The Ocean and National Magazine, 1929: Boys’ Clubs

The Ocean and National Magazine collection is an amazing resource for discovering what life was like for people living in the south Wales coalfield in the 1920s and 1930s. Published by the Ocean Coal Company Ltd and United National Collieries Ltd, with contributions by and for the workforce, this magazine series contains a wide variety of articles on the coal industry and its history, including industrial relations, employees, technology, culture and sporting events. Andrew Booth, one of our volunteers has recently completed the indexing of this fantastic collection. This is the second of a series of blog posts in which Andrew highlights stories from the Ocean and National Magazines.


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Welfare provision, society and culture are key themes of the magazines. Throughout the 1929 editions, this theme was highlighted through the discussion of Boys’ Clubs affiliated to the Ocean Area Recreation Union. Colonel R.B. Campbell questioned what happened to 14 to 18 year old boys once they had finished their shift at work (the age at which children could leave school was lower than it is today), if indeed they worked at all for …unemployment is rife. Campbell pointed out that only 1 in 5 boys belonged to a boys’ organisation, e.g. Boys’ Club, Boy Scouts, Boys’ Brigades. This article lead to a series of pieces discussing the role and success of boys’ clubs in colliery communities.

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In March, an anonymous writer took up the thread of this topic, looking at the subject of hobbies, and how Boys’ Clubs could use them to the benefit of their members. Examples of hobbies thought to be beneficial included carpentry, metalwork, carving, painting, modelling, photography, gardening, nature studies, net making and stamp collecting.

In May, T. Jacob Jones highlighted the establishment of numerous boys’ clubs in a short space of time within the area covered by Ocean. While he saw positive aspects of his local club, notably that several activities and the library had been successfully maintained, he was keen to know if other areas run by Ocean were having similar success or not. One of his main concerns about the club was a lack of non-sporting activities, such as drama, music, debating, hobbies, reading and rambling. He also felt the clubs were …in danger of being isolated from the village life – the Church, the School, and the Social Unit.

In June, Ap Nathan was asked to publicise his ‘candid’ criticism of Boys’ Clubs. Furthering T. Jacob Jones’ criticisms, he wrote that too much emphasis was placed on games and sport and not enough on culture. However, unlike Jones, Ap Nathan saw the role of religion in such institutions as controversial. Within his article, Ap Nathan emphasised that the type of leader for these groups was key, stating: …what is really needed is not an able administrator or organiser, but a great lover of boys.

Money was also seen as an issue in the success of the boys’ clubs, with the Reverend D.L. Rees discussing the matter in the July edition. Again reference is made to cultural activities, however Rees refers to a Club that had tried to organise rambles and gardening, but they were not popular and were dropped.  However, there must have been some success at organising cultural activities, for in September the magazine published the results of a drama competition, with entrants from Treorchy, Wattstown, Treharris and Nantymoel.

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In October the magazine planned a series of competitions for the winter of 1929-30, split into the categories of Hobbies, which included Handicrafts, Drawing, Reading, Essays, Story-Telling and Recitation, and Drama, which involved producing a play.

Andrew Booth, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer



The Ocean and National Magazine, 1928: The Eisteddfod at Treorchy

The Ocean and National Magazine collection is an amazing resource for discovering what life was like for people living in the south Wales coalfield in the 1920s and 1930s. Published by the Ocean Coal Company Ltd and United National Collieries Ltd, with contributions by and for the workforce, this magazine series contains a wide variety of articles on the coal industry and its history, including industrial relations, employees, technology, culture and sporting events. Andrew Booth, one of our volunteers has recently completed the indexing of this fantastic collection. This is the first of a series of blog posts in which Andrew highlights stories from the Ocean and National Magazines.

1. preparations for the national at treorchy

Preparations for the National Eisteddfod at Treorchy, Ocean and National Magazine, Aug 1928, D1400/9/1/5

In the summer of 1928, the National Eisteddfod was held in Treorchy, the first time it had been held in the Rhondda. The Ocean and National Magazine dedicated their August 1928 issue to the event, with contributors discussing the upcoming festival and their favourite aspects of the event.

