Burns Night in Cardiff

On 25th January, the birthday of Robert Burns, Scottish people across the world will be celebrating Burns Night.  Here in Cardiff, festivities were traditionally organised by the Cardiff Caledonian Society, whose members would gather together for their annual Burns Night dinner.

The Cardiff Caledonian Society was founded in 1886.  Its aims were to promote social and friendly intercourse among Scotsmen resident in Cardiff and District, which included organising dinners and social gatherings; to aid deserving Scotsmen and their families who may stand in need of the influence and assistance of the Society, and to encourage educational schemes in Cardiff amongst persons of Scottish nationality. The heyday period for the society was during the 1920s and 1930s.

The records of the Cardiff Caledonian Society, held at Glamorgan Archives, include a series of programmes for Burns Night celebrations (D677/3), an annual event in the Society’s calendar.


The programme for the 1924 dinner, held at the Bute Salon in Cox’s Restaurant, Cardiff, includes a traditional Scottish Bill O’ Fare.  On the menu was Kail Broo, followed by The Haggis wi’ Champit Tatties, A wee bit o’ the Lammie’s Mither wi’ Red Curran Geelie, Tatties roastit or b’iled, an sproots.  For dessert?  Rabbie’s Ain Pudd’n, Tremlin Tam, App’l Tert or Fr’it Salad.  And all topped off with Cups o’ Cowfie.  Quite the feast!


The Haggis was the highlight of the Bill O’ Fare and would be piped in and addressed by one of the guests.  There were also several toasts during the evening, including the traditional toast to the lassies, and their response.



Alongside the programmes are two ‘Scottish Passports’ issued to guests attending the Burns Night event and including the programme and menu for the evening (D677/4/2)  The lassies who attended the celebrations were also presented with a souvenir containing a greeting and a song (D677/4/3).


It was common practice to invite the Prime Minister to attend the celebrations, and the society’s files include correspondence with the Prime Minister’s Office (D677/5/1).  In 1929 Ramsay McDonald was invited, but politely refused as it clashed with the Five Power Conference at Chequers.  Burns Night telegrams were received by the Society from King George V (D677/5/1), who always congratulated them on a successful evening.

We hope that all the Scottish people in Cardiff and across south Wales have a wonderful Burns Night on 25 January.

Glamorgan’s Blood: Dark Arteries, Old Veins

Here, are the stiffening hills, here, the rich cargo
Congealed in the dark arteries,
Old veins
That hold Glamorgan’s blood.
The midnight miner in the secret seams,
Limb, life, and bread.

– Mervyn Peake, Rhondda Valley

Mervyn Peake’s poem, Rhondda Valley, describes coal mining as the life blood of the Welsh Valleys. Indeed, the rapid growth of the coal industry during the 19th century led to the development of a whole new society in South Wales, with a focus on the local colliery. As such the South Wales coalfields have an important part to play in our understanding of the Industrial Revolution and of the history of Wales and Britain more generally.


‘Pride of the Valleys’ [DNCB/64/60]. New communities developed in south Wales with a focus on the local colliery. Between 1901 and 1911 south Wales absorbed immigrants at a faster rate than anywhere else in the world except the USA.

This significance means that the archival records of the coal industry are also important as primary documentation of South Wales’ heritage.  The National Coal Board (NCB) collection at Glamorgan Archives spans the 19th and 20th centuries, documenting the development, changes and decline of an industry synonymous with South Wales, and charting the impact of the collieries on the lives and health of the people who worked in the industry. It is with this in mind that Glamorgan Archives have now begun the ‘Glamorgan’s Blood: Dark Arteries, Old Veins’ project to catalogue and conserve the NCB collection and the records of its predecessors through the assistance of a Wellcome Trust cataloguing grant.


‘Pneumoconiosis, The Deadly Dust’ [DNCB/64/53]. Once catalogued, the NCB collection will enhance the possibilities for research into the health and social welfare of the mining communities of south Wales.

The NCB collection is varied in scope and content, from wage books and large scale colliery plans to photographs and accident report books. All of these records are important in their own way as representations of how the NCB and individual collieries operated. We can discover first-hand accounts of the dangers of working in the mines through entries in accident report books; learn about colliery disasters through official reports and enquiries; and understand more about the provision of healthcare and social wellbeing for miners and their families through records dealing with compensation for industrial illnesses such as pneumoconiosis, and documents concerning the introduction of the pithead baths to improve sanitation for colliers. The records can also show us how the collieries interacted with the workforce through material relating to subjects such as strikes and mineworkers unions. Overall, the variety of records within the collection serve to demonstrate the important, if not always happy, role of the colliery in the communities of South Wales.


