Category Archives: Uncategorized

Women in STEM Day: Meet Maria Dawson, the first graduate of the University of Wales

The University of Wales awarded its first degree, a Bachelor of Science, to botanist Maria Dawson in 1896.

Dawson also jointly holds the title of the first Doctor of Science of the University of Wales, and was granted a prestigious scientific scholarship which funded her pioneering research into agricultural fertilisers.

Photograph of the first graduate of the University of Wales, Maria Dawson
Miss Maria Dawson receiving her D.Sc., published in the University College Magazine in Dec 1900

Degree-awarding powers in Wales

In October 1892, Dawson was admitted to the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire (the predecessor to Cardiff University) to study mathematics, chemistry, zoology and botany.

At that time, the College did not have degree-awarding powers, and students were prepared for University of London examinations.

However in 1893, whilst Dawson was a student, the history of Welsh education was altered irrevocably with the establishment of the University of Wales.

The university colleges in Cardiff, Bangor and Aberystwyth were its constituent institutions.

Academic Excellence

Dawson was a high achiever from the outset: she won an exhibition (a bursary) at the College’s entrance examinations, which covered her matriculation and lecture fees, and another at the end of her first year.

She excelled in her scientific studies, winning prizes for her performance in all four of her subjects following her second year.

Chemistry Laboratory, c.1899, showing women students
Chemistry Laboratory, c.1899, showing women students

From Botany modules to researching root nodules

After graduating with her B.Sc., Dawson was awarded a £150 research scholarship by Her Majesty’s Commission for the Exhibition of 1851.

Her pioneering research, undertaken at the Cambridge Botanical Laboratories, investigated how the addition of nitrogen and nitrates to soil, a new practice at that time, affected crop yields.

In her research paper, ‘”Nitragin” and the nodules of leguminous plants’ published by Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, she concludes:

Adding nitrogen “to soils rich in nitrates” is inadvisable. Adding “a supply of it to soil poor in nitrates results in an increased yield”, however the best results are obtained when “nitrates [are] added to the soil”.

All the single ladies: let’s put you up… in Aberdare Hall

Artist’s impression of Aberdare Hall in the 1890s

Dawson may not have enrolled at the University of South Wales and Monmouthshire at all if it were not for the dedicated all-female hall of residence the College offered.

Her family lived in London, too far to return home each day, and it was not considered respectable for a young, unmarried woman to live in lodgings unchaperoned.

Aberdare Hall, set up in 1885, was one of the first higher education residences for women in the UK.

Doff thy caps: the first degree ceremony of the University of Wales

Cover of the hand-written manuscript of the University College Magazine, Dec 1885
Cover of the hand-written manuscript of the University College Magazine, Dec 1885

The first degree ceremony of the University of Wales took place in Cardiff at Park Hall, a large concert hall, on 22 October 1897.

The magazine of the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire, a student publication, reported on this auspicious occasion:

“The first to be presented was Miss Maria Dawson, for the degree of B.Sc., and her appearance was the signal for a great outburst of enthusiasm among the audience. The Deputy-Chancellor… gave her the diploma…, and with a… bow, she retired amid deafening cheers.”

Today we celebrate Maria Dawson. We’re proud of our long history of supporting women’s research in STEM – you can find more stories of women innovating today here: Women in STEM at Cardiff University.

You can read more of Maria Dawson’s research here: Maria Dawson, ‘“Nitragin” and the nodules of leguminous plants’, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 64, 167-168 (1899). Available at

Darn unigryw o hanes Du Cymru ar gael i’w lawrlwytho am y tro cyntaf o Brifysgol Caerdydd


Cyhoeddodd William Hall, caethwas a ddihangodd o America, hanes ei fywyd o Gaerdydd ym 1862.

Mae darn hynod o brin o hanes Du Cymru wedi’i gyhoeddi ar lein am y tro cyntaf.

llaw yn dal pamffled 'Slavery in the United States of America, a Personal Narrative' gan William Hall

Cyhoeddodd William Hall hanes ei fywyd o Stryd Bute ym 1862

Ym 1862, cyhoeddodd William Hall ei “Naratif Bersonol”, sy’n olrhain hanes brawychus ei enedigaeth mewn caethiwed, a’i daith hirfaith o Dennessee i Gaerdydd. Ynddo, mae Hall yn disgrifio cael ei werthu i berchnogion planhigfeydd, yn manylu sut y ceisiodd ddianc caethwasiaeth ar amryw o achlysuron, a’n trafod ei brofiadau yn cwrdd â chaethweision eraill.

Mae’r ddogfen dan ofal Casgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau Prifysgol Caerdydd, a credir mai dyma un o ddau gopi sydd wedi goroesi yn fyd-eang.

Ysbrydoli’r Genhedlaeth Nesaf o Ymchwilwyr

Mae’n bamffled bychan, bregus – ac o heddiw ‘mlaen, mae ar gael ar lein i unrhyw un ei ddarllen a’i lawrlwytho.

Medd Tracey Stanley, Llyfrgellydd Prifysgol Caerdydd: “Mae’r ddogfen unigryw yma’n rhan mor bwysig o hanes Du Caerdydd, a Chymru, a ro’n ni eisiau ei gwneud ar gael i bawb.”

“’Dyn ni’n dal i ddarganfod mwy am fywyd William Hall – rydym ni’n gobeithio y bydd cyhoeddi’r ddogfen ar lein yn ysbrydoli cenhedlaeth newydd o ymchwilwyr, fydd yn parhau i archwilio hanes pobl Ddu yng Nghymru.”

Rhannu Gweithiau Prin gan Awduron Du

Fe noddwyd y ddogfen yn wreiddiol gan fynychwyr capel Wesleaidd yng Nghaerdydd, sy’n taro goleuni ar y gefnogaeth oedd i’r mudiad Diddymu Caethwasiaeth yn y ddinas ar y pryd.

Oherwydd natur fregus y ddogfen, fe fyddai’n cael ei darllen fel rheol dan amodau arbenigol yng Nghasgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau’r Brifysgol. Mae’r cyfnod clo wedi peri sialens i ymchwilwyr sy’n defnyddio llyfrau prin – a mae technoleg ddigidol wedi golygu y gall peth o’r gwaith hwn barhau.

“Mae ein staff wedi bod yn gweithio’n galed i gefnogi myfyrwyr ac ymchwilwyr yn ystod y cyfnod anodd hwn. Yma yng Nghasgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau, mae hyn wedi golygu rhoi rhai dogfennau unigryw ar lein, a allai fod yn rhy brin neu fregus i’w hymchwilio yn y cnawd ar hyn o bryd.” meddai Alan Vaughan Hughes, Pennaeth Casgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau Prifysgol Caerdydd.

“Mae gweithiau hanesyddol gan awduron Du – fel gwaith William Hall – yn haeddu cynulleidfa ehangach, a ‘dyn ni’n falch o allu rhannu’r gwaith hwn gyda phawb trwy’r Internet Archive. Rydym ni hefyd yn ddiolchgar iawn i’r Athro William Jones a Dr David Wyatt am eu gwaith yn ymchwilio a chodi ymwybyddiaeth o’r ddogfen werthfawr hon.”

Gallwch ddarganfod mwy am hanes William Hall, a’r mudiad Diddymu yng Nghaerdydd yn Canu Caeth, a olygwyd gan Daniel G Williams.

Copi llawn o Naratif Bersonol William Hall i’w lawrlwytho:

Guest Post: Lest We Forget: In Search of the Forgotten Voices of World War One

Yet another fascinating post from recent PhD graduate Lauren O’Hagan on her poignant discoveries in the Janet Powney Collection of Children’s Literature.

Thursdays have become my new favourite day of the week. Why? Because I get to spend the day in Special Collections and help catalogue the Janet Powney Collection – the fantastic assortment of Victorian and Edwardian children’s literature. Every week, the Collection brings a new surprise or delight. In recent weeks, I have come across such unique treasures as a copy of What Katy Did Next mysteriously inscribed two years before its actual publication date and a beautiful 1871 edition of Hetty’s Resolve hand-bound and gilded by a devoted husband to his wife. I may have also accidentally uncovered a nineteenth-century insurance scam involving the arson of a pub (but more about that another time!). But something that has remained a bittersweet constant over the past few months has been the fact that, hidden in most of these books, are some of the forgotten voices of World War One.

John's adventures

John’s Adventures by Thomas Miller, London, c. 1897. Prize awarded to young Albert Stopher.

The Swan's Egg

The Swan’s Egg by S. C. Hall, London, c. 1895. Awarded to a very young George Stopher in 1905.

Behind the beautiful pictorial covers of these treasured Sunday school prize books lie the tragic tales of many of the working-class men who marched off to war to fight the Germans just a few years later. Beguiled by the notion of adventure or the ‘Great Game’, as Kipling put it, many would never return. I would like to use the blog space this week to share the story of two incredible brothers. In doing so, I hope to show how book inscriptions may offer a new way to explore and explain the War, keeping alive the stories of soldiers for future generations now that the conflict only exists outside of human memory.

George Stopher and Albert Stopher
When the Stopher brothers, George and Albert, received The Swan’s Egg and John’s Adventure from St John’s Church of England Sunday School for attendance, good conduct and progress in 1905, little did they know that some years later, they would be dressed in military uniforms and sent off to battle in France.

George and Albert came from a working-class family in Saxmundham, Suffolk. Born just one year apart in 1896 and 1897, respectively, the boys grew up at White House Farm Cottages, with their parents, Herbert (a farm labourer) and Lydia, and six other siblings.

When George and Albert left school, they quickly found work as gardeners. However, the job was precarious and poorly paid. As a result, both boys enlisted quickly in the Suffolk Regiment of the army upon the outbreak of World War One in 1914. George served in the 8th Battalion and Albert in the 11th Battalion. After completing training in Ripon, Yorkshire and Salisbury Plain, George landed in France in July 1915, while Albert arrived in January 1916 – both ready for action on the Western Front. Shortly after his arrival, George became wounded and spent some weeks recuperating in hospital before returning to action.

George Stopher inscription

Inscription recording the award of The Swan’s Egg to George in 1905.

During their time in France, George and Albert regularly corresponded with their families and sweethearts. There is a wonderful surviving archive of their letters hosted at Suffolk Record Office in Ipswich. The letters vividly describe their experiences of war. In August 1916, George was hospitalised once again for shellshock. A surviving letter to his mother poignantly states that sending him back to the front line would be like “sending a rat to catch a dog.” It is surprising that it got past the censor.

On 9th April 1917, the Battalions began the Arras offensive, advancing slowly to attack German defences near the city of Arras. The next day, both George and Albert took place in the First Battle of the Scarpe, which involved a series of attacks that pushed the Germans back north and south of the Scarpe river. Tragically, Albert was shot by an enemy and died immediately. He was just 19 years old. His body was never recovered. Today, he is remembered on the Arras Memorial at the Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery.

George continued on in what must have been harrowing circumstances. He successfully took part in the Second Battle of the Scarpe (April 1917), helping to capture part of the Hindenburg position and push the Germans to the Drocourt-Quéant line south of the River Scarpe. However, during the Third Battle of the Scarpe (May 1917), which involved a general offensive by all three armies astride the Scarpe to secure better defensive positions, he was badly wounded. George held out for nine days in a field hospital before succumbing to his wounds and dying on May 19th 1917 at 21 years old. He was buried in the Warlincourt Halte British Cemetery at Saulty.

Tragically, Herbert and Lydia Stopher had to deal with the loss of two sons, just over one month apart from each other.

Today, George and Albert’s medals are on show at the Suffolk Regiment Museum. Their names are also commemorated on a War Memorial in Saxmundham Parish Church. In recent years, Rachel Duffett, a lecturer at the University of Essex and a member of the Everyday Lives in War Centre, has painstakingly attempted to retell their stories using the letters held at Suffolk Record Office. She plans to write a book on the subject and work with local seamstresses to recreate some of the local landscapes where the Stopher brothers grew up.

Albert Stopher inscription

Inscription recording the award of John’s Adventures to Albert in 1905.

With its unique range of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century prize books, I already found the Janet Powney Collection to be exceptional. Now knowing some of the stories that are lingering like shadows between the colourful covers of these volumes, I feel even more appreciation for the Collection. While buildings no longer stand, communities have passed on and grass on the bloody battlefields grows once more, these books keep alive the memories of many of the brave men and women who gave their Today for our Tomorrow. They stand as a testimony of the unsettling victory of material objects over the temporality of the people that once owned them and the places in which they formerly dwelled.

“The living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them.”

Dathlu 50 mlynedd o Innovate Trust: Cartref Cefnogol cyntaf y DU

Mae Innovate Trust yn dathlu eu pen blwydd yn 50 eleni. Mae’r elusen annibynnol hon wedi newid bywydau nifer o bobl anabl ar draws y byd – a dechreuodd y cwbl yma, ym Mhrifysgol Caerdydd. Eleni, mae gwirfoddolwyr sy’n anabl wedi bod yn chwilota yn hanesion cynnar y sefydliad, i’w rhannu mewn arddangosfa newydd.

Swyddogaeth Innovate Trust yw i gefnogi oedolion gydag anableddau dysgu, anableddau corfforol, nam ar synnwyr neu gyflwr iechyd meddwl. Mae’n nhw’n cyflenwi gwasanaethau cartrefi cefnogol, yn ogystal â hyfforddiant, cyfleoedd gwaith a chyfleoedd i gymdeithasu.

Dechrau’r daith ar gyfer yr elusen oedd fel prosiect o’r enw ‘Cardiff Universities Social Services’, ac ers ei sefydlu, mae wedi datblygu i fod yn gorff yn hynod o ddylanwadol, sydd wedi brwydro dros hawliau ac urddas pobl anabl.


Dyddiau Cynnar 1967 – 1973

Ym 1967, penderfynodd grwp o fyfyrwyr o Gaerdydd herio’r drefn. Roedd ganddyn nhw ddamcaniaeth, y gallai pobl anabl ffynnu a byw’n annibynnol, petaent yn cael cefnogaeth addas.

Roedd cyfyngu pobl ag anableddau dysgu i ysbytai yn gyffredin iawn yn y cyfnod hwn. Roedd ‘sgandal Ysbyty Trelai’ yn y 1960au wedi datguddio bod gofal pobl anabl yng Nghaerdydd yn wael, ac yn gallu bod yn greulon. Damcaniaeth y myfyrwyr oedd y gallem ni, fel cymdeithas, wneud yn llawer gwell – a gyda hynny, ganed prosiect C.U.S.S..

Gweithiodd gwirfoddolwyr C.U.S.S. gyda 25 o oedolion gydag anableddau dysgu oedd yn byw yn Ysbyty Trelai. Darparodd y prosiect dripiau dydd, cyfleon hyfforddi, a chyfleon i gymdeithasu.

