Anglesey archive service seeks help solving mystery of hundreds of photographs found dumped in a skip
Dale Spridgeon, local democracy reporter
Fascinating photographs taken from hundreds of vintage glass plate negatives found dumped in a skip are still presenting an unsolved mystery to Anglesey history buffs.
The ‘Burrows collection’ is held by the island’s council archive service and features black and white pictures taken by a former Holyhead press photographer.
R L V Burrows appears to have chronicled every aspect of island life during a long career spanning many decades during the 20th century.
Sadly, when the photos were found some years ago, the index was missing and there were no captions. The extraordinary images tell their own story showing intriguing aspects of Anglesey’s life as well as revealing details of Welsh social history.
Archivists, staff and volunteers in Llangefni have pored over the images searching out clues to their dates, why they were taken, where they are and who they feature.
One unknown image shows an unusual shop which appears to sells an eclectic mixture of bicycles, long-play records, cricket bats and dartboards.
In another, two jolly-looking women, one in a civil defence corps uniform, are standing beside two huge saucepans beside a cooker.
Senior archivist Kelly Parry said, “We don’t know what is going on in that picture, it could be the ladies were providing War-time or post-War food help, perhaps it was during the rationing.
“We just don’t know, but we hope someone out there might?
“The picture of the shop selling bicycles is fantastic!
“The shop seems to offer a very odd collection of things for sale! Perhaps someone might remember buying a record or a dartboard?”
Other Burrows images show people and the animals at agricultural markets and local shows, there are village fêtes, carnival queens, old pubs and bars, shop interiors and exterior views, people at work, garages and factory scenes, as well as local schools and classrooms.
The Burrows, and other images, are just part of a vast historical treasure trove held at the Anglesey County Council -run office.
Other interesting items include estate documents and letters, including correspondence from Florence Nightingale who wrote to a nurse on the island.
The oldest and rarest item is a vellum paged (animal skin) book.
The Penrhoslligwy parish register dates from 1578 – 1766, and provides a detailed register of births, marriages and burials.
Staff at the Bryn Cefni Industrial Estate site are on a mission to encourage more Anglesey folk to make use of its collections and online resources.
With more people dropping by they also hope more light may be shed on some of the lesser known Burrows images.
The service says its aim is to “identify, collect and preserve” the island’s history, and it wants to make its 500 years of records “available to everyone.”
They are keen to dispel the myth that the archives are just full of dusty old documents and are only for academics.
Although their topic is rooted in the past, the archive service is bang up to date with a high-tech, temperature-controlled ‘pod’ designed to protect its precious records. It also features spacious, modern rooms for researching, exhibitions and activities.
The archives department has also worked on the school curriculum, has helped students and volunteers, as well as making resources available to other organisations.
It recently contributed photos to the National Library for work on a ‘memory archive,’ which helped in work around dementia awareness.,
Kelly said: “We have so much much offer, we are not just here for the serious researchers and academics, we are here for everyone.
“We’d love more local people to pop by.
“We can help people with so many things, from family tree research, to looking at old maps, to maritime history, ships and planes, crime and punishment, workhouse and poor law records, letters, diaries, photographs, we hold all sorts of fascinating records that need to be shared.
“Family research is a popular reason why people visit.
“Anyone from the area with long standing family connections might even find their ancestors recorded in our Penrhoslligwy register ,which goes back as far as 1578.”
The service also receives enquiries from all over the world. It has seen visitors from as far away as Australia and Canada research Welsh family history.
Kelly is keen to encourage anyone with old photographs, documents, old diaries, or historic records lurking in sheds and attics to contact them first before thinking of throwing anything away.
She said “It is sad that the Burrows images were found in a skip, who knows how many precious items have been lost to skips over the years.
“We’d urge people to think before they throw anything out like old photos.
“There must be lots of things hiding in attics, cupboards and sheds across the island that can help tell its story.
“People can always contact us if they are not sure it is something worth saving. Or pop by and see us!” She added.
For more information on the Anglesey Archives see the Anglesey Facebook page or for more details on opening times and arrangements, call 01248 751930.
Black and white Burrows images Courtesy of Anglesey Archives
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.