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Heavy industry collections

Curator: Robert Protheroe Jones BSc

The special industries of Wales - coal; iron, steel and tin plate; non-ferrous mining and smelting; and slate quarrying, ensured an international prominence for the nation in the nineteenth century and in the early twentieth century. The historic subsidiary industries - woollen manufacture, founding and engineering, stone quarrying, brick and tile manufacture, and chemicals were the most notable - were all closely linked to the main industries and their communities. The coal, slate and woollen industries are interpreted in situ at Big Pit National Coal Museum, the National Slate Museum, and the National Wool Museum. The vast scale of the iron, steel, tin plate and non-ferrous smelting plants precludes their conversion into museums and so these industries, together with the subsidiary industries, are interpreted through representative small artefacts, models, photographs and archival material, films and oral history recordings. Most of the canals and horse drawn tramroads of Wales were closely connected to the iron industry.

The heavy industry collections

  • A representative selection of hand tools

  • A wide range of product examples

  • A representative collection of models.

The massive changes in the traditional industries of Wales in the 1950s were a considerable spur to the creation of the Department of Industry which came into being just in time to collect material from the steel and tin plate industries which were undergoing the most profound changes of all Welsh industries at that time. During the 1960s most significant metal mining and smelting sites were photographed by the Department's staff and a wide range of artefacts collected during land reclamation schemes, enabling many gaps in the collections to be filled. The very nature of heavy industry has resulted in the collection of historic photographs being crucial to our understanding of peoples' working experiences.

Researching the Welsh metal industry
  • National Museum Cardiff

    National Museum Cardiff

    Discover art, natural history and geology. With a busy programme of exhibitions and events, we have something to amaze everyone, whatever your interest – and admission is free!

  • St Fagans National History Museum

    St Fagans

    St Fagans is one of Europe's foremost open-air museums and Wales's most popular heritage attraction.

  • Big Pit National Coal Museum

    Big Pit

    Big Pit is a real coal mine and one of Britain's leading mining museums. With facilities to educate and entertain all ages, Big Pit is an exciting and informative day out.

  • National Wool Museum

    National Wool Museum

    Located in the historic former Cambrian Mills, the Museum is a special place with a spellbinding story to tell.

  • National Roman Legion Museum

    National Roman Legion Museum

    In AD 75, the Romans built a fortress at Caerleon that would guard the region for over 200 years. Today at the National Roman Legion Museum you can learn what made the Romans a formidable force and how life wouldn't be the same without them.

  • National Slate Museum

    National Slate Museum

    The National Slate Museum offers a day full of enjoyment and education in a dramatically beautiful landscape on the shores of Llyn Padarn.

  • National Waterfront Museum

    National Waterfront Museum

    The National Waterfront Museum at Swansea tells the story of industry and innovation in Wales, now and over the last 300 years.

  • Rhagor: Explore our collections

    Rhagor (Welsh for ‘more’) offers unprecedented access to the amazing stories that lie behind our collections.