Glamorgan’s Blood: health and welfare records in the coal industry collections – Ocean and National Magazines

The current cataloguing and conservation of the National Coal Board and pre-vesting colliery company records held at Glamorgan Archives has been made possible by a Wellcome Trust Research Resources Grant. The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health and as such one of the project’s main aims has been to improve access to records related to medical and welfare issues. In this series of blog posts project archivist, Louise Clarke, highlights some of the types of material that you are able to find on this topic within the coalfield collection.

Ocean and National Magazines

The Ocean and National Magazine series are magazines written for and by the coalfield workers. They contain articles, cartoons and news from the collieries, providing a snapshot of life in the coalfield in the 1920s and 1930s. Each magazine also contains Welsh language content.

With features on pithead baths, hospitals, welfare and recreation, the magazine can be used to see what provisions were available for colliery workers in the 1920s and 1930s. Many of these topics are also represented in cartoons within the magazines.

Image 1

Plan of Park Colliery Pithead Baths, Feb 1929 edition (D1400-9-2-2)

Image 2

Photographs of Pentwyn Cottage Hospital Treorchy, Feb 1929 edition (D1400-9-2-2)

Image 3

Pithead Baths at Park, May 1929 edition (D1400-9-2-5)

Image 4

Cartoon – ‘Scenes That Are Brightest’ – the pithead baths, Dec 1933 edition (D1400-9-6-12)

With such a variety of topics, these magazines are an amazing resource and Andrew Booth, one of our volunteers, has recently completed an index to the magazines, making them searchable on our catalogue (ref.: D1400/9).

Andrew has also written a series of blog posts highlighting some of the topics that can be found within the magazines.

Glamorgan’s Blood: Health and Welfare Records in the Coal Industry Collections – Photographs

Cataloguing and conservation of National Coal Board (NCB) and pre-vesting colliery company records held at Glamorgan Archives has been undertaken through the Glamorgan’s Blood project, and made possible by a Wellcome Trust Research Resources Grant. The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health and, as such, one of the project’s main aims has been to improve access to records related to medical and welfare issues. In a series of blog posts over the coming weeks we will highlight the types of material that you are able to find on this topic within the coalfield collection.

Photographs

The National Coal Board collection contains a large number of photographic prints and negatives, some of which can be used in the understanding of health and welfare within the coal industry.

Photographs of the interiors and exteriors of the pithead baths show the architecture of the buildings and the facilities on offer for colliery workers, such as medical treatment centres and first aid rooms.

Picture1

Pithead baths, Wyllie Colliery, mid-20th century (DNCB/14/4/135/23)

Picture2

First Aid Room, Western Colliery, 1951 (DNCB/14/4/133/1)

Picture3

First Aid Room, Aberbaiden Colliery, 1951 (DNCB/14/4/1/1)

Images within the NCB negative collection show men at the Talygarn Rehabilitation Centre. In 1957, Talygarn treated 1,018 patients and at that time 88% of the men treated there were fit to return to some form of work, with 59.6% of the men treated returning to their normal work.

Picture4

Talygarn Miners’ Rehabilitation Centre, 1966 (DNCB/14/4/147/108)

Picture5

Talygarn Miners’ Rehabilitation Centre, 1951 (DNCB/14/4/153/272)

The negative collection can be used to show the importance placed on first aid training by the NCB, with images of NCB inter-colliery first aid competitions from the 1960s showing men being assessed on their first aid skills in scenario based challenges. There are also images showing first aid procedures that were used for an NCB handbook, along with images of safety equipment such as the trambulance and underground first aid stations.

Picture6

Members of Coedely Plant First Aid Team during competition, 1968 (DNCB/14/4/158/9/1/30)

Picture7

Trambulance, 1955 (DNCB/14/4/87/100)

Picture8

Rescue/medical training exercise, Penllwyngwent Colliery, [1950s] (DNCB/14/4/104/9)

Picture9

Ambulance competition, 1953 (DNCB/14/4/155/43)

The NCB photographic collection is now fully catalogued under reference DNCB/14.

Picture10

NUM Executive being retrained into self-rescuers, Dinas Rescue Station, 1973 (DNCB/14/4/158/8/7)

 

Glamorgan’s Blood: Health and Welfare Records in the Coal Industry Collections – Pithead Baths Plans

The current cataloguing and conservation of the National Coal Board and pre-vesting colliery company records held at Glamorgan Archives has been made possible by a Wellcome Trust Research Resources Grant. The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health and as such one of the project’s main aims has been to improve access to records related to medical and welfare issues. In this series of blog posts project archivist, Louise Clarke, highlights some of the types of material that you are able to find on this topic within the coalfield collection.

Pithead baths plans

From 1926 onwards, the Miners’ Welfare Fund issued a levy to fund a baths building programme. Plans relating to baths built under the Miners’ Welfare Fund, right the way through to baths built or modified by the NCB post-1947, are available to view at Glamorgan Archives, with the catalogue of the 915 building plans within the National Coal Board collection now available on our online catalogue (DNCB/1/4).

Picture 1

Fernhill Colliery pithead baths, sketch plan, 1950 (DNCB/1/4/21/1)

The pithead bath plans show the showering and changing facilities on offer to workers as well as additional welfare areas such as medical treatment centres and canteens. Through floor plans, site plans and elevations researchers are able to see the 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.

Picture 2

Cwm Colliery, Pithead Baths, Perspective View from Approach Road, 1952 (DNCB/1/4/13/2)

The architecture of these buildings was also important, with the pithead baths designed to create an atmosphere of health and brightness. They used a lot of glass as light, especially natural light, was deemed necessary not only to aid cleaning and hygiene, but to create an atmosphere of health and brightness – very important for miners who had just spent a shift in poor light underground. Window schedules and building elevations within the collection show how glass was incorporated into the design of these buildings.

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

DNCB79_8_188

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.

DNCB66-197

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

DNCB66-3

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.

DNCB-14-2-10 Abercynon Pithead Baths cropped compressed

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.

 

DNCB-60-65-4 shattered plan 2 cropped

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.

DNCB-1-4-13-2&3 Cwm PHB cropped compressed

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