2. general view of treorchy

General View of Treorchy, Ocean and National Magazine, Aug 1928, D1400/9/1/5

Music is a key part of the Eisteddfod, and Humphrey G. Prosser wrote that he was looking forward to the Monday of the festival which would be …inaugurated with massed music in excelsis, for it is the day devoted to the interests of the blaring trumpet and booming drum!…and the air will be heavy with harmony from dawn till dusk! Discussion of music extended to the choirs, with much attention being paid to the outfits to be worn by the female choirs. Choral Chairman R.R. Williams noted that the main concern for them was the length of the sleeves of the women’s dresses. It was decided that most women would wear long sleeves, and that those who were wearing short sleeves …are only probationers …and are making valiant efforts to merit confidence so as to be accepted as full members and thereby be entitled to wear long sleeves.

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Eisteddfod Principal Officials and Special Correspondents, Ocean and National Magazine, Aug 1928, D1400/9/1/5

Education is a topic that often features in the articles of the Ocean and National Magazines and here in this special Eisteddfod edition H. Willow writes an article debating the question of what education is. When discussing education in relation to the Eisteddfod, Willow writes that the …educative purpose behind it could be said to make it unique. He goes on to make the point that using drama as an instrument in the teaching of language is of …tremendous value, and notes that the Eisteddfod pays a …large sum in terms of prizes to different types of writers and age group.

4. scenes at the proclamation ceremony

Scenes at the Proclamation Ceremony, Ocean and National Magazine, Aug 1928, D1400/9/1/5

In this particular year, the Arts and Crafts section of the Eisteddfod also added science to its remit. Llewellyn Evans, Honorary Secretary of the Arts, Crafts and Science Section refers to the addition of the Science section specifically due to the location, admitting it is a broad label, as it mostly concerns mining, local geology and geography, as well as the crafts associated with the coal mining industry.

Other writers were interested in how the Welsh language, culture and traditions could be kept alive outside of the Eisteddfod. One particular contributor discusses Urdd Gobaith Cymru, a society in which the Reverend T. Alban Davies had the intention of …building up as an enduring defender of the Welsh language and of Welsh tradition and culture. With every issue containing a least one article written in Welsh, the Ocean and National Magazine editors championed the Welsh language, not only in this special Eisteddfod edition but throughout the publication.

Andrew Booth, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

People vs Progress: The Transition from Coal to Oil in Britain

At the dawn of the 20th century, Britain was the world’s leading industrial power. The first nation to industrialise, dominating a global empire and world trade.  Whilst noblemen had founded these colonies and spread Britain’s influence, the true source of the nations’ power was its’ coal mines, which at their height were producing 257 million tons of coal a year. Coal propelled her trading vessels around the world, gave life to the beating hearts of machines in the factories and powered the hulking warships of her navy.

However, a new fuel was beginning to emerge, one that would completely change Britain and the world forever; oil, the new black gold. It would make the British navy more powerful than ever, yet also more vulnerable, leading it to rely on foreign countries for its fuel due to a lack of oil reserves within British controlled territory. A speech made by Captain Bernard Acworth at the Cardiff Business Club warned against the country’s ‘dependence on oil fuel’ and led to a flurry of opinion pieces in the Western Mail concerning the use of oil over coal for naval ships.


The extensive collection at Glamorgan Archives offers a window to this pivotal time in Welsh industrial history. Through volumes of newspaper cuttings we can discover the varied contemporary thoughts and opinions on the issue. One such volume shows, amongst many other topics, the discussions surrounding the replacement of coal with oil and hydrogenation.


Other documents, such as a minute book of the Coal Research Committee, discuss schemes for the production of oil from coal in South Wales, primarily focusing on the feasibility and practicalities of opening plants using the hydrogenation and carbonisation methods to produce light oil (e.g petrol) and heavy oil (crude oil).

