Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales


This month Amgueddfa Cymru acquired an example of a Prestcold ‘Packaway’ domestic fridge. This fridge was made in Swansea in the 1960s, and was bought new by the donor’s mother and used until only 18 months ago. It still works perfectly! The donation also included the original manual along with a recipe book.

These four lamp checks have been added to the collection this month. They are from Britannia, Deep Navigation, Oakdale and Cwm Collieries. Lamp checks (or 'tokens' or 'tallies') were used to let colliery management know who was in work, and were essential in informing rescue services who was underground during an incident such as a fire or explosion. If you would like to know more about colliery checks and token there is an interesting article here on our website. You can also see many more examples from our collection here on our 'Images of Industry' online catalogue. 

Also this month we received a brick to add to the large collection of Welsh manufactured bricks held at the National Collections Centre. It was found in tipped debris on the former Cyfarthfa Willows cinder tip, Merthyr Tydfil. The brick was manufactured at the Cyfarthfa iron & steel works between about 1890-1910.

Finally this month, we acquired a framed aerial photograph of Cefn Hirgoed opencast coal site was taken in the 1960s, and was at one time on display in the opencast office building. The close up view gives you a better idea of what the site once looked like.

Explore Your Archive is a joint campaign delivered by The National Archives and the Archives and Records Association across the UK and Ireland. It aims to showcase the unique potential of archives to excite people, bring communities together, and tell amazing stories.

Last year staff from Amgueddfa Cymru held an Explore Your Archive event for the first time. It was held in the Oakdale Institute at St. Fagans: National History Museum. We showcased a selection of documents and photographs relating to Wales and the First World War to coincide with the launch of our First World War online catalogue. You can search the catalogue here.

It was a popular event with adults and a number of school parties excited to see original historic archive material, and discuss their history with the staff who look after these collections. The success of last year’s event means that we are organising another one this year. ‘Discovering Wales: History on Your Doorstep’ will be held over two days on 20-21 November in the main hall of National Museum Cardiff, Cathays Park. This year the theme will be travel and tourism and we will have a selection of archive material from our collections including photographs, film, postcards, letters and notebooks for you to look at and discuss with members of the team who curate, manage and conserve the archive collections. This year we will also have a series of events for children. Children will be able create their own postcard for display in the Main Hall, or can put on their Sherlock hats and help us to identify unknown names and places from the photographic collections! There will also be an Explore Your Archive trail around the museum.

We hope to see you there. You can find out more about the event here.

This month Amgueddfa Cymru was able to acquire a painting of Henry Howard Evans. The painting dates to about 1892, and is interesting as it has been painted over a photograph. The photograph was taken by Goldie Bros. of Cardiff and it is signed at bottom right. The brothers Frank and Lawrence C. Goldie had studios at Swansea, and in 1888 they opened a photographic studio in Queen Street, Cardiff where this photograph was probably taken. They produced photographic portraits of people such as the Marquis of Bute and Madame Patti. This photograph has then been painted over to resemble an oil painting, and presumably this was done by, or on behalf of, Goldie Bros. The painting contained an engraved inscription on the frame that shows it was presented to Mr H.H. Evans, who was Undermanager of the Gelly Colliery, by the Gelly House Coal Workmen and friends on his leaving the colliery in December 1892.

We know quite a lot about the life of Henry H. Evans. He 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 holds in its collection another 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 painting joins the other painting mentioned here. As well as a model of a coal dram. This model is a scale replica of a ‘Patent Cambrian Tram’ invented by H.H. Evans and R. Evans in 1931.

As well as this photograph/painting we have acquired a number of other photographs this month, these include these two photographs showing Oakdale Colliery and Markham Colliery, which were taken during the late 20th century.

Finally this ‘book’ of matches we have collected for the two adverts that relate to tourism in Porthcawl. On the front is an advert for Caesars Palace & Mississippi Ballroom while the reverse has an advert for Trecco Bay Holiday Caravan Camp.


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



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