Built on steel: Port Talbot pupils' exhibition on history of Sandfields Estate

Pupils from Sandfields Comprehensive in Port Talbot have been working alongside archivists, historians and other experts to put together an exhibition on the history of Sandfields Estate, built in the 1950s for steelworkers and their families. The exhibition is on display in the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea, from 4 April to 14 June

The pupils, from year 9, worked with a team of experts, which included archivists from the Richard Burton Archives at Swansea University and West Glamorgan Archives, academics from the University’s history department, museum staff and teachers.  

The pupils used old pictures from the archives, film and oral history extracts, and copies of documents and maps. They also interviewed older friends and relatives about their memories of Sandfields. 

Details of the exhibition at the National Waterfront Museum 

400 x 279“We had food on our table and we were proud of our town” (from artwork - pictured - by Sandfields Year 9 pupil Brandon Webb)

Archivists Kim Collis and Katrina Legg, along with staff from the National Waterfront Museum, helped the pupils with their work.   They also collaborated with Swansea University historian Bleddyn Penny, an expert in the history of Port Talbot steel works, who had made a fascinating series of recordings of retired steelworkers talking about their lives.

The end result of the pupils’ work was a series of printed banners, which include their art and transcripts of their interviews, along with photographs, maps and other resources from the archives.  

400 x 254Picture:  A Sandfields street party to mark the coronation in 1953

Dr Katrina Legg of the Richard Burton Archives at Swansea University said:

Archives are for everyone, which is why we were very pleased to work with the pupils and our partners on this wonderful project. 

Kim Collis, County Archivist, West Glamorgan Archives said:

The exhibition sheds new light on the fascinating history of Sandfields, a community built on steel. The project as a whole has brought lots of benefits to the pupils. They went to a local museum that many of them had never visited before, and had a chance to see archives that they never knew existed.

Seeing their work displayed in the school, the local community and in a national museum, should be a real badge of pride for the children, their friends and families, and everyone in Sandfields.

600 x 437

Picture:  Sandfields Estate in the 1960s, showing the Afan Lido on the seafront.  The sports centre and other beachfront buildings are not yet in existence.

About the project:

The project has been funded by the Welsh Government ‘Changing Cultures’ scheme, which is administered by Archives and Records Council Wales.   The partners are:

•    West Glamorgan Archives Service – Kim Collis (County Archivist)
•    Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University – Elisabeth Bennett (University Archivist) and Katrina Legg (Assistant Archivist)
•    Department of History and Classics, Swansea University - Dr Louise Miskell (Associate Professor) and Bleddyn Penny (PhD student)
•    National Waterfront Museum, National Museums of Wales – Leisa Bryant (Senior Learning Interpretation & Participation Officer) and Andrew Deathe (Exhibitions and Programmes Officer)
•    Sandfields Comprehensive School – Darren Grounds (Geography), Erica Gent and Adam John (Art)

400 x 246‌Picture:  Pupils from Sandfields Comprehensive working with Bleddyn Penny, from Swansea University department of history, an expert in the history of Port Talbot steel works and its impact on the wider community.