Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales


Included in this month's Blog post are a selection of objects added to the Industry and Transport collections in January.


This commemorative medal was issued to Bevin Boys for service underground during 1942-1948. Bevin Boys played a vital role during the Second World War working in the coal mines, and you can read more about their role in this article. The medal was produced by Bigbury Mint in 2015 in hallmarked silver, and is on a striped blue, green and black ribbon. It was purchased by the Museum this month, and has been added to a small but varied collection relating to the work on the Bevin Boys in the Second World War.


The two bricks illustrated were donated this month. The first brick is inscribed T. Williams & Co. on the front, and the second inscribed J. Williams & Co., both have the inscription Llanelly on the reverse.

T. Williams refers to Capt. Thomas Williams, grocer and ships chandler of New Dock Road, Llanelli. He owned Bigyn Brickworks from about 1871 to 1888. He also owned the adjoining Tregob Colliery from 1881 to c.1887, and owned Bryngwyn Brickworks from 1890 to at least 1897. He was born in Llanelli c.1840, and died at Barry in 1899 or 1900.

The other brick is inscribed J. Williams. John Williams was the brother of Capt. Thomas Williams. He was born in Llanelli c.1843. In 1891 he is listed on the Census as foreman of a brickworks, residing with his brother who was listed as a brick manufacturer. This suggests that he took over Bryngwyn Brickworks either when Capt. Thomas Williams moved to Barry sometime in the period 1897 to 1899, or after his brother’s death in 1899/1900. He briefly worked it until closure in 1899.

The two bricks are made from the same coarse red body, and have been pressed from dies that are identical save for the change of initial from ‘T’ to ‘J’. They were probably then, manufactured in the same brickworks and span a change of ownership from Capt. Thomas Williams to his younger brother John Williams.


These three hand coloured prints form part of a collection donated this month. The prints are by the artist David Hughes and were produced in 1989/1990. The first is a reconstruction showing how Aberystwyth might have looked in about 1835. The second shows how Haverfordwest might have looked in about 1845. Finally the third shows how Swansea might have looked in about 1852.

You can find further examples of David Hughes work on our Images of Industry online catalogue. This includes black and white versions of these three works, plus views of Butetown (Cardiff) in about 1850, Carmarthen in about 1842, and Newport in about 1840. The prints can be viewed here.


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

This month the museum purchased four handbills for the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company. They date from the 1960s and 1970s. This company is still going and is the oldest continuously operating passenger shipping company in the world. It was founded in 1830 and is celebrating its 185th anniversary this year. Three are illustrated here.

The next three images are from a book of cartoons published by the Western Mail and Evening Express. The cartoons by J.M. Staniforth tell the story of the strike of 1898 and are “a Pictorial History of the longest and most disastrous dispute which ever afflicted the extensive coalfield of South Wales and Monmouthshire”. Joseph Morewood Staniforth was born in Gloucester in 1863. His family moved to Cardiff in 1870, and he started working for the Western Mail aged 15. His first cartoons were published by the Western Mail in 1889 and he went on to produce cartoons covering political and social unrest in Wales up until the First World War.

Amgueddfa Cymru holds a large and comprehensive collection of Welsh share certificates. This month we added one further share certificate to the collections. This was for Nobel Industries Ltd. This company, which operated from 1920 to 1926, owned two important explosives works in Wales. The Glynneath Gunpowder Works in the Vale of Neath (now open to the public by the Brecon Beacons National Park), and Pembrey Explosives Works, Carmarthenshire (also open to the public as a local authority owned country park). This certificate is unused and dates from the 1920s.

Finally this month we acquired three photographs showing the hot dip galvanizing of finished steel pressings at Cwmfelin works, Swansea in the early 1960s. The two images here show the galvanising of buckets and rubbish bins.


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

As mentioned in my last blog post staff at Amgueddfa Cymru are working on the Hansen shipping photographic collection to enable this collection to be made fully accessible to researchers and interested parties. I also gave a background to the collection and the work staff and volunteers are doing on it – you can read it here. In this post I’ll explain a bit about the cataloguing process.

We are working at putting each individual negative onto our collections management database (CMS), where details of all the museum’s collections are stored. Each entry will record full details of the name of the ship, the date and place the photograph was taken, and the name of the photographer. This will allow us to do comprehensive searches. It will also include the medium (in many cases gelatin dry plate negatives, with some film negatives). We will also being adding as much historic details of the ship as possible, and one of our volunteers has been working on brief histories of some of the vessels. This collection comprises over 4,500 negatives, so you can appreciate the scale of the work needed to fully catalogue, store and digitise this collection. We have made good progress so far, having added a further 334 negatives since the last blog post, and now have 1,834 records on the system.

As staff are working through the collection we are also re-packing from old glassine bags into modern conservation grade four-flap envelopes specifically designed for the long term housing of glass plate and film negatives. We no longer use glassine bags for storage of photographic collections as under certain conditions, especially if exposed to moisture, the bags can stick to the glass and film negatives causing permanent damage. Therefore, where possible we are re-packing into conservation grade packing. The whole collection is stored in an environmentally controlled photographic store at the National Collections Centre, Nantgarw.


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

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.