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.

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Preswylfa, Clive Road, Cardiff

Preswylfa stood in Clive Road, Canton, on the northern side of its junction with Romilly Road.  It is unclear when the house was built but it was probably quite new in 1861 when the census records its occupants as Robert Rees and his family.  Forty-four year old Rees, a Wesleyan Methodist Minister, was Superintendent of fourteen chapels in the Cardiff District.  The house, then, would have been surrounded mainly by fields and open countryside.  It has been suggested that Preswylfa was built by Lewis Davis, a Rhondda coal-owner – who does seem to have lived there in the late 1860s; this is not inconsistent with the 1861 record since Davis is known to have contributed significantly to Wesleyan funds.

By 1871, the property had been acquired by Charles Thompson, a major partner in the Docks-based Spillers milling business.  Although Preswylfa passed out of the Thompson family after Charles’s death on 1 June 1889, it is pertinent to note that at least three of his sons made significant contributions to the cultural and leisure assets of Cardiff and its environs.  James Pyke Thompson (1846-1897) built the Turner House gallery in Penarth, which later became an outpost of the National Museum of Wales, of which he was also an important benefactor.  Charles Thompson (1852-1938) gifted the gardens now known as Thompson’s Park while Herbert Metford Thompson (1856-1939) served as a city councillor and alderman and, with his brother Charles, was instrumental in enabling the city to buy Llandaff Fields as an open space.  Herbert wrote books on various subjects; ‘An Amateur’s Study of Llandaff Cathedral’ was printed for private circulation in 1924, while his history of Cardiff was published in 1930.  Charles (junior) and Herbert were both created Honorary Freemen of Cardiff, while James Pyke Thompson is commemorated in the name of a gallery at the National Museum in Cathays Park.

Directories of the 1890s list the Scottish ship-owning brothers John (later Sir John) and Marcus Gunn at Preswylfa.  By 1901 though, their place had been taken by John Mullins, a corn merchant, who appears still to have been there in 1908.  At the 1911 census, Henry Thomas Box, a solicitor, lived at Preswylfa with his wife, two sons, and a household of four servants.  Cardiff directories continue to list Box until 1915, after which Preswylfa disappears from available directories until 1924, when the occupant was Henry Woodley, founder of the South Wales butchery business which bore his name.  He remained there until his death on 17 March 1950.

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By 1952, Preswylfa had become a public health clinic and it continued to serve various Health Service roles until at least the 1970s.  Mary Traynor drew Preswylfa in October 1996 and it was subsequently demolished.  The site is now occupied by Maes yr Annedd, a development of around thirty modern houses.  Since the Welsh words preswylfa and annedd both translate into English as dwelling or abode, the new name retains a tenuous link with the former house.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted:

Coliseum Cinema, Cowbridge Road, Cardiff

The Canton Coliseum Cinema was designed by local architect, Edwin J. Jones and built by the Canton Cinema Company in 1912.  The approved building plans imply that it would seat 899 downstairs with a further 192 in the gallery, but comments on the Cinema Treasures website suggest that the seating capacity might have been significantly less than this.  Located at 139-143 Cowbridge Road East, on the corner of North Morgan Street, it opened on 6th January 1913, with The Panther’s Prey as its principal feature film.  Around 1930 it was equipped with a RCA sound system and was re-named Coliseum Cinema.

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Like many other cinemas, it became a bingo hall in the 1960s.  In the late 1980s it was demolished and the site was subsequently re-developed by Castle Leisure Ltd (part of the business empire established by Solomon Andrews, and still owned by his descendents), who claim that it was ‘the very first purpose-built bingo club in the UK’.

David Webb, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer

Sources consulted: