Penarth Baths

On 3 October 1881, the Penarth Local Board of Health resolved to construct a sea water swimming bath or baths to serve the town.  Initially, it was intended to be unroofed but plans which developed over the next few years led to the building whose external appearance is largely unchanged to this day.  James Cory was appointed manager in June 1884.  However it appears that the Baths may not have opened publicly until the following year.



The building contained two swimming baths, together with dressing rooms and facilities for private bathing.  Sea water was pumped from under the Pier into two reservoirs in the field (subsequently Alexandra Gardens) above and behind the Baths before passing through a filtration system into the pools.  During the early part of the 20th century, the larger pool was boarded over in the winter months and used as a gymnasium.

The Baths became redundant following the opening of Penarth Leisure Centre in the 1980s.  For a time, the building was used as a bar and restaurant known as ‘Inn At The Deep End’, but it later became derelict until conversion into four houses at the start of the 21st century.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:


Spillers and Bakers Ltd, Cardiff

The Spillers business originated in Bridgwater, Somerset, where Joel Spiller established his first flour mill in 1829.  Within a few years, he had expanded into other areas of England and Wales.  He and his business partner, Samuel Browne, opened their first Cardiff mill at the West Dock in 1854.

In 1889 the Cardiff milling business was merged with William Baker and Sons of Bristol to form Spillers and Bakers Ltd and, by the early 1890s, the company was operating from several separate premises – mainly in Collingdon Road.  After several further name changes, the Spillers milling business was acquired in 1979 by Dalgety who later sold it on to the Kerry Group.  By then, though, the Cardiff operation had ceased.





The large building depicted in both D1093/2/23 and D1093/2/30 proudly displays the company name on its roof parapet, along with the date, 1893.  Still known as ‘Spillers and Bakers’, it was converted into apartments during the late twentieth century redevelopment of Cardiff Bay.  The smaller building in the foreground of D1093/2/23 is British Railways’ Tyndall Street Goods Depot.  Originally built around 1877 for the London and North Western Railway Company, in the late twentieth century it was incorporated into a hotel.

Their location close to the docks provided opportunities for the company to source grain from overseas as well as British outlets and, for some time, Spillers and Bakers had its own fleet of ships.



D1093/2/24 depicts a new mill designed by Oscar Faber and erected in the 1930s at the north eastern end of Roath Dock.  It was constructed of reinforced concrete, partly to minimise the fire risk and had silos into which grain could be discharged directly from vessels moored at the dockside.  This mill was demolished in the 1990s.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

Nos. 5 & 7 Cathedral Road, Cardiff

These were probably among the earliest houses to be built in Cathedral Road.  Prior to the numbering of properties, they were known as Leonida Villa (no. 5) and Bryn Tawel Villa (no. 7).  A photograph, thought to have been taken around 1871 from the clock tower of Cardiff Castle, includes a building which looks very much like this one, albeit without the bay window, and with very few neighbouring properties.  However, its history goes back at least a further decade as Bryn Tawel Villa appears in the 1861 census, when it was occupied by Thomas Morgan, a 53 year old retired grocer and his daughter, Catherine, aged 24.  They were still there is 1871 but Thomas died in May 1875 and Catherine in September 1876.  By 1881, a 29 year old master printer, William D. Jones, was in residence along with his widowed mother, Elvena.  None of these censuses seem to include entries for Leonida Villa – nor has it been found in contemporary directories.


1891 again sees a Morgan household in Bryn Tawel, headed by Palmer Morgan – another retired grocer, but we don’t know whether he was related to Thomas and Catherine.  It is at this date that Leonida Villa first appears, occupied by Charles Arkell, an outfitter, with his wife and family.  The 1901 census saw further changes with Sarah A. Davies at number 7 (Bryn Tawel).  Although married, her husband seems to have been absent on census day since she was listed only with a servant.  Number 5 (Leonida) was now occupied by Mary Ann Allgood.

By 1908, John James Chaddock, an Assistant Superintendent in the Post Office, was at number 7, and Mrs Mary Evans at number 5.  In 1909, she obtained building approval for an extension over the porch, which can be clearly seen in the drawing.   Mrs Evans remained until at least 1920 but Chaddock had left by 1913, when number 7 was occupied by John Lyal Williams, an elementary school teacher who worked at the Metal Street Council School and was also active in the Welsh Schools Rugby Union.  He stayed until his death in November 1945.  His son, John George Williams, born in 1913, became a noted ornithologist who spent much of his life as a curator at the Kenyan National Museum in Nairobi.

The 1955 Cardiff Directory lists Kenneth J. Williams at number 7 but by 1964 the house had become offices, occupied by accountants and estate agents.

In the 1932 Cardiff Directory, David Rees Jones, a medical practitioner, is at number 5, where he remained until his death on 7 January 1971.

