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Thursday, 17 October 2013

Shipwrecks, Oral Histories and Photography

Two of the three wrecks at Ynyslas.
NPRN 407989   DS2010_352_002

It was another busy week at the Commission last week, as we shadowed a number of the Royal Commission investigators and found out more about the work of the Recording and Investigation Team.  On Monday we went to Ynyslas in Ceredigion for the Welsh Coastal Historic Environment Research Group meeting.  This is attended by representatives of a number of different organisations such as the Welsh Archaeological Trusts and the Malvern Archaeological Diving Unit and provides an opportunity to hear about and discuss work undertaken around the Welsh coast. As part of the meeting, a visit was made to the site of three wrecks, once part of the Derwenlas slate-carrying fleet and which have recently been the focus of recording work by the Commission.  Medwyn Parry of the Commission also gave a talk on the military remains in the area. During the Second World War a missile testing range was sited at Ynyslas and this played a crucially important role in the development of fuel for both missiles and space rockets.

Aerial photo of Brymbo Iron and Steelworks.
NPRN 305753   GTJ28671

On Tuesday we visited Brymbo Iron and Steelworks (NPRNs 34054 and 305753) to speak to The Brymbo Heritage Group, who volunteer to help look after the remains of this once important industry.  The group is made up of people who once worked at the steelworks and others who have an interest in industrial archaeology. They run a small museum on the site and carry out educational talks and tours of the remains for interested groups. The group have recently been awarded funding from the HLF to employ a Heritage Officer to help raise awareness of the site.
We were taken on a tour of the site by Ross Cook of the Commission who has done a lot of work planning and interpreting the site. We were encouraged to think about the features of the buildings and the different phases. Iron was first produced at Brymbo by John Wilkinson in 1796, but towards the end of the nineteenth century steel production took precedence until its closure in 1990.

The volunteers in the group had lots of memories about working at the site and spoke to us about what their jobs had involved, their wages and the products they produced. They also provided valuable information on the surviving buildings and the process of work undertaken within them.  This information will be used to enhance and inform the Royal Commission’s recent survey of Brymbo, with the oral histories to be transcribed and archived as part of the project.

At the end of the week we were out on fieldwork with Commission photographer Iain Wright.  During the day we visited and photographed the war memorials in Aberystwyth, Borth and Tywyn, together with a steam engine housed at the Tywyn Railway Museum that is to feature in the Commission’s forthcoming publication on the Welsh slate industry. We learnt all about how to photograph these monuments and then afterwards how to process the photographs.

A really interesting week but watch this space for details of the excavation we are participating in soon!

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