The National Trust: 125 years old this month

One of Britain’s best known institutions, the National Trust, celebrates a special anniversary in January 2020. On the 12th January it will be 125 years since the Trust was founded in 1895 by Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley. You can still visit the very first property acquired by the Trust in 1886, Alfriston Clergy House, a medieval thatched house in Sussex. The first nature reserve was Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire, acquired in 1899.

Many in South Wales will be familiar with the properties managed by the Trust in the area, including Tredegar House, Dyffryn Gardens and sections of the coastline.  What they may not appreciate is that, for over 40 years, there was an organisation in Cardiff set up specifically to enable members of the National Trust to obtain more from their membership. The records held at Glamorgan Archives for the Cardiff Association of National Trust Members provide a snap shot of a time when visiting National Trust properties often meant travelling quite considerable distances.  Established in 1971, as part of a network across the country, the Cardiff Association offered an annual programme of visits to historic houses and gardens and a regular monthly round of evening lectures and meetings. The Association was a popular and vibrant group with, at one point, over 800 members.

Picture1

 

Copies of a selection of the Association’s Newsletters held at Glamorgan Archives illustrate the range of activities provided. For example, the newsletter for the autumn of 2002 sets out a programme of up to 3 meetings a month spread across venues in Dinas Powys, Rhiwbina and Lisvane. In October alone guest speakers delivered talks on ‘Churchill and Chartwell’, ‘The Round House on the Kymin’ and the rather enigmatically titled ‘An exercise in looking’. Eight months later, in the summer of 2003, the programme of visits was in full swing with trips to Tyntesfield, Dyrham Park, Abbey House Gardens, Malmesbury, Baddesley Clinton, Packwood House, Wells, Burford House and Croft Castle. The trips, however, were not always straightforward. For example, the outing to Abbey House Gardens included the warning that This is the home of the “Naked Gardener” but don’t worry I haven’t chosen a clothes optional day. On another occasion, on noting that the property had only one toilet and no restaurant facilities, the organiser felt the need to offer reassurance in the form of Do not worry. I will make sure that we will not miss out on the necessities of life!!  There are no clues, unfortunately, as to what she had in mind.

Many National Trust properties were the recipients of funds raised by the Cardiff Association and in particular Llanerchaeron, Ty Mawr and Dinefwr Park. Again this was not always as simple as might be expected. The £1000 given for a new bird hide at Dinefwr produced a response from the manager that the estate was …in pressing need of a new bull. He hopes to purchase the animal in a few weeks so could he use our donation for the purpose?  The change was agreed and possibly the next trip to Dinefwr provided an opportunity for members to view their prize purchase.

The Association was wound up at the end of 2012, ironically just as the management of Tredegar Park and Dyffryn Gardens was being assumed by the National Trust. The last meeting was styled as a Celebratory Lunch and held on Friday 30 November. Although membership numbers had fallen to around 270, there was much to look back on with a sense of achievement and pride. Over £100,000 raised for Trust properties and a programme of talks and visits provided over a 41 year period. The last newsletter made particular reference to the support for …the restoration of the White Cattle with their ancient bloodline to Dinefwr Park. Who knows, but it sounds as though the chance investment in a new bull had paid off after all.

If you would like to see examples of the newsletters produced by the Cardiff Association of National Trust Members, issues 92-93 (covering 2002 and 2003) and issues 119-122 (covering 2011 and 2012) are held at Glamorgan Archives (ref.: D1240/8).

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Whatever happened to Mabon’s Day?