Mary Traynor drew the building in 1980, since when it has been demolished and replaced by a modern office building known as Carlyle House.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

  • Mary Traynor Collection [D1093/2/22]
  • Cardiff Borough, building regulation plans, plan for a new toilet for a villa, Cathedral Road, 1876 [BC/S/1/603]
  • Cardiff Borough, building regulation plans, plan for alterations to a house, Cathedral Road, 1876 [BC/S/1/650]
  • Cardiff Borough, building regulation plans, plan for room over porch, 5 Cathedral Road, 1909 [BC/S/1/17131]
  • 1871 – 1911 censuses
  • Various Cardiff and south Wales directories
  • The Medical Directory, 1967
  • Jones, Bryan, Canton (Images of Wales series)
  • Registrar General’s indexes of Births and Marriages
  • England & Wales National Probate Calendars 1875, 1876, 1945, 1971 & 1978
  • Western Mail, 6 Nov 1945

South Wales & West of England Standard Manufacturing Company Ltd., Bute Street & Herbert Street, Cardiff

The South Wales and West of England Standard Manufacturing Company Ltd appears to have established its Cardiff operation shortly before World War I.  No reference has been found prior to 1913, but that year’s Western Mail Directory lists the company at 43 Bute Street.  By 1915, they occupied substantial corner premises fronting onto both Bute Street and Herbert Street, where their business embraced the manufacture and wholesale supply of dungaree overalls, khaki & white drills, shirts, singlets, and oilskins.  During 1915, the company was contracted to manufacture several thousand kit bags for the Welsh Army Corps at a unit price of 1/11½d (slightly less than 10p).

D1093-2-21 to 44 021 (SWARE)

In 1940, the company received building approval to extend their factory and it is thought that Mary Traynor’s drawing depicts the Herbert Street frontage of this extension, for which plans were drawn up by Cardiff architect, T. Elvet Llewellyn.

By the 1950s, the company was marketing its products under the brand name Stamana (presumably a contraction of STAndard MANufActuring) and directories indicate that they were still operating from the same premises – by then known as Stamana House – into the 1970s.  The building has since been demolished; part of its site has been taken for road widening, while the remainder is now a grassed and landscaped area on the east side of Bute Street between Herbert Street and the pedestrian and cycle path passing under the Cardiff Bay railway.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

  • Mary Traynor Collection [D1093/2/21]
  • Cardiff Borough, building regulation plans, plan of extension to factory premises at 42 Bute Street, 1940 [BC/S/1/34142]
  • Western Mail Cardiff Directory, 1913
  • The City and Port of Cardiff – Official Handbook, 1955
  • Kelly’s Directory of Cardiff, 1972

Nonpareil Market, James Street, Cardiff

Over the next few weeks our blog will once again highlight a collection which helps to record the changing face of Cardiff and south Wales.  In June 2014 Glamorgan Archives received a very interesting and unique deposit from Mary Traynor, a Cardiff based artist who, since the late 1960s, has tried to capture buildings in Cardiff and the surrounding area which are at threat of demolition.  Her work has been displayed in various exhibitions over the years and highlights many buildings that have since been lost.  The collection contains her sketchbooks and loose works, some of which had previously been framed and on display.  These sketches and paintings complement many other series of records held in the archives, providing a valuable source to those researching the history of buildings in the area.

Glamorgan Archives volunteer David Webb has been using these records to undertake research into the histories of some of the buildings featured in Mary Traynor’s works of art.

The Nonpareil Market stood on the corner of James Street and Louisa Street, in Cardiff’s Butetown.  It was 48 & 49 James Street until about 1905 when the street was re-numbered and it became 27 & 29.

d1093-2- 025 Non Pareil Market, James Street_compressed

A carved stone plaque above the third storey of number 27 (formerly 49) reads ‘The Nonpareil Market 1889’ and this is something of a mystery.  The premises were already in existence prior to that year – approval to add the third storey was sought as early as 1871.  In 1889, Frederick Ward, a butcher, received building approval for alterations to both 48 and 49 so it may be assumed that the plaque was installed as part of this work.  However, the reason for doing so remains unclear.  Nonpareil is a word of French origin, meaning unequalled or unrivalled, but no record has been found of the name ‘Nonpareil Market’ being used either as an address or business name there.  Ward’s business was based at number 49, while 48 was a grocery shop operated by the well-known entrepreneur, Solomon Andrews.  Since Andrews was also engaged in the building trade, it is tempting to speculate that he might have been behind the erection of the plaque – but no evidence has been found to that effect.