Current finding aids for the NCB collection are difficult to navigate and limit access to the collection

Material from and concerning the National Coal Board has been deposited at Glamorgan Archives on numerous occasions since the 1960s, leaving the Archives with over 80 separate deposits of material, all with varying levels of description, from boxes simply titled ‘Miscellaneous material’ to more helpfully categorised boxes with names of specific collieries already indicated. Although researchers can already come into the Archives’ searchroom to view material in the NCB collection, the 225 boxes, 470 rolls and 884 volumes are currently listed in a way that makes the collection hard to navigate and understand as a whole. The ‘Glamorgan’s Blood’ project will provide easier and greater access to the NCB collection through the creation of a comprehensive electronic catalogue (which will be available to search on our online catalogue, Canfod) and the physical conservation of damaged and dirty material.


Our NADFAS volunteers have already begun the huge task of cleaning items from the NCB collection

Work on the ‘Glamorgan’s Blood’ project is now underway, with our team of volunteers already making a brilliant start on the cleaning of the volumes, and research being undertaken by the project archivist to build up a knowledge of the collection and the South Wales coal industry, in order to inform the organisation of the records. If you would like to find out more about the project keep an eye on the blog page and social media for project updates or contact us at glamro@cardiff.gov.uk.

Rev. Henry Bowen and Annie Bowen of Cardiff

Within the Collection at Glamorgan Archives are the family papers of the Reverend Henry Bowen, parish priest at St. Catherine’s Church, Canton, Cardiff . The extensive archive covers the lifetime of Henry Bowen and his wife Annie. This period of the 20th century witnessed two world wars, the depression of the inter-war years, and the major social changes enacted during the move from Victorian Britain to the Swinging Sixties.

Henry Bowen served throughout the First World War.  He attended Oxford University and was a parish priest in Cardiff during the Second World War. This short article cannot hope to do justice to this remarkable and interesting collection, so will briefly focus on Henry Bowen’s life during the First World War.

Henry enlisted in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in autumn of 1914.  As was the case with so many volunteers, he joined up with a number of friends from Llantrisant. The main source of this article are love letters that Henry sent to Annie throughout the war years, which number well in excess of one hundred. The letters written during 1914 and up until July 1915 cover the period when Henry was stationed at Park House Camp on Salisbury Plain, prior to being posted to the British Expeditionary Force (BEF).

Henry’s letter of 9 August 1915 describes the section of the frontline where he was stationed but, due to military regulations, he wasn’t permitted to divulge any details of his actual location, apart from:

the area has cobbles and the church bells that sound like home.

At the end of his letter he explains that, due to the demands of secrecy. his letter is placed within a military envelope where he is required to make a declaration on his honour that he is not divulging any military matters or location.



As Henry’s son points out in a separate set of notes, his early letters are limited in content, but gradually interesting facts creep in: sightings of aircraft bombing, his first contact with real conflict, and one of his friends, who became an airman, being shot down over Holland in 1915. Of course, the correspondence with Annie should not be viewed as eye witness history of the conflict at the trenches, but rather as a series of love letters.

On 10 March 1916, Henry apologizes for not having written before:

only it is so awkward the trenches we are in… Perhaps you will understand  when I tell you it is impossible to move twenty yards in the daytime.

On 24 April 1916, once again Henry apologises for not having written:

Many a time during the last four weeks… I have been on the point of sitting down to write a decent letter but we have been on the move every day.

There were many letters between June and November where the strong affection Henry feels for Annie is the central theme. It should be appreciated that these letters were written against the backdrop of the Battle of the Somme, where Henry was witness to the horrific physical conditions of the trenches, which became a quagmire  of mud, with appalling death and injury. Henry’s daughter Dorothy has added a set of excellent notes based on conversations she had with her father after the war, stating his vivid recollection of the tremendous barrage which preceded the battle during the week leading up to the start of the main offensive on 1 July 1916.  This day saw the greatest number of causalities in one day in the history of the British Army, some 60,000, including 20,000 killed. Reading the letters for these 5 months there is no indication of the momentous carnage associated with the battle being so fiercely fought.

Henry spent the greater part of 1917 attending officer infantry training in Scotland.  Included within the collection are a number of Military Training manuals, which are more applicable to battlefield conditions prior to 1914. However, reprints had addressed the changes, reflecting the static nature of trench warfare. One feature, which was still looked upon as of paramount importance in officer training, was the emphasis on drill and discipline.

1918 witnessed Henry returning to active duty at the front; once again we have to speculate where he was stationed. The general tone of his letters suggests it may have been the period of a major German counter offensive during the opening months of 1918, when British forces were driven back some miles.

On 31 March 1918, he writes:

It’s been a deuce of a time but thank God I’m quite well. All my kit has gone I have only what I stand up in… I could not get any writing matter away as everything has been topsey turvey.

Included in the papers for this period is a leaflet depicting the brutal nature of the First World War, describing the procedure to be followed when using a box respirator (gas mask) when poison gas was being used in an attack. As his daughter observes, no mention is made by Henry of many Llantisant men who had become casualties. But in the gloom and widespread sadness of 1918 one significant happy event occurred; Henry and Annie got married in August. The other major event which featured in Henry’s letters of 1918 was the surrender of Germany and the signing of the Armistice on 11 November 1918. His letter of that date describes his emotions and relief at having survived a catastrophic war which claimed the lives of 17,000,000.

This short piece gives only a small insight into the experiences of Henry and Annie during 1914-1918. The collection contains many documents relating to the full and interesting life of Henry and Annie after their marriage: his time at Oxford, starting a family, and becoming parish priest at St. Catherine’s Church in Canton. One interesting item is Henry’s diary for 1941, an important year in the Second World War. 1941 saw bombing raids bringing the Blitz to Cardiff, major desert battles fought in North Africa, the German attack on Russia, and the attack on Pearl Harbour by Japan which saw the USA join the Allies; all are described. Henry’s military background as a soldier is evident by the glee he expresses at British successes and German setbacks, which are not tempered by his position as a local parish priest. To anyone wishing to look in more detail at the lives of Henry and Annie Bowen please do contact Glamorgan Archives, where staff will be happy to assist interested members of the public in their research.

John Arnold, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

‘A good shilling’s worth’: The building of the Police Station House at Bridgend in 1845

When the Glamorgan Constabulary was formed in 1841 there was a pressing need across the county for suitable station houses for the new force. In his first report to the General Quarter Sessions of the Peace for the County, on 30th August 1841, the newly appointed Chief Constable, Captain Charles Frederick Napier, had emphasised that the existing facilities needed to be either completely replaced or upgraded. In towns such as Merthyr, prisoners were frequently held by constables at local public houses, given Napier’s assessment that cells, where available, were …totally unfit for the reception of such prisoners. Napier underlined the need for a station house with lock up cells in each of the main towns across the county. With regard to Bridgend, which was in the Ogmore District, he noted:

I propose making Bridgend the Station House for this District and the residence of the Superintendent…  Bridgend being the central point it is highly desirable that a good station house should be erected, I would suggest that the building should contain a residence for the Constable, with offices for the Superintendent, and four cells  [Record of the General Quarter Sessions of the Peace for the County of Glamorgan, held at the Pyle Inn on Monday 30 August 1841, ref.: DMM/CO/71].

Although it was agreed that a new Police Rate of £800 be raised specifically to fund the Constabulary, it was recognised that it would take time for suitable premises to be built in all areas. The situation in Bridgend was not addressed fully until 1845. The Glamorgan Archives holds the original plans for the new police station built at that time and much of the background correspondence dealing with the negotiation for its construction.

The news, in 1843, that plans were afoot to build, through private subscription, a new town hall in Bridgend on land owned by the Earl of Dunraven presented an opportunity for a police station, cells and court room to be incorporated within the design.

A Committee of Magistrates had been established to oversee the building of police stations for the Constabulary. When this committee was approached, in 1843, by the group charged with the construction of the Bridgend Town Hall, it was soon agreed that facilities for the police and local magistrates could be provided in the basement of the Town Hall. The details of the arrangement agreed at that time are set out in the Record of the General Quarter Sessions of the peace held in Neath on 27 June 1843, held at the Glamorgan Archives.

… the Inhabitants of Bridgend (having previously determined to erect a Town Hall in that Town by private subscription) offered the Magistrates to provide on the basement story of the proposed Hall the necessary accommodation for the Police upon being paid by the County as much as a Police Station House, including the price of the Land, would have cost in any other situation in the Town.

