Glamorgan’s Blood: health and welfare records in the coal industry collections – Pre-vesting date material within the National Board Collection

The current cataloguing and conservation of the National Coal Board and pre-vesting colliery company records held at Glamorgan Archives has been made possible by a Wellcome Trust Research Resources Grant. The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health and as such one of the project’s main aims has been to improve access to records related to medical and welfare issues. In this series of blog posts project archivist, Louise Clarke, highlights some of the types of material that you are able to find on this topic within the coalfield collection.

Pre-vesting date material – DNCB/15

DNCB/15 is a series that comprises material of general historical interest, kept on file by the National Coal Board, relating to coal mining and associated industries before the nationalisation of the coal industry in January 1947. Within this series there are a number of records associated with health and welfare within the coal industry prior to nationalisation.

One particular file relating to Mountain Ash and Penrhiwceiber Hospital contains material such as notes on hospital benefit, hospital regulations, hospital admission contributions and a history of the hospital service at Mountain Ash.

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Hospital rules, Mountain Ash and Penrhiwceiber Hospital (DNCB/15/17/2)

A programme from the visit of HRH The Duchess of York to Deep Duffryn pithead baths also features within the series, and serves to emphasise the importance placed on the pithead baths buildings.

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Programme for the visit of the Duchess of York to Deep Duffryn Pithead baths (DNCB/15/17/3)

A certificate issued by Brynmenyn Rescue station to Thomas John Jones of Cribbwr Fawr Colliery on 4 May 1920 shows that the welfare of workers underground was considered, and that staff were appropriately trained in the use of rescue apparatus.

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Rescue apparatus training course certificate (DNCB/15/10/3)


The National Trust: 125 years old this month

One of Britain’s best known institutions, the National Trust, celebrates a special anniversary in January 2020. On the 12th January it will be 125 years since the Trust was founded in 1895 by Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley. You can still visit the very first property acquired by the Trust in 1886, Alfriston Clergy House, a medieval thatched house in Sussex. The first nature reserve was Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire, acquired in 1899.

Many in South Wales will be familiar with the properties managed by the Trust in the area, including Tredegar House, Dyffryn Gardens and sections of the coastline.  What they may not appreciate is that, for over 40 years, there was an organisation in Cardiff set up specifically to enable members of the National Trust to obtain more from their membership. The records held at Glamorgan Archives for the Cardiff Association of National Trust Members provide a snap shot of a time when visiting National Trust properties often meant travelling quite considerable distances.  Established in 1971, as part of a network across the country, the Cardiff Association offered an annual programme of visits to historic houses and gardens and a regular monthly round of evening lectures and meetings. The Association was a popular and vibrant group with, at one point, over 800 members.



Copies of a selection of the Association’s Newsletters held at Glamorgan Archives illustrate the range of activities provided. For example, the newsletter for the autumn of 2002 sets out a programme of up to 3 meetings a month spread across venues in Dinas Powys, Rhiwbina and Lisvane. In October alone guest speakers delivered talks on ‘Churchill and Chartwell’, ‘The Round House on the Kymin’ and the rather enigmatically titled ‘An exercise in looking’. Eight months later, in the summer of 2003, the programme of visits was in full swing with trips to Tyntesfield, Dyrham Park, Abbey House Gardens, Malmesbury, Baddesley Clinton, Packwood House, Wells, Burford House and Croft Castle. The trips, however, were not always straightforward. For example, the outing to Abbey House Gardens included the warning that This is the home of the “Naked Gardener” but don’t worry I haven’t chosen a clothes optional day. On another occasion, on noting that the property had only one toilet and no restaurant facilities, the organiser felt the need to offer reassurance in the form of Do not worry. I will make sure that we will not miss out on the necessities of life!!  There are no clues, unfortunately, as to what she had in mind.

Many National Trust properties were the recipients of funds raised by the Cardiff Association and in particular Llanerchaeron, Ty Mawr and Dinefwr Park. Again this was not always as simple as might be expected. The £1000 given for a new bird hide at Dinefwr produced a response from the manager that the estate was …in pressing need of a new bull. He hopes to purchase the animal in a few weeks so could he use our donation for the purpose?  The change was agreed and possibly the next trip to Dinefwr provided an opportunity for members to view their prize purchase.