Amongst the collection at Glamorgan Archives there is a selection of original playbills produced for the Theatre Royal, Cardiff, in the late 19th century. Situated on the corner of Wood Street and St Mary Street, a site later occupied by the Prince of Wales Theatre, the Theatre Royal was built in 1878. In its pomp it held up to 2000 people in an opulent auditorium upholstered with red velvet. Over a period of 10 years, from 1885 and 1895, the playbills detail an array of productions held at the theatre, from the annual pantomime to performances of the D’Oyly Carte’s opera company. They are now available to view on online – just go to the Glamorgan Archives website www.glamarchives.gov.uk, select the option headed ‘Collection’ and search for ‘Theatre Royal’. The references will start with the prefix D452. Select and click on one of the playbill references and you should find a digital copy of the playbill at the bottom of the page. Often brightly coloured they list, in some detail, the acts performing at the theatre. In addition, they often include arrangements, such as special trains, put on to lure people from across South Wales to the performances in Cardiff.

D452-4-22

If you look carefully at a number of the playbills from 1888 onwards you will see references to performances on ‘Mabon’s Day’. It is one of the few references that you will see in the Archives to a long lost holiday enjoyed by many across South Wales. Mabon’s Day was the first Monday of every month. It was the product of an agreement between the trade unions and the coal owners that the mines be closed on the first Monday of the month and the day be declared a holiday. The arrangement was largely credited to William Abraham, widely known by his bardic name of Gwilym Mabon. Born in 1842 in Cwmafan, Abraham worked in local collieries and tinplate works from the age of 10.  A trade union member and a veteran of many disputes with the coal owners, Abraham was elected as the Member of Parliament for the Rhondda in 1885. Thirteen years later, in 1898, he became the first President of the South Wales Miners’ Federation.

It was Abraham who led the successful campaign for Mabon’s Day, first celebrated in 1888. His argument was that work in the collieries was so physically exhausting that miners had little time or energy for other activities and, in particular, further education and the arts. For ten years Mabon’s day was celebrated across South Wales. The Theatre Royal was one of many that vied to attract miners and their families by putting on special performances on a Monday.

D452-6-16

If you take a look at the playbills produced for the annual Pantomime from 1890 to 1892 they all contain special performances for Mabon’s Day on the first Monday of January and February. In most cases this meant two performances during the day and special trains put on, with an opportunity to buy theatre and rail tickets at stations on the Taff Vale and Rhymney lines. It seems that Tom Leamore, champion clog dancer, starring in ‘Pretty Little Red Riding Hood’ and the ballet of 50 ladies featured in ‘Merrie Little Dick Whittington and his Cat’ were guaranteed to draw in the crowds on Mabon’s Day. What is less clear is just how many made a similar journey to watch the D’Oyly Carte company’s production of the ‘Gondoliers or the King of Barataria’ on Monday 7 July 1890.

By 1899 Mabon’s Day had been abandoned. Some said, possibly harshly, that the miners preferred the pubs and theatres to the classroom and the museum. The fact of the matter was that it was seen by mine owners as a day’s production lost. The loss of Mabon’s Day was just one of the consequences of the settlement that ended the lock out imposed by the colliery owners during the miners’ strike of 1898.  One product of the strike was the recognition of the need to improve union organisation with the creation of the South Wales Miners’ Federation. However, this came too late for Mabon’s Day. In later years, some claimed, tongue in cheek, that taking an unauthorised day off work was ‘taking one for Mabon’. I doubt that Mabon would have approved.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Glamorgan’s Blood: health and welfare records in the coal industry collections – Fernhill Colliery Papers

The current cataloguing and conservation of the National Coal Board and pre-vesting colliery company records held at Glamorgan Archives has been made possible by a Wellcome Trust Research Resources Grant. The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health and as such one of the project’s main aims has been to improve access to records related to medical and welfare issues. In this series of blog posts project archivist, Louise Clarke, highlights some of the types of material that you are able to find on this topic within the coalfield collection.

Fernhill Colliery papers

The records of Fernhill Colliery are a collection of miscellaneous items relating specifically to Fernhill Colliery in the Rhondda Valley. This collection is great for setting the scene of the coal industry, with papers on subjects such as the colliery band, pithead baths and wages.

D1100-1-2-6 PHB instructions web

Pithead baths instruction booklet, Fernhill Colliery (D1100/1/2/6)

A guide to using the pithead baths is a key welfare related record that can be found in the collection. One tip within the manual reads:

Get your “butty” to wash your back. Then you do his. The most up-to-date installation has not yet discovered any better method of “back-washing”.

