Research revealing the history of steel and steelmaking in Wales, under way at the Richard Burton Archives, has received a major boost thanks to £76,000 of new funding set to be announced today by John Griffiths AM, Welsh Government Minister for Culture and Sport, on a visit to the Archives.

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The funding is for opening up public access to archive collections relating to the steel industry, as part of the 'Wales – Showing our Metal' project, a collaborative project based at Swansea University.

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Picture: Minister for Culture and Sport John Griffiths (centre) with the Richard Burton Archives team (l-r) Katrina Legg, Sue Thomas, Elisabeth Bennett and Liza Penn-Thomas

‌'Wales - Showing our Metal' has received £20,000 from the Welsh Government, with £56,000 coming from the National Cataloguing Grant Programme.  The project has been put together by Archives and Records Council Wales as part of a collaborative approach to business archives. It forms part of a wider push to promote the use of archives and awareness of the history of the steel industry in Wales.

The project archivist will be cataloguing - and making available online – the archives of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation, the British Steel Collection, and the Brymbo Steel Works collection.

The steel industry has been central in the emergence of modern Wales, yet, in contrast to coal and iron, the story of steel has remained largely untold.

John Griffiths AM, Welsh Government Minister for Culture and Sport, said: 

'The steel industry has played a key role in the development of Wales and the "Wales - Showing our Metal" project will enable researchers of all ages to understand the legacy of the steel industry and its ongoing impact on Welsh communities.'

Elisabeth Bennett, Head of the Richard Burton Archives at Swansea University, said:

'Archives have a vital role to play in bringing the past to life, as we see from the huge public interest in the First World War.

The funding announced today is a very welcome boost for our work on the history of steel in Wales, which has been an untold story for too long.  By cataloguing the archives and making them accessible, we will be able to make the fascinating history of steel available to all.'

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Dr Louise Miskell of the Department of History and Classics at Swansea University, and an expert on the history of metal industries in Wales, said:

'The steel industry has, until now, been conspicuous by its absence from the industrial history of twentieth-century Wales.  Our aim is to put this right, and give steel the role it deserves in the story of modern Wales.

We need to know much more about how the industry operated, but also about the human stories of people involved in steel, especially in places like Port Talbot, Llanwern and Shotton.'

Steel facts:

•    The Gilchrist-Thomas process, which revolutionised steelmaking around the world, was developed at Blaenavon in south Wales in the 1870s.

•    Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, was founded as a steel town in the 1870s by John Hughes from Merthyr Tydfil, and originally known as Hughesovka.

•    Around 12.5 billion steel cans are used annually in the UK.  They can be recycled over and over again, into anything from cars and bicycles to more steel cans.

Louise Miskell - steel project 3Picture:  Dr Louise Miskell of the department of history, an expert in the history of metal industries in Wales, showing some of the steel archive material to Culture and Sport Minister John Griffiths, watched by University archivist Elisabeth Bennett.

The Richard Burton Archives has over 1.3 kilometres of documents made of many materials – such as paper, parchment and photographs – kept in secure and environmentally-controlled conditions.   

The Archives are open to all.

The Richard Burton Archives recently became the first university archive in the UK to be accredited for its high standards, both in looking after valuable records, and in making them available to researchers and the wider community.


Wales – Showing our Metal: other partners in this project are Glamorgan Archives, Flintshire Record Office, Wrexham Archives and Local Studies.