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Richard Burton Archives: Crime and Punishment

Mae'r dudalen hon hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg

Sources for the History of Crime and Punishment

Assorted printed documents.The Richard Burton Archives hold various collections that are of relevance to the study of crime, policing, prisons, punishment and the law. These cover:

  • the south Wales Coalfield, including personal papers of trade union members serving prison terms
  • strikes and other industrial disputes 
  • photography showing policing 
  • the role of the church and voluntary organisations, such as women's shelters within law and order

Papers from the South Wales Coalfield Collection relating to conscientious objectors, including letter and regulations from Swansea Prison sent during Lance Rogers' imprisonment, 1941



South Wales Coalfield Collection

​​​​​​The South Wales Coalfield Collection includes many different records relating to crime, disputes, policing and law reform. These can be at an individual, colliery or national level, including:

  • Records of strikes and demonstrations, some detailing police response. For more information on these sources, see our Industrial Disputes and Strikes guide
  • Personal papers of trade union activists who served prison sentences, including correspondence with families, news cuttings about their cases, court summons etc. e.g. letters and postcards sent to Edgar Evans during his nine months in prison for incitement to riot, and telegrams welcoming him home on his release, 1936 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/24/4
  • Personal, political, and constituency papers (1912-1971) of S O Davies, a miner, trade union official and Labour Party MP. These include references to acts and foreign policy relating to crime and law, licensing bills, and proposed plans for policing and probation services (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/16
  • Photocopy of a notebook kept by John Reilly, Tonypandy, includes notes on executions at Swansea Prison, 1858-1909 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/102/1)
  • Copy of a circular from Murray Williams, Honorary Secretary of the International Labour Defence (South Wales Section), regarding a campaign against Glamorgan police, 1934 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/NUM/L/8/32)
  • Reprints of photographs from Newport Congress including drawing of Chartist riot attack on Westgate Hotel, 1839 (Ref. SWCC/MND/137/2/46/10)
  • Report by Jack Jones (Blaenclydach) about the condition and activities of captured International Brigade volunteers in a variety of prison camps during the Spanish Civil War, 1939 (Ref. SC/275) 

Assorted letters, postcards, photos and articles.

Items from Welsh trade union leader Arthur Horner's personal collection, which includes letters, photos & articles detailing his time in prison in 1918-1919 (conscientious objector) and 1932 (unlawful assembly) (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/46)

Gallery- Policing during protest

Police officers blocking road with crowd in background.

Police blockade in Pontypridd, c1910 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/9)

Crowd behind laid table in highly decorated room.

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

Police officers sat and stood under pit head.

Members of Brighton, Dorset and Glamorgan Police forces who served in various districts during the 1926 strike (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/50)

Group of women, mostly sat on floor, with line of police officers standing behind.

Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp, 23 September 1984 (Ref. DC3/14/1)

Photograph by Raissa Page. Protected by copyright. Not to be reproduced without permission, please contact Richard Burton Archives 

Group of men running with police with riot shields in the background.

1984-1985 Miners' Strike. Copyright: Martin Shakeshaft (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/106)

Man protesting with banner facing police officers mounted on horses, and line of standing police officers.

1984-1985 Miners' Strike. Copyright: Martin Shakeshaft (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/106)

Church records

From medieval times, church and religion have been intertwined with law and punishment. Even in more recent times, church records can still be an interesting source for detailing 'crimes' of a religious nature, blaspheming, failure to attend church, immoral behaviour etc. 

  • St David's Priory, Roman Catholic Church - early registers, church records of the parish and schools and a number of items relating to the history of the Roman Catholic Church in Swansea and south Wales (Ref. LAC/99
  • Methodist Circuit of Swansea and Gower - administrative records of the Circuit and of many of the constituent chapels (Ref. LAC/75

Pages from Sunday Notices, 1863. Reports that ‘Dance Houses are hot beds of vice and inequity, we beg of you, my Bretheren, to shun them as you would a pest house' (Ref. LAC/99/C1)

Other records

  • Account by Lewis Llewelyn Dillwyn of his encounter with Rebecca Rioters at the Pontardulais Turnpike Gate, 10 September 1843 (Ref. LAC/26/D/82) and entries in his diary from same time (Ref. LAC/26/D/8, online transcription available 
  • Report of the managing committee of the Glamorgan Reformatory School, 1867 (Ref. LAC/38/8)
  • Local newspaper cuttings including court cases, 1898 (Ref. LAC/124/3-4)

Raissa Page Collection

Prison guard with key on chain in door lock.

Prison officer, Wormwood Scrubs Prison, London, August 1982 (Ref. DC3/15/1/2)

Photograph by Raissa Page. Protected by copyright. Not to be reproduced without permission, please contact Richard Burton Archives 

Documentary photographer Raissa Page took many photographs which feature policing, protest and institutions, including: 

  • prisons (Wormwood and Holloway), probation, young offenders and the police (Ref. DC3/15
  • images taken during the 1984-1985 Miners' Strike (Ref. DC3/6)
  • other political demonstrations, industrial disputes and trade union activity in the UK (Ref. DC3/24)
  • CND, Greenham Common and peace related activities (Ref. DC3/14)

University Collection

The University collections, such as the student newspapers and oral history interviews, include material relating to student strikes and protest and police involvement, and references to criminal events across the globe.

Scuffle between students and police officers.

Fighting between police and protesters at the Springboks match, Swansea. Crefft student newspaper, December 1969. ©Swansea University Students’ Union

Cwmdonkin Shelter collection

Opened in 1886, Cwmdonkin Shelter was a temporary refuge for pregnant, poor, destitute girls and was run by women prominent within Swansea society (the Ladies Committee). Its stated aim was to rescue and reform but also to prevent girls from falling to temptations. Girls were rescued from the docks, police courts and workhouse and were admitted regardless of their religion. They were taught practical skills, helped to return to their communities, sent to long-stay training homes or sent for emigration to Canada to begin new lives. 

The collection (Ref. LAC/22) details visits to the police courts to help girls in trouble. This extract, from an 1895 minute book, tells of a 10 year old girl coming to the Shelter from the magistrates court for begging and pick-pocketing, she was then sent on to a home in London. 

Handwritten text in minute book.

Extract from Cwmdonkin Shelter minute book, 1887-1970 (Ref. LAC/22/A/1)

Sources elsewhere

Sources at Swansea University