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 http://calmview.cardiff.gov.uk/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=DMAW&pos=1

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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

 

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.

DARP-3-24-web

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:

The Diary of Joan Mark of Cardiff, Nurse, 1939

Glamorgan Archives recently received a diary written by Joan Mark of Cardiff for the year 1939, the year Glamorgan Record Office – now Glamorgan Archives – was established.

Joan as nurse

Joan Mark in her nursing uniform

Joan was born in 1921, was educated at Howell’s School and was only 17 when she started to write her diary, recording her work as a trainee nurse at the Prince of Wales Orthopaedic Hospital in Cardiff. The Boots Scribbling Diary came complete with coupons for free gifts such as lemon barley crystals, indigestion mixture and Devonshire violets talcum powder.

Joan gives us a fascinating insight into her working life, set against the background of the impending War which broke out in the September of that year.  She records being on her feet all day, …was nearly sleeping on my feet is one of her entries.  She had to live in rooms in the hospital when she was on duty, and the constant sound of patients ringing their bells is noted many times; bells, bells, bells she writes.

Bells

Joan enjoyed working on the children’s ward.

Prince of Wales Hospital

Staff and patients at the Prince of Wales Hospital, 1930s – Joan is standing 3rd from left

Diseases such as scarlet fever, chicken pox and diphtheria are mentioned.  When helping at the babies’ clinic she records:

All sorts of babies came. We had to scrape the dirt off some before we could see their little faces.

Babies clinic

She also had to check for head lice and on one occasion found that several children were ‘alive’ with lice and had to try and get rid of them using Derbac soap and Dettol before the Ward Sister returned.

Joan was also expected to help out with the laundry, darn serviettes and cut miles and miles of gauze and wool for bandages.  On her days off she also had to attend lectures and take tests.  On one occasion she tried to swot for a test …but fell asleep.

One constant worry was the shortage of staff in the hospital. I hope we shall get some more staff soon, she writes, and that on one day the other staff were …all shouting and bawling at me.  They seem to think I can produce mattresses, plaster knives and clean counterpaynes out of the air.

The Matron and Sister ruled with a rod of iron and nurses could have their days off cancelled for misdemeanors such as not reporting a broken light or an untidy bedroom. In March they were given new nursing caps to wear:

New caps

We all had new caps given us this morning. They are all terrible and show all our hair at the back.  Matron told me to put mine in curlers, but I shan’t even if I’m the only one left with straight hair.

It wasn’t all work for Joan and she records visits to her family and her social life: trips to Barry Island, shopping at Woolworths, listening to the wireless, regular trips to the cinema, walks in Roath Park and visits to Star Street Chapel and Roath Methodist Chapel on a Sunday. In January 1939 the hospital maids had their annual dance, when the nurses had to wait on them and washed up afterwards; we were allowed to dance with each other as well at the end, but were told not to take the maids’ men.  Joan couldn’t go to the dinner and dance that had been organised for the nurses:

…so we held a dance on our own in the bedroom with the wireless and gas-fire in full blast and lemonade and biscuits as refreshments.

Staff dance

She was on duty on Christmas Day and was given presents from the Matron and other nurses. A band came at 7.30am and most of the nurses were dancing. Joan played with the children on the ward and a choir came to sing carols, followed by Christmas dinner at 7pm.

From August onwards the talk of War clouds her diary. On 24 August Joan writes:

Everyone seems to think there is going to be a war

War 24 Aug

Two days later she says:

They are making our Out Patients Department into a Decontamination Centre and pasting black paper over the windows of the Hospital. The International Situation seems pretty serious but I don’t think there will be a war.

Joan was due to take her holidays:

Sister Blake says I may have my holidays but must come back if War is Declared.

On 1 September she records that Germany had started bombing Poland and that she had gone on a trip to the beach where she …met two sweet little German exile children. Joan was on leave when War was declared on 3 September and on that day she records that the Germans had torpedoed a British liner (this was the SS Athena). A few days later Joan travels to Nottingham to visit relatives and she helps her Uncle to black out the windows.  She had difficulties travelling back to Cardiff as all the trains had been stopped and were being used to transport troops.

Preparations were in full swing when she went back to work the following week.  They only had eight patients and from then on were only going to admit 50% of their capacity so that the Hospital would be ready to receive any wounded troops.  On one day Joan had to strip and remake 48 beds in readiness. The Sister gave the nurses some advice:

Bomb

If a bomb falls on the Hospital – don’t rush into the flames or make martyrs of yourselves. Get under the beds and the quicker the better.

The Matron was worried …because the Russians have entered Poland.

The Sister said, What does it matter as long as they don’t enter the Prince of Wales Hospital.

Russians

As the diary comes to an end there are glimpses of the day to day changes that War has brought to the country: being warned for having too much light showing in a window, the issue of National Registration cards, visits to air raid shelters, a colleague learning to knit socks for the troops and the evacuation of a family member.

Joan

Joan Mark of Cardiff

Joan went on to qualify as a registered nurse in 1943, but tragically died in a car accident in 1951, aged 29.