The Cardiff Society of Sailmakers

The Cardiff Society of Sailmakers was founded in 1855.  It survived the shipping industry’s transition from sail to steam, and was finally disbanded in 1938.  Records of the Society, covering the period 1893 to its close, are held at Glamorgan Archives (ref.: CL/MS 4.1166).

In the period documented the Society met monthly at the Bute Street Coffee Tavern and, from 1904, at the Adelphi Hotel, also in Bute Street.  The collection includes minute books, financial records, contribution books and pre-First World War rule books which list the officers’ duties and salaries, working practices to protect members’ employment, fines for rule breaking and the method of appeal against such fines.  Hours of work, meal breaks and rates of pay for day work and overtime are detailed.  Members refusing to work on wet sails were to be supported and a separate rule governed conduct at Society meetings, at which members were to stand when addressing the President, and refrain from interrupting speakers.  Swearing and insulting language carried the penalty of a sixpenny fine or expulsion from the meeting if the offender persisted.

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Bundles of correspondence have also survived relating to negotiations with employers, membership applications and the Federation of Sailmakers of Great Britain and Ireland.  The Federation was formed in October 1889, combining existing sailmakers’ friendly societies in various ports.  Monthly reports from the Federation’s head office at Hull are included in the Cardiff Society’s archive.  These give the state of trade at various British ports with annotations and remarks by the General Secretary on matters of particular significance.  The Cardiff Sailmakers broke away from the Federation in 1903, and did not rejoin until 1914.  Records of the national Federation from 1889, held at the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick Library, reflect the concerns of a declining trade, in particular, the introduction of machinery and the employment of untrained workers, including women.

The Cardiff Sailmakers had to deal with the same problems.  The first resolution recorded in the minute book on 9 July 1901 is ‘that we finish no work that is commenced by machein while their is men out of work’.  In January 1914, before rejoining the Federation, the Society’s negotiators accepted the employers’ terms for wages and hours, on condition that no machines were introduced in any sail loft for one year.  The Society’s first act on rejoining the Federation was to forward a resolution to the annual conference opposing the manufacture of canvas articles aboard steamers by officers and seamen, whose legitimate duties were ‘more than sufficient, without undertaking duties pertaining to a separate trade’.  It may be significant, in light of its years outside the Federation, that when the Cardiff Society’s rules were revised in 1914 for its readmission, the clause stating that any member working on machine-sewn sail ‘shall be expelled from all benefits of this Society’ was dropped.

The First World War accelerated the pace of change.  Untrained labour was introduced in many trades to replace men needed for the armed forces.  In sail lofts machines became more widely used and were often operated by women.  The minutes of the 1920s record complaints against employers for not keeping to agreements about female labour, and an undated letter to J. S. Frazer of Frazer & Co., with whom the Society was normally on cordial terms, sets out the sailmakers’ opposition to the ‘unnecessary number of young girls and women’ employed in Cardiff and Newport lofts.

Athough the great days of the Sailmakers Society were over before the surviving records begin, up to the 1920s the minutes and accounts record lively debates and social events, an annual dinner, a smoking concert, and, in July 1904, a picnic.  Agreements with employers were negotiated, conferences attended and contributions made to the strike funds of other branches, the Life Boat Donation Fund and the Labour Party Committee; J. R. MacDonald was sent 2s. 6d. in 1904, although the minutes note that the proposed 5s. contribution in 1908 was not sent.  No explanation is given.  When the Society joined the Federation in 1914 its membership stood at 19 (the Grimsby branch had 30 members at that date).  During the period documented the highest membership was 27 in 1921 and 1922.  Thereafter the records show a steady decline.  The minutes of the meetings became briefer until they record merely that the meeting opened at 7pm and closed at 9pm.  The Society survived the Federation which disbanded in about 1927, but by the 1930s the membership was hardly sufficient to provide the necessary officers, and in November 1938 the Cardiff Sailmakers Club was closed ‘owing to lack of members’.  Its remaining funds of £2 1s. 1d. were divided between the five final members.

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The Crew List Index Project at Glamorgan Archives

Year of the Sea 2018 is a campaign by the Welsh Government to celebrate Wales’ outstanding coastline. For Glamorgan Archives it is an opportunity to celebrate and promote one of our volunteer projects which we undertake in partnership with the Crew List Index Project http://www.crewlist.org.uk/.

Since 2012 two groups of volunteers have worked enthusiastically to clean, and then to transcribe details of the crew provided within crew agreements held for the Port of Cardiff. So far they have completed 1901 and have almost finished 1911. The Glamorgan Family History Society had already provided a database recording crew detailed within agreements for the years 1863, 1871, 1881 and 1891. At present these databases are only available in house and can be searched on request, however once editing is complete they will be available for all to view online.

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Crew agreements had to be kept on board by the master, completed by him and handed to the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen at the end of the voyage. They record details of every crew member on board including place of birth, occupation, the last ship they served on, date of joining the crew and reason for leaving if they did so before the voyage was completed. In addition the destination of the ship and its cargo are recorded. Glamorgan Archives holds crew agreements for Cardiff registered ships (1863-1913) although many of the master mariners and crew in these agreements were not local men. In some cases these men eventually made their homes in Cardiff, whilst others were passing through.

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The crew agreements will tell you:

  • name of the crew member
  • age
  • town of birth
  • name of the last ship and its port of registration
  • date of joining ship
  • occupation and wages
  • names of apprentices on board
  • particulars of discharge, date and place
  • signature of crew member
  • births, deaths and marriages (if any) on board.

The agreement also bears the dated stamps of consulates in the ports of call on the voyage, enabling the course and the duration of the voyage to be plotted.

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More information about the crew agreements (DCA) is available on the Glamorgan Archives catalogue Canfod http://calmview.cardiff.gov.uk/.

Radnor University

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Between January 12th and February 16th a group of 17 children from Radnor Primary School attended Glamorgan Archives as part of their ‘Radnor University’ Programme – a programme of events where children get to participate in short courses of extra-curricular activities. Glamorgan Archives were delighted to be invited to take part! The children spent five weeks learning about the archive, what we do and why. They focussed on a different theme of records each week. Over the five weeks they looked at records from their school, census returns, building plans, maps, records of the police, records of the asylum and photographs. On their final week the children choose their favourite document to write about and photograph.

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Ali, Drew, Ollie, Emir and Isaac choose case notes for the Angelton Asylum (ref: DHGL/10/66) as their favourite document. ‘This is my favourite document because it is very interesting and it can tell us about people from the Asylum and the reason they were sent there’. The children were fascinated by the photographs of the patients ‘There are pictures and descriptions about the people. I liked looking at all the people’. They spent time looking at the documents carefully and came up with some wonderfully vivid descriptions; ‘a big wooden book covered in leather’, ‘It smells like ash’, ‘it smells like my Nans house’. The marbling techniques used to decorate the inside cover of the volume captured their imaginations; ‘it looks like Vincent Van Gough’s Starry Night but only using green and brown’.

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Photographed by Ali, Drew, Ollie, Emir and Isaac.

Sheikha, Katie, Cora, Jaiza and Mariam choose school log books (ref: E/C21/1, E/C21/3 and E/C21/8) as their favourite documents. This is my favourite document because it tells me about the history of my school’, ‘It is about children and our school’, ‘You can see what is the same from school and what is different.’ The girls had to contend with some difficult handwriting ‘the writing is twirly, curly, wurly and hard to read’. But once they got used to it they realised that the log books were a treasure trove of information. It tells us about the illnesses  and what happened to the kids’, ‘it holds lots of facts just waiting to be found’, ‘It would be really cool to travel back in time to see our school’.

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Photographed by Sheikha, Katie, Cora, Jaiza and Mariam

Freya, Annabel and Zach choose the Glamorgan Constabulary Fingerprint and Photographic Register (ref: D/CON/3/2/1). ‘I choose this document because I like looking at the people who went to jail and I like looking at the photos’. The children were fascinated to learn about the crimes committed and the harsh prison sentences the culprits received. They especially enjoyed spotting those criminals who had used an alias ‘Sometimes they give a false name!’ The children spent time thinking about what the lives of some of the people in the register would have been like some people were too poor to get their own clothes and food so they would steal other people’s’.


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Photographed by Freya, Annabel and Zach

Thank you to Radnor University for all your hard work undertaking research at the Archives. We hope you enjoyed as much as we did.

Glamorgan’s Blood Preserved on Glass

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The National Coal Board collection at Glamorgan Archives includes a large amount of photographic negatives on both plastic and glass supports.

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The glass plate negatives, approximately 5440 in number, feature a range of subjects, including images of tunnels, miners in action, equipment, pit ponies, medical centres, social events and other varied content.

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As part of the Glamorgan’s Blood project, this photographic material will be catalogued, cleaned, digitised, conserved and re-housed, allowing public access to these images.

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While the majority of the glass plate negatives simply need cleaning prior to digitisation, some display more extensive conservation issues.  A number of the plates are broken or have lifting or highly damaged emulsion (fig.5).  These issues will require more supportive housing solutions or more intensive conservation treatment.

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Figure 5

Undamaged but dirty glass plate negatives require cleaning prior to digitisation and re-housing.  Surface dirt on these items can contribute to long term deterioration and be visible on the digitised image.  It is important that the plates be properly cleaned before any further steps in the preservation process can be taken.

To clean the plates, first an air-puffer is used to remove loose dust and dirt on both the emulsion side and the glass side.  By using this tool, the emulsion side of the plate can be cleaned without risk of abrasion.  Next, cotton wool buds wrapped in fine tissue and dipped in a solution of water and ethanol (50:50) are used to remove dirt and grease from the glass side of the plates.  A final wipe, using a dry cotton wool bud, removes any streaks.

