Glamorgan Record Office, 1939-1989 – a celebration postponed

This year we celebrate the 75th birthday of Glamorgan Archives. 1989 saw the 50th anniversary of what was then Glamorgan Record Office. Here is the article marking that anniversary, written by County Archivist Mrs Patricia Moore for the Annual Report for 1989:

The Glamorgan Record Office was set up by Glamorgan County Council in 1939, and Emyr Gwynne Jones was appointed the first full-time county archivist in Wales – only Monmouthshire had previously made any provision for the care of its records, appointing a consultant in 1938.

The post-war work of building up an accumulation of archives within the county by inviting the gift or deposit of material proceeded with vigour under Miss Madeleine Elsas, who was Jones’ successor. Today, a Joint Service funded by the three new Counties of Glamorgan consists of the headquarters of the Office in County Hall, Cathays Park, Cardiff, an Area Record Office in West Glamorgan’s County Hall, Swansea, and a Record Repository in South Glamorgan’s County Hall on Atlantic Wharf, Cardiff. Two busy searchrooms, in Cardiff and Swansea, cater for more than 6,000 visitors each year, and some collections are housed in a further half-dozen outside storage repositories. Total holdings now occupy between five and six miles of shelving. Unfortunately, the staffing establishment has not seen a corresponding increase; Glamorgan has a staff of 9 archivists, which may sound generous until compared with 12 in Hampshire, 15 in Kent and 17 in West Yorkshire. Furthermore, we have to divide ourselves between three main repositories.

Recovery work in the strongrooms

Recovery work in the strongrooms

The year which should have seen a celebration of our achievements, however, took on quite a different aspect when we found ourselves having to take swift emergency measures. During the winter of 1988/89 we experienced a rising level of humidity in several strongrooms, which would not respond to our attempts to control it. When we called in Mid Glamorgan officials to examine the foundations of the building our problems were found to result from unsuspected high water levels under County Hall. We were forced to employ every available member of staff to meet this emergency, and in consequence the public searchroom in Cardiff was closed for four months. Over a mile of records had to be examined, logged and evacuated, floor covering taken up, and racking dismantled. Mid Glamorgan’s explorations to discover the cause of the trouble, and attempts to control it are continuing. So also does our monitoring of the collections which remain in Cathays Park, to ensure that no harm comes to them through adverse conditions. Although we enjoyed a commemorative birthday cake we had little heart for other celebrations, and time which would have been spent on new publications and other activities had to be devoted to ‘dead work’ in the strongrooms. We are still endeavouring to cope with the backlog or correspondence and requests which arose during the closure, and the evacuated documents still remain inaccessible to the public. The contractors continue their examination of the situation, and some remedial work is already in hand.

Recovery work in the strongrooms

Recovery work in the strongrooms

The theme of ‘water’ had been chosen by the staff for their contributions to this Report before our humidity problems were known. Little did we realise that water would dominate 1989 in the GRO.

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Photographs of Maesteg

The 75th deposit for the year 2009 was a series of photographs, postcards, programmes and newsletters relating to events in Maesteg and other areas. The material itself dates from around 1900 to 2012 and the diversity of the subject matter means it will be of great interest to many, especially those exploring the social history of the Llynfi Valley.

Maesteg

Maesteg

The postcards of Maesteg itself include views of St Michael’s and St David’s churches, Bethania chapel, the town hall, the war memorial and council chambers, the general hospital, the park, the railway station, the market place, Garth Colliery, plus general street scenes and views. These postcards date from 1900-1950 reflecting just how much the town had changed in such a short period of time. An ‘Official Guide’ to Maesteg from 1948 is also included in the collection.

Maesteg

Maesteg

Those who enjoy the history of sport may well be interested in several of the items. There are programmes for rugby matches between Maesteg RFC and local rivals Bridgend which were played during the 1960’s. There’s also a programme from the ‘Welsh Games’ in 1962.

Other notable items included amongst this material are a photograph of VE Day celebrations in Maesteg and a photograph of Queen Mary visiting a local mining family in 1938.

These are archives that could be held by any one of us at home, hidden away at the back of cupboards or in boxes in the attic. Anyone can present material to the Archives, so if you have similar items charting local history then why not contact us to ensure that they’re preserved for the future.

Registers of Electors

Registers of Electors appear as the 75th accession on five occasions between 1975 and 1992. These records list those who are eligible to vote in local government and parliamentary elections. At Glamorgan Archives, Registers of Electors are often used by local and family historians who wish to discover how long a family was resident at an address and to locate missing individuals.

The Representation of the People Act, 1832 restricted eligibility to vote to males over the age of 21 who owned property worth at least two pounds a year. Subsequent changes in legislation increased male enfranchisement during the nineteenth century.

It was not until 1918 that women were permitted to vote for the first time in Parliamentary elections, however the voting age was set at 30 and women had to wait a further decade before enjoying the same voting rights as men. Nevertheless, some women do appear in Registers of Electors from the late-19th century, as women who owned property were granted the right to vote in local elections under the terms of the Local Government Act 1894. During 1969 the voting age for all – men and women – was reduced to 18 years.

With their wide coverage and ease of use Registers of Electors are a valuable tool for family and local historians especially when used in conjunction with other resources such as trade directories and census returns.

The earliest register held by Glamorgan Archives runs from 1832 and with the exception of some gaps that include most of the First and Second World Wars these records run to the present.

Glamorgan Register of Electors, 1845

Glamorgan Register of Electors, 1845

A complete list of Registers held by Glamorgan Archives is available on Canfod our online catalogue and a research guide can be found on our website at http://www.glamarchives.gov.uk/content.asp?nav=2,19&parent_directory_id=1

 

Maps of the South Wales Coalfield

Glamorgan Archives is pleased to announce two new publications which have been produced to celebrate our 75th anniversary. To coincide with the 30th anniversary of the miners’ strike of 1984, two facsimile maps have been printed of the South Wales Coalfield, reprints of the popular maps which were first sold by the Archives in 2000.

Map of the South Wales Coalfield

Map of the South Wales Coalfield

Originally published by the Business Statistics Company in Cardiff the maps date from 1923 and 1927. They are finely detailed and published in colour showing the mineral takings of steam and bituminous seams, anthracite properties, the railways serving the district and the ports of shipment.

Map of the South Wales Coalfield

Map of the South Wales Coalfield

They are available for purchase at £6.00 each or £10.00 for the pair. Postage and packaging within the UK will be charged at £2.00. Please do get in contact if you would like to order a copy of either or both maps.