The Association was wound up at the end of 2012, ironically just as the management of Tredegar Park and Dyffryn Gardens was being assumed by the National Trust. The last meeting was styled as a Celebratory Lunch and held on Friday 30 November. Although membership numbers had fallen to around 270, there was much to look back on with a sense of achievement and pride. Over £100,000 raised for Trust properties and a programme of talks and visits provided over a 41 year period. The last newsletter made particular reference to the support for …the restoration of the White Cattle with their ancient bloodline to Dinefwr Park. Who knows, but it sounds as though the chance investment in a new bull had paid off after all.

If you would like to see examples of the newsletters produced by the Cardiff Association of National Trust Members, issues 92-93 (covering 2002 and 2003) and issues 119-122 (covering 2011 and 2012) are held at Glamorgan Archives (ref.: D1240/8).

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Whatever happened to Mabon’s Day?

Amongst the collection at Glamorgan Archives there is a selection of original playbills produced for the Theatre Royal, Cardiff, in the late 19th century. Situated on the corner of Wood Street and St Mary Street, a site later occupied by the Prince of Wales Theatre, the Theatre Royal was built in 1878. In its pomp it held up to 2000 people in an opulent auditorium upholstered with red velvet. Over a period of 10 years, from 1885 and 1895, the playbills detail an array of productions held at the theatre, from the annual pantomime to performances of the D’Oyly Carte’s opera company. They are now available to view on online – just go to the Glamorgan Archives website, select the option headed ‘Collection’ and search for ‘Theatre Royal’. The references will start with the prefix D452. Select and click on one of the playbill references and you should find a digital copy of the playbill at the bottom of the page. Often brightly coloured they list, in some detail, the acts performing at the theatre. In addition, they often include arrangements, such as special trains, put on to lure people from across South Wales to the performances in Cardiff.


If you look carefully at a number of the playbills from 1888 onwards you will see references to performances on ‘Mabon’s Day’. It is one of the few references that you will see in the Archives to a long lost holiday enjoyed by many across South Wales. Mabon’s Day was the first Monday of every month. It was the product of an agreement between the trade unions and the coal owners that the mines be closed on the first Monday of the month and the day be declared a holiday. The arrangement was largely credited to William Abraham, widely known by his bardic name of Gwilym Mabon. Born in 1842 in Cwmafan, Abraham worked in local collieries and tinplate works from the age of 10.  A trade union member and a veteran of many disputes with the coal owners, Abraham was elected as the Member of Parliament for the Rhondda in 1885. Thirteen years later, in 1898, he became the first President of the South Wales Miners’ Federation.

It was Abraham who led the successful campaign for Mabon’s Day, first celebrated in 1888. His argument was that work in the collieries was so physically exhausting that miners had little time or energy for other activities and, in particular, further education and the arts. For ten years Mabon’s day was celebrated across South Wales. The Theatre Royal was one of many that vied to attract miners and their families by putting on special performances on a Monday.


If you take a look at the playbills produced for the annual Pantomime from 1890 to 1892 they all contain special performances for Mabon’s Day on the first Monday of January and February. In most cases this meant two performances during the day and special trains put on, with an opportunity to buy theatre and rail tickets at stations on the Taff Vale and Rhymney lines. It seems that Tom Leamore, champion clog dancer, starring in ‘Pretty Little Red Riding Hood’ and the ballet of 50 ladies featured in ‘Merrie Little Dick Whittington and his Cat’ were guaranteed to draw in the crowds on Mabon’s Day. What is less clear is just how many made a similar journey to watch the D’Oyly Carte company’s production of the ‘Gondoliers or the King of Barataria’ on Monday 7 July 1890.

By 1899 Mabon’s Day had been abandoned. Some said, possibly harshly, that the miners preferred the pubs and theatres to the classroom and the museum. The fact of the matter was that it was seen by mine owners as a day’s production lost. The loss of Mabon’s Day was just one of the consequences of the settlement that ended the lock out imposed by the colliery owners during the miners’ strike of 1898.  One product of the strike was the recognition of the need to improve union organisation with the creation of the South Wales Miners’ Federation. However, this came too late for Mabon’s Day. In later years, some claimed, tongue in cheek, that taking an unauthorised day off work was ‘taking one for Mabon’. I doubt that Mabon would have approved.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer