The Motorway Archive Wales

The Motorway Archive Trust was established under a Declaration of Trust in 1999 and registered as a charity in January 2000. The trust developed from the suggestion of Sir Peter Baldwin, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Transport that an archive relating to the motorway achievement in the UK should be created by those involved in the work, in order to safeguard the records for present and future research. In Wales, a regional committee was formed to carry forward this work and the records from The Motorway Archive Wales were deposited at Glamorgan Archives.  The trust was wound up on 31 December 2014 and ownership of the archive material was transferred to the Institution of Civil Engineers Wales.

Not only do the records provide a fascinating insight for transport and civil engineering enthusiasts, they also document Wales’ biggest motorway achievement; the making of the M4, the only motorway in Wales. Of the 123 miles of M4 motorway, 76 miles are in Wales and are the responsibility of the Welsh Government.  The records cover the project from early schemes such as the Port Talbot Bypass in 1966 to the completion of the Second Severn Crossing in 1996.

The 1970’s were a busy period of construction on key motorway junctions in Glamorgan, with 1977 seeing the most completed roadworks during the entire making of the M4. Junctions 28-29 Tredegar to St Mellons, 32-35 Coryton to Pencoed, 37-39 Stormy Down to Groes, and 46-49 Llangyfelach to Pont Abraham (Pontarddulais Bypass) were all completed in this year; a total of 31 miles in eight months at a cost of £130 million. 115 structures were built, 12 million cubic metres of material was excavated and 10 million cubic metres used in embankments. In total well over 1 million trees were planted around the M4 roadway in Wales. In 1976, at the peak of motorway construction in Wales, monthly certificates totalled some £4 million in value, and employment at peak periods was almost 4,000.

DMAW1473 Stormy Down Viaduct - R Ward and F Williams looking at construction progress

Construction of Stormy Down Viaduct

However, construction did not come without its difficulties, especially in the case of the Stormy Down to Groes section between junctions 37-39. Ewart Wheeler, project manager of the scheme, had the unusual experience of giving evidence at the Public Inquiry in promoting the alignment on behalf of the Welsh Office, whilst at the same time objecting to certain aspects of the route on behalf of Glamorgan County Council. This scheme featured a substantial cutting in marl, and several rights of way crossed the planned route of the motorway, resulting in drastic changes to the landscape. Despite suggestions of alternative routes by the Port Talbot Deputy Engineer, in 1974 it was decided that the village of Groes had to be demolished to make way for Junction 39. Although all 21 families were rehomed in 1976, the historical octagonal Beulah Calvinistic Chapel was dismantled and rebuilt in Tollgate Park.

DMAW1472 Margam to Stormy Down Staff photograph

Margam to Stormy Down staff photograph

Glamorgan Archives has recently completed a project to catalogue the Motorway Archive (ref.: DMAW), funded by the Business Archives Council’s John Armstrong Award for Transport Archives.  The catalogue is now available to search via Canfod at

The Women’s Institute Jubilee Scrapbooks, 1965

The Women’s Institute was first established in 1897 in Ontario, Canada, as a branch of the Farmer’s Institute. When the first UK branch was opened in Llanfairpwll, Anglesey in September of 1915, its primary objectives were to help improve the lives of those living in rural communities, and also to encourage women to play a greater role in producing food, which was particularly important at this time due to the ongoing war.

In 1965 the National Federation of Women’s Institutes celebrated its Golden Jubilee.  Various events were held nationally and locally to celebrate the occasion.  WI branches were encouraged to compile scrapbooks of the countryside: ‘Our Village in 1965’, to enter into a competition as part of their jubilee celebrations.  29 Glamorgan WI’s entered scrapbooks into the county-wide competition, with the best three entrants, Penmaen and Nicholston (scrapbook now at West Glamorgan Archive Service), Pentyrch (ref. DXNO12/1) and Southerndown (ref: DXNO27/1), going through to a national final with an exhibition in London.

DXNO27-1 Page 151

Designed as a permanent record of country and village life in 1965, the scrapbooks covered a range of topics including geography, nature, buildings, fashion, personalities and village life in general.  In 1967 Miss Madeline Elsas, the then County Archivist, made a request to all branches who had compiled a scrapbook to place it in the County Record Office for safekeeping.  Shortly after their deposit an exhibition was mounted in order to show off the scrapbooks.

Glamorgan Archives holds 20 of these scrapbooks alongside other records from the local branches.  The scrapbooks include maps and photographs of their villages, details of clubs, societies, shops and various other amenities, and newspaper cuttings relating to the local ‘hot topics’ of the time.  Many have attempted to give a snapshot of life much like a time capsule, including details on fashion, interior design and popular toys.

As one might imagine, the scrapbooks were compiled in a variety of creative ways including an embroidered map adorning the cover of Kenfig WI’s scrapbook (ref.: DXNO4/1).

DXNO4-1 FrontCover

St Fagan’s WI’s scrapbook (ref.: DXNO23/1) included curtain fabric fashioned into mini curtains, along with samples of the carpet and wallpaper used to decorate members’ homes in 1965 to demonstrate current trends in interior design.

DXNO23-1 Page 48

DXNO23-1 Page 49

Southerndown WI’s scrapbook (ref.: DXNO27/1) concludes with a poem to the future reader ’50 years on’.  A reader in 2015 may have found this quite prophetic!

DXNO27-1 Page 149


Cardiff: Capital City of Wales, 1955

Cardiff received its City Charter in 1905.  50 years later, in 1955, it was to become the Capital City of Wales.

Cardiff presented a petition to become capital city, but it was not a forgone conclusion, and neither was it without quite stiff competition.  The strongest competition came from Caernarfon, where Prince Edward, the future King Edward VIII, had been invested Prince of Wales in 1911.


Image 2

Cardiff Petition (Lib/c/371)


There were also petitions from St David’s, the oldest cathedral city in Wales and the ecclesiastical seat.  Machynlleth expressed and interest having been the site of Owain Glyndwr’s parliament in 1404.  And Aberystwyth put in a bid claiming a central position and being the location of the National Library of Wales.

The petition from Cardiff had a lengthy attached appendix which detailed the cultural, ecclesiastical, industrial and judicial evidence supporting to claim to the title of Welsh capital and listing the various merits of Cardiff as a city.  It also mentions the future benefits of planned changes to South Wales, such as the new Severn Bridge and the proposed International Airport at Llandow.

The appendices drew on the 1947 population data, showing that over half of the population of Wales was resident in Glamorgan.

Image 4

Cardiff Petition Appendices – 1947 population data (Lib/c/371)

It finally came down to three contenders: Aberystwyth, Caernarfon and Cardiff.  A ballot was placed before the Welsh local Authorities and the result was a resounding success for Cardiff.

Air Raid Precautions in Glamorgan

For Glamorgan Archives’ second decade, the 1940s, I decided to look at our collection of Air Raid Precautions records for Glamorgan. The Air Raid Warden Service was established in Cardiff in 1939. Its headquarters was based in Cathays Park with local control centres setup throughout Glamorgan.

Air Raid Precaution Services consisted of Wardens, Report & Control, Messengers, First Aiders, Ambulance Drivers, Rescue Services, Gas Decontamination and Fire Guards. The Fire Watcher scheme was introduced in Jan 1941. Fire Watchers had to keep a 24 hour watch on certain buildings and could call on the rescue services if required. The role of ARP warden was open to men and women of all ages. The majority were volunteers but there were some who were paid a salary.

One of the duties of an ARP warden was to enforce the blackout. This led to some wardens being regarded as interfering or nosey. Who can remember the portrayal in Dad’s Army of ARP Warden Hodges shouting ‘Put that light out!’?

This entry from the Barry Control Centre Logs [DARP/2/2] records a complaint of a light showing:

DARP-2-2-2ndAug-1942 web

Other duties of the ARP Warden included sounding the air-raid siren, helping people to the nearest air-raid shelter, handing out gas masks and watching out for the fall of bombs within their sector. The booklet 250 ARP Questions Answered [DARP/3/24] would have been a familiar sight.


Part-time wardens were supposed to be on duty about three nights a week, but this increased greatly when the bombing was heaviest. As you can see from the log below [DARP/1/10], the wardens on duty weren’t averse to moaning about the conditions in the control room. The state of the cups seems to have been an issue, with one warden scrawling a reply What would you like? Fire watching at the Ritz??!

DARP-1-10-8thAug-1941-cups v2 web

The following entry from the Pontypridd Control centre log book from 25th April 1943 [DARP/13/9] shows a report of a crater 5ft by 2 and ½ feet deep near Forest Uchaf Farm on Graig Mountain. The ARP liaised with the police at both Pontypridd and Llantrisant as well as Central Control to ensure the bomb had exploded.

DARP-13-9-25thApril-1943 web

ARP were kept up to date of any changes in enemy tactics and were needed to feedback information from the ground. The following message from the 15th June 1943 [DARP/13/9] describes how the enemy have started dropping anti-personnel bombs after incendiary bombs in order to hamper any fire-fighting.

DARP-13-9-15thJune-1943 web

ARP also took part in regular drills and exercises. One such exercise took place on October 19th 1941 [DARP/1/7] ‘Enemy cars discharging soldiers at Caegwyn Road, Manor Way Crossing…’

DARP-1-7-19thOct-1941-exercise web

During the height of the Blitz there were approximately 127,000 full-time personnel serving in Civil Defence, but by the end of 1943 numbers had dropped to approximately 70,000. In total 1.5 million people served in the ARP/Civil Defence Service during the war. The Civil Defence Service was eventually stood down towards the end of the war after VE Day.

Melanie Taylor, Records Assistant, Glamorgan Archives

Sources consulted: