Man of steel -- historians to delve into archives of a Welsh industrial giant

Please note, this page has been archived and is no longer being updated.

The life of one of the giants of Welsh industry is to be put in the spotlight, as a major collection of archive material from the first chief of the Abbey steelworks in Port Talbot goes on loan to Swansea University, thanks to a partnership with Tata Steel.

The records, which have just been deposited in the University's Richard Burton Archives, will form part of a project to promote new research on the history of the Welsh steel industry.
Tata steel archives - furnaces guideThe material consists of the correspondence of W. F. (Fred) Cartwright, general manager of the Port Talbot Abbey Works from its opening in 1951.  

Born in Northamptonshire, Cartwright made his career in the Welsh steel industry but his reputation extended well beyond Wales. A profile published in The New Scientist in 1959 described him as 'one of the outstanding engineer-managers in steel'.

Picture: Blast Furnace instruction manual: "Always put the hot stove on before taking the cold one off"

Pictures available here

Dr Louise Miskell of the Department of History and Classics at Swansea University said:
'"Key figures in the steel industry have, until now, been conspicuous by their absence from the industrial history of twentieth-century Wales. We need to know much more about how people like Cartwright operated. The loan of these records is a vital first step to achieving this and we are grateful to our partners at Tata for helping to make this happen".
Tata steel archives - groupPublic Affairs Manager for Tata Steel, Robert Dangerfield, said:
"Lessons may be learned from the past that can be applied today. In the 1950s Mr Cartwright and his colleagues faced the challenge of rebuilding the steel industry and making it commercially viable in the face of growing competition".

"Equally, we are aware of the impact the steel industry has made on the community, here - we'd like to release these archives with both a sense of pride and conviction that it is offering something valuable to the local community."

Pictured in the Richard Burton Archives:  (l-r) Nia Singleton of Tata Steel, Stacey Capner of the Archives team, historians Dr Louise Miskell and Bleddyn Penny, and University archivist Elisabeth Bennett.  

Below: the team examining some of the archive material.

While on loan at Swansea the Cartwright correspondence will be catalogued by the team at the Richard Burton Archives who have expertise in business history records.

Tata steel archives - group with mapUniversity archivist Elisabeth Bennett said:
"Cataloguing is key in making this collection accessible and unlocking its potential.

"The records of Wales' other major industries are being well utilised for a wide range of projects and research, and it is important that similar resources from this significant industry are opened up in the same way."

"We hope that the loan of the Cartwright collection will begin to open up the nationally significant historical records of the steel industry in Wales."
The arrival of the Cartwright correspondence also provides a timely boost to the work of Swansea Ph.D. student Bleddyn Penny, whose research is on Port Talbot and its steelworkers, 1951-1988. If you were employed at the Abbey Works between the 1950s and the mid-1980s and would like to share your knowledge, Bleddyn is keen to hear from you.  Please contact