Material relating to Senghenydd Workmen's Library and Institute (1917-1973), and Universal Collieries (1901-1921).
Senghenydd Workmen's Library and Institute and Universal Collieries
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Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
The miners' institutes and halls developed from the latter part of the nineteenth century. This coincided with the development of the coalfield when a great influx in population created new demands for self-education and a need for meeting places for both lodge business, evening classes and community recreation. The institutes strongly reflected the role of the community and as a result they became focal points for the mining village and its locality.
The institutes were largely financed by the miners themselves through weekly deductions from each miner's wages at the local colliery, although sometimes coal-owners made contributions. In 1920 under the 1920 Mining Industry Act, the Miners' Welfare Fund was set up to be administered by the Miners' Welfare Commission. The fund provided amenities for the miners, including welfare halls and institutes, pit-baths and scholarships. Many institutes and welfare halls received maintenance grants after 1920 from this fund.
The miners' institutes contained libraries, reading rooms, games rooms and other facilities for recreation such as cinemas, theatres and billiard rooms. They also provided accommodation for meetings, most notably National Union of Mineworkers [NUM] (South Wales Area) Lodge meetings. In many instances lodge committee members were also heavily involved in the running of the Institutes. The libraries provided a rich educational resource for the community and some of them at their peak rivalled the largest public libraries then existing in Britain.
The golden era of the institutes after World War Two was followed by their demise in line with social trends. These included the provision of secondary education and local library facilities, changes in social activities for example the growing popularity of television, bingo and the development of clubs and most importantly, the contraction of the coalfield following the pit closures from the 1950s onwards. Many of the old halls and institutes ended up being converted into miners' clubs. In the 1970s, Senghenydd Workmen's Library was transferred to the Urban District Council and the Institute to Caerphilly District Council.
Universal Colliery (1891-1928) was in Senghenydd (Wales). Two fatal accidents occurred there; in 1901 (81 killed), and in 1913 (439 killed), with the 1913 accident being the biggest mining disaster in Great Britain. During the enquiry into the disaster, several breaches of regulations were uncovered, the most serious of these was the inability of the ventilating fans to reverse the airflow. Legislation had required that all mines should have implemented this by January 1st 1913. It was estimated if the current of air had been reversed a hundred lives might have been saved.
Divided into 2 subfonds; Senghenydd Workmen's Library and Institute, and Universal Collieries.
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Finding aid encoded by Julie Anderson July 2003.
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