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Richard Burton Archives: Environmental History

Mae'r dudalen hon hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg

Environment and Landscape

Part of plan of Vivian & Sons Ltd works, Swansea.

The Richard Burton Archives hold sources for researching changes to landscape and the environment, particularly relating to coal mining and metal industries in the Swansea area and South Wales. This includes:

  • Reports and surveys from the Lower Swansea Valley Project
  • Photographs of the South Wales Coalfield
  • Legal and administrative papers relating to the copper industry
  • Newspaper cuttings

Lower Swansea Valley Project

In 1961 the Lower Swansea Valley Project was launched, aiming to research and return an area to the attractive valley it had been prior to the development of the copper smelting industry in the early 18th century, and other subsequent metal industries. The project was sponsored mainly by the Nuffield Foundation, the Welsh Office, Swansea Council and the former Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. Researchers based at the then University of Wales Swansea undertook surveys of the valley to get an accurate picture and analysis of the valley in terms of physical environment, social environment and economic situation. A final report was produced in 1967 and the development and regeneration of the area has been going on since then.

This collection covers the period 1936 to 1967 and includes items such as:

  • Land use sub-committee minutes and papers, 1964-1966 (LAC/69/A/6)
  • Botanical, biological and ecological reports and papers, 1962-1966 (LAC/69/B/6)
  • Letters to industry, 1955-1962 (LAC/69/E/4)
  • Press cuttings file, 1962-1966 (LAC/69/F/1)

Catalogue description: Lower Swansea Valley Project (Ref. LAC/69)

Find out more about this collection at the Lower Swansea Valley Project webguide created by MA students from Swansea University. The website explores the project and key figures, the university's and local community's involvement, and much more.

Copper and Metal Industries

This material consists of 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.

  • Copy of a report by the British Steel Corporation into atmospheric pollution in the sinter plant at the East Moors Works, 1971 and 1973 (Ref. SWCC/MNC/ISTC/D5/2/14-15).
  • Brief for the defendants in an indictment for a nuisance [copper smoke]: J.H. and Sir R.H. Vivian on the prosecution of Thomas David, 1833 (Ref. LAC/126/D/1)
  • Papers relating to dispute between Baldwins Limited and the Elba Tinplate Company, and Swansea Corporation regarding pollution of the Tennar Canal, 1944-1946 (Ref. LAC/16/5)
  • Lease of White Rock Tip at Pentrechwyth by Vivian and Sons to Evan Thomas and Sons Ltd, 3 December 1936 (Ref. LAC/122/C/58)

Part of plan of Vivian & Sons Ltd works, Swansea.

Plan of Hafod works, 1916 (Ref. LAC/126/C/16)


Raissa Page Collection

Includes photographic items such as:

  • transparencies of "Ecology/National Parks USA, Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Utah", 1980s (Ref. DC3/7/3/36)
  • a photograph of "Mountain pine killed by acid rain, followed by Pine Beetle infestation, North East Utah", 1980s (DC3/7/1/72)
  • a photograph of 'GB/Society/Environment/Industrial Pollution "ICI Billingham", 1980s (Ref. DC3/11/1/11)
  • a photograph of "Smoke and dust clouds nr Consett Co Durham", 1980s (Ref. DC3/29/1/31) 
  • a photograph of "Untreated waste discharged into sea beside traditional fishing village resettled at Madras/Tamil Nadu", 1981-1982 (Ref. DC3/33/1/33)

South Wales Coalfield Collection 

Examples of Items of potential interest are: 

  • a photograph album, which includes Onllwyn, with coal tips being levelled and redeveloped, 1984-1986 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/TOP/57)
  • a panoramic photograph of Dowlais showing factories, chimneys and houses, c.1900 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/TOP/1/31)
  • a postcard showing Ty-Melin, the site of Oakdale Navigation Colliery before the colliery was built, no date (Ref. SWCC/PHO/COL/71)
  • a photograph of the sinking of Markham Colliery, showing men in a huge pit which will eventually become the mine shaft, 1911 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/COL/63)
  • a photograph of a landslip at Pentre, giving a view of the slip and the damage caused, with the valley in the background, 1916 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/TOP/1/61)


Dying mountain pine trees.

Photograph by Raissa Page of "Mountain pine killed by acid rain, followed by Pine Beetle infestation, North East Utah", 1980s (Ref. DC3/7/1/72)

Group of people walking along cliff top.

Undated photograph of The Green at Porthcawl, showing people walking along the coastline (Ref. SWCC/PHO/TOP/1/66)

2 men in sinking of coal mining pit.

Photograph of the sinking of Markham Colliery, 1911 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/COL/63)

Group of people descending vertical sewer in basket.

Photograph by Raissa Page of "Islington councillors descend into flood emergency sewers being constructed [19]86-87" (Ref. DC3/11/1/10)

View of bridge and park, with handwriting on top right corner.

Undated photograph of a view across the bridge and park at Ammanford (Ref. SWCC/PHO/TOP/1/6)

Other sources in the Archives

Raymond Williams Collection
Includes various papers of the Socialist Environment & Resources Association (SERA), such as newsletters, minutes and circulars as well as versions of 'Socialism and Ecology' by Raymond Williams, which was published as a SERA pamphlet in 1982 (Ref. WWE/2/1/15/1/7).

Ron Berry Collection
Includes a series of 20th century bird watching diaries and ornithological writings (Ref. WWE/1/7/2), as well as letters and other items relating to the Rhondda Forest Recreation Project, 1973-1979 (Ref. WWE/1/10/14). 

Lewis Llewellyn Dillywn 
Includes a series of diaries (Ref. LAC/26/D), for which there are online transcripts. The first diary, 1833-1834, for example, includes details of the weather and wildlife.

Individual Items From Across the Collections

  • Photocopy of an eighteenth-century copy of the Cromwellian Survey of Gower (Ref. LAC/77/1)
  • Valuations and correspondence re insurance claims for damage from storm and fire at the Millbrook Engineering Works, 1923-1923 (Ref. LAC/76/A/28)
  • Letter to Lewis Llewellyn Dillwyn from Sir Edwin Chadwick re sewerage, 14 August 1852 (Ref. LAC/26/D/61)
  • Newspaper cutting from the 'South Wales Evening Post' relating to the environmental threat posed to the Upper Clydach River by Abernant Colliery (Ref. SC/62/1)

Other sources at Swansea University

South Wales Miners' Library
The SWML houses the printed book and pamphlet collections, as well as access copies of oral history recordings from the South Wales Coalfield Collection, which may relate to the environment and landscape in the South Wales Coalfield.

South Wales Coalfield

The South Wales Coalfield 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.

2 men in pit sinking Markham Colliery, 1911

Photograph of the sinking of Markham Colliery, showing men in the pit which will eventually become the mine shaft, 1911 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/COL/63)

Ty Toronto Project

The project came into existence in response to the Aberfan disaster in 1966, when a coal waste tip slid down a mountainside killing 144 people, 116 of them children. The name of the project comes from the Welsh community in Toronto whose donations helped to set up a centre in Aberfan, headed by the Reverend Erastus Jones. In March 1973 'The Call to the Valleys' heralded a number of conferences and events aimed at highlighting the valley communities' concerns and the issues affecting them. There is one section relating to the 'Valleys and the Environment Conference', containing correspondence, papers and registration records, 1974-1975 (Ref. SWCC/MNC/TT/13)

Collection description: Ty Toronto Project (Ref. SWCC/MNC/TT)

Haydn Evans Collection

Aberfan Disaster Inquiry proceedings 1966, including numerous reports and papers, as well as copies of correspondence and memoranda relating to complaints about the danger of coal tips, flooding and pollution at Aberfan (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/26/3).

Collection description: Haydn Evans (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/26)

Items from the South Wales Coalfield Collection that may be of interest include:

  • Sketch plan of land around Llanelly Hill, including some old mine workings, c.1950s (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/32/1)
  • Copies of the debate had by Standing Committee B on the Mines and Quarries [Tips] Bill, retained by S.O. Davies, MP, who was a member of the committee (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/16/11/29-31)
  • Photograph of the winding house at Pyle after its closure, c.1980 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/COL/83)
  • The Housing Reform Building Company proposals for building at Ynysybwl, c.1910 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/81/48)
  • Mine inspector's notes, plans and letter regarding abandoned mines at Gelligaled and Penygraig, 1918-1919 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/55/6)

Student Stories from Aberfan

Roads and Transport

South Wales Transport

In 1807, the Swansea and Mumbles Railway became the world's first passenger railway service. 

The Mumbles Railway collections are a comprehensive resource for bus, railway and tramway transportation in South Wales, mainly for Swansea and the surrounding areas. They contain records from all of the companies associated with the Mumbles Railway and Mumbles Pier -

  • South Wales Transport Company
  • Swansea and Mumbles Railways Limited
  • Mumbles Railway and Pier Company
  • Swansea Improvements and Tramways Company. 

The collections contain many different types of document, including maps and plans, legal papers and correspondence, and can show the impact of transport on Swansea and the surrounding area. The records include:

  • First edition Glamorgan Ordnance Survey maps on which have been pencilled the horse tram routes, with later amendments to show additional lines and feeder pillars when electrification took place, late 19th century to early 20th century (Ref. LAC/10/2/4)
  • Papers concerning the Clyne Valley Branch of the Mumbles Railway, including copy correspondence concerning Swansea Corporation's road widening at Clyne Valley, 1841-1939 (Ref. LAC/10/1/3/1)
  • Letter from Nevill, Druce and Co. Ltd. stating their acceptance of the erection of 'unclimable' fence and walls, 17 May 1939 (Ref. LAC/10/1/6/7/15)
  • Railway rules and regulations poster regarding ‘explosions’ and the Mumbles Railway, 1893 (LAC/85/E/36)

People watching double-decker tram filled to maximum capacity.

Photograph of 'MUMBLES TRAIN NEARLY FULL', 1906 (Ref. LAC/85/A/19)