Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum 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

Everyone knows that museums don't allow visitors to do anything, right? You mustn't touch, eat, smoke, take photos; rucksacks are banned, as are balloons (!) and mobile phones. What's going on here? Are you even allowed to breath?! Well, actually, if you must breath then please don't do it near the objects...

Joking aside, all those rules are part of our efforts to ensure that the objects on display will remain in top condition for many years to come. Things decay - that is the way of the world. Museum conservators try to halt that decay for as long as possible.

For example, colours fade in bright light. I have a pair of my daughter's first shoes on my car dashboard which were once a vivid red. Now, after many years exposure to sunlight, they are a faded pink. To avoid the same fate for the museum objects in our care we limit light levels and have UV filters in our galleries, and we ask you not to use a flash when taking photographs.

Smoking is banned in museums because the smoke from cigarettes contains sticky tarry substances that can settle on objects and are very difficult (and expensive) to clean off. We don't really like balloons and rucksacks because they sometimes get entangled with objects and then pull or push them off their plinth, or cause parts to break off and again, this causes expensive conservation jobs, if the object can be fixed at all.

Touching is usually not desired for similar reasons, but also because your hands leave oils on surfaces; these are contained naturally in the skin. If many people touch the same surface over many years it will show as dirt.

There are exceptions to the "no-touch-rule": if you go up to our gallery number one at National Museum Cardiff you will see the Jenkins Vase on display. This marble object was originally a Roman well-head and it depicts the story of Paris, son of Priam of Troy, and Helen. During the 1770s the well-head was converted into a decorative vase. While we ask you not to touch the vase itself, there is a marble touchpad next to it in the shape of two hands. One hand is behind glass and pristinely white; the other hand has been touched by generations of visitors, and the effect of this touching can be seen clearly.

We also have other opportunities for hands-on activities, for example in our Clore Discovery Gallery, and during events. We keep parts of our collections specifically for people to touch and interact with, but we do ask you to respect our efforts to maintain the collections and preserve them for the enjoyment of future generations.

Recently working through the John Dillwyn Llewelyn collection, I was reminded of this amazing photograph of Swansea taken in 1858. The image was taken on the 15 March 1858 at 1 o'clock with an exposure of 15 minutes. It was taken by Welsh photographer John Dillwyn Llewelyn using a ground breaking process invented by him in 1856 called the Oxymel process. This was a development of the wet collodion process and used a solution of acetic acid, water & honey to preserve images. This meant that glass negatives could be prepared in advance and exposed in the camera as required, and produced a dry plate that could be kept for days. This new process meant landscape photographers no longer needed to carry with them portable laboratories and darkroom tents.

The photograph shows Swansea taken from St. Thomas on the 15 March 1858. To the far left, above the roofline, Mumbles Head can just about be made out. In the background (slightly to the right) can be seen the North Dock with buildings around it, and sailing ships in the dock. In front of that is the railway embankment alongside the New Cut of the river Tawe. In the foreground can be seen a number of houses, including the 'White Lion Inn', and to the far right it is just about possible to make out the remains of Swansea Castle.

I thought that it would be interesting to try and identify the viewpoint from where this photograph was taken and to see how the view might have changed since 1858. I therefore contacted my colleague Andrew Deathe at the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea to see if his knowledge of the area would allow him to identify the viewpoint.

Living locally Andrew was able to take this modern view in May 2015. He took the photograph by standing on the road which is in the foreground of the 1858 image, which is called Bay View, in St. Thomas. The house in the original image is just behind his viewpoint. John Dillwyn Llewelyn seemed to be standing half way between Bay View and Windmill Terrace (which wasn't built for another 20 years).

The skyline of Swansea has seen many changes over the years and it is difficult to tell that the two images are taken from the same viewpoint. However it is still possible to make out Mumbles Head to the left and part of Swansea Castle to the right. The railway embankment has been completely removed, and there is no trace or it or the tunnel today. In place of the old North Dock buildings, you can see the glass pyramid of Plantasia. The tower of St. Mary's church can't be seen unfortunately, as it is behind the BT Tower.

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

Yn ei dyddiadur heddiw (17 Gorffennaf), mae Kate yn crybwyll bod ei ffrind, Anwen Roberts, wedi cael "notice i gael cowpog oddiwrth y Red Cross". Heblaw am ambell gyfeiriad at gasglu arian er budd y Belgiaid, dyma'r unig gyfeiriad yn y dyddiadur hyd yn hyn at waith gwirfoddol ar y ffrynt cartref - un o nodweddion amlycaf yr ymgyrch ryfel ym Mhrydain.

Yn ystod y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf, sefydlwyd bron i 18,000 o elusennau newydd ym Mhrydain ac fe welwyd ymgyrchu gwirfoddol ar raddfa heb ei debyg o'r blaen. Ynghyd ag Urdd San Ioan, roedd y Groes Goch Brydeinig yn ganolog i'r ymgyrch hon. Yn 1909, daeth y ddwy elusen ynghyd i sefydlu cynllun y Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD), gyda'r bwriad o roi hyfforddiant meddygol i wirfoddolwyr a'u paratoi i wasanaethu gartref a thramor mewn cyfnodau o ryfel. Yn ôl ystadegau'r Groes Goch, erbyn diwedd y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf roedd 90,000 o bobl wedi cymryd rhan yn y cynllun - yn eu plith Anwen Roberts o'r Fedwarian Isaf, Llyncil, ger y Bala.

Dim ond menywod rhwng 23 a 38 mlwydd oedd â'r hawl i wirfoddoli fel nyrs VAD gyda'r Groes Goch. Yn y lle cyntaf, roedd hi'n ofynnol i bob ymgeisydd lenwi ffurflen gais a chael cyfweliad o flaen panel o swyddogion. Wedi hyn, roedd y rhai llwyddiannus yn cael eu galw am brawf meddygol a'u brechu rhag heintiau peryglus. Dyma oedd yn wynebu Anwen ar 17 Gorffennaf 1915 pan gafodd "cowpog" (buchfrechiad) rhag y frech wen. Yr wythnos ganlynol, cyhoeddwyd nodyn byr yn Y Cymro am ymgais Anwen ac eraill i ymuno â'r Groes Goch:

Cynnyg eu hunain - Y mae rhyw wyth neu ddeg o ferched ieuainc wedi cynnyg eu hunain i'r Red Cross. Galwyd ar Miss Mair Roberts, Brynmelyn, Talybont, a Miss Anwen Roberts i gael arholiad feddygol i Lerpwl y dydd o'r blaen. Ni chawsant wybod y canlyniad eto. [Y Cymro 21 Gorffennaf 1915]

Mae tystiolaeth yn Amgueddfa ac Archifau'r Groes Goch ym Moorfields, Llundain, yn cadarnhau fod Anwen wedi llwyddo yn yr arholiad meddygol. Ymysg y dogfennau sydd ar gof a chadw yno mae casgliad pwysig o gardiau indecs sy'n cofnodi manylion personol nyrsys VAD o gyfnod y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf. Ar hyn o bryd, mae'r rhain yn cael eu trawsgrifio, fesul llythyren, gan wirfoddolwyr. Gallwch weld cyfran helaeth ohonynt ar wefan y Groes Goch.

Er nad yw manylion Anwen ar y wefan eto, mae staff y Groes Goch wedi bod yn chwilota'r archif ar ein rhan. Mae'r wybodaeth ar gardiau gwasanaeth Anwen (mae tri cherdyn i gyd) yn hynod ddiddorol ac yn anarferol o amrywiol. Ar ôl cwblhau'r meini prawf, bu'n gweithio o Hydref 1915 tan Ragfyr 1917 mewn ysbyty milwrol yng Nghasnewydd “Mil. Hosp. Newport, Cardiff" yw'r union eiriau ar gefn y cerdyn cyntaf. Cangen Casnewydd o'r 3rd Western General Hospital oedd yr ysbyty dan sylw. Roedd pencadlys yr ysbyty hwn yng Nghaerdydd, ar Ffordd Casnewydd fel mae'n digwydd.

Mae'r ail gerdyn yn dangos fod Anwen yn derbyn cyflog o £20 y flwyddyn o Dachwedd 1916 ymlaen. Fel rheol, roedd nyrsys VAD yn gweithio'n wirfoddol mewn ysbytai ymadfer (auxiliary hospitals). Ond yn Chwefror 1915 fe ganiataodd y Swyddfa Ryfel i rai, fel Anwen, weithio mewn ysbytai milwrol o dan oruchwyliaeth nyrsys proffesiynol a derbyn cyflog am eu gwasanaeth.

Mae'r cerdyn olaf yn dangos ei bod hefyd wedi gwirfoddoli mewn ysbyty ymadfer yn nes at ei chartref ym Meirionnydd. Ym Mehefin 1917 agorwyd ysbyty yn Neuadd Palé ger Llandderfel, a bu Anwen yn gwasanaethu yno o Awst 1917 tan Orffennaf 1918. Am gyfnod, roedd hi'n gweithio yn Llandderfel a Chasnewydd ar yr un pryd.

Os hoffech ddarganfod mwy am waith y Groes Goch yn ystod y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf, mae adnoddau gwych ar wefan y mudiad, gan gynnwys rhestr o'r holl ysbytai ymadfer a agorwyd ym Mhrydain. Mae llu o wrthrychau a delweddau perthnasol yn y casgliad yma yn Sain Ffagan hefyd. Ewch draw i'r catalog digidol i ddarganfod mwy.

Deep beneath the ocean surface, where no sunlight can penetrate, there are areas so hot, volatile and toxic that it's hard to believe life can exist...but it does, and often in abundance. It is exactly this kind of hostile environment that one of our most recent natural history acquisitions came from, a spectacular marine snail called the 'scaly-foot gastropod', or for those of you who like Greek and Latin, Chrysomallon squamiferum Chen, Linse, Copley & Rogers, 2015 (fig. 1). It comes from depths of 2785m, living on the edge of hydrothermal vents and black smokers that reach temperatures of 300-400°C. This is certainly not your average snail...

Under armour and ready for battle

It was in 2000 that the first hydrothermal vent field was discovered in the Indian Ocean, known as Kairei field, and a year on that Woods Hole surveyed the area in the RV Knorr 162-13 and encountered this new species. It was immediately obvious that something unique had been discovered. The 'foot' of this snail, which is the fleshy soft part that snails move around on, displayed hundreds of hardened tags, almost like an armour. These tags are called sclerites; fleshy in the centre and hard on the exterior due to a layer of conchiolin (a protein secreted as a part of shell formation) covered by a layer of iron sulphide that gives it a black metallic appearance (fig. 2). The iron sulphide exists in two forms in the snail: greigite, which is highly magnetic, and pyrite, which is commonly known as fool's gold. The presence of the metallic sclerites is not totally understood but Suzuki et al. at the Extremobiosphere Research Center in Japan suggest the snail may control the mineralization of the iron sulphides for protection from crab predation or perhaps for detoxification purposes.

Completely unique is that the iron sulphide is also found in the snails' shell, so this was the first discovery of an animal with iron sulphide in its skeleton (fig. 3). Underneath the metallic exterior there is a thick but softer organic layer which covers the hard calcium carbonate shell that most marine snails have. So unusual is this triple layering in the shell, in both its chemical make-up and mechanism, that some scientists consider it to offer extensive protection and think it may be used as inspiration for man-made armour in the future.

New vent fields, new discoveries

The iron and sulphide found in the scaly-foot gastropods at the Kairei field comes from the mineral rich waters expelled from the hydrothermal vents and black smokers. Different vents do, however, have different mineral compositions. Nevertheless, it was still of great surprise when in 2009 the Solitaire field was discovered in the Indian Ocean and living on it was a different colour form of the scaly-foot gastropod; this time displaying a brown shell and cream coloured sclerites, both completely lacking the iron sulphide coating. Genetic testing by Nakamura et al. at the Precambrian Ecosystem Laboratory in Japan confirmed in 2012 that they are the same species and also that the sclerites of the iron-lacking form were in fact mechanically stronger. Then, in 2011, yet another population of the black scaly-foot gastropod was found in great abundance at the Longqi field, another new discovery for the Indian Ocean, and this is where the two specimens deposited at this museum came from. Figure 4 shows snails from the three different vent populations.

The heart of a dragon

The external features of this snail are certainly spectacular and strange, but taking a look inside shows that the theme continues there. It is of no surprise that this snail has special adaptations to live in such a toxic and harsh environment; survival in such a place certainly requires an evolutionary helping hand. Similarly to other species living on black smokers and close to vent effluents it has evolved a symbiotic relationship with bacteria living inside its body. These bacteria supply the snail with most of its nutrition and to accommodate them the snail has developed a massive oesophageal gland, taking up over 9% of its body mass! In turn the snail needs to keep the bacteria alive and so has also developed a huge circulatory system, including a supersized heart, to supply the oesophageal gland with enough oxygen. It's a win-win situation, or perhaps a deal made in Hell!

What's in a name?

Although it was discovered 14 years ago it is only this year that the scaly-foot gastropod was officially christened Chrysomallon squamiferum by Chong Chen of Oxford University and his associates. This snail is so different to any others known that Chen et al. needed to describe a new genus to put this new species in. The genus name Chrysomallon means 'golden fleece', giving reference to the metallic coating often containing fool's gold. The species name squamiferum means 'scale-bearing', making obvious reference to the sclerites covering the foot of the snail. The process of describing new species also means that a specimen (holotype) or a series of specimens (holotype and paratypes) need to be selected as representatives of the species and placed in museum collections, and that is where we come in! The two specimens we have been donated are a part of this incredibly important 'type' series. They even came with a note telling us to store them in 100% alcohol as any water in the preservative would cause them to rust over time. Rusting is certainly not a conservation issue we usually have to consider with our mollusc collections!

Back at the museum

This is not the first addition of molluscs from deep sea hydrothermal vents to our collections. With resident bivalve researchers working here we already house material that has been described by our experts from such environments, in addition to other extreme marine environments. Some are from the oil seeps off Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico, the mud volcanoes in the Gulf of Cadiz or methane seeps off Chile. Others are from hydrothermal vents on the Northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge and hydrothermal springs in the Cascadia Basin of the NE Pacific. Perhaps the strangest place that one of our new species was described from was the wreck of the sunken ship Francois Vieljeux which contained organic cargo containing sacks of beans, sunflower seeds and bales of sisal twine. Over time the rotting cargo produced a sulphur rich environment that attracted animals able to exploit it, including the bivalve Spinaxinus sentosus Oliver & Holmes (fig. 5). Amazing.

When you think that only 160 years ago much of the scientific community embraced Edward Forbe's 'azoic theory', that life could not exist beyond 550m, our knowledge and understanding of the sea has really come on a very long way. Nevertheless, there will always be more waiting to be discovered.

If you want to learn more about our collections follow us on Twitter @CardiffCurator


Chen, C., Copley, J. T., Linse, K., Rogers, A. D. and Sigwart, J. (2014). Abstract from Seventh Congress of the European Malacological Societies. Edited by White, T. S.

Chen, C., Linse, K., Copley, J. T. and Rogers, A. D. (2015). The 'scaly-foot gastropod': a new genus and species of hydrothermal vent-endemic gastropod (Neomphalina: Peltospiridae) from the Indian Ocean. Journal of Molluscan Studies. 81(3): 1-13. doi:10.1093/mollus/eyv013

Nakamura, K, Watanabe, H, Miyazaki, J, Takai, K, Kawagucci, S, et al. (2012). Discovery of New Hydrothermal Activity and Chemosynthetic Fauna on the Central Indian Ridge at 18u-20uS. PLoS ONE 7(3): e32965. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032965

Oliver, P. G. & Holmes, A. M. (2006). New species of Thyasiridae (Bivalvia) from chemosynthetic communities in the Atlantic Ocean. Journal of Conchology. 39(2): 175-183; figs 1-32.

Suzuki, Y. et al. (2006). Sclerite formation in the hydrothermal-vent 'scaly-foot' gastropod - possible control of iron sulphide biomineralization by the animal. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 242. 39-50.

Yao, H. et al. (2010). Protection mechanisms of the iron-plated armor of a deep-sea hydrothermal vent gastropod. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107.3 (2010): 987-992.