This collection (ref.: D1100) also features material on Treherbert Cottage hospital and the provision of a motor ambulance service.

D1100-3-12-2 Treherbert hospital web

Plan of Treherbert Hospital, Nov 1924 (D1100/3/12/2)

 

“Ring out the old. Ring in the New” – The first Christmas at the new Glamorgan and Monmouthshire Infirmary and Dispensary, December 1883

Christmas Eve was always a very special day in the Glamorgan and Monmouthshire Infirmary, but 24 December 1883 was something out of the ordinary. It was the very first Christmas at the new hospital on Newport Road, Cardiff that we know today as the Cardiff Royal Infirmary. The list below was taken from the Hospital’s Annual Report for 1883 and details just some of the Christmas presents provided by local people for distribution to the patients.

Gifts

Toys for children, knitted cuffs, three cases of oranges, crackers, fruits, nuts, biscuits, fancy goods, warm clothing, scrap books, illustrated papers, a pair of shoes, a parcel of Christmas books, handkerchiefs, Christmas letters and basket of fruit. [Abstract from Glamorgan and Monmouthshire Infirmary and Dispensary 47th Annual Report, p.11 (DHC 50)].

In each case the name of the provider was printed in the annual report, for the hospital was entirely dependent on donations. The number of patients on Christmas Eve was fairly low at 46 in a hospital built to cater for 120 inpatients at any one time. There was always a policy of reducing numbers in this period to enable as many as possible to enjoy the Christmas period with their families and to reduce the pressure on hospital staff. Numbers that Christmas, however, were lower than usual for, although opened on 20 September 1883, the hospital was still under construction and, in particular, the accommodation to be provided for the staff. As a result, for over 3 months, staff and patients had been housed together in the two two-storey blocks built as wards. Nevertheless the hospital staff, as always, went out of their way to make it a special day. The centre piece was a large Christmas tree lavishly decorated and surrounded by a mound of presents. In addition, the nursing staff had placed garlands and decorations around the walls of the wards and along the connecting stairways and corridors.

On Christmas Eve the patients and staff gathered in the Tredegar Ward to be welcomed by the Mayor of Cardiff, Mr R Bird, along with members of the hospital management committee. Entertainment was provided by Miss Anita Strina, the daughter of a Cardiff shipbroker, who played the harp and sang. Further songs were delivered by P Rhys Griffiths, the House Surgeon, and Mr Coleman, the Hospital’s Secretary. Then, under the watchful eye of the Matron, Miss Pratt, patients were invited to draw lots for the presents that surrounded the Christmas tree. The evening drew to a close with Matron expressing her thanks to all who had provided Christmas gifts and the donations towards the tree. In turn Mr Griffiths thanked Miss Pratt and her nurses for their work in making the evening such a special occasion. The following day, Christmas Day, after a morning service delivered by a local clergyman, there was a lunch of roast beef and plum pudding except, of course, for those unfortunate enough to be on a ‘special diet’ as part of their treatment.

As the first Christmas in the new building it was a very special occasion, despite the difficulties caused by the ongoing building work. It may well have been that the early move in September to the new buildings was prompted by the urgent need for a new and bigger hospital. However, there is no doubt that the income of £400 per annum to be provided by renting the old hospital building to the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire for the 1883 autumn term was a factor in timing.  It cannot have been the most comfortable of times, and it was to be another five months, May 1884, before the building was finally complete with its grand frontage on Glossop Road and grounds laid out by Lord Bute’s Head Gardener, Andrew Pettigrew.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Glamorgan’s Blood: health and welfare records in the coal industry collections – HM Inspectors of Mines Annual Reports

The current cataloguing and conservation of the National Coal Board and pre-vesting colliery company records held at Glamorgan Archives has been made possible by a Wellcome Trust Research Resources Grant. The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health and as such one of the project’s main aims has been to improve access to records related to medical and welfare issues. In this series of blog posts project archivist, Louise Clarke, highlights some of the types of material that you are able to find on this topic within the coalfield collection.