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Figure 6

The cleaned plates are then re-housed in folders made from material up to PAT (Photographic Activity Test) standards.  We use different sized folders for the varying plate formats to ensure a good fit (fig.6). The original packaging for these items was glassine envelopes, which is a type of highly calendared paper often found used for the storage of photographic negatives. Glassine is an inappropriate storage material as it yellows over time and can damage the photographic emulsion (fig.7).

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Once cleaned, the plates are scanned and a positive image is created.  This will then be added to the Archive’s catalogue.

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Figure 8

Broken glass plate negatives require housing which both supports the fragments but also keeps them separate to ensure the delicate emulsion is not damaged through abrasion between the glass shards.  The new housing incorporates cushioning plasterzote foam within an un-buffered card enclosure.  This new enclosure allows the negative to be safely stored and, if necessary, viewed without removing the individual shards (fig.8 & 9).  This simple housing solution can provide either temporary or long term storage, allowing for further repair treatment to be carried out in the future.

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The broken negatives will also be scanned and digitised, reducing the need for handling while at the same time ensuring public access to these wonderful images.

Stephanie Jamieson, Glamorgan’s Blood Project Conservator

Construction of the Millennium Stadium

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In 1878, Cardiff Football Club (later Cardiff RFC) and Cardiff Cricket Club were granted the use of Cardiff Arms Park, at a peppercorn rent, by the third Marquess of Bute.  In 1922, the two clubs amalgamated to form Cardiff Athletic Club, which subsequently purchased the land from the Bute family on the understanding that it should be preserved for recreational purposes.  Until the late 1960s, the northern part of the site was used for cricket and the southern for rugby union, with Wales playing home international matches on the same pitch as Cardiff RFC – though, prior to 1953, some matches were played in Swansea.

In 1968, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) acquired the freehold of the south ground.  Cricket moved to Sophia Gardens and their former pitch was transformed into a new ground for Cardiff RFC.  Work then began on redeveloping the south site to provide a National Stadium to be used solely for international rugby matches.  Constructed in several stages, it was completed in 1984 with a capacity of 65,000, which was later cut for safety reasons to 53,000.

Within ten years, the WRU was exploring options for further redevelopment of the stadium, whose capacity was now considerably lower than those of the English and Scottish national stadia.  Additional impetus came when Wales was chosen to host the 1999 Rugby World Cup.  The solution involved a new stadium on broadly the same site.  However, the purchase of adjacent land allowed the alignment of the pitch to be rotated from west-east to north-south, and capacity increased to 72,500, all seated.  The new stadium would also be equipped with a sliding roof, allowing it to serve as a multi-use venue.

The stadium was designed by Lobb Sport Architecture.  The main contractor was John Laing Construction and the structural engineers – who designed the retractable roof – were WS Atkins.  56,000 tonnes of concrete and steel went into the project, which ran between 1997 and 1999.  In order to provide the required seating capacity and comply with space restrictions around the site, the stands rake outwards as they rise from the ground, creating a dramatic architectural form.

The total construction cost was £121 million, of which £46 million was lottery funding contributed by the Millennium Commission.  This was recognised in the naming of the stadium until 2015.  However, in September that year, the WRU announced a 10-year sponsorship deal with the Principality Building Society; as a consequence, the name changed to ‘Principality Stadium’ in 2016.

As well as rugby union, the Millennium Stadium has hosted a variety of sports, including rugby league, speedway, boxing, a stage of the World Rally Championship, indoor cricket, equestrian events, and Welsh international soccer matches.  Six FA Cup finals and several other important football fixtures were played there while Wembley Stadium was redeveloped between 2002 and 2007.  The UEFA Champions League Final was held there in 2017.

Each year, a number of live music events take place, headlined by major international artists.  Particularly noteworthy was a charity concert held on 22 January 2005.  Organised in just three weeks, it attracted a host of star performers and raised £1.25 million to aid relief efforts following the Boxing Day tsunami in South Asia.

On a more day-to-day basis, the stadium also offers a range of facilities for conferences, dinners, banquets, balls, parties and weddings receptions.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

Cardiff Yacht Club and Dock Gate

Cardiff Yacht Club was founded in 1900, originally meeting in the Avondale Hotel, Clarence Road, on the site now occupied by Avondale Court.  The Marquess of Bute presented silver cups to the winners of the races held at annual reviews and regattas.

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The clubhouse illustrated by Mary Traynor stood south of the now closed access lock to Roath Basin.  It was built by members from a prefabricated building in 1958 and extended in 1981.

With the redevelopment of Cardiff Bay, the Yacht Club moved in 2001 to new premises at the western end of Windsor Esplanade.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted: