For my final BA Documentary Photography project I wrote a dissertation on Men’s Sheds Cymru, which was also my end-of-year exhibition at Cardiff MADE gallery. It was a treatise on a cohort of men who journeyed from the isolation and loneliness of their homes into the community of a Men’s Shed.
At the time I was intrigued to visit an embryonic Shed and found one in my vicinity in Kidwelly. It was an interesting site based in a ‘pink building’, which, until 2022 was the Kidwelly Community Hub. I obtained permission to attend and photograph the clearance and preparation of the proposed Shed. On the day I attended (13th May 2017) it was a hive of activity, with several men engaged in clearing, what appeared to be decades of neglect and lack of maintenance. The passion, energy and enthusiasm were palpable, with no breaks for tea and biscuits. Despite all the hard work, the site was deemed unsuitable due to the lack wheelchair access. I’ve been informed that the Shed has now relocated to the Llanelli & Mynydd Mawr Railway, which is a heritage railway project on the site of the former Cynheidre colliery.
What really intrigued me about the site was a grubby old storeroom with a collapsing roof and with every surface covered in, what appeared to be, decades of grime. The wonderful patinaed door, held ajar by an old pallet was symptomatic of the entire space. Rickety shelves, probably made from old roof timbers, contained an assortment of paint cans.
As I strolled into the abandoned workshop/shed, I was immediately struck by a pile of filthy old documents. They appeared to have been just dumped there at some time in the dim and distant past, with no respect for the possible significance of the documents. They have the potential of being of immense historic and cultural heritage significance to Kidwelly and Carmarthenshire. On initial examination there were documents from ICI and Solanite Ltd. I was unable to find any trace of Solanite Ltd. with an internet search. There was also a very official looking document referring to ‘An Act to extend certain Provisions of the Titles to Land Act 1858’, and a document under the heading of Fuel and Lighting Order 1939, for an application as a Licenced Merchant in the Borough of Kidwelly dated September 1939, just 29 days after the outbreak of the second world war. The document was raised by Mr. W. A. Jones, the Local Fuel Overseer at the address of 42, Thomas Street, Llanelly. The handwriting is a challenge, but I think it is for the GWR in Llanelly.
Other documents were of a more personal and interesting intelligence; for example, a Fire Protection Questionnaire produced by the Borough of Kidwelly, dated February 1941, during WWII, for the property of John Amos Jones of Lakefield Place. I managed to find a refence for Mr. Jones: Jones, J. Amos (committee, Kidwelly Town Cricket Club, 1937) in a History of Kidwelly. The questionnaire was seeking answers to enquiries about wartime preparations, such as ‘is there an Anderson Shelter on the property?’, or a ‘telephone’ or ‘stirrup pump’, and if anyone was available for ‘fire watching’ duties during ‘alerts’. Of fascination was the Wages Sheet of James Jones dated 28th February 1925. Ostensibly, he was a ditch cleaner and repairer of roads, working from 7am until 4:30pm Monday to Friday, with a half day on Saturday. For that he was paid 8/2 per day, about 40p in today’s money. There was also a document referring to an Annual Report of the Medical Officer of Health for year ended December 1934, on behalf of the Borough of Kidwelly. I was tempted to open it for a read, but I managed to resist the enticement. This all presented a captivating view of the day-to-day life in Kidwelly during the post first-world-war years and the second world war. I wish now that I had spent more time rummaging through the immense pile of documents; who knows what I may have found? I hope these documents will not receive a fate to be disregarded and to finally be destroyed and lost for ever.