South Wales Coalfield Photographs – Mystery Solved!

Thank you to everyone who has been in touch with information concerning our previously unidentified collection of south Wales coalfield photographs. The response has been incredible and we really appreciate people taking the time to get in touch.

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Public response has enabled us to correctly identify this image as being of Roy Lewis, Face Electrician, D1544/1/16

The collection was transferred to Glamorgan Archives from ON at Fife Archives earlier this year and the photographs depict men working at Abercynon Colliery, scenes taken during the 1984/85 Miners’ Strike at Penrhiwceiber coal tips and views of derelict collieries. We had no information about the photographer and some of the people within the photographs were unidentified.

Following the media campaign, we now know that the photographer of the collection is Leslie Price, a former collier at Abercynon Colliery and keen amateur photographer. Mr Price came into the archive last week to talk to us about the photographs and discuss the stories behind the images and his passion for photography.

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Leslie Price, Photographer meeting Louise Clarke, Glamorgan’s Blood Archivist (image courtesy of Matt Murray, BBC)

Mr Price started taking photographs of the collieries in the 1960s. His aim was to tell the stories of the south Wales coalfield and its people. His images were featured in a number of exhibitions in Wales and throughout the UK, including at a mining museum in Fife, hence why they were found in Scotland.

Following responses from former Abercynon Colliery workers and their family members, we have been able to confirm, change and add names to the faces of those shown in the photographs. I am currently collating the information, ready to update the descriptions on our catalogue. Mr Price took these photographs shortly before the closure of Abercynon Colliery in 1988.

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Public response has enabled us to correctly identify this image as being of Terry Northam, Fitter   D1544/1/1

The coal picking photographs were taken by Mr Price at various times throughout the 1984/85 miners’ strike. The scenes were taken at Cwmcynon colliery tip, Penrhiwceiber. Some of the photographs show the derelict pit head baths, also known as the white house. Cwmcynon Colliery closed in 1949. Mr Price has kindly donated a further image from this series of photographs to Glamorgan Archives.

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The Coal Run, D1544/4/18

We would like to say thank you to Leslie for coming into the archive and providing us with the background to his work. We would also like to thank everyone who has been in touch with us. If anyone has any further information about the photographs we would still love to hear from you. The collection can be viewed on our catalogue under reference D1544.

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Colliery Closures: The End of Era

The records of the National Coal Board and its predecessors held at Glamorgan Archives show the ups and downs of the coal industry in south Wales. Through financial records we see how large colliery companies such as Powell Duffryn and Ocean Coal were performing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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Page from Pit Summaries of Cost of Coal, Ocean Coal Co. Ltd, 1900-1905 (D1400/2/5/1)

Come 1947 and the Nationalisation of the industry we see records showing the huge investment and reorganisation schemes that those in charge of the National Coal Board thought would secure the industry for years to come.

Unfortunately the history books tell us that, contrary to the claim made on the Betws Drift Mine (Carmarthenshire) promotional leaflet, the future was not bright for the coal industry, as less than 50 years after nationalisation the UK coal industry had all but ceased.

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Betws Drift Mine, Colliery Leaflet, Jan 1984 (DNCB/5/1/5/2)

The records held at Glamorgan Archives show us the steps that the National Coal Board took in their decision making when it came to the closure of the collieries. A pit closure register dating 1948-1970 gives information on output, reasons for closure, number of personnel, number of people transferred or retained, estimated redundancy figures, negotiations with the National Union of Mineworkers, notices given to men and pit closure date. This overview of reasons for closure is supplemented by files concerning individual colliery closures, containing closure reports, minutes, correspondence, meeting minutes and profit and loss accounts.

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Page from National Coal Board Pit Closure Register, 1948-1970 (DNCB/67/5/20)

Press releases issued concerning the closure of Ty Mawr/Lewis Merthyr, Coegnant, Brynlliw/Morlais, Britannia and Aberpergwm can be found in the Public Relations department files (ref.: DNCB/5/4/1/1). In addition to this, there is also a public relations file containing briefing notes and correspondence on colliery closures and wage disputes (ref.: DNCB/5/4/2/1) and a file concerning colliery closures, containing various lists of collieries that detail the dates they opened and the date and reason for closure (ref.: DNCB/5/4/2/8).

Following closure, some colliery sites were to be given a new lease of life. A file dating 1977-1987 contains correspondence concerning the fate of Lewis Merthyr Colliery (ref.: DNCB/67/7/45). The file includes correspondence and plans relating to the colliery site along with correspondence concerning the sale of the land and proposals to turn it into a heritage museum. Some of you may have been to the site in its current form as Rhondda Heritage Park.

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Lewis Merthyr Colliery, c.1950 (DNCB/14/1/17)

The closure of the collieries was the end of an era and a way of life for those in the south Wales coalfield. To commemorate this way of life and the end of the industry, souvenir leaflets were published celebrating the achievements of the collieries on the eve of closure.  Examples from Penallta and Mardy Collieries survive within the Glamorgan Archives collection (ref.: DNCB/5/3/4 and DNCB/5/3/5).

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Souvenir Leaflet, Mardy Colliery Closure, 1990 (DNCB/5/3/4)

Our catalogue Canfod provides more information on these items and other records relating to the rise and fall of the coal industry in south Wales. Start your search with the DNCB collection and see where it takes you. The cataloguing of the NCB records is still in progress, so keep checking Canfod for new material http://calmview.cardiff.gov.uk/

Louise Clarke, Glamorgan’s Blood Project Archivist

“Get your butty to wash your back”: Pithead Baths in the South Wales Coalfield

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DNCB/79/8/188: Three unidentified Colliers, Caerau Bath Opening, 6 Mar 1954

As the Glamorgan’s Blood project continues, material concerning the colliery pithead baths comes to light within the Glamorgan Archives collection.

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DNCB/66/197: Pithead Baths, Treharris, General view of the pithead baths, c. 1921

The introduction of pithead baths from the 1920s onwards was a huge benefit to those working in the south Wales coalfield. Before the pithead baths, miners would return home from work in dirty clothes, wet from water in the pit and sweat, increasing the hazards of mine work by adding the danger of contracting illness. The introduction of the pithead baths offered some protection against these types of ailments, with showering and changing facilities allowing miners to return home in clean and dry clothing. 1

Washing at the pithead baths also meant that miners were not having to wash at home in the family sitting room, a task that often required the miner’s wife to prepare the miners’ bath and clean and wash his dirty clothes, tasks that brought coal dust and dirt into the family home. The preparation of the bath water was also dangerous to the miner’s family as:

…many children were badly scalded – and often died – as a result of falling into prepared bath water or upsetting water which was being boiled in readiness for the bath. One south Wales coroner claimed that he conducted more inquests into the deaths of children who were scaled than he did into miners who were killed underground. 2

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DNCB/66/3: Penallta Miner bathing, c.1930

One of the main areas of the National Coal Board collection concerning the Pithead Baths is the colliery building plans collection. As part of the Glamorgan’s Blood project the archivist and project conservator are currently working simultaneously to catalogue the material and assess it for conservation treatment and storage requirements.

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DNCB/1/4/2/10: Abercynon Pithead Baths, Apr 1950

The wide range of sizes, processes and materials present in this collection pose a variety of conservation issues and requirements in terms of storage, access to the material and long term preservation. The plans for the pithead baths in the NCB collection display a variety of different techniques and processes for producing architectural drawings.  Diazotypes, blueprints and pencil and ink drawings appear most frequently on a range of substrates.  Examples of wash-off prints, gel-lithographs and silver halide prints also appear in this collection, displaying different conservation issues.  The most pressing conservation challenge is the heavily degraded acetate support used as both a tracing material and as a negative to create duplicate plans, appearing in this collection as a base for both pencil and ink drawings and diazotypes. The majority of these acetate plans display advanced plastic deterioration in the form of embrittlement which has caused them to crack and shatter, making them impossible to produce in the searchroom.  Digitisation of these plans will be the only way to make them accessible, as options are limited in terms of conservation treatment and long term preservation of this type of material.

 

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DNCB/60/65/4: Example of a Shattered Plan, Acetate, 1951

The plans show the pithead bath facilities from collieries across south Wales, dating so far from between the 1930s-1970s. Through floor plans, site plans and elevations researchers will be able to see what facilities were on offer to colliery workers, including separate clean and dirty entrances and locker rooms, shower facilities, boot cleaning areas, medical treatment centres and canteens. On nationalisation these facilities became ‘a necessary piece of equipment for production’ and the plans and other material within the Glamorgan Archives collection will ensure that these buildings, now mostly vanished from the south Wales landscape, are recorded for future generations.

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DNCB/1/4/13/2-3: Perspective Views of Cwm Colliery Pithead Baths, Jun 1952

Louise Clarke, Glamorgan’s Blood Project Archivist

Stephanie Jamieson, Glamorgan’s Blood Project Conservator

  1. Evans, Neil; Jones, Dot, ‘A Blessing for the Miner’s Wife: the campaign for pithead baths in the South Wales coalfield, 1908-1950’, Llafur : Journal of Welsh Labour History, p.7
  2. Evans, Neil; Jones, Dot, p.6

Davies the Ocean: 130 years since the incorporation of the Ocean Coal Company Ltd.

David Davies, often cited as the first Welsh millionaire, was responsible for the development of railways within Wales and was also the man behind the creation of Barry Docks. Alongside these enterprises, he also found success as a colliery owner, earning the nickname “Davies the Ocean” for his development of the Ocean Coal Co. Ltd, which was incorporated 130 years ago in April 1887.

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David Davies [DCOMC/30/3/78]

Davies entered the coal mining business in the 1860s, first hitting coal in April 1886, 15 months after the sinking of his first colliery, Maindy Colliery in Ton Pentre, Rhondda. In 1867 David Davies & Company was formed and new sinkings continued in the Rhondda for the next ten years. Davies won a worldwide market with his Ocean Steam Coal and his collieries continued to be a success. The whole enterprise became the Ocean Coal Co. Ltd, incorporated in 1887, with Davies controlling the main portion of the capital.

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Extract from Park Colliery annual return for the year 1889 [D1400/2/2/1]

Records of the Ocean Coal Co. Ltd survive at Glamorgan Archives and have recently been catalogued as part of the Wellcome Trust funded Glamorgan’s Blood project. The records span the date range 1889-1944 and can be used to provide insight into the running of the financial side of the business through records such as annual returns and pay books, and the practical side of the business through illustrated volumes depicting sections of the coal face. The records can also be drawn upon to give a glimpse into working conditions, with accident and compensation records providing first-hand accounts of the dangers of the mining industry through entries relating to the Ocean Coal Collieries Maindy, Park, Dare, Western, Eastern, Garw, Lady Windsor, Deep Navigation and Avon.

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Geological cross section showing the working face at Park Pits [D1400/4/2/1]

Paybooks and accident and compensation registers provide an insight to the lives of those working at the coal face, but an understanding of the people involved at the higher level of the coal industry can also be gained from a volume of royalty and wayleave payments within the collection. Royalties and wayleaves were the payments made to the owner of the land being worked by the colliery company and the volume gives an indication of how much money individuals received simply for the use of their land. Contrasting this volume with the colliers’ paybooks and accident and compensation registers within the collection serves to highlight the difference that existed at each end of the pay scale.

The collection also contains Special Rules issued to the Ocean Collieries Coal Co. Ltd. under the Coal Mines Regulation Act of 1887, which demonstrate how the government were legislating the mining industry in the late 19th century. These documents show the relationship between the individual Ocean collieries and the H M Inspector of Mines, and they also tell us something about the Ocean Coal workforce. The documents are written in both English and Welsh, indicating that a proportion of the workforce were Welsh speakers only. The fact that the company had the documents published bilingually shows that they understood this and were keen for the whole of the workforce to adhere to the rules.

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A page from the Special Rules issued to the Ocean Collieries Coal Co. Ltd. under the Coal Mines Regulation Act 1887 showing bilingual content [D1400/4/3/2]

The records of the Ocean Coal Company Ltd are an important resource for David Davies’ success as a coal magnate and as a primary source for workings of the coal industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The Ocean Coal Company Ltd’s records, and those of its predecessor the David Davies Company, are now available to view on our catalogue, Canfod. See references D1400, D1402 and DX316 for detailed listings of the records that the Archives holds.