Llun du a gwyn o ddau ddyn, eu dwylo'n cyffwrdd. Mae'n nhw'n gwenu ac yn edrych yn hapus

Prof Jim Mansell, CBE, un o hoelion wyth y prosiect, gyda John O’Brien (1953-2011). John oedd un o’r bobl gynta i ymuno â chartref cefnogol CUSS. Yn Ysbyty Trelai, roedd ganddo enw drwg fel dyn ifanc byr-ei-dymer, a fyddai’n ‘creu trwbwl’. Mae ei ffrindiau a’i gyd-weithwyr yn Innovate Trust yn ei gofio fel dyn addfwyn ac amyneddgar, oedd yn meddu ar synnwyr digrifwch hoffus.


“Creu Trwbwl” – neu ddysgu sgiliau newydd?

Roedd y prosiect yn llwyddiant, a roedd nifer o drigolion yr ysbyty yn teimlo’n fwy hyderus ac annibynnol. Un diwrnod, penderfynodd dau ddyn ifanc oedd wedi bod yn rhan o’r prosiect, eu bod am fynd i nofio – a gadael yr ysbyty gyda’i gilydd i ymweld â’r pwll lleol.

Fe welodd nyrs nad oedd ar ddyletswydd nhw yn cerdded, a dychwelodd nhw i’r ysbyty, ble cawson nhw bryd o dafod. Yn dawel bach, roedd gwirfoddolwyr prosiect C.U.S.S. yn falch iawn o glywed bod y ddau ohonynt wedi cyrraedd mor bell ar eu pennau’u hunain.


Cartref Cefnogol Cyntaf Prydain – 1974

Wrth astudio effeithiau’r fenter gyntaf, teimlai’r myfyrwyr y gallent wneud mwy i wella ansawdd bywyd pobl ag anableddau dysgu.

Wedi cryn baratoi, lansiwyd y Cartref Cefnogol cyntaf yn y DU, gyda chefnogaeth gan Gyngor Caerdydd ac Ysbyty Trelai. Symudodd pump o oedolion ag anableddau dysgu o Ysbyty Trelai a thri o wirfoddolwyr oedd yn astudio ym Mhrifysgol Caerdydd i gartref yng Ngerddi Rhuthun yng Nghathays. Yn ystod y dydd, byddai’r tenantiaid yn mynychu canolfan hyfforddiant yn Nhrelai a byddai’r myfyrwyr yn mynychu eu darlithoedd.

Gan eu bod wedi eu cyfyngu i ysbyty am flynyddoedd, roedd angen cefnogaeth gychwynnol ar yr oedolion anabl, i’w galluogi i fyw yn annibynnol. Yn Ysbyty Trelai, doedden nhw byth yn cael cyfle i ddewis beth i fwyta, neu beth i wisgo – ond ar ôl cyfnod o addasu, dechreuodd yr oedolion arwain bywydau hapus, llawn, fel aelodau o gymuned.

Llun du a gwyn o ddyn ifanc gyda Syndrom Down's yn gwenu.

Alan oedd un o drigolion cyntaf y cartref cefnogol yng Ngerddi Rhuthun. Cafodd ei gyfyngu i ysbyty pan oedd yn fachgen bach. Trwy ei gyfraniad ef at y prosiect cartref cefnogol, fe dorrodd gwys newydd ar gyfer cymaint o bobl anabl, gan alluogi iddynt fyw bywydau llawn, hapus.


Y Stori yn Parhau – o Ysbytai i Gartrefi

Camau nesaf y prosiect oedd i’r myfyrwyr godi ymwybyddiaeth o lwyddiant y Cartref Cefnogol, trwy gyhoeddi adroddiadau ac ymchwil, a rhannu eu gwaith gydag awdurdodau lleol, ysbytai a phrifysgolion. Wrth i’r elusen dyfu yn ei maint a’i henw da, symudwyd y Cartref Cefnogol i leoliad sefydlog ar Ffordd y Brenin yn Nhreganna, ac agorwyd rhagor o gartrefi tebyg, wedi’u hariannu gan y Swyddfa Gymreig.

Ym 1977, agorodd yr elusen Ganolfan Gofal Seibiant i oedolion gydag anableddau dysgu oedd yn byw gyda’u rhieni. Roedd y ganolfan yn darparu seibiant i bobl anabl a gofalwyr, a mae dal ar agor heddiw.

Ym 1981, agorodd Gyngor Caerdydd adran newydd, er mwyn dyblygu ac ehangu y model ‘Cartref Cefnogol’, gan agor nifer o gartrefi tebyg. Erbyn 1983, lansiodd y Swyddfa Gymreig ‘Strategaeth datblygu gwasanaethau i bobl gyda handicap meddyliol ar gyfer Cymru gyfan’. Roedd yn ymateb i’r adroddiadau am gam-drin yn Ysbyty Trelai yn y 1960au – a’r adroddiad yn cymell awdurdodau lleol i atal rhag cyfyngu pobl anabl i ysbytai, ac i ddefnyddio model Cartref Cefnogol C.U.S.S. yn ei le.


Arloesi Gofal Lles

Dros y blynyddoedd, gweithiodd C.U.S.S. gydag awdurdodau lleol dros Gymru, i’w cefnogi wrth iddynt agor Cartrefi Cefnogol – gan roi cyngor ar sut i osod gwasanaethau newydd yn eu lle, a fyddai’n annog annibyniaeth ac urddas pobl anabl.

Newidiodd yr elusen ei henw i ‘Innovate Trust’ yn 2001, a mae’n parhau i arloesi heddiw: gan ddatblygu asiantaeth recriwtio arbennig i bobl anabl, creu busnes arlwyo i greu cyfleon gwaith i bobl anabl, a rhaglenni hyfforddiant ar gyfer pobl anabl sy’n diddori mewn gwaith amgylcheddol a threulio amser yn yr awyr agored.

Yn 2017, gweithiodd yr elusen ar y cyd â NESTA, i archwilio sut y gallai technolegau clyfar gael eu defnyddio i gefnogi pobl ag anableddau dysgu. Gwobrwywyd y prosiect, ac arweiniodd yr ymchwil at ddarparu technoleg clyfar i 197 o unigolion sy’n derbyn cefnogaeth gan yr elusen ar draws de Cymru.

Ffotograff o arddangosfa gyda phaneli a gwrthrychau mewn cesys

Mae 50 Mlynedd o Innovate Trust yn archwilio hanes cudd gofal lles. Mae’n olrhain stori grwp bychan o bobl anabl a myfyrwyr yn y 1960, a symbylodd newid byd, yn sut y mae’r sector feddygol a chymdeithas yn trin pobl anabl.

Diolch i gefnogaeth Cronfa Dreftadaeth y Loteri Genedlaethol, gweithiodd gwirfoddolwyr gydag amrywiaeth o anableddau dysgu i archwilio hanes anhygoel yr elusen – gan ymchwilio dogfennau, recordio cyfweliadau a sefydlu cofnodion parhaol mewn archifdai lleol. I gydnabod gwreiddiau’r prosiect ym Mhrifysgol Caerdydd, rhoddwyd archif gynnar ac adroddiadau’r prosiect i Gasgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau Prifysgol Caerdydd, ble gall unrhyw un ddod i’w darllen.

Roedd yr arddangosfa ’50 mlynedd o’r Innovate Trust’ i’w gweld yng Nghasgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau Prifysgol Caerdydd, Llyfrgell y Celfyddydau a’r Gwyddorau Cymdeithasol, Rhodfa Colum, CF10 3EU. Os hoffech chi siarad yn uniongyrchol ag aelod o Innovate Trust, cysylltwch â Kieran Vass.

Diolch i Innovate Trust am gyflenwi lluniau ac ymchwil i greu’r blog hwn.

Celebrating 50 years of Innovate Trust: the amazing history of the UK’s first supported living home

Innovate Trust celebrates its 50th birthday this year. This independent charity, which has changed the lives of disabled people across the world, started right here, at Cardiff University. This year, volunteers with disabilities have delved into the charity’s humble beginnings, and are sharing its story through a new exhibition.

Innovate Trust – which started its life as ‘Cardiff Universities Social Services’ – works with adults with learning disabilities, mental health conditions, physical disabilities or sensory impairments in South Wales. They provide supported living services, as well as careers training, opportunities for work and socialising.

Starting as a trailblazing student project known as ‘C.U.S.S.’, it has since become one of the most influential charities of its kind – setting the standard world-wide for providing dignity and agency to people with learning disabilities.

Early Days 1967 – 1973

In 1967, a group of students at Cardiff University decided to challenge the status quo. They believed that, with the right support, people with learning disabilities could lead independent lives.

A lifetime of hospitalisation was a common occurrence for people with learning disabilities at the time. The ‘Ely Hospital Scandal’ had revealed that adults with learning disabilities in Cardiff were subject to poor care and cruelty. The students set out to prove that, as a society, we could do better – and the C.U.S.S. project was born.

Cardiff Universities Social Services, or C.U.S.S., volunteers worked supporting 25 adults with learning disabilities at Ely Hospital. The project provided days out, opportunities to learn new skills, and acted as a social contact.

Two men sit side by side, their hands overlapping. They are both smiling and looking happy

Prof Jim Mansell CBE, founding member of CUSS, with John O’Brien (1953 – 2011). John was one of the first people to join the CUSS group home project. In Ely Hospital, he had a reputation as short-tempered ‘trouble-maker’. His friends and colleagues at Innovate Trust remember him as a ‘patient and charming man’ with a ‘first class sense of humour’.

A Daring Escape

Two of the participants, emboldened and encouraged by what they’d learned through the project, decided to leave the hospital grounds on their own, to go swimming in the local pool.

When they were spotted by an off-duty nurse, the two were immediately returned to the hospital – and given a telling off. The student volunteers, however, felt secretly proud that the hospital’s residents had managed to get so far on their own.

The UK’s First Group Home – 1974

Following the success of the early volunteering project, the students felt more could be done to improve the lives of those with learning disabilities.

After much planning and preparation, the students worked with Cardiff Council and Ely Hospital to open the UK’s first group home. Five adults with learning disabilities from the hospital and three student volunteers moved in to a home in Rhuthin Gardens, Cathays. During the day, the group home tenants would spend their time at Trelai adult training centre, and the students attended lectures.

Black and white photograph of a man called Alan, who has Down's Syndrome. He looks happy.

Alan was one of the first inhabitants of the supported living home in Rhuthin Gardens. He had been confined to hospital since he was a young boy, and his participation in the group home project paved the way for better care for countless disabled people, enabling them to live full, happy lives.

Having been hospitalised for a number of years, each of the adults with disabilities were provided with basic support in learning to live independently. At Ely Hospital, they had not been afforded the opportunity to cook for themselves, to choose their clothes – after a short period of adjustment, the project participants found themselves leading happy, full lives as members of a community.

Further Development – from Hospitals to Homes

After the success of the group home experiment, the students spent the next few years raising awareness of the Group Home model – publishing research and reports, and sharing their work with local authorities, hospitals and universities. As it grew in its scope and reputation, the charity was able to relocate to a more sustainable property on King’s Road in Cardiff, and to open more group homes, funded by the Welsh Office.

In 1977, the charity also opened a respite centre for adults with learning disabilities who lived with their families. This home was used to provide a break for carers and adults with learning disabilities, and remains open to this day.

In 1981 Cardiff Council opened a new department, aimed at replicating and extending the Group Home project, opening a number of supported living homes. By 1983, the Welsh Office launched an ‘All Wales strategy for the development of Services for mentally handicapped people’. Partly a response to the Ely Hospital scandal, the strategy required that local authorities move away from the mass institutionalisation of people with learning disabilities, and adopt the supported living model developed by C.U.S.S.

Innovation in Social Care

Over the next few years, C.U.S.S. worked to support local authorities across Wales to implement this plan, giving advice on how to set up new services, which would offer independence, agency and dignity to people with learning disabilities.

The charity changed its name to Innovate Trust in 2001, and continued to, well, innovate: developing a bespoke recruitment service, creating a business providing employment for people with learning disabilities, training programmes for disabled people interested in environmental work and spending time outdoors.

In 2017, Innovate Trust worked with NESTA to explore how smart technology might be used to support people with learning disabilities. The award-winning project resulted in the provision of smart devices to 197 individuals receiving support across south east Wales.

Photograph of small exhibition, with text panels, and objects in cases

50 Years of Innovate Trust explores the hidden history of social care. It tells the story of how a small group of disabled people and student volunteers in the 1960s paved the way for radical change in how disabled people are treated by the medical profession, and by society at large.

Thanks to support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, volunteers with a range of learning abilities spent a year researching the organisation’s amazing history – researching documents, filming stories and establishing permanent records in local archives. As recognition of the organisation’s origins at Cardiff University, its early archives and reports were donated to the University’s Special Collections and Archives, where they can be accessed by anyone who wishes to read them.

The exhibition ‘50 Years of Innovate Trust‘ was on display at Cardiff University Special Collections and Archives, Arts and Social Studies Library, Colum Drive, CF10 3EU. If you would like to speak to a member of Innovate Trust, please contact Kieran Vass.

Published with thanks to the Innovate Trust for providing the research for this post.

Guest Post: The Cataloguing Apprentice

Today’s guest post comes from Emily Jones, a student in the ENCAP Project Management module. For her project, Emily catalogued the several editions of Milton’s works in the Cardiff Rare Book Collection.

Cataloguing. A word, that I have to admit, I did not know the definition of. What started as a requirement for a university module, concluded with a new found appreciation of books and librarians alike. Back in November, I nervously entered the Special Collections Library anxiously awaiting my first ‘cataloguing for beginners’ session. In my naivety, I believed that cataloguing involved a paper and pen and a very extensive list of old books. Oh, how wrong was I. As soon as I was taken into the ‘stacks’ and inhaled the scent of deliciously old and rare books, I knew I was home.

After browsing the collection, we soon came to the conclusion that the John Milton section was ready to be catalogued, and I, for one, was more than excited to start cataloguing them.

Having now completed 50 hours of cataloguing, I can firmly say that cataloguing a book is so much more than taking note of its name and author. I know now that to be a cataloguer requires expertise and so much patience. But, luckily, for me, I had a cataloguing teacher that was an expert and Christine just so happened to be very patient – the cataloging journey had officially begun.


This 1779 edition of Paradise Lost rests on a shaped pillow to protect the fragile binding and to hold the book at a comfortable viewing angle.

I arrived once again to the special collections library and awaited instruction. I was shown to a desk and a laptop. Christine then brought in a book that looked more fragile than broken glass. I was terrified to breathe near this book let alone touch it! I felt weirdly sorry for this little book with its worn pages and cracked spine. But, I digress. I was there to catalogue and not make emotional connections with the books. But best of all, I was given a book pillow to use. Yes reader(s), I was given a pillow for my book. A book pillow. Wild! However, before placing any book on it, there had to be a mandatory karate chop to the middle of the cushion to create a properly angled resting place for the spine of these veteran pages. My first task of the day, however, was to make note of the title, which was not as easy as one might think. You have to categorise the main part of the title (which in most cases is ‘Paradise Lost’) and then you take down the rest. Luckily for me, I love a strict system. There is a definite logic to cataloguing, and I am slowly getting it. On the rare occasion when I do get the format right it’s strangely satisfying. There is no denying that cataloguing is a skill – I just hope that one day it’s a skill that I can fully master.

When you get into the rhythm of cataloguing it is quite easy to become mechanic. Though I endeavoured to stay present, the continuous process of the cataloguing form made it easy to forget that these books have seen so much and in a way, lived a life. Until that is, I came across a lovely edition of Paradise Lost.


 Transcribed these pages read as:

John Fletcher second son of Joseph & Elizabeth born Friday 28th September 1759 at three O’clock in the afternoon or seven minutes after

Elizabeth Fletcher first daughter of the above Joseph & Elizabeth born on Tuesday morning the 4th August. 1761 at 6 Oclock

1802 February the 8th on Monday morning Mrs Vernon departed this life about 5 Oclock

John Fletcher died Friday the 13th July 1764 three quarters past four Oclock in the afternoon

This book then, had not only lived a life but, in it recorded the lives (and deaths) of its owners. I, for one, am glad that through the preservation and cataloguing work of Cardiff University this wonderful book, and the history that it holds, has been saved and is now searchable for generations to come. What a great thought.

What an experience this has been. From day one though, I have enjoyed every minute. I didn’t even know what ‘cataloguing’ meant when I started, but now I know, I have learned that it is oh so much more than making a boring old list. Each book had its own history, its own story, if you will. Each book also had an owner, that either subtly made it known or scribbled it on every page. Some books even had their own special stamp printed for the occasion.  Other owners even felt that the book was so important it became a location for their family history to reside – where births and deaths were recorded and passed down through the generations.

Nevertheless, my fifty hours are up, and my portfolio is full. This may be the end of this particular university module, but somehow, I don’t think that this is my last foray into the world of cataloguing as I am just not ready to leave it behind, just yet.

Cataloguer out.


Dinas Cân: Cerddoriaeth, Archifau a Llyfrgelloedd yng Nghaerdydd

Efallai taw Caerdydd yw dinas fwyaf cerddorol y DU. Yn ogystal â dros 30 o glybiau a neuaddau cerddoriaeth fyw, mae’r ddinas yn gartre i gasgliadau cerddorol hollol anhygoel – o gyfansoddiadau gwreiddiol a chyfrolau hynafol, i doriadau papur newydd am ‘nose jobs’ Tom Jones.

I ddathlu diwylliant cerdd cyfoethog Caerdydd, fe ddaeth arbenigwyr ac archifwyr y ddinas at ei gilydd i rannu eu gwaith a’u casgliadau, fel rhan o Wythnos Archwilio Archifau.

O gantatas i gorau pwll glo, Grace Williams in Charlotte Church – fe gawsom flas ar gasgliadau cerdd Caerdydd, a chael golwg ar sut y mae cerddoriaeth wedi’i blethu yn rhan o hanes y ddinas ers canrifoedd.

Casgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau Prifysgol Caerdydd

Yn gyntaf, fe glywsom gan Alison Harvey, ein Archifydd fan hyn yng Nghasgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau Prifysgol Caerdydd. Mae’r casgliadau yma ar gael i unrhyw un sydd eisiau eu hastudio, ac mae’r archif ar agor i bawb. Dyma beth oedd ganddi i’w rannu – cofiwch droi’r is-deitlau ymlaen:


Llyfrgell Gangen a Threftadaeth Cathays

Ymunodd Katherine Whittington gyda ni nesaf, i ddangos beth sydd i’w ganfod yn Llyfrgell Gangen a Threftadaeth Cathays, sy’n agored i’r cyhoedd ac yn llawn adnoddau am hanes Caerdydd.

Mae eu casgliadau cyflawn o gopïau o’r Western Mail a’r South Wales Echo yn mynd mor bell yn ôl a’r 1860au – a maent yn ffynhonnell anhygoel sy’n dangos sut y mae cerddoriaeth boblogaidd wedi bod yn rhan o hanes cymdeithasol de Cymru.

woman with short hair holds a copy of a newspaper article, it is a tabloid-style article about the singer Charlotte Church, probably printed around the 2000s

Cerddoriaeth yn y wasg: Katherine yn dangos esiampl i ni o’r casgliad Western Mail

Er enghraifft, mae’r toriadau yma, am y gantores Charlotte Church, yn ddogfennau dadlennol, sy’n dangos sut yr oedd y wasg yn trin merched ifanc a phobl enwog ar droad y 21 ganrif. Yn ogystal ag archifau corau lleol, mae gan y llyfrgell gasgliad anarferol o gerddoriaeth ar CD gan artistiaid lleol o bob math.

Os oes diddordeb ‘da chi mewn chwilota yn eu casgliadau, mae ‘na Ganllaw Adnoddau ar gael, sy’n rhoi rhagor o wybodaeth fanwl am y celfyddydau yn eu casgliadau.

Archifau Morgannwg

Daeth Rhian Diggins atom i gyflwyno casgliadau eang ac amrywiol Archifau Morgannwg, gan ddweud “O’n i’n siwr bod stwff cerddorol ‘da ni – ond unwaith i fi ddechre edrych, sylwais i fod shwt gymaint o stwff da ni!”

Ma casgliadau Archifau Morgannwg yn cynnwys archifau corau, gwyliau cerdd, cymanfaoedd a chyngherddau, yn ogystal â biliau llaw Cymraeg prydferth, cynlluniau ar gyfer neuaddau cerdd sydd wedi hen ddiflannu, a chofnodion Llys sy’n ymwneud â thrwyddedu cerddoriaeth ar draws y ddinas.

woman standing up near screen, talking to a group of people

Rhian yn trafod casgliadau Archifau Morgannwg

Ymysg yr uchafbwyntiau oedd casgliad y Bwrdd Glo Cenedlaethol, sy’n dangos hanes bywyd cerddorol cymunedau diwydiannol de Cymru, ac archif y Côr Cochion – côr protest enwog y ddinas, sydd i’w canfod hyd heddiw y tu allan i’r Farchnad ar benwythnosau.

Mae Archifau Morgannwg ar agor i bawb, a cewch fwy o fanylion am sut i ymweld ar eu gwefan.

Ysgol Gerdd, Prifysgol Caerdydd

Charity Dove yw Llyfrgellydd Cerdd y Brifysgol, sy’n gyfrifol am gasglu a gofalu am lyfrgell ymchwil yr Ysgol Gerdd. Er taw myfyrwyr sy’n defnyddio’r llyfrgell yn bennaf, mae hi hefyd ar agor i’r cyhoedd, a gellir ei defnyddio am ddim. Caiff y cyhoedd ddefnyddio’r llyfrgell i gael gafael ar wybodaeth am gyfansoddwyr, arddulliau cerddoriaeth, techneg offerynnol a chasgliad o waith clasurol ar CD.

Mae casgliadau’r llyfrgell hon yn adlewyrchu diddordebau ymchwil staff yr Ysgol Gerdd dros y blynyddoedd, felly mae ystod eang iawn o bynciau diddorol i’w canfod yno. Mae’r catalog wedi’i greu mewn ffordd sy’n ei wneud yn rhwydd iawn i ymchwilio yn ôl cyfansoddwr.

Llyfrgell BBC NOW

Ymunodd Eugene Monteith â ni o lyfrgell Cerddorfa Genedlaethol Gymreig y BBC, sydd i’w chanfod ym Mae Caerdydd. Mae’r llyfrgell yn gofalu am sgorau cerddorfaol llawn ar gyfer cannoedd o symffonau a cherddoriaeth boblogaidd, ar gyfer defnydd cerddorfeydd proffesiynol y BBC. Roedd yn wych clywed am lyfrgell sydd yn gweinyddu cynulleidfa benodol iawn, a sy’n chwarae rhan allweddol yn niwylliant perfformio a darlledu cerddoriaeth glasurol i gynulleidfaoedd poblogaidd.

Yn ogystal â’r sgorau, mae’r llyfrgell yn gofalu am waith cyfansoddwyr Cymreig, sgorau llais sydd wedi’u casglu dros 35 mlynedd o gynnal cystadleuaeth Canwr y Byd Caerdydd, a chasgliad eang o sgorau cerddorfaol o draciau sain ffilm.

Making Music

a young man in jeans giving a talk in front of a brick wall

Iori Haugen yn trafod system ffeirio sgoriau wych Making Music

Daeth Iori Haugen i siarad gyda ni am waith Making Music yng Nghymru. Mae Making Music yn gorff eirioli sy’n hyrwyddo chwarae a dysgu cerddoriaeth mewn amser hamdden – o fandiau pres i unigolion.

Er nad oes casgliad eu hunain ganddynt, mae Making Music yn gweinyddu system ffeirio sgoriau ar draws y DU – ble gall unrhyw aelodau wneud cais am sgôr a’i benthyg gan gerddorfa neu fand sydd ddim yn eu defnyddio. Maen nhw hefyd yn ymgyrchu dros addysg gerddoriaeth mewn ysgolion, ac yn hyrwyddo chwarae cerddoriaeth o bob math.

Ysgol Gerdd Prifysgol Caerdydd

archive photo of Morfydd Owen, a fair young woman with dark hair and dark eyes. Taken in the 1900s

Morfydd Owen. Bydd modd clywed rhai o’i gweithiau am y tro cyntaf eleni

Daeth Dr Peter Leech i drafod ei waith yn archwilio Archif Morfydd Owen yma yng Nghasgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau y Brifysgol, gyda Megan Auld. Mae’n nhw wedi bod yn ymchwilio cyfansoddiadau penodol gan Ms Owen – rhai oedd heb eu gorffen yn llawn pan fu farw yn 26 oed. Dyw’r cyfansoddiadau yma heb eu perfformio erioed o’r blaen.

Disgrifiodd Dr Leech y broses gerddorol ac academaidd o weithio gyda ‘sgetsys’ cerddorol – nodiant heb ei orffen yn llawn, sy’n aml wedi’i sgrifennu â llaw – i greu cerddoriaeth y mae modd ei berfformio heddiw. Canlyniad eu hymchwil yw bod modd perfformio’r gweithiau gan Ms Owen am y tro cyntaf erioed eleni – a gellir clywed y gerddoriaeth yma am y tro cyntaf mewn cyngerdd arbennig ar Ragfyr y 14eg.

Rhagor o wybodaeth am gyngerdd ‘Dathlu Morfydd’, Rhagfyr 14eg.

Tŷ Cerdd

Ymunodd Ethan Davies â ni i gyflwyno casgliad Tŷ Cerdd. Mae’r casgliad yma yn cynrychioli cyfoeth gwaith cyfansoddwyr Cymreig, a rhennir y dogfennau rhwng Aberystwyth a Bae Caerdydd. Gallwch ymweld â’r casgliad yng Nghaerdydd trwy wneud apwyntiad.

Mae’r casgliad a gedwir yn Aberystwyth yn cynnwys gweithiau unigryw gan gyfansoddwyr fel Grace Williams, Alun Hoddinott a llawer mwy – maent o dan ofal y Llyfrgell Genedlaethol. Yng Nghaerdydd mae casgliad eang o recordiadau a deunydd print ar thema cerddoriaeth a chyfansoddwyr Cymru.

Mae Ty Cerdd yn sefydliad sy’n hybu a dathlu cerddoriaeth Gymreig – yn ogystal â’r casgliad, maen nhw’n cynnig cyngor i gerddorion ar recordio a marchnata eu cerddoriaeth.

Amgueddfa Cymru

Rhannodd Jennifer Evans wybodaeth gyda ni am gasgliadau llyfrgell Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd, sydd ar agor i’r cyhoedd ar gais. Mae casgliadau cerddorol y llyfrgell yn cynnwys llyfrau lloffion sy’n olrhain hanes cynnar yr amgueddfa – gan gynnwys rhaglenni cyngherddau a ffotograffau o berfformiadau.

Yn ogystal â’u harchif sefydliadol, mae ganddynt gasgliad o archif Gwendoline a Margaret Davies, sy’n cynnwys rhaglenni o Wyl Gregynog, oedd yn gyrchfan i gyfansoddwyr a cherddorion enwog fel Gustav Holst a Vaughan Williams.

Soniodd Jennifer hefyd am yr archif sain a hanes llafar yn Sain Ffagan, sy’n llawn recordiadau o hanes cymdeithasol, a wnaethpwyd yn yr 20ed ganrif yn bennaf. Mae’r casgliad caneuon gwerin yn drysor, sy’n cynnwys recordiadau o bobl ar hyd a lled y wlad yn canu ar yr aelwyd. Yn y casgliad hwn ceir amrywiaeth o dafodieithoedd, alawon, caneuon gwerin, baledi ac emynau.

Cerddoriaeth yn yr Archif – Gwahoddiad

‘Dyn ni’n gobeithio bod ein crynodeb wedi ennyn eich diddordeb mewn archifau cerdd. Os oes chwant chwilota arnoch chi, gallwch ddefnyddio a’r Hwb Archif i weld be’ sy’ mlaen yn eich ardal chi.

Hoffem ni ddweud diolch yn fawr iawn i bawb a gyfrannodd i ddigwyddiad Dinas Cân – diolch am rannu eich casgliadau gyda ni! Roedd yn bleser cael clywed am amrywiaeth a dyfnder casgliadau cerddorol ein dinas.

Os ydych chi’n gerddor, gynhyrchwr neu berfformiwr, a fe hoffech chi ddod i ddigwyddiad tebyg yn y dyfodol – cysylltwch â ni. Rydym ni’n barod i’ch croesawu yma yng Nghasgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau’r Brifysgol – felly os hoffech chi ymweld, dyma ragor o wybodaeth: ymweld â Chasgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau.

Guest Post: The Barbiers and the French Army

After completing her work on the Barbier archive, our CUROP intern Katy Stone shares her final, fascinating discoveries about life in the French army at the end of the nineteenth and turn of the twentieth century.

For my final blog about the Barbiers I’d like to share some contrasting discoveries about Cardiff-born Georges and Jules Barbier’s experiences of military service with the French Army, revealed through their heartfelt letters written from 1898 to 1904. As shown in a blog by last year’s CUROP student Pip Bartlett, all of the Barbier brothers – due to their dual nationality – completed mandatory national military service with the French Army well before the First World War, with both Georges and Jules subsequently remaining ‘poilus’, or ordinary field soldiers.

Georges Barbier and the comfort of letters in Le Mans

In 1899 Georges Barbier was deployed to the 26th Artillery in Le Mans and many of his letters support Pip’s previous insight that, out of all the family members who went to war, he undoubtedly suffered the loneliest military experience. In one letter dated 3 February 1899, he paints a dark picture of the stark living conditions within his regiment, describing his barracks as a “dirty shack” and expressing gratitude to his brother, Paul Barbier fils, for writing to him – “it is such a blessing to receive letters in this hole”. Georges was clearly unhappy in his regiment and their frequent exchange of letters was not only a source of comfort, but also a channel for escapism. To make things worse, he appears to have found it difficult to fit in with his peers – “all those who sleep in the same room as me are vagabonds, so I have no luck at all”. Hard work was, surprisingly, a blessing in disguise for Georges and I was struck to find him striving for more – “The work is very hard, but that I don’t mind in the least for when I have plenty of work I have not time to worry, which is a very good thing for me”. This eagerness throws light on the mental challenges faced by many soldiers on a daily basis – he was “completely disgusted with life” and would “rather do hard labour than be controlled by a lot of morons who can’t read”.

Scan 1

Barrack detail from a letter dated 20 Februray 1899

Other letters give an insight into his basic military diet – “I live on bread and cheese and once a week I eat meat, on Sundays”. It was also surprising to learn that Georges had to pay for his military meals out of his own pocket, and that his limited financial means meant there was no spare money for any luxuries – “I find that I eat very little here. I have no appetite, and not only that but I have to pay for everything I eat”. A letter to his mother, Euphémie, dated 31 January 1899 reinforces the daily struggle faced by the majority of his peers – “I was so ashamed to buy for so little that I nearly broke down, when there was a lot that could not do as much”. Life was tough in the French Army and although stress and anxiety may have been accountable for his poor appetite, the demands of the physical work also contributed to his struggles with mental and physical health. In his letters he complains of toothaches, headaches and sore feet, yet despite “suffering a great deal”, he avoids going to see the doctor because he “would have to stop work, not only that but I would be unable to go out in the evening”. Another letter sheds light on his perception of being treated differently to his French peers due to his British identity – “You know I have been very sick and had to get treatment in town because the major refused to recognise me … I believe it’s because I’m English”.

Scan 2

Insignia of the Soissons Regiment, 1899

Jules Barbier “far from being miserable” at Soissons

Jules Barbier seems to have experienced a far less despondent national service with an infantry in Soissons. He recalls being “received very kindly” at the barracks, and remarks that “there are some nice boys” and “all the officers have been very kind”. In contrast to the discrimination faced by Georges at Le Mans, Jules mentions that his captain remarked “it was very nice of me to come and do my service from England”. This would have no doubt boosted his enthusiasm and spirits, enhancing his military experience and possibly reinforcing his bond with his French heritage. The Barbier Archive gave me the impression that Jules, to some extent at least,  enjoyed his work in the French infantry, often describing his activities in a buoyant tone – “Yesterday I was taught to salute and about different ranks of officers. I was given my rifle, and tomorrow we will exercise”. This is in stark contrast to the more physically demanding and draining responsibilities encountered by Georges.

Scan 3

Self-portrait of Jules E. Barbier in a letter to his mother, 5 August, 1899

Like Georges, however, Jules often reported that money and food were particularly scant, referring to himself as being “as poor as a church mouse”. In one letter dated 11 February 1899, he feels ashamed for having to borrow 15 francs from a friend, alluding that money was a lingering concern. All his money was solely spent on necessities – “I’m just eating, I’m always hungry”, suggesting that there was no such thing as disposable income in the French Army. Despite having a more positive experience than his brother, Jules’s time in the military was also hampered by illness; “I am in the infirmary. Last bed. I was taken ill with a fever and also with my throat in fact. I have got an abscess there and it is very painful”. But the fact that he was admitted to the infirmary, and a promise that his captain “would come to see me in the hospital”, suggests that the quality of pastoral care was far superior to that experienced by Georges. In one letter Jules announces “I am far from being miserable” and is eager to return to his duties – “Time passes very slowly here in the hospital. I would be pretty eager to go back to the barracks”.

Early colour printing of a barracks scene, 1899

When I embarked on my summer placement with the Barbier Archive at Special Collections and Archives, I did not expect to discover such contrasting personal accounts of life in the French Army through the eyes of the sons of Cardiff. Sometimes harrowing, often spirited, but always heartfelt, this fascinating archive paints a vivid picture of everyday life at a time when the world was on the cusp of one of its most turbulent periods. It has been an absolute indulgence to be able to tease out yet another remarkable story in Cardiff’s history.


Guest post: Conserving the Collingwood Archive

This post comes from Devin Mattlin and Joanne Hoppe, MSc Conservation Practice students at Cardiff University, and conservation volunteers at Glamorgan Archives. Both have been working on the Collingwood Archive conservation project as student conservators thanks to the generous support of the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust

Earlier of this year we had the fantastic opportunity to help conserve a collection of diaries and sketchbooks from the Collingwood Archive held at Special Collections and Archives, Cardiff University. The Collingwoods were a world-famous family of remarkable artists, archaeologists, and writers from the Lake District. W. G. Collingwood was John Ruskin’s secretary and biographer, and a friend of Arthur Ransome, author of Swallows and Amazons and a suspected double agent. The archive spans 60 boxes and comprises a treasure trove of distinctive materials largely inaccessible to research and the public – thousands of letters and correspondence dating from the 18th century (including letters from E. M. Forster and Beatrix Potter), diaries, sketches, personal recipe books, photographs, illustrated story books and outstanding landscapes of the Lake District.

Jo & Devinstudy of English costume

Study of English Costume, possibly by one of the Collingwood children, c. 19th century


Jo & Devin diary before conservation (002)

Diary of Dora Collingwood (1886-1964), before conservation work

In 2017, Cardiff University’s Special Collections and Archives was awarded their second successive grant from the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust to conserve key items from the archive, and we were delighted to be selected as part of our MSc Conservation Practice course to give them a hand. This was a great opportunity to learn new skills in paper conservation and to work with Lydia Stirling, an Accredited Conservation-Restorer, at Glamorgan Archives. The objects in question dated roughly from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries and consisted of several diaries, sketchbooks and a recipe book. The ultimate goal of the conservation work was to stabilise the objects for responsible and appropriate display, and allow access to researchers and the public in the Special Collections and Archives Reading Room.

A Sketchbook of British Costume

One of the first objects we treated was a sketchbook of British Costume (c. 19th century) written in iron gall ink which, if left untreated, can rust through paper. This was confirmed with iron (II) indicator paper, as seen in the figure below – the paper turns a pink colour if iron (II) is present.   After removing the dirt from the surface using a smoke sponge the pages were labelled in pencil and the threads used to originally sew the pages together were removed. To stabilise the iron gall ink, the pages were placed into four different water baths for 10 minutes each: water, calcium phytate, water, calcium bicarbonate. The calcium phytate reacts with the iron to form iron phytate compounds, which progressively slows down the iron corrosion. The calcium bicarbonate bath stabilises the paper by reducing its acidity, because as paper ages it becomes more acidic and thus more brittle. After the last water bath the wet pages were placed between blotter paper to dry. Once the pages had dried flat, the book was rebound using waxed linen thread.

Jo & Devin iron gall ink testing (002)

Iron gall ink testing showing a positive result

Jo & Devin iron gall ink treatment

Joanne stabilising the iron gall ink in various water baths

Collingwood Diaries

Many of the Collingwood diaries were falling apart and needed repairing due to the broken metal staples that were used to bind the pages together. To treat this type of damage we first removed the staples with a spatula, cleaned the surface and numbered the pages (once unbound, the sequence of the pages could be lost). Treatment of the holes involved shaping a piece of Japanese repair paper to the size of the hole by placing the original page on a light box with a sheet of plastic and the repair paper on top. The repair paper was then shaped to match the hole by using a needle and was then applied to the hole with wheat starch paste. A layer of thin Japanese tissue was then applied over the repair which was also treated with wheat starch paste to make it stronger. Tears in the paper were also repaired in the same way. Once all the repairs were done, the diaries were rebound, and the covers were reattached by adding mull (a type of bookbinding cloth) to the edge where the spine attaches and then adhering the repaired cover to that cloth strip.

Jo & Devin lifting leather

The boards are revealed under the original leather cover

However, one of the diaries could not be treated in the same way because it had a leather cover, unlike the others, which were paper. The spine on this diary had almost completely fallen off, so we made the decision to authentically restore it using new leather. First, the original cover was cut and lifted to expose the boards underneath. The repair leather was then shaved with knives to make it as thin as possible, so it would bend easily and fit under the original leather. Once the piece was sufficiently thin enough, it was saturated with wheat starch paste and then fitted onto the spine and under the lifted original leather. The original leather was then adhered on top.

Jo & Devin Spine Repair

Finished spine with the repair leather


The Collingwood Celebratory Conference

After we had completed the work we were delighted when the project team invited us to talk about our experience at the Collingwood Archive Celebratory Conference. Here we were given a fantastic platform to present our journey with the archive to a large audience of over 40 delegates from across the world, and share what conservation is and how archives are cared for. We were so grateful to the project team for this opportunity to communicate with many different heritage stakeholders, an essential skill that will be invaluable as we embark on our careers in conservation.

Jo & Devin conference talk (002)

Devin and Joanne sharing their conservation experiences at the Collingwood Archive Celebratory Conference, April 2018

We would like to thank Lydia Sterling, Alan Vaughan Hughes and the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust for the opportunity to work with such a unique collection. Through this experience we practiced our paper conservation, bookbinding, and communication skills. It was also interesting to see beautiful artwork and to get a glimpse into the lives of the Collingwood family and the Victorian era. Our favourite items had to be an article pasted into the recipe book discussing how onions are so underrated, and a Cadbury’s advert from 1881!

In dog-eared pursuit of Isaac Newton’s library

I am very pleased to announce the discovery of another book which we believe to have come from the library of Isaac Newton. Our copy of The Paschal or Lent-Fast apostolical & perpetual by Peter Gunning (London, 1662) is the third volume we’ve found in our stacks (so far) with a connection to the illustrious scientist. As in the case of our first discovery, it all began with a couple of bookplates. 

Shortly after Isaac Newton’s death, his entire library was purchased for £300 by a local prison warden named John Huggins. Not an especially scholarly man himself, he had acquired the books for his son Charles who had recently become rector at Chinnor in Oxfordshire. On the books’ arrival at the rectory, Charles Huggins’ armorial bookplate (which can be seen here) was pasted into each volume.


James Musgrave’s bookplate, with Charles Huggins’ bookplate faintly visible underneath.

When Charles died in 1750, the benefice of Chinnor went to Dr. James Musgrave, who was an acquaintance (and later, son-in-law) of Charles’ older brother William. Along with the patronage, Huggins sold the contents of the library to Musgrave, who placed his own bookplate bearing the motto “Philosophemur” on top of, or occasionally beside the Huggins bookplate.

The books remained in the Musgrave family for several generations, but by the end of the 18th century, their association with Newton appears to have been forgotten. When the family experienced financial difficulties in the 1920s, hundreds of the books were sold at auction and scattered around the world. 

So on Wednesday afternoon when I sat down to catalogue this rather unassuming quarto and saw a bookplate with the motto “Philosophemur” and the shadow of another armorial bookplate underneath, I began to get rather excited. 

title page

The Paschal or Lent-Fast apostolical & perpetual by Peter Gunning (London, 1662), with James Musgrave’s “Philosophemur” bookplate on the pastedown.

There was still plenty of work to be done before I felt comfortable announcing that we’d found another Newton book though. The presence of both the Musgrave and Huggins bookplates is generally accepted as proof that a book previously belonged to Isaac Newton. However, Charles Huggins would also have placed his bookplate in any books he purchased after acquiring Newton’s library, so the bookplates alone are not an absolute guarantee.

Fortunately for us, the 1727 purchase was accompanied by a list of titles included in the sale, commonly called he “Huggins list”. The original manuscript still survives in the collections of the British Library and its contents have been published in The library of Isaac Newton by John Harrison. Short of Newton’s own handwriting, inclusion on the Huggins list is the most definitive form of proof that a book came from his library. Unfortunately for us, The Paschal or Lent-Fast does not appear on that list.

This isn’t quite as damning as it sounds, however. Thanks to a detailed inventory of Newton’s possessions which was conducted shortly after his death, we know that his library held 1,896 printed volumes, along with an unspecified number of pamphlets. The Huggins list includes 969 separate titles comprising 1,442 volumes, but also several vague entries for groups of books, such as “3 Dozen” or “About a hundred & half”. It’s entirely possible that our volume belonged to one of those blanket entries.

ownership inscription

Our volume has inscriptions on the title page, but not in Newton’s hand.

Without a matching entry on the Huggins list, I would need to look for evidence left by Newton himself, such as marginalia in Newton’s own hand. The only ink markings on our volume are an earlier ownership inscription on the title page (“Th: Ch:”) and a price (“pr: 4s 6d”) in what appears to be the same hand, suggesting that Newton bought the book second-hand.

He did have a habit of marking his books in another way though. Several of Newton’s books have dog-eared corners, and not just with small, neat, page-marking folds. He would fold over large portions of pages so that the corner pointed to a particular word or passage on the page. (You can read more about Newton’s dog-ears here.) While all of the leaves in our volume are currently unfolded, I noticed while checking the book’s signature statement that I could just make out the shadow of a crease on several leaves, showing that they had once been dog-eared in a manner very much like what’s described in the link above. Without an entry on the Huggins list or Isaac Newton’s own handwriting in the margins, it’s impossible to be 100% certain of the book’s origins, but between the dog-eared pages and the bookplate evidence, it seems reasonably likely that our copy did, in fact, come from Newton’s library.


The corners of several pages show signs of having been folded in the past.

As I mentioned earlier, The Paschal or Lent-Fast is the third book we’ve found bearing both the Huggins and Musgrave bookplates. Our first discovery came in 2012 when my predecessor Ken Gibb traced the history of our copy of Myographia Nova by John Browne (London, 1698) by means of the two bookplates on the front pastedown of the volume. The second volume to come to light was Meteorologicorum libri sex by Libert Froidmont (Oxford, 1639), also catalogued in 2012. A fourth volume, The works of that learned and judicious divine, Mr. Richard Hooker (London, 1676), has Musgrave’s bookplate but not Huggins’, suggesting that it may have been a later addition to the Musgrave family library. All four volumes come from the Cardiff Rare Books Collection, which Cardiff University purchased from Cardiff City Council in 2010.

When much of the Musgrave family library was auctioned off in 1920, its association with Newton was long forgotten and the books sold at bargain prices, the majority of them in lots cof several books bundled together as “Theology (Old)” or “Books (various)”. In 1927, Richard de Villamil published an article in The Bookman entitled “The tragedy of Sir Isaac Newton’s Library” tracing the connection between the Musgraves and Newton. After the article’s publication, the value of books bearing both the Huggins and Musgrave bookplates skyrocketed. 

booksellers note

A bookseller’s note in Myographia nova reads, “A fine Copy with brilliant impression of the portrait by White.”

Both Myographia nova and Meteorologicorum libri sex have their purchase prices written in pencil on the front pastedowns (£5-10-10 for  and £1-15, respectively) and neither seems astronomically high. For comparison, a 1655 edition of Euclid which sold for five shillings in 1920 was offered for sale at £500 the following year after the scribbles in its margins were identified as Newton’s own hand (see Harrison, p. 51-52). Our copy of Myographia nova has a bookseller’s note describing it as a “fine Copy” but with no mention of Newton anywhere, suggesting that it was sold before the publication of de Villamil’s article in 1927.

In the early 1920s, the Cardiff Public Library was still actively building its rare book collection, so it is not inconceivable that more books from the Musgrave auction may have ended up in their stacks. Given that a significant portion of the Cardiff Rare Books Collection has not yet been fully catalogued, I can’t help but wonder how many more of Newton’s books might be there, waiting to be uncovered.