West Glamorgan Archive Service

Some of the 75th accessions we listed are no longer with us; some have been transferred to Swansea, to the West Glamorgan Archive Service which developed from a Glamorgan Record Office branch.

When the historic county of Glamorgan was divided into 3 by the Local Government Act, implemented in 1974, the new counties of Mid, South and West Glamorgan, in an early example of cross boundary co-operation, agreed to support a single joint archive service, based on the existing record office. The service continued in its Cathays Park location and West Glamorgan County Council declared its intention of providing for a West Glamorgan Area Record Office within the service, from which the needs of its population could more effectively be met. Through the late 1970s several properties were considered for this role including a nuclear bunker and a redundant church, all ruled out by conversion costs. Accommodation in the new county hall was eventually accepted although completion date was not until 1982.

In the meantime, records continued to be housed, accessioned and listed in Cardiff with an access point staffed once a month in a room provided by Swansea University’s History Department. By August 1982 County Hall was completed and the monthly searchroom moved into the West Glamorgan Area Record Office. The repository received Lord Chancellor’s approval in October 1983. Agreed sections of the Collection were transferred to the new premises from late October and the Office opened to the public on 5 March 1984.

A designated West Glamorgan Archivist was appointed in October 1982. Elisabeth Bickford remained in post until August 1987, succeeded by Susan Beckley in January 1988. Staff from the Cardiff headquarters supplemented the establishment and also worked on a guide to holdings in the branch.

West Glamorgan Archive Service

West Glamorgan Archive Service

In April 1992 West Glamorgan County Council withdrew from the Joint Archive Service. The former branch became the West Glamorgan County Record Office. The division of furniture and equipment and outstanding financial payments were amicably resolved and the division of the Collection was largely straightforward with the exception of a handful of disputed series. Co-operation between the two offices has continued and there is a healthy tradition of staff exchange. West Glamorgan Archive Service also celebrated its own anniversary this year with a successful open day. It was enlarged in the second round of local government reorganisation through a merger with the City of Swansea Archive, continuing as a joint service for the City and County of Swansea and Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, and is firmly established as an active service and a major contributor to Welsh archive initiatives.

Elisabeth Bennett - Richard Burton Archive

Elisabeth Bennett – Richard Burton Archive

The first Area Archivist, now Elisabeth Bennett, heads the Richard Burton Archive at Swansea University, the first Welsh office to gain Archive Service Accreditation under the newly introduced scheme.

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The Tale of Two Mice

 

Visitors of behind-the-scene tours of Glamorgan Archives might be familiar with the impressive bank of bright red gas canisters which make up our fire prevention system. They contain Argonite, a cocktail of argon and nitrogen, which if released into our strong rooms would extinguish a fire within seconds.

Glamorgan Record Office Strongroom
Glamorgan Record Office Strongroom
Fire Supression System, Glamorgan Archives, Cardiff

Fire Supression System, Glamorgan Archives, Cardiff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Archive staff were under the impression that in the 75 year history of the office the gas systems had never been released. However, a newscutting from the Western Mail in September 1952 proves otherwise. The automatic gas-discharge system in our former home in Cathays Park was filled with CO2 gas, rather more toxic than what we use today. The newspaper report leads with the heading Strongroom ‘raiders’ were 2 gassed mice and gives details of how the caretaker at Glamorgan County Hall was alerted by the sound of the Record Office’s fire alarm. In the basement strong rooms he found that the gas system had been automatically released filling the strong rooms with gas. He could find no evidence of any fire, but witnessed two dying mice crawling out from a strong room asphyxiated. Luckily none of the Record Office staff were harmed! It was believed that the alarm might have been caused through interference with an electric switch and Major C G Traherne, Chairman of the Glamorgan County Records Committee, described the incident as ‘alarming in view of the serious effect of the gas’ and ordered an investigation.

The gas system had only been installed the year before the incident so it may be that the incident was due to teething problems. At some point a manual setting was added which could be put on during office hours to prevent the gas being automatically released whilst staff were at work in the strong rooms. Luckily since 1952 our gas systems have not been released again.

Free guided tours of Glamorgan Archives are held on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at 2.30pm. Please contact the Archives to book a place.

The Aberdare Gas Undertaking

The 75th accession received in 1965 comprised the records of the Aberdare Gas Undertaking, formerly known as the Aberdare and Aberaman Consumers Gas Company.

Gas companies were first set up in south Wales between the years 1820-1830. The provision of gas for lighting at Swansea and at Cardiff in 1821, and then at Newport in 1825, was so successful that undertakings were soon set up in other regions such as Merthyr Tydfil, 1836; Pontypridd, 1850; Dowlais, 1856; and Bridgend, 1869.

By the middle of the 19th century, the general dissatisfaction with the actions of many undertakings led to the passing of Acts of Parliament to regulate the industry. These included the Gas Works Clauses Acts of 1847 and 1871, and the Sale of Gas Act of 1859.

During the latter half of the 19th century, the industry saw a period of development and amalgamation, with the formation of holding companies and their acquisition by local authorities. For example, in the Rhymney Valley a succession of small undertakings came into being: Caerphilly Gas Light Company and Water Works Company Ltd, 1869; Hengoed Gas and Water Company Ltd, 1877; Bargoed Gas and Water Company Ltd, 1877, and the Rhymney and Aber Valley Gas and Water Company Ltd , 1878. All these companies were amalgamated by a Special Act of Parliament in 1898 under the title of the Rhymney and Aber Valleys Gas and Water Company.

From the 1880s to the boom years after the First World War, there was a growing demand for gas, and attempts were made to extend and improve the various production plants within the region. However, the Depression affected the Welsh gas industry, and some smaller companies went bankrupt and amalgamations continued. In 1949, the gas industry was nationalised and the Wales Gas Board became the first public industry to serve the whole of Wales.

