Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales


The South Wales Miners’ Eisteddfod started in 1948 in Porthcawl, and Amgueddfa Cymru has a number of programmes for various years in the collection. This copy is for the Eisteddfod held in October 1971, and has been donated recently. The Porthcawl Eisteddfod was made world famous in 1957 when the famous US actor, singer and Civil Rights Movement leader, Paul Robeson made a famous broadcast. In 1938 Paul Robeson had been in Wales filming 'The Proud Valley'. This film introduced him to the miners of the Rhondda, and he was invited to sing at the South Wales Miners’ Eisteddfod. In 1950 Robeson had been denied a passport to travel abroad. Still wanting to appear at the Eisteddfod he used the transatlantic telephone cables to transmit his concert from New York to an audience of miners and their families in the Grand Pavilion at Porthcawl. It was a gesture of international solidarity. There is a copy of this recording made on 5th October 1957 in the museum's collection.

This pocket watch and protective snuff tin has been donated this month, and was used by the donor at Cwmtillery Colliery in the late 1970s. A protective case was a common way for mineworkers to protect their watches from dust and knocks. In this case a new use has been made for the snuff tin. We have other protective watch cases in the collection that were speciffically made for that purpose. The pocket watch shown is an example of a pocket watch in a protective brass and glass pocket watch case, which was known as a turnip. This watch was owned by Mr Evan Weston who was killed in the explosion at Universal Colliery, Senghenydd, 14 October 1913.

The final object this month is this real photograph postcard showing the officials of Meiros Colliery, Llanharran in 1920. Meiros Colliery probably opened in the 1880s, and closed about 1938.

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

Staff at Amgueddfa Cymru work across a number of different departments. These departments do not work in isolation, but staff work together to look after the collections preserved for the people of Wales.

The industry and transport photographic collections comprise over 206,000 images, covering all aspects of Welsh industrial, maritime and transport activity. One of the greatest treasures held within this rich collection is the Hansen Collection, which comprises of 4,569 negatives (two-thirds glass, and a third film) of ships mainly at Cardiff. These were taken by members of the Hansen family between 1920 and 1975. They provide an amazing photographic record of shipping activity at the port during those years. You can find out more about the history of this collection by reading this article from 2011.

One of our main aims is to make all the collections we look after more accessible. When we purchased the Hansen Collection in 1979, the first stage in the process of making the collection available was to compile a catalogue. Initially a handwritten catalogue was produced which could be consulted in the photographic research room. Then in 1996 the catalogue was published under the title “the Hansen Shipping Photographic Collection” making the contents of this collection available to a wider audience. A few years ago I worked on converting this catalogue into a digital format so that it could be placed on the museum website. It is now available for anyone to search, and find vessels they are interested in. The online catalogue has greatly improved access to this collection, and we have had enquires from all over the world because of it. People might be researching a particular ship and are looking for an image of it. A family member might have worked on the vessel and so someone might be interested in seeing what the ship looked like.

Following placing the catalogue online the next stage has been to input information on each negative onto our collections management database. A number of staff are currently involved in this, including myself and staff working in the History & Archaeology and Collections Services departments. We have so far put just over 1,500 negatives onto the system. It is a long process, especially as we are repacking the collection into conservation grade packing as we go along.  

As well as preserving the collection and making information on the collection available, we also need to digitise each negative. This will provide us with a record shot, meaning that we can minimize the handling of the original. This is especially important as so much of the collection is made up of fragile glass plates. We have made a start on this, and have so far digitsed 572 negatives. Our intention is now to continue this work and digitise the remainder of the collection.

We will be doing a series of blogs on various aspects of the process to make this collection accessible, and will be blogging on cataloguing and adding the collection to our database, repacking the collection, and the digitisation process. Check back to see how we are getting on with this important photographic collection.

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

This month Amgueddfa Cymru was able to acquire this model coal dram. It is a scale replica of a ‘Patent Cambrian Tram’ invented by H.H. Evans and R. Evans in 1931. One of the patentees, H.H. Evans, was General Manager for Welsh Associated Collieries Ltd., Llwynypia, and we know quite a lot about his life.

Henry H. Evans was born on 28th April 1865 in 15 Windsor St., Aberdare. He started work as a colliers’ boy at 12 years of age at Bwllfa Colliery, Aberdare. In 1880 the family moved to Maerdy in the Rhondda Fach and Henry continued his career as a collier in Maerdy Colliery until 1884 when he was articled to Mr Rees Llewelyn, Mining Engineer, Aberdare. His training was cut short by the death of his father, Mr John Evans a colliery official, in the Maerdy Colliery explosion of 1885 when he became the family’s bread winner. He began to attend the first mining night school in Aberdare about this time, walking over the mountain from Maerdy to Aberdare for the lessons. At twenty four he gained his 2nd class certificate of competency and became the under manager of Gelli Nos. 2 and 3 Pits where he remained for several years. He later returned to Maerdy Colliery as under manager.

He became manager of Bwllfa Colliery, Aberdare in 1894 where he remained for 18 years until he became the Agent for Albion Collieries in 1912. In 1910 he received the Edward Medal for bravery for saving the life of Mr John Isaac, a colliery repairer who had been trapped under a fall of roof. The museum hold in its collections this oil painting dating from 1929, which shows H.H. Evans wearing his Edward Medal.

By January 25th 1932, he had become general manager of the Cambrian Combine and lead a team of volunteers following the explosion in Llwynypia Colliery. He was 67 years old at the time and stayed down the pit until the last victim had been found. Eleven men were killed including two rescuers.

The Mines Inspector’s report was rather scathing about the rescue attempt – “In reference to the rescue operations, in the cold light of events it must be said that they were conducted with greater valour than discretion, for even when men from the Porth Rescue Station equipped with breathing apparatus were engaged in J. Alsop’s face, officials not so equipped, including the General Manager (Mr. H.H. Evans), the Agent (Mr. R. Lloyd) and the Manager (Mr. J. Whitticombe), were engaged in Prior’s and Brown’s. They had with them a canary but appear to have had more regard for its life than for their own, with the result that one of their party, John Evans, Overman, was overcome by afterdamp and died.”

He died on May 2nd 1936 only a few weeks after being elected Chairman of the Monmouthshire and South Wales Coalowners’ Association. He was buried in Aberdare Cemetery.

This Mines Rescue Service figure is seen wearing full rescue gear. These were produced for presentation by the UK Mines Rescue Service and usually awarded for 20 years’ service. There is a space at front for a presentation plaque to be attached. This example was given to the donor (who was a firefighter) after undertaking a Breathing Apparatus course with the Mines Rescue Service.

This month we were donated a copy of the original design for the Lesbians & Gay Men Support the Miners Group from 1984, along with a 30th anniversary badge manufactured in 2014. The events from 1984/85 were recently depicted in the film ‘Pride’. This donation coincided with staff from Amgueddfa Cymru attending Pride Cymru this month.

Finally, the photograph below shows the S.S. PENDEEN off Swansea on 28 March 1914. The S.S. PENDEEN was built by Gray's of West Hartlepool in 1898 for the Chellew Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. of Truro, a firm set up in the early 1880s by Richard Berryman Chellew of that town. She was employed in the classic 'coal out, grain home' trade of that era, loading coal in south Wales for the Mediterranean and returning with cereals from various Black Sea ports. Holed up in the Baltic for much of 1st World War, she was sold to a Greek company in 1922 and wrecked off the Tunisian coast six years later.

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

Open Doors is an event organised by Cadw (the Welsh Government’s historic environment service). The idea behind the event is to offer people the opportunity to visit a variety of sites important to the culture and history of Wales. The highlight of the event is the opportunity to visit places that are not normally, or are infrequently, open to the public.

The National Collections Centre, Nantgarw, is part of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, and houses thousands of interesting and important objects that are not on display. Although not normally open to the general public we have always offered access to researchers, and also to various groups and societies. Staff at the National Collections Centre have always seen the importance of opening up the site to allow visitors access to view some of these objects and to see the work that is carried out by staff on site.

We are always looking for new ways to get visitors on site, to encourage people to learn about what we do, and provide more access to the collections in store. Therefore this year at one of our site meetings we decided that we would get involved in Open Doors. We will therefore be open as part of Open Doors on Wednesay 30th September 2015, and will be running tours at 10.00, 11.00, 12.00, 2.00 and 3.00. Each tour will last about 45 minutes and visitors will be able to take a closer look at some of the collections held on site. One of the highlights of the tour will be the chance to see the transport collection of bicycles, motorbikes, cars (including three examples of the Welsh manufactured Gilbern car), buses and even an air sea rescue helicopter.

Booking is essential for these tours. Please ring us on 029 2057 3560 or 029 2057 3583 to book a place, or find out further information. You can also email us on

Further details can be found on the Cadw website, as well as details of all other places open as part of Open Doors.

We hope as many people as possible will be able to enjoy the tours and be able to see some of the amazing objects preserved by Amgueddfa Cymru for the people of Wales.

In July we were very fortunate to acquire this silver salver/tray. It was presented to H.W. Lewis for his heroism during the Tynewydd Colliery inundation. Henry Lewis was the Manager of Energlyn Colliery (near Caerphilly), and he was also awarded the Albert Medal, 2nd Class for his bravery during the same disaster. The disaster occurred on the 11th April 1877 and further information can be found in this article. A collection of objects relating to the Tynewydd inundation, can be seen in a display on coal mining disasters at Big Pit: National Mining Museum.

Amgueddfa Cymru has another very similar tray in the collection presented to Thomas William Parry. Both trays were manufactured by Henry Holland (of Holland, Aldwinckle & Slater) of London.

Recently donated, this memorial card was produced "In sad Remembrance of 264 men and boys who were killed in the Prince of Wales Pit, Abercarne, by an explosion, on Wednesday, September 11th, 1878."

The underground fires caused by this massive explosion resulted in the deaths of at least 264 people although the exact death toll is not known. To put out the fire the difficult decision was made to flood the mine with water from the Monmouthshire Canal. It took two months and 35 million gallons of water to put out the fire. This water had to then be pumped out before the victims could be recovered. The photograph below was taken by Thomas Forrest of Pontypridd around the time of the disaster in 1878.

This Clanny flame safety lamp was destroyed during the explosion of 11th September 1878. A very emotional reminder of the disaster, it would have belonged to one of the victims. The glass shield has cracked and melted in the heat. This objects has been part of the collections since 1936.

Talygarn House, Pontyclun, South Wales, was a large stone mansion that became a hospital in 1880. In October 1923, it was opened as a miners' convalescent home and in the first 15 years of its opening had more than 41,000 patients. The house was eventually put up for sale in 2000, and has recently been converted into luxury homes. You can read more about Talygarn in this article. The two photographs below were donated this month and show miners at Talygarn.

Morris Castle was built between 1768 and 1774 to house the families of workers employed by Sir John Morris (mainly at his Landore copper works). It is on an elevated position overlooking the surrounding area. It originally comprised of four towers, each four stories tall, connected by blocks three stories tall, around a central courtyard. Both the towers and linking walls were crowned with mock battlements made from copper slag. The building was occupied until about 1850. It is now just a ruin, owned by Swansea City Council and is a listed monument. These photographs were taken in March 1969, and have been added to the collection this month.

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