A Meeting of the Committee of Magistrates was immediately afterwards held and they agreed to pay the subscribers to the Town Hall the sum of Three hundred and fifty pounds for providing such accommodation according to such plan and upon having a Lease of the Station House for a Thousand years at a Pepper Corn rent, granted to the County, the whole arrangement being subject to the approbation of the Secretary of State.

It is intended to set apart in the basement story two rooms viz ‘the Magistrates Room’ and the ‘Waiting Room’ adjoining, for the use of the Magistrates of the District they having at present no room in which to hold their Petty Sessions.

The Upper Story is intended to be used as a Public Hall with Judge’s and Jury Rooms.

That, save such as may be included under the head of ‘County Meetings and duly convened’, it shall not be used for any meeting of a political party, polemical, or controversial character or complexion  [Record of the General Quarter Sessions of the Peace held at Neath on 27 June 1843, ref.: DMM/CO75/2].

The last provision, relating to political usage of the Hall, was kept in place for 40 years and only rescinded by agreement of the management committee in May 1885  [Bridgend Town Hall Minute Book, 1845-1941, ref.: DXS/1, p103].

The original plans for the basement, drawn up by the architect, D Vaughan, can be seen at Glamorgan Archives.


The plans carry a wax seal and they are signed to confirm that they had been approved by the Secretary of State at the Home Office, Sir James Graham, on 8 August 1843. Given that the town of Bridgend was policed by only one officer, the space allocated to the Glamorgan Constabulary was quite sparse and consisted of one bedroom, 12ftx12ft, a store room of similar proportions and a living room with a fuel store, 14ft by 17ft. In addition, three cells were provided, each 10ft by 6ft. Napier had commented that where cells were provided across the county they were often unheated and unsuitable for use in the winter. To address this, provision was made for the cells in Bridgend to be heated by flues from fires in adjoining rooms. Each cell also had a water closet. Much of the rest of the ground floor was allocated for use by the Magistrates of the Hundreds of Newcastle and Ogmore with provision of a Magistrates’ Room and a Court Room. Although it is not stated, the basement would have been lit at night by oil lamps given that the Town Hall was not fitted with gas lights until 1847 [Bridgend Town Hall, ref.: DXAG].

Copies of the declaration of Trust and lease for the station house, made in August and October 1844 respectively, are also held at Glamorgan Archives. They confirm that the construction of the building took just over a year.

The foundation stone of the building which was erected by public subscription, was laid on the thirteenth day of September 1843, by the Rt Honorable John Nicholl, MP. Her Majesty’s Judge Advocate General and the Hall, having been completed, was delivered up to the subscribers by Mr John Rayner of Swansea, the Architect, on the first day of May 1845  [Bridgend Town Hall Minute Book, 1845-1941, ref.: DXS/1].

By and large the facilities were in line with Napier’s recommendations, with provision of accommodation for the local constable, for which rent would have been deducted from his pay. However, only three, rather than four, cells were provided.  The New Town Hall was handed over to the Trustees in May 1845 with the first meeting held in the first week of June. A small amendment to the station layout was made in 1848 to provide stairs from the station house to the prisoners dock in the hall. The plans for this are also held at Glamorgan Archives with confirmation that they had been approved by Sir George Grey, the Home Secretary, on 2 September 1848 [Glamorgan Constabulary Records, Bridgend Town Hall, 2 Sep 1848, ref.: DCON236/1].

Views on the new facilities provided for the police and magistrates were aired at the meeting of the Magistrates a month later, in July 1845, and reported in the Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian. On the one hand, there were clearly a number of teething problems:

Bridgend Station House. It was stated that the rooms of this station smoked very badly – that the chimneys did not draw well…  After a short conversation upon the subject… it was ordered that steps should immediately be taken for the purpose of lessening, if not entirely removing the evil complained of by the inmates of the Bridgend Station House  [Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, 5 July 1845].

Yet it was evident that, overall, the Magistrates were more than content that they had struck a good deal at Bridgend. So much so that one of their number, Robert Knight, commented:

At all events he thought the county had received a good shilling’s worth for a shilling in having a station house which cost £500 for £300. (Hear).  [Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, 5 July 1845].

Whether the inhabitants of Bridgend were pleased with this assessment was not recorded.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer