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Collectors & Collections

December 2014

First World War collections

Posted by Elen Phillips on 17 December 2014
Butterfly shaped cotton belt buckle, decorated with wire and glass beads.

Butterfly shaped cotton belt buckle, decorated with wire and glass beads. Made by Corporal Walter Stinson of the 11th (County of London) Battalion (Finsbury Rifles) when a patient at the St Fagans Red Cross VAD Hospital.

Bronze memorial plaque, often known as the 'Dead Man's Penny'. Relief of Britannia holding a laurel wreath, surrounded by the inscription: 'HE DIED FOR FREEDOM AND HONOUR BRINDLEY [sic] RYHS [sic] EDMUNDS'

Bronze memorial plaque, often known as the 'Dead Man's Penny'. Relief of Britannia holding a laurel wreath, surrounded by the inscription: 'HE DIED FOR FREEDOM AND HONOUR BRINDLEY [sic] RYHS [sic] EDMUNDS'. Sent to the family of Private Brinley Rhys Edmunds of Dunraven St, Barry.

Attachments for a prosthetic arm. Worn by John Williams of Penrhyncoch who was wounded in one arm during the First World War.

After months of behind the scenes activity – rummaging in stores, researching, documenting, conserving and digitising – Amgueddfa Cymru’s First World War catalogue is now online. At the moment, the catalogue includes over 500 records – archives, photographs and objects from the collections housed here at St Fagans. New records will be uploaded over the next few weeks, including some fantastic additions from the industry collections. We’ll keep you posted.

I can’t tell you how much this project has meant to me and my colleagues. It may sound corny, but we really do feel emotionally connected to the people whose lives are commemorated in the collections. From Walter Stinson’s delicate beadwork jewellery, to Brinley Rhys Edmunds and his typo-ridden memorial plaque, these stories have captured our imagination. To us, Walter and Brinley are no longer anonymous names on file.

Talking of files, it hasn’t been easy to pull-together our First World War collections. When curators speak of ‘newly-discovered’ or ‘hidden’ objects, please don’t think that museums are full of misplaced or lost items – there are no ‘dusty vaults’ here! The issue is usually a lack of documentation – the information stored on file which helps us to locate and interpret the collections in our care. Collecting methodologies have changed over the years, so too standards in documentation.

Many objects featured in the database were originally catalogued according to their function, making it difficult for present-day curators to draw-out their First World War significance. A classic example being a set of prosthetic arm attachments used by John Williams of Penrhyncoch. These were found in the medical collections, catalogued in 1966 under ‘orthopaedic equipment’. By chance, I was looking at the accession file a few months ago and found a scribbled note saying ‘wounded in one arm during WW1.’ If only the curator had asked more questions at the time, especially given that John Williams himself donated the arm attachments to the Museum!

Thankfully, accession files are never closed indefinitely. New research and the reassessment of collections through community partnerships means that we’re constantly editing and tweaking our records. So, if you knew a John Williams from Penrhyncoch who lost an arm during the First World War, please do get in touch.

November 2014

A Window into the Industry Collections

Posted by Mark Etheridge on 28 November 2014

The 14th October 2014 was the 101st anniversary of the Universal Colliery disaster at Senghenydd. 440 people were killed in this disaster on the 14th October 1913. It is still the worst mining disaster in the U.K. Last year on the centennial of the disaster a Welsh National Memorial to all mine disasters was unveiled on the site of the pit head. The memorial can be seen on the front of this memorial service programme acquired recently.

You can read an article on this disaster on our website. It is also possible to view all the objects from our collections that relate to this disaster on our ‘Images of Industry’ online database. Check it all out here

This interesting autograph book was donated this month. The book contains autographs, inscriptions and drawings connected with the South Wales Miners Federation, and most date to 1926. There are also some inscriptions relating to the Spanish Civil War. The photograph here shows the main inscription on the inside of the front cover.

This month also saw the launch of our First World War online database. It currently contains all objects and documents from the social & cultural history collections. It will soon include all our WW1 related objects from the industry collections as well. The site can be viewed here

To complement the launch of this database, staff from across Amgueddfa Cymru were involved in an ‘Explore Your Archives’ event held at the Oakdale Institute at St. Fagans: National History Museum. This event was an opportunity to show some original documents and photographs to members of the public, and promote the work we do in looking after these important collections.

Mark Etheridge

Curator: Industry & Transport

Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW

October 2014

A Window into the Industry Collections

Posted by Mark Etheridge on 28 October 2014

During October we were fortunate to be donated this interesting gunpowder bag used at Curtis's and Harvey Ltd.’s gunpowder factory in Glynneath. Their monogram can be seen on the front of the cotton bag. It was used by the donor's great grandmother Elizabeth Thomas. She left school aged about 14 to work on a farm, but later began work at this gunpowder factory during the First World War. This timely donation allowed us to put this object on display at the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea in the exhibition “Working for Victory: Welsh Industry and the First World War” which runs until 15th March 2015.

This month we purchased three share certificates to add to our important collection of Welsh share certificates.

The first is for five £100 shares for The Abercwmeiddaw Slate Quarry Company Limited and is dated 1898. It was a Liverpool based company registered in 1876 to acquire the slate quarry of the same name at Corris which had been opened in the 1840s. The company operated as a middle size quarry (in 1882 it employed 188 men producing 4,000 tons of slate) until it was wound up in 1905 as the Welsh trade declined. A new company of similar name was formed in 1911 and reopened the quarry on a smaller scale, until ceasing to exist in 1938.

The second certificate is for one £50 share in the Pen-y-Bryn Slate Company Limited, and is dated 1882. Registered in 1881 to acquire slate quarries at Nantlle that originated in the eighteenth century and which had been worked on some scale since the 1830s. The company was a typical mid-sized concern, operating four quarry pits serviced by Blondins in typical Nantlle style. In 1883 it employed 240 men and produced 5,000 tons of slate. The company failed in 1887 and the quarry closed until 1895 when it was reopened on a smaller scale until the 1940s.


The final certificate is printed on vellum and is a £50 share in the Blaenavon Iron & Coal Company, and is dated 8 September 1836. This company was an early joint stock company (with an enormous capital of £40,000) established to acquire the iron works and collieries from the Hill family and their partners. The new company considerably expanded the works and began a new works at Forgeside, built many houses, and introduced steam locomotives, making the works one of the leading UK iron producers. It became a limited liability concern in 1864.

On 26th August 1892 at explosion at Parc Slip Colliery killed 112 men and boys. This new accession is one of two booklets of letters for the Tondu Explosion Relief (Cardiff) Fund which would have been sent out to raise money for the relief fund. They are dated Town Hall, Cardiff 3rd September 1892.

We have a small collection of objects and photographs relating to this disaster including a commemorative mug which can be seen here


This brick was manufactured at one of the Hedley Brothers collieries, probably in the Bryncoch area. It was recovered from the building known as St. Peters Schoolroom on Brecon Road, Pontardawe. Amgueddfa Cymru holds the Welsh national collection of bricks, and this is an important addition.

The final object this month is a colliery official’s yardstick (also known as Deputy's stick). It was used by the last N.C.B. Manager at Big Pit before it closed as a working mine in 1979. A yardstick was carried by officials as an aid in the process of testing for gas. Before about 1960 there was a hole at the top of the stick into which the deputy could fit the hook of his lamp in order to raise it into the roof to test gas. More recently a special sampling valve could be fitted onto the ferrule at the other end of the stick in order that gas samples could be taken using a sampling bulb which is then injected into a Garforth type safety lamp.

Mark Etheridge

Curator: Industry & Transport

Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW

Make an Aria

Posted by Sioned Williams on 27 October 2014
Speed-dating session with composers and writers
Speed-dating session with composers and writers
Looking at objects from Museum’s collection
Looking at objects from Museum’s collection
Necklace made at St Fagans by convalescing soldier, Walter Stinson
Necklace made at St Fagans by convalescing soldier, Walter Stinson
The Italian garden, a possible location for an aria?
The Italian garden, a possible location for an aria?
» View full post to see all images

What is an aria? That was the question posed by Music Theatre Wales Director, Michael McCarthy to kick-off this very exciting collaborative project. The Make an Aria scheme is a partnership between Music Theatre Wales (MTW) and the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (RWCMD) giving young composers an opportunity to have-a-go at opera. This time, they are using St Fagans Castle and the Museum’s collections as their inspiration. A group of composers from RWCMD teamed with creative writers will ‘make an aria’ from scratch.

So where do you start? A speed-dating session was a good way to establish the best creative match for composer and writer. When everyone was paired-up, curator Elen Phillips gave an introduction to the material for the arias – the story of St Fagans Castle during the Great War.

The Windsor-Clive family of St Fagans Castle were at the centre of events during these turbulent years; Lord Windsor as chairman of the Welsh Army Corps and Lady Windsor as President of the Red Cross Society in Glamorgan. Grief-stricken by the loss of their youngest son, Archer, who was killed in action, they opened the Castle grounds to set-up a hospital run by volunteer nurses or VADs.

The stories were brought alive by looking at objects from the Museum’s collections; a nurses’ uniform from the hospital, a delicate necklace made by one of the wounded soldiers and a field-communion set used on the battlefield. At this point we were joined by members of the Armed Forces community, the 203 Welsh Field Hospital Medics who gave us a completely new take on some of these objects and stories. It just proves that working collaboratively can bring some unexpected and rewarding results. We will continue to work with the Armed Forces in co-curating some of the exhibits in the new galleries at St Fagans but that’s another blog for another day.

We then led the composers and writers on a tour of the Castle and grounds; the old site of the WW1 hospital, the Italian garden where the soldiers recuperated and the greenhouses where the land girls may have worked. Any of these locations could be the setting to perform the arias in the summer of 2015. I think that everyone left with their heads bubbling with ideas. All we can do now is wait.

Fanny Eaton, the Jamaican-born model in Millais' Jephthah

Posted by Stephanie Roberts on 23 October 2014
John Everett Millais, Jephthah (1867)

Last month we were given a fascinating insight into the life of Fanny Eaton, one of the models for John Everett Millais’ Jephthah (1867), which is currently on display in our Art in Victorian Britain gallery. Fanny is the figure at the far right of the painting, standing just before a curtain and wearing a yellow hood.

We were delighted to hear from Brian Eaton, Fanny’s great-grandson, who came with his wife Mary to see the painting. They first became interested in Fanny while researching their family tree, and since then have done a considerable amount of research into her personal history.

At the same time curators and art historians have become increasingly fascinated by Fanny, particularly following the exhibition Black Victorians: Black People in British Art 1800-1900 at Manchester and Birmingham Art Galleries in 2005-6, and the accompanying catalogue written by the show’s curator Jan Marsh.

Fanny was born in Jamaica in 1835 but by 1851 was working as a servant in London where she lived with her mother Matilda Foster. Within a few years had begun to model for several Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic artists including Frederick Sandys, Albert Moore and Rebecca Solomon, probably to earn extra income.  Her striking features made her a popular choice with 19th century artists. Dante Gabriel Rossetti compared her to the Pre-Raphaelite ‘stunner’ Jane Morris.

The earliest studies of Fanny that we know of are pencil studies drawn in 1859 by Simeon Solomon. These were used as studies for his Mother of Moses, now in the collection of Delaware Art Museum, US. When this painting was displayed in the Royal Academy in 1860, a reviewer for the Athenaeum thought her features represented 'an exagerated Jewish type’.1

This is one of the interesting things about Fanny. As Jan Marsh has pointed out in Black Victorians, although originally from Jamaica, she was described in her day as being of ‘mixed race’ and artists of the time used her distinctive features to represent a variety of different ethnicities or ‘types’. This is perhaps what attracted Millais to use her in Jephthah.

Jephthah seems to be the last painting to feature Fanny, although there may be more that are not yet identified. Brian and Mary Eaton are continuing with their research, and are particularly interested in finding out about Fanny’s early childhood in Jamaica and the circumstances that led to her moving to London with her mother.

We are grateful to Brian and Mary for sharing their findings, and hope that much more information about Fanny will come to light!

1. 19 May 1860, pages 688-90. Source: Simeon Solomon Research Archive

September 2014

A Window into the Industry Collections

Posted by Mark Etheridge on 29 September 2014

Amongst the new collections we have received in September is this unusual miniature miner’s dial. This is a compass-like instrument used underground for the surveying of passages and seams. The engraved plate on the lid of the box of this example shows that it was presented to Mr. W. Meredith by the workmen of Tylecoch Colliery on Sept. 12th 1881. The manufacturer is unknown.

We have been donated two twist boxes this month. These twist boxes were used by miners to carry their chewing tobacco. They were not allowed to smoke underground due to the risk of explosions. The one on the left even contains some original tobacco! Both examples belonged to ancestors of the donor and were both used in south Wales collieries. Twist boxes are fairly common mining related objects. An excellent display can be seen in our galleries in the old pit head baths at Big Pit: National Mining Museum.

This photograph was donated along with the two twist boxes and is a souvenir of the stay in strike at Parc Colliery. The donor’s grandfather is one of the men in the photograph.

Finally the certificate below was issued by the Monmouthshire Education Authority to Abraham Evans in 1945.

Mark Etheridge

Curator: Industry & Transport

Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW

A Window into the Industry Collections

Posted by Mark Etheridge on 3 September 2014

Amongst the new collections we have received in August was a collection of two ship models and six watercolours. The models and paintings are all by Mr Tony Jackson who was apprenticed to Sir William Reardon Smith & Sons in 1951. The two models are of the BP tanker British Sovereign, and a Liberty Ship. The six watercolours show the Orient City, Homer City, Devon City, Fresno City, Graig and Graigfelen. The photograph below shows Tony Jackson in his uniform aged 15. The next two show the ship model of the British Sovereign ship model and a painting of the Graig.

 

 

 

 

This photograph is one of three we received showing the basilica and copper mines at El Cobre, Cuba, taken in February this year. These mines were important as a source of ore to Welsh smelting works. We recently acquired a share certificate relating to the Royal Copper Mines of Cobre which you can see in my March blog.  

 

 

We have been donated a history of the Ely Brewery called ‘Beer and the Brewery’. This has been compiled by an ex-employee of the brewery who was an apprentice fitter and then fitter there from 1949 - 1962. This month we have also received 35 copies of the Ely Brewery house magazine ‘Mild and Bitter’. The image shows a front page from a 1956 edition.

 

 

We have purchased two interesting handbills for the collection. One is for the St. George’s SS Co. Ltd., and dates to 1910. The other is for a cruise along the Cardigan coast in 1968.

 

 

 

This Sharp 'Font Writer' Personal Word Processor (Model FW-710 UM) was purchased by the donor to be used during her university course. The word processor was manufactured by Sharp Electronics (UK) Ltd. at Wrexham in about 1995.

 

 

Mark Etheridge

Curator: Industry & Transport

Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW 

August 2014

"Our Cats" by Harrison Weir [1889]

Posted by Jennifer Evans on 15 August 2014

We recently participated in #MuseumCats Day on Twitter and this involved a quick search through our holdings for some interesting pictures of cats to Tweet and what a gem we have found! Please enjoy this selection of wonderful and [in some cases] bizarre illustrations of cats from the book "Our Cats and all about them" written and illustrated by Harrison Weir in 1889. 

My personal favourites are the surreal disembodied heads [see above], "Sylvie" [she of the magnificent moustaches] and the Russian cat who [in my opinion] has a most unsettling human expression.


Weir was a very interesting character; he was born in 1824 on May 5th [d.1906], and is known as "The Father of the Cat Fancy”. He organizied the first ever cat show in England, at The Crystal Palace, London in July 1871 where he and his brother served as judges. In 1887 he founded the National Cat Club and was its first President and Show Manager until his resignation in 1890. Our Cats was the first published pedigree cat book.

Weir was employed, for many years, as a draughtsman and engraver for the Illustrated London News as well as many other publications and in his lifetime he both wrote and illustrated other books such as The Poetry of Nature (1867), Every Day in the Country (1883) and Animal Studies, Old and New (1885). In 1845 he exhibited his first painting at the British Institution and during his career he was an occasional exhibitor at the Royal Academy.

He was a keen animal fancier, an experienced breeder of cats, carrier pigeons, and poultry and for thirty years often acted as a judge at the principal pigeon and poultry shows. In 1903 he wrote and illustrated the exhaustive book Our Poultry and All About Them.

More information on Harrison Weir via the following links: 

http://www.harrisonweir.com/ 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrison_Weir 

http://www.nationalcatclub.co.uk/History.htm

This book was bequeathed to the Library back in May 1916 along with around 500 other books by the Welsh artist, champion of Wales’ cultural heritage and one of the founding fathers of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, Thomas Henry Thomas.

Along with the books, Thomas also bequeathed his entire catalogue of prints, drawings and watercolours to the Museum.

More information on Thomas Henry Thomas here:

http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/rhagor/article/2035/

The illustration above appeares in the Chapter "Performing cats". Other chapters include, "Cats as tormentors", "Dead cats", "Fishing cats" and "Lovers of cats" [would you believe... Cardinal Richelieu?].

This book is available to view electronically via the following Project Gutenberg link:

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/35450/35450-h/35450-h.htm#Page_37

Biographical information on Harrison Weir taken from Wikipedia.

All photographs in this post taken by the author.

 

Fifty years of a golden reign: a souvenir of the Queen's Jubilee [1887]

Posted by Jennifer Evans on 1 August 2014

Well now, here’s  a pretty thing…

A souvenir booklet celebrating the fifty year reign of Queen Victoria. It was published in 1887 by Eyre & Spottiswoode, who were the official printers to Her Majesty at that time.

Our volunteer [Alison] has been working her way through old pamphlet boxes and all manner of forgotten things and very kindly passes to me items that are interesting, unusual or just lovely to see, and this one falls into that last category.

It measures 11 x 13.5 cm, has 16 pages and, our accessions register states that it was donated to us in May 1935 by a Mr Charles Barnwell Esq.

The book also contains a poem written by Lord Tennyson especially for the occasion. Tennyson had been Poet Laureate since 1850 [after William Wordsworth's death] and held the position until his own death in 1892.

Interestingly, Eyre & Spottiswoode [established in 1845], went on to merge with Methuen Publishing in the 1970s.

All photographs in this post taken by the author.

July 2014

A Window into the Industry Collections

Posted by Mark Etheridge on 29 July 2014

In July we have seen the usual range of new accessions entering the industry & transport collections. Amongst others we have received the following -  

A serrated measuring stick used at Dinorwig slate quarry for marking out/measuring a roofing slate for trimming. Roofing slates’ names and sizes were standardized in 1738 when General Hugh Warburton (joint owner of the Penrhyn Estate at the time) devised the famous ‘female nobility’ names for slates of different sizes (measured in inches) with names such as Empresses, Duchesses Mawr (Large), Viscountesses, and Ladis Llydan (Wide Ladies). The naming system soon became the industry standard, although the sizes varied slightly from time to time and area to area. In total there are twenty three serration on the measuring stick, measuring 26 inches in total. There are three serrations are two inches apart (at the top end of the measuring stick, closest to the nail), whilst the remaining twenty serrations are one inch apart.

This measuring stick is long, therefore could be used to mark and measure ‘Queens’ and large slates. The smallest slate that could be marked/measured with this stick are the ‘Narrow Ladies’ and above (16 inches in length and above).

 

This brass toasting fork depicts a miner and is inscribed 'BIG PIT BLAENAVON'. The fork would have been sold in the Big Pit Mining Museum shop in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Big Pit is now one of the eight museum sites that form Amguedffa Cymru – National Museum Wales.

 

An empty bottle of Penderyn 'Madeira' single malt Welsh whisky in its original packing. The company was launched in 2000 as the Welsh Whisky Company, but later became Penderyn Distillery. The Penderyn Distillery is situated in the village of Penderyn, which lies just within the southern boundary of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Penderyn Single Malt Whisky was launched by the Prince of Wales on 1st March 2004 at St. David’s Hall in Cardiff. The whiskey is initially matured in bourbon barrels, and then further matured in special Madeira barriques.

 

This £10 share certificate was issued by the Neath & Brecon Railway. The railway was authorised by Act of Parliament in 1862 as the Dulais Valley Mineral Railway to transport coal to Neath. It was promoted and constructed by the contractor John Dickson who was issued with this share certificate. After being authorised to extend the railway to Brecon, it changed its name to the Neath and Brecon Railway.

 

Finally we have received two DVD’s. One created by staff and student at Pontypridd High School on the Albion Colliery disaster in 1894. The other is titled ‘Memories of Old Clydach’ and is a collection of photographs, documents and memories from local people who lived in the area during the 1940s and 50s.  There is a section on Clydach Merthyr Colliery and Players tinplate works.

 

Mark Etheridge

Curator: Industry & Transport

Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW