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Richard Burton Archives: History of Sport

Mae'r dudalen hon hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg

Sources for the History of Sport

Group of men in various gymnastic poses.A variety of collections at the Richard Burton Archives form a rich resource for examining the development of sports. This guide gives an overview of some of the records relating to facilities, teams and activities, including: 

  • Boys' and Girls' Clubs of Wales

  • Swansea University Athletic Union

  • Seven Sisters Rugby Club 

  • Welfare associations, institutes, recreation associations in the South Wales Coalfield

University College of Swansea Gym team, 1933/34 (Ref. 1999/11)

Sport at Swansea University

Green cap with Swansea University coat of arms and a tassel.

Swansea University cap, 1921-1923

The University archive collections includes material relating to a wide range of sports. Material includes:

  • Swansea University Athletic Union records (minute books, financial records, reports, correspondence and photographs- Ref. 2012/19)
  • Photographs of sports teams in the personal papers of former students, such as the Ruby Graham Collection
  • Material relating to inter-collegiate competition (now Varsity) 
  • Student newspapers 

Gallery- Swansea University Sport

Women dressed in hockey kits with hockey sticks.

University College of Swansea Women’s Hockey team, 1925 (Ref. UNI/SU/PC/5)

Match fixtures card filled in with some of the results.

University College of Swansea Inter-Collegiate Week programme, 1925 (Ref. UNI/SU/PC/5)

Sports pavilion with a large crowd outside it.

Opening of the Sports Pavilion, Sketty Lane, 1932 (Ref. 2017/6)

Men jumping hurdles.

Hurdles at Singleton Sports Track, University College of Swansea. c.1960s (Ref. UNI/SU/AS/4/1/2/96)

Person sailing.

Students sailing in Swansea Bay, c.1970s (Ref. UNI/SU/AS/4/1/1/26)

Male rugby players jumping in line out.

First fifteen UCS rugby team playing against Bangor University, c.1980s (Ref. UNI/SU/AS/4/1/3/234)

Women in sports kit carrying rugby balls.

Swansea University Women’s Rugby team, c.2000 (Ref. 2012/19)

Seven Sisters Rugby Club

Part of cover of Seven Sisters RFC fixtures card.

Fixture booklet, 1946-1947 (Ref. DC2/3/1) 

Seven Sisters Rugby Club 

Seven Sisters Rugby Football Club (RFC) was founded in 1897 in the south Wales coalfield, and is an affiliated rugby union club of the Welsh Rugby Union. The club was originally a colliery team, which drew its name from the six sisters and daughter of local coal owner, Evan Evans-Bevan. The collection includes:

  • AGM and Committee Minute books (1955-1991) 
  • Financial account books (1946-1968)
  • Account books for the club bar, which additionally operated as a social club (1961-1968)
  • Fixture booklets, tickets, letters, and a paper concerning centenary and history of club

Sport and Business

Many larger businesses sponsored local teams and some had sports clubs within their organisations, so business collections can often be a surprising source for material relating to sport and recreation. Examples include: 

  • Documents for Llanelli Co-operative Society includes a copy of photographs of staff welfare sports presentation for tennis and bowls (Ref. SWCC/MND/137/2/35/28)
  • Lists of property rents and commissions received for Ynysybwl Co-operative Society, which includes a list of commission received in respect of Glamorgan County Cricket Club for 6 months ending 3 September 1979 (Ref. SWCC/MND/137/2/73/28)
  • Advertising ledger kept by the Swansea Improvement Tramway Company including an account for Swansea Town Association Football Club (Ref. LAC/85/C/28). Find out more this ledger on this website created by MA students from Swansea University.

Page from advertising ledger.

Page from Swansea Improvement Tramway Company advertising ledger, 1921 (Ref: LAC/85/C/28) 

Sport and Society


Crowd of people gathered around handball court.

Handball tournament in Nelson, c1900 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/REC/1/16)

Organised sport was very popular within the South Wales Coalfield, ranging from boxing, to handball, to running. 

South Wales produced a number of boxing champions, including Freddie Welsh of Pontypridd, who became World Lightweight Champion in 1914 and Jimmy Wilde of Tylorstown, who became World Flyweight Champion in 1916. By the 1890s, Rugby was one of the most popular sports in the Coalfield, with many rugby clubs being founded. A number of Welsh internationals were miners. 

With the influx of North Walians and Englishmen into the South Wales Coalfield, soccer gained in popularity in the valleys. By the 1920s thousands travelled by train each week to watch Cardiff City, Swansea City and Newport Town play in the Football League.

Sports facilities

The records of many of the welfare associations, institutes, recreation associations and other organisations are a rich resource for examining the development of sports facilities.  These include: 

  • Coalfield Social Welfare Organisation (CISWO): Administrative papers including ledgers providing details of grant assistance by CISWO to Welfare Associations for upkeep of, amongst other structures, bowling and tennis pavilions, c.1952-2007 (Ref. 2007/8)
  • Clubs for Young People Wales [St Athan Boys’ Village and Boy’s Club Movement in Wales]: Annual reports, magazines, and photographs, 1928-2008 (Ref. 2011/2) 
  • Ynysybwl Recreation Association: Minute books, rules, accounts and other financial papers, maps and site plans, 1922-1965 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/81)
  • Dr JD Jenkins (Medical Officer of Health, Rhondda UDC): Correspondence and leaflets re swimming pool at Cwmpark, 1933 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/55/2)

Basque Refugees 

Group of boys, standing and seated, in football kit and ticket for football match

Members of Basque Boys Amateur Football Club, Caerleon, 1939 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/SCW/31) and match ticket for game against Pontypridd Boy's Club, 1938 (Ref. SC/681/1)

The South Wales Coalfield played an important part in the Spanish Civil War. Miners volunteered for the International Brigades, Basque refugee children stayed in Wales, and communities fund-raised for the Republican cause. To help raise funds the 'Basque Boys' played football matches against other local teams. 

Gallery- Coalfield Sport and Recreation

Group of people playing and watching bowls.

Bowling green at Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys, c.1910 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/REC/1/2)

Group of people watching a boxing match.

Boxing match at the police headquarters in Tonypandy, 1911 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/18)

Proposed development of outdoor sports facilities.

Artist’s impression of a proposed development at Blaenclydach, from Cambrian Welfare Association annual report, 1926. Includes tennis courts, bowling green, a pavilion and an open air theatre (Ref. SWCC/PHO/TOP/1/25)

Large group of people at outdoor swimming pool.

Seven Sisters outdoor swimming pool, c.1930-40 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/REC/1/22)

Sport and Literature

As well as entries in newspapers and company magazines reference to sport can be found in other forms of literature:

  • J.D. Williams collection (managing editor of the Cambria Daily Leader and Herald of Wales): newspaper-cuttings on a variety of subjects such as Swansea and district, court cases, local chapels, literary extracts, politics, Eisteddfod, sport etc., 1898 (Ref. LAC/124/3)
  • 'The Football Leader': sports edition of the 'Cambrian Daily Leader', 9 December 1906 (Ref. LAC/102/4)
  • 'So Long Hector Bebb': a novel by Ron Berry examines the life of a boxer. The Archives hold a number of manuscript and typescript texts of this work, which was first published by Macmillan and Co. in 1970. (Ref. WWE/1/1/3)