Ward & Co, Shipping Butchers were still listed here in Kelly’s 1972 Directory – having, by then, expanded into Solomon Andrews’ former shop, but Mary Traynor’s drawing shows that the premises were bricked up by 1980.  The building was subsequently demolished as part of a larger-scale redevelopment. Some of the site was taken for road widening, while the remainder is now occupied by modern flats fronting onto Louisa Place.  The ‘Nonpareil Market’ plaque has been re-installed close to its original location, in an archway over a footpath into the new development.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

  • Mary Traynor Collection [D1093/2/20]
  • Cardiff Borough, building regulation plans, plan of alterations to 49 James Street, 1871 [BC/S/1/90569]
  • Cardiff Borough, building regulation plans, plan of alterations to 48 & 49 James Street, 1889 alterations [BC/S/1/7416]
  • Butcher’s Cardiff District Directory, 1882-83
  • Kelly’s Directory of Cardiff, 1972
  • Williams, Stewart, Cardiff Yesterday, vol. 31, image 69

“Get your butty to wash your back”: Pithead Baths in the South Wales Coalfield


DNCB/79/8/188: Three unidentified Colliers, Caerau Bath Opening, 6 Mar 1954

As the Glamorgan’s Blood project continues, material concerning the colliery pithead baths comes to light within the Glamorgan Archives collection.


DNCB/66/197: Pithead Baths, Treharris, General view of the pithead baths, c. 1921

The introduction of pithead baths from the 1920s onwards was a huge benefit to those working in the south Wales coalfield. Before the pithead baths, miners would return home from work in dirty clothes, wet from water in the pit and sweat, increasing the hazards of mine work by adding the danger of contracting illness. The introduction of the pithead baths offered some protection against these types of ailments, with showering and changing facilities allowing miners to return home in clean and dry clothing. 1

Washing at the pithead baths also meant that miners were not having to wash at home in the family sitting room, a task that often required the miner’s wife to prepare the miners’ bath and clean and wash his dirty clothes, tasks that brought coal dust and dirt into the family home. The preparation of the bath water was also dangerous to the miner’s family as:

…many children were badly scalded – and often died – as a result of falling into prepared bath water or upsetting water which was being boiled in readiness for the bath. One south Wales coroner claimed that he conducted more inquests into the deaths of children who were scaled than he did into miners who were killed underground. 2


DNCB/66/3: Penallta Miner bathing, c.1930

One of the main areas of the National Coal Board collection concerning the Pithead Baths is the colliery building plans collection. As part of the Glamorgan’s Blood project the archivist and project conservator are currently working simultaneously to catalogue the material and assess it for conservation treatment and storage requirements.

DNCB-14-2-10 Abercynon Pithead Baths cropped compressed

DNCB/1/4/2/10: Abercynon Pithead Baths, Apr 1950

The wide range of sizes, processes and materials present in this collection pose a variety of conservation issues and requirements in terms of storage, access to the material and long term preservation. The plans for the pithead baths in the NCB collection display a variety of different techniques and processes for producing architectural drawings.  Diazotypes, blueprints and pencil and ink drawings appear most frequently on a range of substrates.  Examples of wash-off prints, gel-lithographs and silver halide prints also appear in this collection, displaying different conservation issues.  The most pressing conservation challenge is the heavily degraded acetate support used as both a tracing material and as a negative to create duplicate plans, appearing in this collection as a base for both pencil and ink drawings and diazotypes. The majority of these acetate plans display advanced plastic deterioration in the form of embrittlement which has caused them to crack and shatter, making them impossible to produce in the searchroom.  Digitisation of these plans will be the only way to make them accessible, as options are limited in terms of conservation treatment and long term preservation of this type of material.


DNCB-60-65-4 shattered plan 2 cropped

DNCB/60/65/4: Example of a Shattered Plan, Acetate, 1951

The plans show the pithead bath facilities from collieries across south Wales, dating so far from between the 1930s-1970s. Through floor plans, site plans and elevations researchers will be able to see what facilities were on offer to colliery workers, including separate clean and dirty entrances and locker rooms, shower facilities, boot cleaning areas, medical treatment centres and canteens. On nationalisation these facilities became ‘a necessary piece of equipment for production’ and the plans and other material within the Glamorgan Archives collection will ensure that these buildings, now mostly vanished from the south Wales landscape, are recorded for future generations.

DNCB-1-4-13-2&3 Cwm PHB cropped compressed

DNCB/1/4/13/2-3: Perspective Views of Cwm Colliery Pithead Baths, Jun 1952

Louise Clarke, Glamorgan’s Blood Project Archivist

Stephanie Jamieson, Glamorgan’s Blood Project Conservator

  1. Evans, Neil; Jones, Dot, ‘A Blessing for the Miner’s Wife: the campaign for pithead baths in the South Wales coalfield, 1908-1950’, Llafur : Journal of Welsh Labour History, p.7
  2. Evans, Neil; Jones, Dot, p.6