Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales


Before Christmas, I posted a blog about our First World War collections. If you’ve had a chance to browse our new online catalogue, you’ll know that we have a number of campaign medals and memorial plaques in the collection. Recently, we accepted a donation from the family of Private Alfred Prosser Workman – a coal miner who is commemorated, along with his brother Edward, on the Newbridge War Memorial. Thanks to the generosity of Mrs Gaynor Hoare, we now have Alfred's Victory Medal, British War Medal and memorial plaque in the collection.

Alfred Prosser Workman

Alfred Prosser Workman served with the 11th South Wales Borderers. He married Mrs Hoare’s grandmother, Elsie Mayo, in 1915. After his death in 1916, the young widow went on to marry Mrs Hoare’s grandfather, William Thomas, in 1919. Elsie remained close to Alfred’s family long after he had died. Although not a blood relative, her son called Alfred’s mother ‘Granny Workman’.

Memorial on the move

The Newbridge War Memorial was re-erected here at St Fagans in 1996. Its original location, high on a hill in Caetwmpyn Park, Newbridge, made access an issue for ageing veterans. A new memorial was built in the town centre and the original structure was offered to the Museum. Members of the Newbridge Branch of the Royal British Legion organise an annual service of remembrance at the Museum. It remains, twenty years down the line, their memorial.

Community engagement

The First World War centenary has provided an ideal opportunity for us to re-connect with the people of Newbridge. Across the country, communities of ‘citizen historians’ are coming together to uncover their First World War heritage, and Newbridge is no exception. Supported by Ken Merriott of the Newbridge Branch, Tim and Suzy Bowers have been researching the hidden histories of the 79 men commemorated on Newbridge War Memorial. Take a look at their fantastic website to learn more about the project. Alfred Prosser Workman’s story is featured here.

This research is also accessible at the Museum in the Reading Room of Oakdale Institute. We have condensed the men’s biographies into short profiles which you can browse in the form of replica broadsheet newspapers.

The New Year has seen a number of interesting objects enter the industry collections.

This teddy bear was manufactured by Wendy Boston (Crickhowell) Ltd. The company was founded in 1941 in Crickhowell (near Abergavenny) by husband and wife Wendy and Ken Williams. They had moved from Birmingham during the Blitz, and Wendy started making toys for friends and family whilst her husband was away. This bear was purchased circa 1963/64 for the donor when he was a baby, and living in Llanelli. It wears a home knitted cardigan, and the donor as a young child had a matching larger version. We also have in the collections a poodle pyjama/nightdress case manufactured by the same company. However, teddy bears were the dominant and by far the best know product and so we are fortunate to have been donated an example with a good Welsh provenance.

My last month’s Blog featured a Lesbians & Gaymen Support the Miners fund badge from 1985. This ‘Pits and Perverts’ t-shirt compliments this, and was manufactured to promote the film ‘Pride’ (it has ‘In Cinemas 12th September’ printed on the back). The film tells the amazing true story of how a group of gay men and women raised funds to help families affected by the miners’ strike.

Towards the end of last year we were donated this First World War memorial plaque. It commemorates men who had worked at Guest Keen & Nettlefold's Rogerstone Steel Works and the adjacent HP Wire Nail Works. The plaque is currently on display, until 15th March 2015, in the exhibition ‘Working for Victory’ at the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea (see photograph below).

Finally these two metal plates were recovered from Cardiff Docks in the 1990s. They both come from an early 20th century crane manufactured by John Williams & Sons (Cardiff) Ltd. at Globe Foundry, Cardiff for use in the docks. These are an important pair of makers’ plates, as we only have a small number of plates from Welsh-manufactured machinery. They also complement a set of foundry tools from this company and an electric battery delivery truck used by the company for local deliveries.

Mark Etheridge
Curator: Industry & Transport
Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW

With Christmas almost upon us I thought I'd start this month's blog with a few wintery scene from our photographic collections. The first was taken by the Welsh photographer John Dillwyn Llewelyn (1810-1882) during the 1850s on his estate at Penllergare near Swansea. It is very likely to be the first photograph of a Welsh snowman! The second shows Big Pit colliery, Blaenafon (now Big Pit: National Mining Museum) in the snow in 1978.

This month has seen quite a number of new additions to the industry collections. One of the most interesting are these two oil on canvas portraits of Thomas Jenkins and his wife Susannah. Thomas Jenkins was owner of the Avon Vale Tinplate Works (which opened in 1866) and Aberavon Tinplate Works (which opened in 1875), both located at Aberavon, Port Talbot. After his death in 1891, his shareholding was inherited by his two daughters, one of whom had married Colonel David Roderick David, one of Thomas Jenkins' co-partners in the Avon Vale Tinplate Works. The other married William M. Jones, a local ship owner whose vessel 'Sisters' is recalled by the family as having carried the works' product for export.

Neither works are signed nor dated, but both are inscribed on the reverse by the sitters. The inscription states that they sat on their respective 71st and 66th birthdays in February 1879.

This piece of coal was removed by open cast methods from a coal pillar left in the 9' seam at Abercraf Colliery workings in the late 1990s. We have a number of samples in our collection of coal from various Welsh pits including, some mounted like this one, but also many samples collected on the last working day of various collieries.

Many of you will have seen the recent film 'Pride'. If so you'll know the amazing true story of how a group of gay men and women raised funds to help families affected by the miners' strike. This badge was purchased by the donor "at an all night fundraiser for mining families held at the Scala cinema in Kings' Cross in early 1985. At the time they were sold for £2.50 each (which was quite a lot in 1985) with all proceeds going to straight to the Lesbians & Gaymen Support the Miners fund."

We have also had a number of other donations this month relating to the 1984-85 miners' strike. This badge was produced during the 1984-85 miners' strike, and was apparently designed by Tyrone Jenkins, a South Wales cartoonist. We would love to know more if anyone has any information.

2014 was the 30th anniversary of the start of the strike, and this limited edition medallion commemorates this.

We have added a further two share certificates this month to our collection. The first is for The Wemyss Mine Limited, and is dated 1885. The first Wemyss Mine Ltd. Company was floated in 1880 to acquire the Wemyss lead mine adjacent to the Frongoch lead mine near Pontrhydygroes in mid-Wales. After its collapse in 1884 it was replaced by a second company of the same name registered in 1884, to which this certificate relates. In the years 1885-1889 when worked by this company, the mine employed only a dozen men and produced very modest tonnages of lead and zinc ores. The company ceased work in 1889 and was struck off in 1894.

The second certificate very surprisingly relates to the Cardiff Castle Gold Mine!! No, there isn't gold under the castle! This was actually an Australian enterprise run by Welsh emigrants located in the internationally famous Coolgardie goldfields in Western Australia. The company was London-registered in 1895 and so the name probably served as both a sentimental attachment for the emigrants as well as a marketing tool to attract British investors.

This photograph shows the sinking of Wyllie Colliery in the Sirhowy Valley in 1925/26. Wyllie Colliery was sunk by the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company, and named after a director of the company, Alexander Keith Wyllie. It was the last deep mine to be sunk in Monmouthshire, and one of the last in south Wales. The colliery was closed by the National Coal Board in March 1968.

Finally, this 2nd class single ticket is said to have been used on the last train to run from Gorseinon to Swansea (Victoria). It is dated 13 June 1964.

Mark Etheridge
Curator: Industry & Transport
Follow us on Twitter - @IndustryACNMW

Dw i wrth fy modd yn twrio yn storfeydd yr Amgueddfa. Sdim byd gwell na darganfod gwrthrychau sydd heb weld golau dydd ers degawdau. Llynedd, tra'n chwilota am gasgliadau o gyfnod y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf, fe ddes i ar draws dyddiadur o'r flwyddyn 1915 mewn amlen yn yr archif. Wrth bori'r tudalennau, a thrafod gyda chydweithwyr, fe daeth hi'n amlwg fod stori'r perchennog yn haeddu cynulleidfa ehangach. Felly, dyma ni - croeso i brosiect @DyddiadurKate.

Eleni, i gyd-fynd a rhaglen yr Amgueddfa i goffau canmlwyddiant y Rhyfel Mawr, mi fydd tim ohonom yn trydar cynnwys y dyddiadur yn ddyddiol - canrif union ers i Kate Ellis, merch ffarm o ardal y Bala, nodi ei gweithgareddau beunyddiol yn ei blwyddlyfr bach coch. Ar y pryd, roedd Kate (Rowlands yn ddiweddarach) yn ei hugeiniau cynnar ac yn byw gyda'i rhieni - Ellis Robert Ellis a'i wraig Alice Jane Ellis - yn Tyhen, gerllaw pentre'r Sarnau. Wrth drydar y dyddiadur, byddwn yn defnyddio sillafu, atalnodi a thafodiaith y ddogfen wreiddiol.

Nid dyddiadur ymsonol mo hwn - peidiwch a disgwyl cyfrinachau o'r galon. Yn hytrach, yr hyn a gawn yw cipolwg ar fywyd dyddiol yng nghefn gwlad Meirionnydd ar ddechre'r ugeinfed ganrif - o'r tywydd a thasgau amaethyddol i brysurdeb diwylliannol y fro. Prin iawn yw cyfeiriadau Kate at y Rhyfel, er i nifer o drigolion yr ardal ymuno a'r lluoedd arfog. Ond mae hynny ynddo'i hun yn ddiddorol - iddi hi, ar yr wyneb beth bynnag, roedd bywyd yn mynd yn ei flaen fel arfer.

Cadwch lygad ar y blog am ragor o fanylion am y prosiect ac i glywed mwy am y bobl a'r digwyddiadau sy'n cael eu crybwyll yn y dyddiadur. Cofiwch hefyd ddilyn @DyddiadurKate o ddydd Calan ymlaen i olrhain ei hanes drwy gydol 2015.

Tro nesaf: Ar drywydd Kate Ellis.

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.