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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