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.

Glamorgan’s Blood: Dark Arteries, Old Veins

Here, are the stiffening hills, here, the rich cargo
Congealed in the dark arteries,
Old veins
That hold Glamorgan’s blood.
The midnight miner in the secret seams,
Limb, life, and bread.

– Mervyn Peake, Rhondda Valley

Mervyn Peake’s poem, Rhondda Valley, describes coal mining as the life blood of the Welsh Valleys. Indeed, the rapid growth of the coal industry during the 19th century led to the development of a whole new society in South Wales, with a focus on the local colliery. As such the South Wales coalfields have an important part to play in our understanding of the Industrial Revolution and of the history of Wales and Britain more generally.

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‘Pride of the Valleys’ [DNCB/64/60]. New communities developed in south Wales with a focus on the local colliery. Between 1901 and 1911 south Wales absorbed immigrants at a faster rate than anywhere else in the world except the USA.

This significance means that the archival records of the coal industry are also important as primary documentation of South Wales’ heritage.  The National Coal Board (NCB) collection at Glamorgan Archives spans the 19th and 20th centuries, documenting the development, changes and decline of an industry synonymous with South Wales, and charting the impact of the collieries on the lives and health of the people who worked in the industry. It is with this in mind that Glamorgan Archives have now begun the ‘Glamorgan’s Blood: Dark Arteries, Old Veins’ project to catalogue and conserve the NCB collection and the records of its predecessors through the assistance of a Wellcome Trust cataloguing grant.

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‘Pneumoconiosis, The Deadly Dust’ [DNCB/64/53]. Once catalogued, the NCB collection will enhance the possibilities for research into the health and social welfare of the mining communities of south Wales.

The NCB collection is varied in scope and content, from wage books and large scale colliery plans to photographs and accident report books. All of these records are important in their own way as representations of how the NCB and individual collieries operated. We can discover first-hand accounts of the dangers of working in the mines through entries in accident report books; learn about colliery disasters through official reports and enquiries; and understand more about the provision of healthcare and social wellbeing for miners and their families through records dealing with compensation for industrial illnesses such as pneumoconiosis, and documents concerning the introduction of the pithead baths to improve sanitation for colliers. The records can also show us how the collieries interacted with the workforce through material relating to subjects such as strikes and mineworkers unions. Overall, the variety of records within the collection serve to demonstrate the important, if not always happy, role of the colliery in the communities of South Wales.

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Current finding aids for the NCB collection are difficult to navigate and limit access to the collection

Material from and concerning the National Coal Board has been deposited at Glamorgan Archives on numerous occasions since the 1960s, leaving the Archives with over 80 separate deposits of material, all with varying levels of description, from boxes simply titled ‘Miscellaneous material’ to more helpfully categorised boxes with names of specific collieries already indicated. Although researchers can already come into the Archives’ searchroom to view material in the NCB collection, the 225 boxes, 470 rolls and 884 volumes are currently listed in a way that makes the collection hard to navigate and understand as a whole. The ‘Glamorgan’s Blood’ project will provide easier and greater access to the NCB collection through the creation of a comprehensive electronic catalogue (which will be available to search on our online catalogue, Canfod) and the physical conservation of damaged and dirty material.

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Our NADFAS volunteers have already begun the huge task of cleaning items from the NCB collection

Work on the ‘Glamorgan’s Blood’ project is now underway, with our team of volunteers already making a brilliant start on the cleaning of the volumes, and research being undertaken by the project archivist to build up a knowledge of the collection and the South Wales coal industry, in order to inform the organisation of the records. If you would like to find out more about the project keep an eye on the blog page and social media for project updates or contact us at glamro@cardiff.gov.uk.

New Digital Education Resources at Glamorgan Archives

Glamorgan Archives provides a variety of services to the schools, colleges and universities – and their students and teachers – within the local authority areas we serve.

We welcome visits from school groups of all ages.  School visits are free of charge and last up to two hours. We can accommodate a maximum of 30 children in one visit.

Visits can be self-guided, with teachers leading their students through research using primary resources from the Glamorgan Archives collection, with advice from professional archivists.  Structured workshops are also offered at the Archives.  Delivered by our staff they can be tailored to the locality of the school visiting.

To date, workshops have only been delivered onsite at Glamorgan Archives.  But, thanks to grant funding from the Welsh Government distributed through the Archives and Records Council Wales, our workshops are now available to download from our website for use in the classroom.

Each workshop includes a series of images of digitised documents from the Glamorgan Archives collection, with accompanying teacher notes.  The resources are aimed at Key Stage 2 but can be adapted for use at any level.

The topics featured are:

World War II

WW2

Find out about the impact the Second World War had on Cardiff and south Wales.  Discover how schools were affected; learn about air raids and air raid precautions; find out more about evacuees; explore how the war was fought on the Home Front through Dig for Victory and Make Do and Mend; see how rationing had an impact on everyday people in south Wales.

Sources used include school log books, maps, photographs, letters and much more.

Rich and Poor in Victorian Times

Victorians

Find out how rich people in south Wales lived in Victorian times; and discover how the poor Victorian people of south Wales led their lives.  Learn what was it like to go to school in Victorian times; explore the working lives of people in south Wales; discover more about the houses Victorian people lived in and the furniture and appliances they owned.

Sources used include census returns, maps, photographs, school log books, diaries and much more.

From the Collieries to Cardiff Docks: Industry and Shipping in South Wales

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Discover more about coal: where did it come from? How was it used? Where did it go? Learn how Welsh coal powered the world and explore how it was exported via Cardiff Docks.

Sources used include: maps, photographs, census returns, trade directories, shipping records and much more.

The First World War

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Discover more about the impact of the First World War on the people and communities of south Wales.  Learn about life at the front, about the people from south Wales who served in the war, and the care provided for injured soldiers; discover how the War affected life at home and in school; and explore the changing role of women during the war.

Sources used include school log books, photographs, letters, diaries and much more.

Shopping in the Past

Shopping

Learn about how the way we shop has changed over time.  Explore the changing face of the local high street and Cardiff city centre; discover more about the development of home delivery; find out about food rationing during difficult times; and learn about the treats on offer at cafes in the past.

Sources used include photographs, trade directories, building plans, census returns and much more.

The resources are available to download from the Glamorgan Archives website http://glamarchives.gov.uk/workshops/

 

 

Maps of the South Wales Coalfield

Glamorgan Archives is pleased to announce two new publications which have been produced to celebrate our 75th anniversary. To coincide with the 30th anniversary of the miners’ strike of 1984, two facsimile maps have been printed of the South Wales Coalfield, reprints of the popular maps which were first sold by the Archives in 2000.

Map of the South Wales Coalfield

Map of the South Wales Coalfield

Originally published by the Business Statistics Company in Cardiff the maps date from 1923 and 1927. They are finely detailed and published in colour showing the mineral takings of steam and bituminous seams, anthracite properties, the railways serving the district and the ports of shipment.

Map of the South Wales Coalfield

Map of the South Wales Coalfield

They are available for purchase at £6.00 each or £10.00 for the pair. Postage and packaging within the UK will be charged at £2.00. Please do get in contact if you would like to order a copy of either or both maps.