HM Inspectors of Mines Annual Reports

Mines Inspectors reports are a resource that can be used to find out about working conditions within the coal industry, and as such inform research into how working conditions affected the health of colliery workers.

Image 1

Report of HM Inspector of Mines for the South-Western District (No.12) for the year 1888 (London: H.M.S.O.) (DNCB/6/1/3/1)

The Mines Inspectors reports deal with accidents, working procedures and other aspects relating to safety in all types of mines and in quarries. They give information on specific mines, accidents and people, but can also show trends and developments in safe working.

Glamorgan Archives holds 47 volumes of HM Inspectors of Mines Annual Reports dating from 1889-1939 (ref.: DNCB/6/1/3).

Information sourced from: North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers, Nicholas Wood Memorial Library, Mines Inspectors Reports: A Guide, 2016. See this document for a detailed overview of the contents of Mines Inspectors reports. Accessed at https://mininginstitute.org.uk/resource-guides/

Glamorgan’s Blood: health and welfare records in the coal industry collections – National Insurance Registers

The current cataloguing and conservation of the National Coal Board and pre-vesting colliery company records held at Glamorgan Archives has been made possible by a Wellcome Trust Research Resources Grant. The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health and as such one of the project’s main aims has been to improve access to records related to medical and welfare issues. In this series of blog posts project archivist, Louise Clarke, highlights some of the types of material that you are able to find on this topic within the coalfield collection.

National Insurance Registers

National Insurance registers are a set of volumes that can be consulted to assess benefits and welfare provision for workers. The current system of National Insurance has its roots in the National Insurance Act 1911, which introduced the concept of benefits based on contributions paid by employed persons and their employer.

Image 1

National Insurance Register, Risca Collieries, Jul 1920-Jul 1924 (D1411-1-2-4)

There are 28 volumes of National Insurance registers within the scope of the Glamorgan’s Blood project, many of which are for Risca Collieries and are within the United National Collieries Limited collection (ref.: D1411). The majority of entries within the volumes include names and employee National Insurance contributions, with some entries also including addresses and occupations.

Please note that access to material less than 100 years old may be restricted.

Glamorgan’s Blood: health and welfare records in the coal industry collections – Ocean and National Magazines

The current cataloguing and conservation of the National Coal Board and pre-vesting colliery company records held at Glamorgan Archives has been made possible by a Wellcome Trust Research Resources Grant. The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health and as such one of the project’s main aims has been to improve access to records related to medical and welfare issues. In this series of blog posts project archivist, Louise Clarke, highlights some of the types of material that you are able to find on this topic within the coalfield collection.

Ocean and National Magazines

The Ocean and National Magazine series are magazines written for and by the coalfield workers. They contain articles, cartoons and news from the collieries, providing a snapshot of life in the coalfield in the 1920s and 1930s. Each magazine also contains Welsh language content.

With features on pithead baths, hospitals, welfare and recreation, the magazine can be used to see what provisions were available for colliery workers in the 1920s and 1930s. Many of these topics are also represented in cartoons within the magazines.

Image 1

Plan of Park Colliery Pithead Baths, Feb 1929 edition (D1400-9-2-2)

Image 2

Photographs of Pentwyn Cottage Hospital Treorchy, Feb 1929 edition (D1400-9-2-2)

Image 3

Pithead Baths at Park, May 1929 edition (D1400-9-2-5)

Image 4

Cartoon – ‘Scenes That Are Brightest’ – the pithead baths, Dec 1933 edition (D1400-9-6-12)

With such a variety of topics, these magazines are an amazing resource and Andrew Booth, one of our volunteers, has recently completed an index to the magazines, making them searchable on our catalogue (ref.: D1400/9).

Andrew has also written a series of blog posts highlighting some of the topics that can be found within the magazines.