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

Mrs Beeton, spreading Victorian housekeeping wisdom through the medium of her 1861 classic “Book of Household Management” (still in print in 2016!), said in her introduction: “What moved me, in the first instance, to attempt a work like this, was the discomfort and suffering which I had seen brought upon men and women by household mismanagement.”

Every conservator can identify with that; how many times have we seen objects damaged by inadequate environmental controls, neglected pest management, or insufficient pollution control? Panel paintings will split when the humidity in a gallery fluctuates widely; taxidermy displays are devoured by dermestid beetles; and lead objects, even minerals, corrode to dust in the presence of airborne organic acids, a typical indoor pollutant.

For conservators, the modern version of Mrs Beeton’s book is the National Trust’s “Manual of Housekeeping”. This is a book that has grown over the years into something now requiring a good sized tree to print it on – and, according to the National Trust’s paper conservation advisor, Andrew Bush, should be the only book in your collection that is badly damaged (from frequent use for reference purposes, of course). Conservation has changed from the use of traditional remedies into a science in its own right, with many dedicated scientific journals where the latest research is published. The National Trust, as one of the largest employers of conservators in the UK, runs an in-house training programme to ensure dissemination of cutting edge research to the coal face, as it were. Last week I had the pleasure of going through this week-long training – and a pleasure it was indeed.

The course (held this year at Attingham Park, an almost 250 year old mansion in rural Shropshire) is both an introduction for new staff and a refresher for long established conservators, which is reflected in the intense programme: each day was packed with demonstrations, workshops and lectures. Shorter sessions introduce the agents of deterioration and advice on the care of carpets, rugs and paintings and their frames. Practical workshops deal with diverse topics such as the conservation of paper, ceramics, metals and natural stone – each with their own material properties, risks and preservation techniques.

Even Mrs Beeton was able to tell us that “Essence of Lemon will remove grease, but will make a spot itself in a few days”, but did you know that it takes up to seven people to remove a large painting safely from a wall? Or that the corrosion on the copper kettle leaves permanent damage in the form of pits which are visible even after careful conservation treatment? That much damage is caused to floors by the sheer number (and type) of shoes walking across our heritage sites? That light causes irreversible damage to pigments and materials which even the best conservator cannot repair?

This is where preventive conservation, the pre-emptive care of collections, comes in. We know the mechanisms causing damage to objects. The challenge for heritage organisations is therefore more than simply fixing objects when things go wrong – instead, the focus now is on ensuring that as little damage as possible happens in the first place.

This means undertaking dust surveys to set up cleaning management plans; risk assessing collections for the presence of mould and managing the store/display environment accordingly; spot checking collections for pest damage and monitoring the occurrence and movements of pests around the museum; monitoring and adjusting light levels to avoid sensitive objects being over exposed.

For many years the advice was to wear cotton gloves when handling paper. But libraries and archives found that much damage was done to sensitive documents through the use of cotton gloves, which reduce manual dexterity, allow sweat and oils through from the skin and can snag on paper. So the advice now is to use either vinyl gloves or none at all – providing your hands are clean and free from grease.

Looking after the nation’s heritage takes more than locking objects in a store and hoping for the best. The proper care of collections requires much knowledge and experience; constant training to keep up to date with the latest research forms part of that.

Find out more about care of collections at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales here.

A belated happy New Year to you all! In the weeks since I posted my last co-curation update, we’ve been on the road again co-producing audio-visual content for the Making History project. Working with various community groups and individuals, we've been creating short films based on the collections selected for display. These films will form part of the interpretation in the new galleries. Here's a quick overview of what we've been up to.

First World War

In December, I was invited behind the wired walls of Maindy Barracks to interview two serving members of 3rd Battalion The Royal Welsh. One of the new galleries will include a display about the First World War, focusing on voluntary action, healing and remembrance. My brief was to capture a glimpse into Army life today and to record contemporary responses to century-old collections. Inevitably, the interviews touched on difficult subjects – separation, injury and death. Hearing first-hand testimony from the soldiers was a fascinating experience. It's going to be a challenge to combine and edit the interviews into a three minute film.