The Wales Gas Board inherited the records of its predecessor bodies. The Aberdare Gas Undertaking was only one of many bodies; the other companies whose records we hold here at Glamorgan Archives are:  Barry Gas Undertaking; Bridgend Gas Undertaking; Cardiff Gas Company; Cowbridge Gas Company; Dowlais Gas Undertaking; Garw and Ogmore Gas Undertaking; Llantrisant Gas Undertaking; Maesteg & Clyncorrwg Gas Undertaking; Merthyr Tydfil Gas Undertaking; Porthcawl Gas Undertaking; Pontypridd Gas Undertaking; Rhondda Gas Undertaking, and Rhymney and Aber Gas.

DGA_A_11

The records of the Aberdare Gas Undertaking date from 1966-1949 and include Acts of Parliament, plans, minutes, reports, ledgers, wages books, shareholders registers and ledgers, correspondence, agreements, contracts.

Accessioning at Glamorgan Archives

Collecting material and processing new accessions is a practice that has largely remained constant since the establishment of Glamorgan Archives in 1939, although the procedures involved have changed, especially with the advent of electronic systems in recent years.

Glamorgan Record Office was established in 1939 and received a number of accessions in that year and in 1940 but this work was interrupted by the war. Between 1941 and 1945 no accessions were received and in 1946 only 10 deposits were made.

During the war years records that had already been collected were evacuated to a country house in the Vale of Glamorgan and the strong-rooms were adapted as dormitories for fire watchers. The rooms had to be made fit for accommodation including the addition of an emergency exit and an air conditioning plant, and the ceilings were reinforced by steel girders as a precaution against air raids. The Office was reopened in December 1945 but it took a while to make the rooms suitable again for storage of documents, hence the small number of documents received in 1946.

There are only two other years in Glamorgan Archives’ history in which we did not record more than 75 accessions, 1948 and 1959. The ‘News from the Glamorgan Record Office’ published in the 1959 edition of Morgannwg tells us that very little survey work was carried out during that year, and most of the material received came ‘unasked’ rather than due to any deliberate effort.

The graph below shows that the number of accessions has gradually increased since the early days to a peak in the early 1990s before West Glamorgan Archive Service became a separate service. The figure of over 900 accessions in 1940 makes it look like the staff were very busy in that year, especially when on one day alone 320 entries were made in the accessions register!   As these records all came from the Quarter Sessions we would now consider them all as one accession, and only record them separately when cataloguing the material.

There have been other changes in procedure which do affect the figures for the number of accessions received but despite these changes the main principle of collecting original archive material relating the local area remains the same. We are always keen to acquire records of historical significance as without these additions to our collections we would be unable to record and preserve the history of the area.

If you would like to find out how to donate or deposit records with Glamorgan Archives take a look at our website for more information, and please do get in contact.

Glamorgan Archivists

There have been a grand total of 5 Glamorgan Archivists in the 75 years since the first appointment. Interestingly, after the initial, brief, male occupancy, all have been women!

Emyr Gwynne Jones was appointed in 1939 and produced the first lists of Quarter Sessions records. His tenure was interrupted by the Second World War in which he served in the Royal Air Force and following which he became Librarian to Bangor University.

Emyr Gwynne Jones

Emyr Gwynne Jones (courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, Bangor University)

Madeline Elsas restarted the service in 1946 bringing a professional expertise developed in Essex. Under her guidance the establishment grew and vigorous efforts were made to attract deposits from individuals, societies and businesses keeping pace with legislation allowing local authority archives to collect outside their organisation. Before her retirement in 1973 Miss Elsas had established the service on a firm footing and begun the publication and exhibition programmes developed by her successor.

Madeline Elsas

Madeline Elsas

Patricia Moore took over in 1973, just ahead of local government reorganisation, and successfully led the service through the formation of a joint committee for the 3 authorities spawned by the historic county of Glamorgan thus creating the first joint archive service in Wales. Mrs Moore developed the publications list, broadening the appeal of the service to a range of users and instigated regular exhibitions in the County Halls and further afield; she produced an attractive and lavishly illustrated Annual Report, and engaged regularly with local media to advertise the service and promote both use and deposit. She was also responsible for the establishment of the West Glamorgan Archive Service which began as a service point before breaking off to form a separate service leaving Mid and South Glamorgan supporting the Glamorgan Archives. The Archives’ raised profile combined with the contraction of local industries and institutions produced an increased rate of deposits such that by 1993 when Mrs Moore retired the Collection had outgrown the original premises in County Hall and a number of different solutions were being implemented.

Patricia Moore

Patricia Moore

Annette Burton began to explore the possibility of a new building for the whole Collection from 1993 and brought a fresh eye to both service delivery and budget control. Under Mrs Burton the number of places where the Collection was stored outside the headquarters was reduced, the lecture programme formalised and communication strategies within the office developed. In her short term of office Mrs Burton synthesised the best of her predecessors’ work and set the service on the road it has successfully followed.

Annette Burton

Annette Burton

Susan Edwards took over in 1996 and led the project to relocate the service into its present purpose built accommodation with vastly improved facilities for service delivery. The Archives has achieved the Welsh Strategic Leadership Award, has bronze level Investors in People recognition and a thriving volunteer and skill sharing programme. Staff work in mutually beneficial partnership with a range of organisations including local universities, museums and libraries, Cardiff People First, the Parliamentary Archives, and agencies such as Quest and Go Wales.

Susan Edwards

Susan Edwards (courtesy of http://www.grrlAlex.co.uk)