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However, this turned out to be fruitless, due to the complexities and high costs of the processes.

The biggest change though, would be to the lives of the hundreds of thousands of miners who would be rendered unemployed for the sake of progress, threatening to wipe out hundreds of small but deep rooted communities that had been providing the nation with coal for generations. Perhaps with this in mind contributors to the popular coalfield publication, Ocean and National Magazine, also spoke about this topic numerous times, with articles that kept track of the debate, never failing to promote the coal industry.

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After 1914, the production of coal began to fall, gradually at first, but decreasing almost every year. Whilst the power stations were still hungry for coal, following the First World War one of the mines’ biggest customers, the navy, began to slip away and more followed as vessels around the world underwent the change. Through documents in the Archives, we are able to chart these changes and see how people reacted then adapted to this new threat.

Adam Latchford, Trainee

The Day Aladdin played at Cardiff Arms Park

There was a was remarkable spectacle at Cardiff Arms Park almost 130 years ago, when on Thursday 23 January 1889, Aladdin’s XV took the field to play Dick Whittington’s XV. With the Chinese Professor of Magic, Abanazar, at full back and Widow Twankey and the Emperor Congou in the pack, Aladdin’s team, drawn from the pantomime cast at the Theatre Royal, was a formidable combination. Dick Whittington’s XV, representing the Grand Theatre, was led by Idle Jack and, allegedly, fielded 16 players – presumably 15 plus the cat. The South Wales Daily News reported that the teams were cheered on by a ‘tremendous crowd’ that included the full cast from both theatres. The star of the afternoon was Mr Luke Forster also known as Abanazar. The report does not reveal whether he used his powers of magic but, through his efforts, Aladdin’s XV triumphed …by a try and 4 minors to nil. Not to be outdone, Mr E W Colman, the Grand Theatre’s Idle Jack, was carried from the field on the shoulders of his supporters to celebrate …the run of match from his own 25 to the Royal 25 yard line.

Behind the gaiety this was serious business as the two theatres vied to capture the crowds that flooded into Cardiff each night to attend the pantomimes. Glamorgan Archives holds a collection of playbills used to promote the performances of the pantomime at the Theatre Royal.


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. Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp was the eighth pantomime to be staged at the Theatre. Through the array of playbills produced for its run, from December 1888 to early February 1889, we can see that it was one of the biggest and most lavish productions of the year. In an effort to attract the crowds the playbills provided details of the cast and a summary of each scene with details of the settings and the acts on show. Every effort was made to fill the theatre night after night, with special trains laid on from Swansea, Merthyr and Rhymney with reduced fares for those purchasing theatre tickets at the station on boarding the train.


Billed as the …most splendid pantomime in Wales, Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp had twelve scenes, each with ornate scenery depicting streets and markets in China, Aladdin’s Cave, the Flying Palace and the Home of Sphinx. In the reviews published in the local newspapers the scene set in the Halls of the Alhambra, was described as the piece de resistance. Each scene had its lead act and in the Halls of Alhambra the lead was taken by the Sisters Wallace, Fannie, Emmie and Nellie and …their wonderful song and dance specialities. They were supported by the comedians Sawyer and Ellis (described as extraordinary double top boot dancers) as two policemen …who put the House in roars. If that was not enough, the scene closed with the ‘Beautiful Ballet of the Months’ performed by sixty dancers – one of three ballets staged during the performance. The stars of the pantomime were Miss Howe Carewe, described as …a most charming Aladdin and Miss Marie Clavering as the Princess. They were supported by Luke Forster and Frank Irish as Abanazar and Widow Twankey. The lead players were just the tip of the iceberg with the playbills identifying a cast of 30 actors plus an array of supporting roles and dancers.

There are eight playbills at Glamorgan Archives for Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp and they show how the pantomime was adapted and changed during its two month run. The aim was to appeal to all ages and refresh the acts, songs and dances so that people would come back over and over again. For example, by the end of January a set of acrobats and a comic football match had been incorporated into the performance. It was also the practice for the lead actors to be given a benefit night and there are playbills to advertise the nights identified in January for Miss Howe Carewe and others. However, there were signs that all was not well. By January, the playbills confirmed that Marie Clavering had been replaced by Miss Florence Bankhardt, who had arrived …direct from the New Opera House, Chicago, to take the part of the Princess. There were also signs that the comedians were under pressure to improve their act – with mixed results. Commenting on the new material introduced by Frank Irish as Widow Twankey, the South Wales Daily News welcomed the comic account of the Swansea and Cardiff football match but was more circumspect about references to ‘Adam and the fig leaves’.

The fact of the matter was that, although Aladdin was hailed as the finest pantomime staged at the Theatre Royal, there was now a new rival for the pantomime audience in the form of The Grand Theatre of Varieties on Westgate Street. Opened in the previous year, The Grand was staging its first pantomime and its owners were intent on impressing. The Grand was a bigger and more lavish theatre than the Royal and described as one of the most beautiful of its kind. It had also committed an enormous budget to finance its first pantomime, Dick Whittington and His Cat. In late January 1889 the Western Mail reported that there were still thousands flocking each night to The Grand, with many unable to gain admission. The newspaper concluded:

The success is due without a shadow of a doubt, to the all-round excellence of everything that goes to make up the pantomime.

It seems that Aladdin’s XV may have won the game at Cardiff Arms Park. However, the Theatre Royal, despite heroic efforts, came second in the battle of pantomimes 130 years ago in Christmas 1888.  Did someone say ‘Oh no they didn’t’? I’m afraid that the evidence suggests ‘Oh yes they did’!

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

The playbills for the productions at the Theatre Royal between 1885 and 1895, including ‘Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp’, can be seen at Glamorgan Archives, reference D452. The newspaper reports can be found on the Welsh Newspapers Online website. The report for the Cardiff Arms Park match is in the South Wales Daily News for 24 January 1889.

Conserving Photographs on Glass

The National Coal Board collection at Glamorgan Archives contains around 4000 glass plate negatives, documenting coal mining in South Wales.  These glass plates illustrate a range of subjects concerning colliery life above and below ground.  As glass plates offered more dimensional stability in comparison to plastic supports, they are often found in large industrial collections containing lots of technical imagery and reproductions of maps and plans.

Although the supports provide more chemical stability than their cellulose nitrate and acetate counterparts, glass presents its own problems.  Deterioration can occur in glass, particularly older glass, because it contains water sensitive components which can leach out in fluctuating environments and closed microclimates.  As well as damaging the glass, this process of degradation can also affect the photographic emulsion.

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An example of damaged emulsion

The main issues affecting the glass plate negatives in the NCB collection include broken plates and damaged emulsion.  The broken plates have been given new housing which cushions and separates the shards and allows for the possibility of further treatment in the future.  The plates with damaged emulsion need to be repaired before they can be digitised, re-housed and accessed by the public, making their conservation a high priority.

In October, the Art Gallery of Ontario, in Toronto hosted a workshop on the conservation of photographs on glass, which project conservator Stephanie Jamieson attended, thanks to generous contributions from the Archives and Records Council Wales, the Clothworkers’ Foundation and the Anna Plowden Trust.  This three day course was run by Katherine Whitman, Photograph Conservator at the AGO and Greg Hill, Senior Conservator of Archival Materials and Photographs at the Canadian Conservation Institute.  The course began with a day of lectures on the chemistry and nature of glass, the history of photography on glass and the identification of techniques and materials.  Talks were given by Stephen Koob, Head of Glass Conservation at the Corning Museum; Sophie Hackett, Curator of Photography at the AGO and Katherine Whitman.

The second day focused on teaching repair techniques and storage recommendations.  There was also time to discuss the specifics of individual collections and share experiences of working with this type of material.

On the final day, the course participants got to test out the techniques they had learnt in the AGO’s conservation studio.  This involved repairing broken glass plates and consolidating emulsion.  One repair method used sticky wax to hold the fragments of glass in place while assembling vertically in a vice.  Adhesive was then applied to the break using a piece of steel wool on a stick.

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Trying out the vertical assembly method

To consolidate the damaged emulsion, controlled humidification was applied to the lifting flakes to relax the gelatine before adhesive was brushed onto the glass underneath.  Light pressure was then applied through bondina with a bone folder and the flake was left to dry under weight.

This workshop was extremely applicable to the conservation issues present in the NCB collection at Glamorgan Archives.  The next stage will be to test and perfect these repair techniques before starting work on the damaged glass plate negatives.

Stephanie Jamieson, Glamorgan’s Blood Project Conservator

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‘These men died for their country’: The Penarth War Memorial, November 1924

Amongst the records held at Glamorgan Archives is a programme printed for a ceremony held on 11 November 1924 to unveil the War Memorial in Alexandra Gardens, Penarth.


The memorial can be seen on the front page of the programme with the inscription, ‘In grateful memory of the men of Penarth who died for their country in the Great War 1914-18’. The date chosen for the ceremony was symbolic in that it marked the sixth anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that had ended the fighting in the Great War – the First World War.

For recent generations, Remembrance Day, on 11 November, has become a feature of life in just about every village and town across the country. It commemorates the signing of the Armistice that ended the Great War in 1918 and those who died in two World Wars and subsequent campaigns. In 1924, however, it was, to some extent, a new development being marked for only the sixth time. Over 700,000 British service men and women had lost their lives in the Great War and the majority were buried overseas, from Flanders to Gallipoli to Palestine. In comparison to previous wars, the losses were immense and led to a demand for a national day of Remembrance. Such was the strength of feeling that in 1924, six years after the end of the fighting, newspapers reported that individuals in several towns and cities had been arrested and taken into protective custody for not observing the two minutes silence on November 11th.

While previous campaigns, including the Crimean and Boer Wars, had been commemorated through the erection of a small number of memorials, the Great War differed in that it had touched just about every community across the land. Each community, therefore, wanted to find an appropriate way to mark the contributions made by local men and women. If you look at the sketch on the front page of the programme you will see, in the background, a military tank. In the years following the Armistice many towns and cities had acquired items of military equipment, often tanks or field guns. They were displayed in public places to both celebrate the victory and as a reminder of those that had died in the conflict.  However, the construction of the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London was symbolic of a campaign to provide a more permanent memorial to the dead. The events in Penarth in November 1924 were, therefore, part of a movement to remember and commemorate the dead that swept across the country. In the Cardiff area alone that day, two new memorials were being unveiled, at the Cardiff Barracks and the Cardiff Royal Infirmary.

It would have been a very emotional day. Two men from Penarth, Richard Wain and Samuel Pearse, had been awarded the Victoria Cross. Wain was born in Penarth and educated at Llandaff Cathedral School and Penarth Grammar. He was a 20 year old acting captain in the Tank Corps when he died in 1917 at the Battle of Cambrai, one of the first engagements where the British Army unleashed its potentially devastating new weapon. Samuel Pearse had left Penarth and emigrated to Australia at the age of 14. He fought with the Australian forces at Gallipoli and later in Egypt and France. After the signing of the Armistice he married in Durham and delayed returning home while his wife was pregnant. He chose to enlist with a number of Australians in the British Army forces being sent to support the White Armies in Russia, and was killed in action, in north Russia, in August 1919.

The scale of the losses was underlined by the number of names inscribed on the Penarth Memorial, some 307. They demonstrated that no section of society was left untouched. Archer Windsor-Clive was the third son of the Earl of Plymouth and had played cricket for Glamorgan and Cambridge. As an officer in the Coldstream Guards, he was one of the first local men to be sent to France and also one of the first to die. He was just 23 years of age when he was killed during the battle of Mons in August 1914, the first month of the War.

