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Richard Burton Archives: Recreation and Leisure

Mae'r dudalen hon hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg

Sources for the History of Recreation and Leisure

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:

  • welfare halls and institutes
  • theatre and cinema
  • music and dance
  • eisteddfod, galas and days out


Men and women of the Ystalyfera and District Choral Society standing outside the Royal Albert Hall.

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:

  • 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)
  • programme for Mid-Rhondda Co-operative Juvenile Choir Grand Jubilee Concert, 1952 (Ref. SWCC/MND/137/2/42/5)
  • Gwaun-cae-Gurwen choir attendance register, 1954-1960  (Ref. SWCC/MNA/I/18/C/25)

Jazz Bands
The collections contain several photographs of jazz bands, which were formed in depressed inter-war years, to raise money and spirits. 

Tredegar Jazz Band in fancy dress.

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)


Formally dressed male and female students dancing in Union House.

Student dance at Union House, 1960s © John Maltby
(Ref. UNI/SU/AS/4/1/6/16)

Reference to dances appear throughout the collections, such as:

  • a collection of dance cards within the Ruby Graham (nee Joseph) Collection (Ref. UNI/SU/PC/5/2)
  • photograph of a dance troupe of child refugees in Wales during the Spanish Civil War (Ref. SWCC/PHO/SCW/52)
  • an invitation to dance at Fforestfach Welfare Hall in aid of Fforestfach Nursing Association, 1935 in the Eddie Thomas Collection (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/112/3) 


Stage at the Pontyberem Memorial Hall and Institute.

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: 

  • programmes and other items relating to Swansea Little Theatre within the Ethel Ross Collection. Ethel Ross had a lifelong interest in the amateur theatre, particularly Swansea Little Theatre (Ref. LAC/96)
  • title deeds relating to the Palace of Varieties, Swansea, in the South Wales Transport Collection (Ref. LAC/10/2/3/1)
  • play bills and other items relating to leisure and recreation within the Ralph Wishart (Bookseller) Swansea Collection contains (Ref. LAC/125)

Theatre Collection
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.

Heading from programme for Ebley's Olympic Theatre performance in aid of Tondu Disaster victims, 1892 (Ref. LAC/106/E/12)

Gallery - Music, Dance, Theatre

Programme for Ebley's Olympic Theatre.

Programme for Ebley's Olympic Theatre performance in aid of Tondu Disaster victims, 1892 (Ref. LAC/106/E/12)

Ticket for a 'Flannel Ball and Supper'.

Ticket for a 'Flannel Ball' to celebrate the opening of Ystradgynlais Welfare Hall on Friday 13 July 1934 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/NUM/I/41/49b)

Formally dressed male and female students dancing in Union House.

Student dance at Union House, 1960s © John Maltby (Ref. UNI/SU/AS/4/1/6/16​​​​​​​)

Part of Part of playbill advertising theatrical performance.

Part of playbill advertising a performance at the Theatre of Varieties, Blaenavon (Ref. LAC/106/E/15)

Children in costume as part of a Basque Refugee dancing troupe.

Photograph of members of Basque Refugee dancing troupe which toured the Welsh valleys, c.1937-1938 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/SCW/52)

Photograph of the Graig Miners Perfect Musicians holding large banner.

Photograph of the Graig Miners Perfect Musicians band during the 1926 coal strike (Ref. SWCC/PHO/REC/2/36)

Part of programme listing names and acts for talent show.

Extract from programme for Gilfach Goch 'Go-As-You-Please' talent show (Ref. SC/629)


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.

Part of fixture card listing sports matches and social functions.

Sport matches and social functions in a programme for a 1920s Inter-Collegiate week
(Ref. UNI/SU/PC/5/3)

Other Sources at Swansea University

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: 

  • programme for Workmen's Hall Cinema, Ynyshir for April 1953 (Ref. SWCC/MND/137/2/42/6)
  • register of film performances for Nantymoel Workmen's Hall and Institute, containing the names of the films being shown at the cinema, 1957–1973 (Ref. SWCC/MNC/NUM/I/6/16)
  • Cinema Committee minutes for Tredegar Workmen's Institute, 1940-1956 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/I/38/6)

Three badges.

Selection of badges, including one for Lady Windsor Cinema Club (Ref. SWCC/PHO/COL/77)

Welfare Halls and Institutes

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)

Library with three people looking at books.

Photograph of the Oakdale Miners' Institute Library, 1945 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/NUM/4/9)

Days Out

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)

Letterhead for Mumbles Railway and Pier Company.

Other collections also have information about days out, such as:

  • 'Rule' and song sheets for Baldwins' staff outing to Windsor and London, 1936 (Ref. LAC/24/J/11)
  • photograph by Raissa Page of a 'Day out, Brighton', c.1985 (Ref. DC3/11/1/1)
  • Factory Act register and certificate book for John Player and Sons Ltd, includes details of work holidays which coincided with Llangyfelach Fair, 1868-1878 (Ref. LAC/92/P/66)

Gallery - Days Out and Visits

People walking along cliff.

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

Handwritten diary entry.

Entry in small pocket book detailing animals seen at a travelling show on Christmas Day 1819 (Ref. LAC/114/2)

Mumbles lighthouse.

Photograph of Mumbles lighthouse, c.1909 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/TOP/1/46)

Bridge and park at Ammanford.

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

Group of people walking and carrying Abercrave Lodge banner.

Photograph of the Abercrave Lodge banner being carried in procession during the 1966 Miners' Gala (Ref. SWCC/PHO/NUM/3/3)

Handwritten diary entry.

Entry from the diary of Amy Dillwyn, 1872-1917 (Ref. 2012/11/6)

Small group of older people asleep in deckchairs.

'Day out, Brighton', c.1985, photograph by Raissa Page. Copyright Adrianne Jones. (Ref. DC3/11/1/1)

Eisteddfod and Galas

Group of men stood around a carved chair.

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:

  • formal photograph of members of Rock Colliery Ambulance Team, with trophy, at the Rhyl National Eisteddfod, 1953 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/COL/84)
  • programme for the Mountain Ash First Annual Independent Labour Party Eisteddfod, 1909 (Ref. SC/653)
  • 'My Experience at the Picket Line', an essay by Bryn Williams on his experiences during the 1972 strike entered in the literary competition of the Miners' Eisteddfod at Porthcawl, 1973 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/126/11)
  • balance sheet for Ystradgynlais Miners' Welfare Eisteddfod, 1943 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/I/41/B/14)

Miners’ Galas
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:

  • summary of a speech (copy) by Will Paynter given at the South Wales Miners Gala, 1963 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/NUM/L/21/57)
  • photograph of male and female dancers in costumes at the 1961 South Wales Miners' Gala (Ref. SWCC/PHO/REC/3/27)
  • National Union of Mineworkers (South Wales Area) correspondence relating to miners' gala day, including seven-a-side rugby, five-a-side football and gala procession, 1979-1988 (Ref. SWCC/MNC/NUM/6/4)

Group of people walking and carrying Abercrave Lodge banner.

Photograph of the Abercrave Lodge banner being carried in procession
during the 1966 Miners' Gala (Ref. SWCC/PHO/NUM/3/3)

Sources Elsewhere

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.