Old Castle Tinplate Company

The collection covers 1825-1947 and contains company documents and office papers, including financial, processing and property records. 

In a pilot employabilty opportunity two students were invited to promote the archives, and one of the students, Leah Hewitt, chose to examine the Old Castle Tinplate Company collection and to show the variety of uses that these can be put to when undertaking research.

Old Castle Tinplate Company

Globalisation

This can be seen with the company’s expansion overseas in the late nineteenth century. In 1891 the company registers a trademark in the United States, for Terne Plates, Tin Plates and Tin Taggers. Further evidence of overseas connections lies within the company’s letter book for the period 1891-1900. Within this are held letters from America, written by an employee of the company who has travelled out there on what appears to be a fact finding mission. He regularly sends reports of his discoveries back to the company. His travels take him to New York, Maryland and Pittsburgh looking at the different systems used for making tinplate in the United States.

Economic Condition

There are a few cases throughout the documents that I have looked at where the industry seems to be undergoing some difficulties especially towards the end of the nineteenth century. The Directors and Shareholders records most allude to this state of affairs. The 1867-1914 minute books of the General Meetings show that in 1874 and the two years previous there has been a slump in the market. This is again visible in the Annual Directors Reports 1868-1926 which show losses in trading in 1894, 1895, 1901 and 1914. Some of these economic downturns seem to occur at the same time as worker unrest within the company.

Industrial Action

This is seemingly quite popular around the late 1800s, in the tin works at least. Records of the industrial action that have taken place can be seen in the minute books of the General Meetings and within the Wage and Salary records. The records of the strike of 1874 are particularly interesting. The disputes lasted from the end of March to the beginning of July. The Independent Association for Tinplate Makers had been formed by the workmen in 1873, and it was this union presenting the masters with a request for new wage rates, which resulted in the 1874 lock out. The struggle ended in victory for the masters as can be seen in the Wage and Salary records, with the men working two days without pay in recompense. The industrial action did have some benefit for the workers as it resulted in the “1874 List” which was a uniform list of wages introduced to correct the diversification in the range of wages.

It also led to the creation of the Glamorganshire and Carmarthenshire Association of Tinplate Manufacturers in May 1874. It is this union that creates the List and provides provision for the companies in the event of future strikes. Towards the end of the nineteenth century further industrial action takes place in 1894 and again in 1895. Evidence for both of these can be found in the Annual Directors Reports 1868-1926 and in the Agenda Books for the directors meetings 1892-96. The 1894 strike took place for a six week period and was due to the request of the masters for the workers to take a 25% wage cut. The 1895 stoppage is also associated with wages as the men requested a rise in wages, however the masters did not concede due to the continued poor state of the market.

Children in the Workplace

This can also tie into industrial action, although these strikes are not of the scale of the previous strikes mentioned. The information regarding this lies once again with the Wage and Salary records. They contain evidence of why the 1898 strike by the cold roll boys took place, and a day by day account of it, along with their agreement to return to work and a signed apology by the boy who sparked the strike. The strike occurred because once again Amos James had been overlooked for promotion due to his incompetence. The other workers condemned the action of the boys so they decided to return to work but as Amos James was not re-employed they went on strike again but shortly after they returned. The result of this skirmish was the boys had to pay for the loss in profit of the Old Castle Tinplate Company and for court proceedings. There is record of another strike by the cold roll boys in 1901 but all that is recorded is the damages that they had to pay as a result of their insubordination.