Tag Archives: Archives

Posted - 01-01-2018


Building for Health

This year, the National Health Service, founded by Welshman Aneurin Bevan, MP for Ebbw Vale while he was Minister for Health and Housing, will celebrate its 70th birthday. In 1948 there were three independent services which made up the NHS – one for Northern Ireland, one for Scotland and one for England and Wales, but in 1969 responsibility for the NHS in Wales was transferred to the Secretary of State for Wales, and the newest of the 4 services which make up the NHS was born.

NHS records are classed as public records and therefore the National Archives at Kew is responsible for them, but in 2015 we were offered a fascinating NHS Wales Archive. This wasn’t an archive of treatments, patients or staff – it was an archive of buildings – over 200 boxes – and contains contracts and plans for new hospitals as well as improvements and extensions.

There is a danger that his type of material could be seen as rather dry and boring, but that isn’t the case, and it contains some really fascinating stories. For example, you can see the development of trends in buildings and the efforts made to create buildings to help make people well. It is also interesting to follow contractors through the archive, and see the problems which developed in some of the projects – including some rather strained relations with the architects! Even the invoices are worth a look – the price for building a hospital ward in 1950 looks remarkably cheap by today’s standards! They refer to hospitals that are familiar to us today such as Morriston and Wrexham Maelor, and some which have since closed such as the East Glamorgan Hospital.

An archive of this size could really only be tacked by a group of archivists, so over the course of a month a group of us took on the task of sorting, transferring material into archival folders and boxes, labelling and listing contents. We hope to have this fascinating collection available soon.

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Posted - 19-08-2015

Collections / News and Events

Sharing thousands of Welsh landscapes with Wikipedia

Several years ago the National Library of Wales digitised around five thousand paintings, sketches, engravings and prints of Welsh landscapes mostly dating from 1750-1850.

Many of these are accurate topographical representations which are of huge value to historians, conservationists and archaeologists, whilst others are romanticised artistic works which simply capture the beauty of the Welsh landscape and aspect of Welsh life in a time before the invention of the camera.

As Wikipedian in Residence, making this collection available to Wikipedians was one of my first priorities, and now the entire collection is being released into the public domain and uploaded to Wikimedia Commons.

Already these fantastic images of castles, high streets, churches, ruins, and more, are being added to Wikipedia articles.

Events will soon be held to make more use of these images on Wikipedia, enriching the history of Wales on the world’s most used encyclopaedia.

Browse through the images here and please let us know if you are interested in helping us by adding these images to Wikipedia articles.


A plan of a first bridge to be constructed between Anglesey and mainland Wales. 1820

Aberystwyth Harbour, c.1850

Aberystwyth Harbour, c.1850

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Posted - 18-06-2015

Collections / News and Events

A National Anthem for the Welsh of Patagonia?

The anthem was found in the back of a pamphlet dated 1875

This year marks 150 years since the first Welsh settlers embarked for Patagonia in South America in search of a better life. To celebrate the founding of Y Wladfa the National Library of Wales has curated an exhibition entitled “Gwladfa” (Colony) which features archives, manuscripts, photographs and artworks from the Library’s collections. The exhibition also features a Welsh Bible that was carried to Patagonia aboard the Mimosa in 1865. As The Wikipedian in Residence at The National Library I have been planning Edit-a-thon event to improve Wikipedia content relating to the Welsh colony and also, in association with People’s Collection Wales, to invite the public to share old documents and photos relating to Y Wladfa.


As I sorted through the research material I had gathered ready for the event I came across an old pamphlet entitled “Adroddiad y Parch. D. S. Davies am Sefyllfa y Wladfa Gymreig” (A report by the Rev. D.S. Davies on the situation in the Welsh Colony) in which the author reports on the state of agriculture, the wild life, animals, religion, and all aspects of life in the Colony. Dated 1875 the pamphlet is clearly a piece of clever propaganda aimed at encouraging others to emigrate. At the very end of the report, under the title “Gwlad Newydd y Cymry” is a song, attributed to one Lewis Evans, a poet, harpist, and one of the first Welsh settlers to immigrate to Patagonia. I recognised the song at once as a reworked version of Evan James’ popular “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau”. This Patagonian version begins “Y Mae Patagonia yn anwyl i mi” and ends “O! bydded I’r Wladfa barhau” The piece describes the beauty of the river Camwy and the great white mountains of the Andes.


The piece is very much presented in the report as a song for a new Welsh nation – a kind of “National” anthem. And this is 1875, 30 years before the original composition was first sung before an international football or rugby match. By 1875 “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” was popular at eisteddfodau and other social events, but this find suggests that, for some, it was already very much a considered a “national” anthem. So far we have found no other reference to the Patagonian anthem in other sources and it seems that it has been largely lost to history for nearly 150 years, until its recent rediscovery. The patriotic piece evidently never caught on in Patagonia, where the Welsh community today sings “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau”.


This discovery gives us a fascinating insight into the lives of those pioneering early settlers. The song portrays a people celebrating the foundation of a truly Welsh Nation, free from the historic oppression of their tradition, language and culture.


Jason Evans.

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Posted - 01-08-2014

Collections / Digitisation / Reader Services / Research / Wills

Wills online – bringing the past to life.

Though always informative, it must be remembered that the wills left by our ancestors are legally binding documents and as such follow a rather dry format, leaving little room for the writer’s individuality to shine through. However there are exceptions – little gems of eccentricity or affection that begin to colour the faded lives of the dead.

The last will and testament of the Rev. Henry Williams (c.1769-1825) begins in the usual manner – “In the name of God my Saviour, I Henry Williams of the town of Cardiff”. Yet, we soon find great bitterness in the testator’s words;

“Not one farthing is to go through the hands of that accomplished villain William Higgon…who killed my sister through cruel usage”. This, swiftly followed by “Rees and his wife are disinherited for the lies, imposition and bad usage they heaped upon me”

More interesting still is the elderly vicar’s passionate homage to his late Grandfather, and his reminiscences of childhood;

“The venerable Thomas Williams, the Gentleman, the Scholar, the Christian, having lived in happy wedlock with Mary his wife 65 years, a woman of the greatest industry, a mother to the poor and adorned with every Christian virtue, whose prayers I heard put up for me when a child”

The will continues with instructions to finish his house in Lanishen and to rename it “Chapel House, being formally a place of worship, and I remember part of the Ten Commandments on one of the walls”

So who was this “venerable grandfather”? And what of the house with its biblical décor? One discovery led to another and, using our online catalogue, I soon discovered a bundle of research notes into one Thomas Williams of Lanishen. It transpires that the grandfather had been a Methodist exhorter in the 1740’s, and his house, a meeting place for likeminded evangelists. The great hymnist Charles Wesley took shelter there during a fierce storm and thereafter the Wesley brothers were always welcomed at the “Chapel house” at Lanishen.

And all this from a few lines of a will. Search today and unlock the past!

Jason Evans

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A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.

Due to the more personal nature of blogs it is the Library's policy to publish postings in the original language only. An equal number of blog posts are published in both Welsh and English, but they are not the same postings. For a translation of the blog readers may wish to try facilities such as Google Translate.

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