrying out controlled explosions to remove the gas. He is a long-time friend of Abraham and supports him without question, but after the explosion rumours spread and Will is the source.

WILLIAM PETERS – an immigrant from Jamaica who is never quite one of the men. Will left his home in the Caribbean working his passage as a stoker on a steamship. He marries a local girl, but is kept at arm’s length by the community. He dies in the explosion leaving his wife to raise two young children. There is no money for a funeral so he is buried in a pauper’s grave.

SHADRACH – an aggressive, bitter man who leads a small group of miners. His loud mouth and antagonistic attitudes set him apart. He is belligerent, rude and always looking for a fight – he and John clash repeatedly. Shadrach has no time for the Phillips family and hates immigrants.

THOMAS W. BOOKER – the master of the local iron works and the Lan mine. Booker has reluctantly inherited his father’s iron and steel empire. A young man who loves a grand gesture, he is all talk and no substance. As a business tycoon, he is inept – he borrows and spends heavily, and fails to keep his pit in a good state of repair.

SEYMOUR – the English pit manager at the Lan. Seymour is a surly Northerner who has no time for the Welsh. He is heavy-handed in his dealing with the miners and frequently threatens Abraham. As Booker’s right-hand man, he has no interest in safety – his only goal is to get the coal up and to get it up as fast and as cheaply as possible.

CORONER REECE – the local face of the legal system. He is old school, overly formal and fixed in his views – he doesn’t like it when the people around him know more than he does. As a coroner, he is thorough, but lacks understanding.


The book behind this series is a novel by Norma Procter, The House of Abraham Phillips, which tells the tragic story of a mining disaster in the small Welsh village of Gwaelod-y-Garth for the first time. King Coal will bring to life in graphic detail a moving tale of working-class families and the unsung heroism of ordinary men and women by focusing on one family closely linked to the Lan mine in 1875. The main incidents are based on historical facts recorded in contemporary reports, but this is a fictitious reworking of the loves, hates and hardships of Abraham Phillips and his family as they struggle to survive.

100% Wales, UK

We will use local Welsh locations, Welsh crews, Welsh studio facilities. It is anticipated that filming will commence Winter 2022-2023.

Love. Hate. Forgiveness. In a brutal world, none of us can survive alone.