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Richard Burton Archives: Research ideas

Mae'r dudalen hon hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg

Sources for Women's History

Women's Freedom League material, 1930s, from the Kirkland Collection (Ref. LAC/58) 

We hold various collections of relevance to the study of women’s history and the political, professional, social, economic, and educational aspects of this topic. 

  • Diaries of Amy Dillwyn, pioneering female British industrialist
  • Material on the Women's Freedom League
  • Records of the Association of Women Science Teachers, Welsh branch
  • Women's support groups during the 1984-1985 Miners' Strike
  • Records of Cwmdonkin Shelter, Swansea
  • Photographic collection of documentary photographer Raissa Page

Sources for the History of Sport

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

The records of many of the welfare associations, institutes, and recreation organisations found in the South Wales coalfield are a rich resource for examining the development of sports. The collection includes photographs of facilities, teams and activities. 

Sources from other collections include records of

  • Boys' and Girls' Clubs of Wales
  • Swansea University Athletic Union
  • Seven Sisters Rugby Club
  • Welfare associations, institutes, recreation associations in the South Wales coalfield

Sources for Family History

Part of decorated family tree of the de la Beche family

If your ancestor was a prominent figure in a trade union, a coal miner involved in significant events (such as a mining disaster), worked in local industry or went to Swansea University, we may have records which could tell you more about them. Other sources for family history include 

  • Records of St David’s Priory, the first Roman Catholic Church in Swansea. These include registers of baptisms, 1808-1910, and marriages, 1840-1956
  • Methodist records of the Swansea and Gower circuit (excluding the registers, which are held by West Glamorgan Archive Service). These include Sunday school attendance registers and club minute books

Sources for Literature and Drama

Playbill for Latimer's Mammoth Theatre 'Dog of the Regiment or Fidelity, Hatred & Revenge!' (Ref. LAC/106/E/30)

Our Welsh writers in English collections include papers of

  • Raymond Williams (1921-1998) 
  • Ron Berry (1920-1997) 
  • B L Coombes (1893-1974) 
  • Alun Richards (1929-2004) 
  • Elaine Morgan (1920-2013) 

We also hold material relating to poetry, including Vernon Watkins, D G and Islwyn Williams, and Dylan Thomas. 

Our theatre collection contains items from the 18th century to 1980 and relates to Swansea Little Theatre, the University of Wales Swansea, theatre in London, provincial theatres, 'The Portable Theatre', and television productions. 

Sources for Business History

Plan of Hafod Works, 1918 (Ref. LAC/126/C/16)

The Local Archive Collections includes the records of many local businesses, such as the Mumbles Railway. The metallurgical industries in the area are well represented, especially copper, tinplate and steel.

We hold records of some of the key families and organisations that developed the copper industry in the Swansea region. They provide an insight into the development of the industry, links with companies in other countries, financial developments, production patents and the impact of copper smoke.

These collections vary in date, scope and content, containing a wide variety of material including minute books, financial ledgers, legal documents, staff records and technical papers.

Sources for the History of Migration

Photograph of Spanish immigrant workers in front of Dowlais ironworks, c1900 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/TOP/33)

The Archives has a broad range of sources for the study of migration to, from and around Wales as well as elsewhere. This includes:

  • refugees from the Spanish Civil War
  • students travelling for education
  • people moving for economic opportunities, such as the copper trade

Sources for Environment and Landscape History

The 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. These include:

  • 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

Sources for LGBT+ history

SWCC/PHO/PC/9/3: photograph of LGSM banner at the 1985-1985 strike, from the personal collection of Kim Howells

This gallery is a highlight of the material we hold relating to LGBT+ history. It includes - 


  • Swansea University Students’ Union records which give a valuable insight into student life, such as experiences of students and attitudes towards gender, sexuality, relationships, and current affairs and politics, including LGBT+ rights.
  • Material from the South Wales Coalfield Collection relating to the Lesbians and Gays Supports the Miners' Group (LGSM), and their support and solidarity with mining communities during the miners' strike of 1984-85.
  • Items relating to LGBT+ writers, photographers, and other prominent figures.

Sources for the History of Industrial Disputes and Strikes

Photograph of a march to Bristol from South Wales, 1931 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/56)

The South Wales Coalfield Collection contains a lot of material relating to strikes and disputes in the coal industry, primarily in relation to trade unions such as the South Wales Miners' Federation and the National Union of Mineworkers (South Wales Area). 

There is also material relating to national unrest as well as other trade union disputes.

As well as written records there is a substantial collection of photographs. This is complemented by published material, oral histories and items at the South Wales Miners' Library

The Archives also holds business collections for the local copper and tinplate industry which often record such events and the impact on the company.

University History

Swansea University Students' Union Rag Magazine, 1933 (Ref. UNI/SSO/1/2)

The University holds archives pre-dating its foundation in 1920. These are a rich resource for those interested in the development of the University, its social and cultural past, the history of its architecture, and student life. 

The collection includes the official minutes of the University’s established committees, alongside departmental records, correspondence, photographs and newspaper cuttings. A particular strength is the Student Union newspaper collection, which provides an insight into student experience throughout the decades. 


Sources for the History of the Spanish Civil War

Photograph of Harry Dobson (Ref. SWCC/PHO/SWC/14)

The South Wales Coalfield Collection includes significant material relating to the Spanish Civil War and the part played by Welsh volunteers, many of whom were politically active miners from the South Wales coalfield. 

  • Records of the National Union of Mineworkers (South Wales Area) and its predecessor, the South Wales Miners’ Federation (SWMF) and its branches or lodges.
  • Material about the reaction of and support given by some mining communities to the Republican cause.
  • Personal collections containing letters and memoirs detailing experiences of the International Brigades etc. 
  • Photographs including images of Spanish Civil War volunteers in Spain, Spanish settlers in Wales, memorials and ceremonies to commemorate those who fought in the war. 
  • An international perspective of the war through photojournalism, journals and propaganda from both the Nationalist and Republican sides of the conflict. 

Sources for the History of Recreation and Leisure

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


The collections in the Archives hold a significant amount of material concerning leisure and recreation, an important of community life in the South Wales Coalfield, including


  • welfare halls and institutes
  • choirs and bands
  • eisteddfod, galas and days out

Other collections which include references to days out, dances, theatre shows etc include our Mumbles Railway collections, the Theatre Collection, and the University records.  

Sources for the History of Disability

Patients and Matron at Porthcawl Miners' Rest Home (Ref. SWCC/PHO/NUM/6/7)

Records in the Archives can be a useful resource for the representation of people with disabilities, ill-health and mental health conditions. They can give insight into hidden histories, the use of language, and how things have (or haven't) changed. 

  • The South Wales Coalfield Collection covers accidents and disasters, rescue and recovery, convalescence rest homes, and financial and medical support for injured and disabled miners and their families. 
  • Photographs in the Raissa Page capture disability in a range of ways and can be used to look at the history of disability, medicine, social work, mental health, and ageing. 

Sources for the History of Crime and Punishment

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

The Richard Burton Archives hold various collections of relevance to the study of crime, policing, prisons, punishment and the law. These include- 

  • records in the South Wales Coalfield Collection relating to crime, disputes, policing and law reform - at an individual, colliery or national level 

  • photography showing policing, protest and institutions, including images by documentary photographer Raissa Page

  • Church collections which detail 'crimes' of a religious nature, blaspheming, failure to attend church, immoral behaviour etc. 

  • records concerning the role of voluntary organisations, such as women's shelters, within law and order

  • the University collections, such as the student newspapers and oral history interviews

Sources for Health and Medicine

Photograph by Raissa Page of 'Surgery, Oxford "Health: discussing diet with patient as part of "health MOT".', 1987 (ref. DC3/28/1/8)

The Richard Burton Archives hold various collections from before and after the creation of the National Health Service that are of relevance to the history of medicine, health and various associated professions. These cover:

  • organisations, such as nursing associations
  • professional roles, including nursing and general practice
  • remedies, medicines and prescriptions