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Richard Burton Archives: South Wales Coalfield Collection

Mae'r dudalen hon hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg

South Wales Coalfield Collection


The South Wales Coalfield Collection is an internationally important research resource. The collection provides a unique picture of life in the coalfield valleys during the late 19th and 20th centuries, concentrating on the workers and the organisations they created. It contains records of trade unions, notably the National Union of Mineworkers (South Wales Area), miners' institutes, co-operative societies, and individuals connected with the mining community.

The Collection is split across two sites-

You can browse and search contents of the South Wales Coalfield Collection using the Coalfield Web Materials website and the South Wales Coalfield Collection website. For advice on searching, and more information about records and research topics, please do contact us

Welfare associations and friendly societies

Miners' institutes were a social and cultural focus for the miners and their families, providing educational facilities, welfare provisions and recreational activities, which included galas and miners' eisteddfodau. 

The institutes strongly reflected the role of the community, and conversely they became focal points for the locality. They were largely financed by the miners themselves, until the introduction of the Miners' Welfare Act in 1920 which offered further assistance.

Records include those of miners' institutes, welfare associations, friendly societies, distress funds, and workmen's hospitals. 

Co-operative Society records

The co-operative movement in Wales has a long and notable history. Following in the footsteps of the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, which is generally considered to be the first successful co-operative enterprise, there has been a constant co-operative presence in South Wales from the 1860s. For over a century it was deeply embedded in local culture, and was a major economic and social phenomenon. 

We hold the records of co-operative societies located in the mining districts of the South Wales region of the Co-operative Union Limited. This includes minute books, financial records and administrative records. In addition the archive also contains periodicals, bulletins and other printed material published by the Co-operative Wholesale Society Limited and the Co-operative Union Limited, intended for the co-operative movement as a whole. 


The photograph collection consists of over 4,000 photographs which relate to many aspects of the coalfield industry and South Wales community life.
They illustrate disputes and strikes from the Cambrian Combine Dispute 1910-1911 to the Miners' Strike in 1984-1985. Many of the photographs are connected with National Union of Mineworkers (South Wales Area) and include images of leaders, delegations, institutes and members of lodges. There are also photographs of local sports teams, choirs, dramatic societies and of other social activities in the communities including galas and eisteddfodau.
In addition, there are photographs of collieries, volunteers in the Spanish Civil War and topographical photographs of the South Wales valleys. We also hold personal photographic collections, including those of Arthur Horner and Glyn Williams.

Personal collections

The personal collections consist of archival material that has been deposited by people connected with the South Wales Coalfield. The material comes from a variety of individuals, including MPs and those who worked in the pits.

The collections reflect the lives and interests of those involved in the South Wales Coalfield and its communities. Correspondence, newscuttings, copies of speeches and notebooks are just a few examples of the varied content of the collection.

National Union of Mineworkers

The Miners Federation of Great Britain (MFGB) formed in 1889 and subsequently became the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on 1 January 1945. It developed from many years of regional coal mining trade union activities and requirements, and remains a functioning organisation today.

  • 1888: A national structure was established in the form of the MFGB

  • 1898: The South Wales Miners Federation (SWMF, commonly known as ‘The Fed’) was formed to oppose the strength of local coal-owners and coal companies

  • 1945: With the advancement towards nationalisation of the coal industry, the MFGB re-formed its constitution, and became the NUM

  • 1945: The SWMF became the NUM (South Wales Area), one of 20 areas which were established.

The records of the NUM (South Wales Area) central administration consist of minute books and accounts, and correspondence relating to a wide range of topics effecting the mining industry.

Lodge records

Each colliery (or pit) had a lodge or branch, which were the local affiliated branches of the National Union of Mineworkers (and its predecessor the South Wales Miners' Federation (SWMF). The lodge provided representation of the men to the management, and gave them a single organised economic and bargaining focus at a local level.

The papers include minute books, correspondence, financial papers etc.