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A Window into the Industry Collections

Mark Etheridge, 22 December 2014

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

Snowman by John Dillwyn Llewelyn, 1850s

Snowman by John Dillwyn Llewelyn, 1850s

Big Pit in the snow, 1978

Big Pit in the snow, 1978

Oil painting of Thomas Jenkins, 1879

Oil painting of Thomas Jenkins, 1879

Oil painting of Susannah Jenkins, 1879

Oil painting of Susannah Jenkins, 1879

Coal from Abercraf Colliery, 1990s

Coal from Abercraf Colliery, 1990s

Badge sold to raise money for the Lesbians & Gaymen Support the Miners fund, 1985

Badge sold to raise money for the Lesbians & Gaymen Support the Miners fund, 1985

Penrikyber badge produced during the 1984-85 miners' strike

Penrikyber badge produced during the 1984-85 miners' strike

30th anniversary of the Miners' Strike medallion 1984 - 2014

30th anniversary of the Miners' Strike medallion 1984 - 2014

The Wemyss Mine Limited share certificate, 1885

The Wemyss Mine Limited share certificate, 1885

Cardiff Castle Gold Mines Limited share certificate, 1895

Cardiff Castle Gold Mines Limited share certificate, 1895

Sinking of Wyllie Colliery, Sirhowy Valley, 1925/26

Sinking of Wyllie Colliery, Sirhowy Valley, 1925/26

2nd class ticket said to have been used on the last train to run from Gorseinon to Swansea (Victoria), 13 June 1964

2nd class ticket said to have been used on the last train to run from Gorseinon to Swansea (Victoria), 13 June 1964

A Window into the Industry Collections

Mark Etheridge, 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

A Window into the Industry Collections

Mark Etheridge, 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

A Window into the Industry Collections

Mark Etheridge, 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

Mark Etheridge, 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