The collections in the Archives hold a significant amount of materials relating to leisure and recreation, in particularly relating to the south Wales coalfield. These documents can be found within various collections, as well as a stand-alone collection relating to theatre, and cover:
Photograph of the Ystalyfera and District Choral Society section of the Welsh Choir standing outside the Royal Albert Hall at the Royal Jubilee Command Performance, 1935 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/REC/2/16)
Choirs are a form of music often associated with Wales, particularly male voice choirs, and the tradition of choral singing appears in the collections, such as:
The collections contain several photographs of jazz bands, which were formed in depressed inter-war years, to raise money and spirits.
Photograph of the Tredegar Jazz Band in fancy dress,
winners of the Jazz Band championship of Rhymney, 1926 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/REC/2/48)
Brass and Silver Bands
The collections hold a number of photographs and other papers relating to community brass and silver bands, including:
Gwaen-Cae-Gurwen Brass Band: The band was formed in 1862 by a group of local men, many of whom were miners. Each member contributed to the cost of a set of second hand instruments. By 1898 the band was competing in contests and during the first decade of the 20th century enjoyed great success. The band was successful in British championship contests, first winning their section in 1934. The band was disbanded in 1955, but a new band was formed in 1956, which went on to have many competition successes.
Collection Description: Vincent Evans (Gwaen-Cae-Gurwen) (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/31)
Student dance at Union House, 1960s © John Maltby
Reference to dances appear throughout the collections, such as:
Photograph of a view of the stage at the
Pontyberem Memorial Hall and Institute, c.1927 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/NUM/4/17/1)
The records of many of the welfare associations, institutes and other organisations, together with personal collections, are a rich resource for researching the theatre. As well as having information about about theatrical performances taking place in permanent structures, the collections also have information about another form, 'portable theatre'. The types of record found in the collections include:
This collection contains material relating to Swansea Little Theatre c1933-1965; University of Wales Swansea productions; the theatre in London 1825-c1948; provincial theatres 1821-c1980; 'The Portable Theatre' 1880-1949; Dylan Thomas and his association with the theatre 1932-1934; television productions; miscellaneous items undated (c18th century) and 1905-1967. For more information about the collection see the online catalogue.
Catalogue: Theatre Collection (Ref. LAC/106)
Heading from programme for Ebley's Olympic Theatre performance in aid of Tondu Disaster victims, 1892 (Ref. LAC/106/E/12)
For details about the variety of collections at the Richard Burton Archives that can be used to research sports facilities, teams and activities please see our Sport Subject Guide.
Sport matches and social functions in a programme for a 1920s Inter-Collegiate week
South Wales Miners' Library
The SWML houses the printed book and pamphlet collections, including the libraries of over 60 institute and welfare halls from across the coalfield. In addition other resources include oral history recordings from the South Wales Coalfield Collection. The SWML also holds a number of miner's lodge banners, which would have been carried at miners' galas.
Rare Books and Special Collections
This includes a collection of over 300 ballads (most of which are in Welsh) printed between 1710 and the early 20th century. Each of these is separately catalogued in iFind Discover.
Cinema was a popular form of entertainment and the diaries of Richard Burton (Ref. RWB/1/1) include references to the films he saw at his local cinema in Taibach. Miners' and workmen's halls and welfare institutes often included such facilities and reference to cinemas and films can be found in various forms:
Selection of badges, including one for Lady Windsor Cinema Club (Ref. SWCC/PHO/COL/77)
Miners' institutes and halls developed in Wales from the latter part of the nineteenth century. The development of the coalfield saw a great increase in the population and new demands for meeting places for both lodge (union) business, evening classes and community recreation. The institutes strongly reflected the role of the community and as a result they became focal points for the social, cultural and educational life of the mining village and area.
The South Wales Coalfield Collection includes minute books, financial records, membership records, rules, and papers relating to community activities, from welfare institutes and halls including:
Llanhilleth Colliery Workmen's Institute and Library: Officially opened in May 1906, this institute was the cornerstone of the community in in Llanhilleth, Gwent. Among the amenities available to members were a library, reading room and dance hall, as well as a swimming pool which was located in the basement. The Institute rented The Playhouse cinema before purchasing it in 1944. In later years a billiard room, bar and betting shop were also opened on the premises.
Catalogue: Llanhilleth Colliery Workmen's Institute and Library Records (Ref. SWCC/MND/148)
Photograph of the Oakdale Miners' Institute Library, 1945 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/NUM/4/9)
Mumbles Pier and Railway and the South Wales Transport Company
The collections have a significant number of items relating to transport within the Swansea area, as well as records relating to the history of Mumbles Pier. Title deeds, correspondence and other papers detail the development of the Pier and the activities that took place. For a brief history of the pier and South Wales Transport see Re-visiting Mumbles Pier.
Catalogue: Records of the South Wales Transport Company (Ref. LAC/10)
Collection Description: Mumbles Railway Records (Ref. LAC/85)
Other collections also have information about days out, such as:
Eisteddfod: Group of men around a carved chair (Ref. SWCC/PHO/REC/3/16)
The National Eisteddfod dates back to 1176, when it was first held by Lord Rhys at his castle in Cardigan. The modern history of the organisation dates back to 1861 and the festival has been held every year, other than 1914.
The Miners’ Eisteddfod started in 1948 in Porthcawl, where it took place every October until 2002. The annual Eisteddfod stimulated a range of cultural activities at a time when the decline of the coal industry threatened the existence of so many mining communities in South Wales.
Items held within the collections include:
Unlike other British coalfields, there is not a long tradition of holding galas in South Wales. The first gala was held in June 1953 in Cardiff. In the early days, the galas were very political occasions with speakers such as Aneurin Bevan. In the 1970s and 1980s, the galas became more social events, with brass bands, folk dancing and art and craft exhibitions.
Items within the collections include:
Photograph of the Abercrave Lodge banner being carried in procession
during the 1966 Miners' Gala (Ref. SWCC/PHO/NUM/3/3)
In addition you may wish to contact local authority archives as well as university, charity and other services depending upon your research interests. The National Archives have information about how to find an archive in the UK and beyond.