Miners’ Strike

Earlier this month, we shifted our attention to the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike. Working with colleagues from Big Pit National Coal Museum, we asked a group of Youth Ambassadors from Blaenavon to interview individuals who were involved in the Strike.

After a morning learning about the ethics and techniques of oral history, the young people formulated their own questions and spent the afternoon recording the interviews. We were conscious of the need to represent a diverse range of experiences; to give the young people the opportunity to challenge their preconceptions. With this in mind, we invited an ex-police officer to join the workshop, as well as former miners and others affected by the dispute.

You’ll have to wait until the new galleries open to see the results! Needless to say, the Young Ambassadors were natural interviewers – curious, probing and balanced. When asked to reflect on the process, Owen from Blaenavon said he'd been on “an extreme historical adventure”. I'll second that.

#MakingHistory #CreuHanes

The work with 3rd Battalion The Royal Welsh is supported by the Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant Scheme.

Llys Llywelyn is our reconstruction of Llys Rhosyr, which is a ruinous hall complex in Anglesey dating to the 13th century, and previously a Royal seat of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, also known as Llywelyn ‘The Great’. Alongside his great hall, we are recreating a smaller building, also based on the archaeological findings from the site. This is interpreted as a kitchen, and in our recreation will be a multifunctional space where visiting schoolchildren will be able to get changed into their medieval servants’ costumes, and prepare food for their evening feast. In the few months prior to Christmas the wooden framework for this roof was raised into position, and after battening was thatched with wheat straw. Now that this building is roofed, work can begin on its interior fit-out.

It will be a while before the main hall is roofed, however. Its stone walls are over a metre in thickness, and the gables at their highest point are 9m tall. As the building work continues we have time to research its likely internal layout. Museum staff are working with respected academics from a wide range of disciplines in order to accurately reflect period furniture and decoration, as well as the overall division of space. 


Our Iron Age farmstead, Bryn Eryr, is open to the public on weekends only at present. This is because of the heavy road traffic heading to the Gweithdy building site, which when finished will be one of our new galleries. This reconstruction is also based on archaeology found in Anglesey. Although the building itself is essentially finished, we have plenty of work to do, such as planting willow along the tops of the banks and erecting hazel panels to give the site more of a sense of enclosure. Soon we will paint the internal faces of the walls with Iron Age patterns based on archaeological finds, such as decorated metalwork. As the buildings are open to pre-booked school groups during weekdays we can get a sense of how the buildings work as a museum display, and consequently do our utmost to get things looking good and running smoothly.

Welcome back Bulb Buddies,

I hope you enjoyed your holidays! How are your daffodils and crocus? Before we broke-up for Christmas a number of schools had written to tell me that their daffodils and mystery bulbs had begun to show above the soil! How are yours getting along? You can update me on how much your plants have grown by adding to the ‘comment’ section when you send in your data. It’s always exciting when you see the first shoots begin to show!

Last year the average flowering date for the Crocus was the 7th of March and the average flowering date for the Daffodil was the 16th of March. The first flowers were reported in early February, but they may appear even earlier this year.  So keep an eye on your plants because it won’t be long now! Remember to measure the height of your flowers on the day they bloom. We will then look at all the dates and heights recorded to find an average date and height and this will help us to spot any changing patterns when we compare our findings to those of previous and future years.

Remember flowers need sunlight, warmth and water to grow. Last year saw less rain and lower temperatures than 2014 and as a result plants flowered slightly later. What has the weather been like where you live? Do you think our flowers will bloom earlier or later than they did last year? 

I look forward to seeing your data this week! 

Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies, 

Professor Plant

Your comments, my answers:

Prof Plant: There was a lot of news about the weather before and during the Christmas holidays. It was very interesting to read comments about how the extreme weather was affecting you. We have had a few comments about flooding from schools across the country. Thank you for sharing your stories:

Arkholme CE Primary School: A very, very wet week. Some local flooding, the playground was under water and our football match was cancelled.

St. John the Baptist Primary School: On Wednesday we didn't get out to play because of the rain and it is getting cold!

Staining C of E Voluntry Controlled Primary School: We have had local floods in Staining

Ysgol Rhys Prichard: River Bran flooded Monday and Thursday evening causing roads closed and cars rescued by the fire brigade.


Mellor Saint Mary CE Primary School: Internet down due to flooding.


St. John the Baptist Primary School: Storm Desmond made it very wet here and our pupil who lives near the Clyde had to put sandbags on the path near the river. The Clyde burst its banks near Ikea and flooded the motorway. Even though it has been quite mild this week, it was snowing in Lanark on Monday and we had hail here today - it is getting colder.


Ysgol Pentrefoelas: Cawsom lawer iawn o law dros gyfnod y Nadolig gyda llifogydd yn lleol. Tymheredd cynnes am yr adeg yma o'r flwyddyn.


Coppull Parish Primary School: On Tuesday we found a piece of ice in the rain gauge! It must have been cold!!! One day it was raining a lot and we had to bring an umbrella!!!We love doing this project and we wish you good luck on

Prof Plant: Hi Coppull Primary, I’m glad to hear you are enjoying the project. Did you wait for the ice to melt to take your rain fall reading? Did you compare the volume of ice to the volume of water once it had melted? If so, what did you find? Ysgol Pentrefoelas also reported ice in their rain gauge: Ysgol Pentrefoelas: Bore oer a wedi rhewi Dydd Llun (dwr wedi rhewi yn y twmffat).

Stanford in the Vale Primary School: Another cold and wet week observed this week! We had a light dusting of snow Saturday morning!!!We have spotted our bulbs in the ground have started to poke through the soil...

Prof Plant: Exciting news about your plants growing Stanford in the Vale Primary! A few other schools have reported seeing their first shoots, including St Joseph’s Primary and Wormit Primary.

Stonehouse Primary School: We are doing this by ourselves now.

Prof Plant: Fantastic Stonehouse Primary, you are doing a very good job!

Shakespeare Primary School: Dear professor plant, we have had so much fun going outside during lessons. We have been running up and down the field.

Prof Plant: I’m glad you are enjoying the project Shakespeare Primary. You can learn anywhere and I hope being outside caring for the plants and studying the environment around you is helping to bring your lessons to life.

Wormit Primary School: Four of our pots have been vandalised at the weekend. We are going to ask parents to keep an eye out and ask our community policewoman to help as well.

Prof Plant: I’m sorry to hear that your pots have been vandalised Wormit Primary. Especially as I know how excited you were to see your first shoots before Christmas. I hope this won’t happen again. Your plants are very robust so hopefully they will still grow.

Stonehouse Primary School: When we came back after the holidays our water container had blown over and we think it had overflowed. A tree in our school garden has also blown over.

Prof Plant: Hi Stonehouse Primary. You must be having really windy weather if trees are being blown over! Did you think the rain gauge was overflowing because there had been a lot of rain? You could look at the MET office website to see the rainfall rate over the holidays:

The Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary School: When we came back after the Christmas holiday our polytunnel had blown down so the bulbs had not been protected from the weather. However, they were all fine and many of them are showing shoots. The daffodils in the bed are all showing shoots and are already bigger than those in the pots. There has been so much rain that the ground is now getting very muddy. We will have to bring our wellingtons to school so we don't get too dirty!

Prof Plant: Hi Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary. I’m sorry your polytunnel blew over, it must have been very windy! I’m glad your plants were Okay. They are very hardy and should be fine in all kinds of weather as the soil provides a warm layer protecting the bulbs from the cold. I’m glad to hear your plants have started growing. Why do you think the plants in the ground are growing quicker than the plants in pots? Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies.

Pontrhondda Primary School: Hello Professor Plant Over the Christmas holidays our class plants have been growing as well as they could be growing. The rainfall and tempriture has been ok over Christmas. How have you been over the holidays.

Prof Plant: Hi Pontrhondda Primary, I had lovely holidays thank you. I hope you did too. I’m glad to hear your bulbs are doing well. Keep up the good work!

St. Brigid's Primary School: Primary 7 were at Kilbowie this week, Primary 6 stepped up to the challenge to record this week’s results.

Prof Plant: Hi Primary 7, thank you for arranging for the weather readings to be taken while you were away. Thank you and well done to Primary 6 for recording the data! Maybe you will be taking part next year?