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Richard Burton Archives: Research ideas

Spanish Civil War

The South Wales Coalfield Collection includes significant material relating to the Spanish Civil War and the part played by Welsh volunteers, many of whom were politically active miners from the South Wales Coalfield. 

  • records of the National Union of Mineworkers (South Wales Area) and its predecessor, the South Wales Miners’ Federation (SWMF) and its branches or lodges.
  • material about the reaction of and support given by some mining communities to the Republican cause.
  • personal collections containing letters and memoirs detailing experiences of the International Brigades etc. 
  • photographs including images of Spanish Civil War volunteers in Spain, Spanish settlers in Wales, memorials and ceremonies to commemorate those who fought in the war. 


The Local Archive Collections hold a substantial amount of historical material relating to the metal industries in the Swansea area; the copper, tinplate and steel industries are particularly well represented. These collections vary in date, scope and content, containing a wide variety of material including minute books, financial ledgers, legal documents, staff records and technical papers.

We hold the business records of some of the key families and organisations that developed the copper industry in the Swansea region. The records provide an insight into the development of the copper industry, links with companies in other countries, financial developments, production patents and the social problems of copper smoke.

Family history

If your ancestor was a prominent figure in a trade union, a coal miner involved in significant events (such as a mining disaster), worked in local industry or went to Swansea University, we may have records which could tell you more about them. Other sources for family history include; 

  • Records of St David’s Priory, the first Roman Catholic Church in Swansea. These include registers of baptisms, 1808-1910, and marriages, 1840-1956
  • Methodist records of the Swansea and Gower circuit (excluding the registers, which are held by West Glamorgan Archive Service). These include Sunday school attendance registers and club minute books


The records of many of the welfare associations, institutes, and recreation organisations found in the South Wales Coalfield are a rich resource for examining the development of sports. The collection includes photographs of facilities, teams and activities. Sources from other collections include records of;

  • Boys' and Girls' Clubs of Wales
  • Swansea University Athletic Union
  • Seven Sisters Rugby Club 

Literature and drama

 We hold several collections of Welsh writers in English, including 

  • Raymond Williams (1921-1998) 
  • Ron Berry (1920-1997) 
  • B L Coombes (1893-1974) 
  • Alun Richards (1929-2004) 
  • Elaine Morgan (1920-2013) 

We also hold material relating to poetry, including Vernon Watkins, D G and Islwyn Williams, and Dylan Thomas. 

Our theatre collection contains items from the 18th century to 1980 and relates to Swansea Little Theatre, the University of Wales Swansea, theatre in London, provincial theatres, 'The Portable Theatre', and television productions. 

Women's history

We hold various documents that may be of relevance to the study of women’s history and the political, professional, social, economic, educational aspects of this topic;

  • diaries of Amy Dillwyn, pioneering female British industrialist
  • material on the Women's Freedom League
  • records of the Association of Women Science Teachers
  • women's support groups during the 1984-1985 miners' strike

University history

The University holds archives dating from its foundation in 1920. These are a rich resource for those interested in the development of the University, its social and cultural past, the history of its architecture, and student life. 

The collection includes the official minutes of the University’s established committees, alongside departmental records, correspondence, photographs and newspaper cuttings. A particular strength is the Student Union Newspaper collection, which provides an insight into student experience throughout the decades. 

For more information see our guide to the University Collection


Disputes and strikes

The South Wales Coalfield Collection contains a lot of material relating to strikes and disputes in the coal industry, primarily in relation to trade unions such as the South Wales Miners' Federation and the National Union of Mineworkers (South Wales Area). 

There is also material relating to national unrest as well as other trade union disputes.

As well as written records there is a substantial collection of photographs illustrating various strikes and disputes held in the Archives. This is complemented by published material, oral histories and items at the South Wales Miners' Library