The Penarth memorial includes the name of a woman, Emily Ada Pickford. Emily was a local music teacher from Penarth and the conductor of the Penarth Ladies Choir. She was related by marriage to the Pickford family who were local printers and producers of the Penarth Times.  In February 1919 she was in France with a concert party providing entertainment for the troops. She died when, traveling back to Abbeville after an evening concert, her car skidded off the road into the River Somme. By 1924 the Penarth Urban District Council was chaired by Constance Maillard, the first woman to be elected to the Council and the Council’s first woman chair. As the first Secretary of the Penarth Suffragist Society it just possible that Constance was instrumental in ensuring that Emily’s name was included on the Memorial.

While the programme at Glamorgan Archives sets out the details of the unveiling ceremony in 1924, the records of the Penarth Urban District Council tell the story of the decision to commission and erect the monument. The planning for the memorial has been in hand for some time, with the establishment of a sub-committee of the Council in 1923. As a result, the Council had invited Sir William Goscombe John to submit a design for a suitable memorial. Originally from Canton in Cardiff, William Goscombe John was a well-known sculptor who had completed many public monuments across the country, including the John Cory statue in front of City Hall. His skills were in particular demand for the design of War Memorials and, in the same year as the Penarth Memorial was unveiled, he also designed memorials for Llandaff, Carmarthen and the Royal Welch Fusiliers at Wrexham. It was an indication of how important the memorial was that a fee of £2,000 was agreed by the Council which, at current prices, would equate to over £80,000. This was double the initial budget earmarked for the memorial. The original plan was to position the memorial on land opposite Penarth House, but it was eventually agreed that a site in Alexandra Park, overlooking the sea, would be more suitable. The only modification to Sir William’s original design was to add, at the base of the monument, the words ‘These men died for their country. Do ye live for it’.

The unveiling ceremony was no easy matter to arrange. It was originally planned for September 1924 but later revised to 11 November.  It has to be remembered that similar ceremonies were taking place across the country and hopes that prominent figures, including Admiral Earl Beatty, would attend were soon dashed. In the event troops from the Welch Regiment, based at the Cardiff Barracks, provided the guard of honour. The ceremony was led by the local MP, Capt Arthur Evans, and the Rev Hassal Hanmer, both of whom had served in the war, supported by the Penarth Ex Servicemen’s’ Choir.

The task of unveiling the memorial was given to Mrs F Bartlett, Mrs P Fitzgerald and Mr G Hoult. Standing amongst the MPs and ranking soldiers there was one factor that bound the three together. They had each lost three sons in War. The memorial was of white granite with a bronze winged figure of victory, holding a wreath and a sword, standing in the prow of a boat. The programme for the ceremony on 11 November 1924 can be seen at Glamorgan Archives, ref. DXOV3/11. It was retained by Constance Maillard and passed with her papers to the Archives. If you are wondering what happened to Constance, she lived to celebrate her 100th birthday and an invitation to her birthday party is also held at the Archives (ref.: DXFX/8).  The records of the Penarth Urban District Council can also be accessed at Glamorgan Archives, ref. UDPE/C/1/5, with the papers of the Memorial Sub-committee at UDPE/C/1/21. Silent black and white footage of the ceremony has recently been made available by British Film Foundation.

As a postscript, significant restoration work was completed on the Penarth War Memorial as part of the centenary events. It can be seen in Alexandra Gardens, Penarth.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

School Treats and Souvenirs: The Peace Day Celebrations, Monday 21 July 1919

Monday 21 July 1919 was a red letter day as an estimated 40,000 school children in Cardiff were treated to a celebration tea as part of the Peace Celebrations held across the county over a 4 day period. Although the Armistice had been signed in November 1918, the Treaty of Versailles, formally ending the war, was not concluded until June 1919. To mark this event it was determined that a bank holiday be granted on 19 July and local authorities be asked to organise a series of celebrations across the country.


It might have been thought that the celebrations at the Ninian Park Schools were a little special in that they were attended by Sir J Herbert Cory, a local MP and son of one of Cardiff’s coal and shipping barons, John Cory of John Cory and Sons. However, the staff and pupils had much more to celebrate for 21st July marked the first day that they had returned to their school since May 1915. The story of the Ninian Park Boys’ and Girl’s Schools and their four year exile from their school during the Great War can be traced through records held at Glamorgan Archives, in particular the records of the City of Cardiff Education Committee and the log books kept by the head teachers of both schools.


The story starts in 13 May 1915 when W H Nettleton, the head teacher of Ninian Park Boys’ school, recorded in the school log book:


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Holiday in the afternoon, Thursday and Friday 14th to enable the men to remove the furniture and stock to Court Road School as this school, Ninian Park, has been requisitioned by the War Office for a temporary Military Hospital during the War [EC42/1/1, 13 May 1915, p 122].


With the establishment of the 3rd Western General Hospital in Cardiff to receive wounded from France there was a desperate need for suitable hospital accommodation. Ninian Park School, occupied by both the Girls’ School and the Boys’ School, was one of seven school buildings pressed into service as a hospital for the duration of the war under the control of the military. Both schools were relocated to Court Road School. It would have been no simple matter for the two schools, each with approximately 10 staff and 350 pupils, to make the move. Yet remarkably the schools were up and running the following Monday, 17 May. For the next 4 years the Ninian Park Schools shared premises with Court Road School with each school operating a one session timetable. As Margaret Ferguson, the head teacher of the Ninian Park Girls’ School noted, this meant that one week the Ninian Park Schools had the premises from the 8.45 to 12.30 and Court Road from 1.30 to 5.15. The following week the arrangement was reversed with Court Road taking the morning session (ref. ED42/3/1, 17 May 1915, p277).


In the meantime the military had set about converting Ninian Park School into a hospital. This required significant alterations to the interior to provide hospital wards and operating theatres along with improvements to the water supply, lighting and heating. We are fortunate in having two photographs of Ninian Park military hospital taken in 1917 in the records of Glamorgan Archives. One shows a converted classroom being used as hospital ward (ref.: DX486/1/1). The second is a photograph of the operating theatre (ref.: DX486/1/2).




It would have been a difficult time for staff and pupils but they would have accepted that, along with others, there was a need to make war time sacrifices. However, it might have been expected that, with the signing of Armistice on 11 November 1918, they would soon return to their school. As the records of the City of Cardiff Education Committee show it was a long time before the military was able to pass the schools back to the local authority. There were still a significant number of wounded in Cardiff to be cared for and it was not until 11 May 1919 – six months after the signing of the Armistice – that Colonel Hepburn, Commanding Officer of the 3rd Western General Hospital, was able to return Ninian Park School to the local authority. Ninian Park was the third of the hospital schools to be returned to the education authority. No time was lost in setting work in hand so that it could be used as a school again with a start being made on 19 May.


The list of work required to make the building fit for use as a school was formidable. The records of the Building and Sites Sub Committee confirm that a complete overhaul was required of the heating, lighting and water systems. In addition it was ordered that the schools be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. In some cases the changes made by the military were welcomed. For example, the improvements to the water supply were retained. However, there was significant debate as to whether to keep the temporary electrical lighting and the changes made to the school’s heating system.  At Ninian Park a low pressure steam heating system had been installed in September 1915 running pipes and radiators to each room.  The committee minutes noted that the heating system (in Ninian Park and Lansdowne Road Schools):


…is not one that we would have advocated for schools but as both installations have to be completed with all possible speed and all necessary structural damage avoided, it was the only system which could have been used (BC/E/1/19, 13 May 1919, page 165).


It was therefore recommended that it be kept subject to adding radiators where required to all class rooms and dismantling and servicing the boiler.  The electric lighting system, however, was not retained, with the local authority electing to refurbish the existing gas lighting in the school (ref.: BC/E/1/19, 17 June 1919, page 203).


The exterior was evidently in poor condition with a need to repair and paint the windows and resurface the playground. Finally, the furniture had to be returned. Again this was no easy matter and the committee minutes record that:


The whole of the furniture has been returned after some difficulty as it was scattered in various part of the City, it having been loaned to other schools during the war period.


The work on Ninian Park and Lansdowne Road schools proceeded almost in tandem, drawing on a pool of 80 men hired by the Council for reconversion work, including 25 former soldiers. The cost for both schools was estimated at £4000 to be met by the military, with allowance made for equipment taken over for use by the schools. For example, the steam heating system at Ninian Park was valued at £315 with this sum deducted from the bill sent to the military. On the other side of the equation it was clear that the local authority was keen to cover its costs and the final bill included not just structural work but costs for clearing unwanted military material from the schools and the repair of equipment, including pianos, left at the schools and found to be damaged.


21 July 1919 was, therefore, a very special day. Although the school was not due to reopen until the beginning of the autumn term, the head teachers of both the girls’ and boys’ schools decided that the celebratory tea be held not at Court Road but at Ninian Park. The planning for the day had been ongoing for some time with the Education Committee allocating 1 shilling and 3 pence per pupil for schools to provide a tea and a sports afternoon. Where schools did not have facilities to make tea the authority hired and distributed 50 water boilers (ref.: BC/E/1/19, 3 July 1919, page 211).


As early as 23 May 1918 Margaret Ferguson noted in her log book:


I sent my numbers to Ed Office for which tea was to be provided for Peace celebration – 360+12=372 [EC42/3/2, 13 May 1919, p32].


It is not clear when the decision was made to provide the tea at Ninian Park but there is no doubt that the Education Committee was keen to show case its refurbished schools. Managing the celebration alongside the move must have been quite a feat of organisation. On 16 July Margaret Ferguson noted:


School closes today in order to have Thursday 17th and 18th inst for removal of all stock to Ninian Park School. On Monday 21st inst the Peace tea will be given to the scholars in Ninian Park School. The building is not quite ready but we can have the tea in the hall. After the Peace Tea our summer vacation begins [Ninian Park Girls’ School, log book, EC/42/3/2, 16 July 1919, p34].


Although on the day rain curtailed many of the outdoor festivities nothing could dampen the pupils’ enthusiasm and Margaret Ferguson recorded:


Log book 2


The Peace Tea given to the scholars on 21 July passed off very successfully; sports could not be held owing to the rain; but there were games in the central hall. They all enjoyed themselves very much and I had some difficulty to get them home. Sir Herbert and Lady Cory visited this Department and each of them addressed the children who thanked them for their liberality [EC42/3/2, 29 August 1919, p36].


Photographs of the celebrations across Cardiff show children in costume for the occasion as soldiers, sailors and nurses. Some schools staged a ‘Peace Tableau’ with pupils dressed as patriotic figures including Britannia.  There was clearly plenty of everything and it was reported that most opted for ginger beer rather than tea. Margaret Ferguson noted in the school log on 12 September that she was still distributing …sweets left over from Peace Tea… (ref.: EC42/3/2, 12 Sep 1919, p36).

As one final treat, at the beginning of the new term in August, the pupils received:


…mugs given by Councillor J C Gould MP in commemoration of the signing of the Armistice between the Allies and the Central Powers, 11 November 1918… [EC42/3/2, 26 August 1919, p35].


School was once more in session at Ninian Park. The war and the four year exile were over.


Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer


Records of Ninian Park Boys’ School and Ninian Park Girls’ School for this period can be viewed at Glamorgan Archive, ref. EC/42/1/1 and EC/42/3/1-2. The photographs of Ninian Park hospital in 1917 can be found at DX486/1/1-2. The records of the City of Cardiff Education Committee and its subcommittees are at BC/E/1/19.