What? When? Where? and How?
Risca Industrial History Museum houses one of the best collections of artifacts relating to the industrial heritage of the South Wales valleys.
The museum is open every Saturday from 10.00am to 12.30pm, admission is free, parking is adjacent and local experts will be available to answer questions.
You will find the museum at the Risca Colliers Institute, Grove Road, Risca, NP11 6GN.
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OPEN DOORS - Saturday September 25th 2021
After all the problems of 2020, this year three of Risca's most important and historic buildings will be once again be open, free of charge.
The Museum is on the ground floor of the old Risca Collieries Workman's Institute which was built in 1916 for the local miners. After the colliery closed in 1967 it was used as the local benefits office for many years and, after that relocated, the vacant building was used as the Islwyn Labour Party campaign office during the 1995 by-election. That same year it was purchased by Islwyn Borough Council using European Heritage money, putting the Museum on the ground floor and additional classrooms for the Oxford House Adult Education Centre on the first floor. Caerphilly CBC disposed of the building in 2016 resulting in a 7-fold rent increase for the Museum which is run by volunteers from the Oxford House Industrial History Society and receives no official financial support. It is a Grade 2 listed building.
This year, throughout the day, members of the South Wales Branch of the British Printing Society will be demonstrating the operation of three letterpress printing machines from yesteryear. Visitors will be able to see how lead types are brought together to make up a page, placed on a ‘proof press’ to check for errors and then ‘locked-up’ in a steel frame to be installed on a printing press. Those who would like to will be encouraged to try their hand at setting type, pulling a proof and operating a desktop printer of a different kind.
Although the Museum is open from 10am to 12.30pm every Saturday, for Open Doors it will be open from 10am to 4pm on Saturday 25th September. As well as the Edwardian Chemist shop and the 1834 printing press from the Starling Press, on display will be many items not usually available including artefacts, photographs & maps.
On the upper floor of the building, the Western Valley Model Railway Club will be operating four separate track layouts with authentic scale models. This will be a rare opportunity for the general public to view this collection.
St Mary's Church
The current Risca parish church, St. Mary's was built in 1852 in a Gothic revival style. However, it replaced an earlier church on the same site and, during demolition of the earlier building, Roman remains were discovered in the foundations. Whilst a church in Risca is likely to have existed since the 12th century, it has been suggested that the site may be of Celtic origin. As well as the church itself being Grade 2 listed, the entrance gateway and the remains of the churchyard cross are separately Grade 2 listed.
The church will open from 10.30am to 4pm on Saturday 25th September. The historic parish records of Baptisms, Marriages & Burials will be available for inspection. Inside are many interesting monuments and dedications notably the magnificent stained glass window commemorating the mining history of the parish which was only installed a few years ago following a long campaign. Outside are headstones and grave memorials with historical importance to Risca including the gravestones of two brothers who died in the 1860 Black Vein Colliery explosion. There will be leaflets available indicating the location of some of the most interesting sights both inside and outside the church and booklets on the full history of the church will be on sale. Refreshments will be available.
Risca Male Choir
The old Council Offices on St. Mary's Street will open from 10.30am to 12pm on Saturday 25th September. The building was completed in 1912 for the Risca Urban District Council and remained it's headquarters until it ceased to exist after local government reorganisation in 1974. Since 1988 it has been the home of RMC, the Risca Male Choir, which has gained a high reputation both in the UK and abroad. The outside of the building is virtually unchanged including the clock which has been renovated by the choir. Internally, many original features remain and the room which operated as the Council chamber can be inspected.
Choir members will be in attendance and the illustrated history of the choir 'The First Forty Years' and selected CD's will be available to purchase.
NOW OPEN EVERY SATURDAY !!
We have taken the opportunity of our enforced lockdown to pay some much needed attention to the Museum itself. Painters, scrapers, plumbers, electricians and plasterers have all been very busy.
Although this work has not yet been completed, we are delighted to inform everyone that the Chemist Shop and Lecture Room along with the outside exhibits and porch area will once again be open to the public between 10.00am and 12.30pm. We look forward to welcoming you over the coming weeks.
Our Summer walks are also happening, though slightly restricted, so have a look at our 'Programme'
page to see what's going on.
Oxford House Industrial History Society
The Society will be recommencing their meetings at the Risca Museum from the beginning of September after 18 months of holding talks on Zoom. If you are interested in Industrial, History, Local History or just listening to interesting speakers, come along on 3rd September at 7pm (and any subsequent Friday).
Already scheduled is a Film Night with original celluloid film shown on a vintage cinema projector, 'Stokers & Strikers', an illustrated talk by Peter Strong following his article on this event recently featured in the Argus, and Lyn Pask with 'The Story of Blackwood'. Have a look at our 'Programme' page for more details.
The Friends of Risca Museum
Please have a look at our new page - 'The Friends of Risca Museum'.
We are in urgent need of 'Friends' so have a look and if you think you can be one of our 'Friends' please help us keep the Museum alive.
Following an increase of about £3000 in the charge to the Museum for the use of the building, the Friends of Risca Museum was launched. People who wished to support the continuing existence of this unique institution agreed to an annual donation of £10, not much more than a couple of pints of real ale. Some Friends have arranged standing orders and we hope our other Friends will renew their contribution for 2020 but we also need many more to join to guarantee the long term future of the Museum.
For 2020, we will be keeping contact with our Friends, informing them what is happening in the Museum and any exciting new acquisitions or special events. Please help if you can, what about making someone a Friend as a Christmas present? Further details are available on our 'Friends' page here :- Friends of the Museum
, on our Facebook page, or just call in to the Museum on a Saturday.
Risca Industrial History Museum
What's inside the Collier's Institute?
The museum displays an extensive collection of artefacts, memorabilia and photographs illustrating some of the industrial history of the area: coal mining, the iron industry, tram roads, railways, canals etc. The collection has been built up over many years by members of the Oxford House Industrial History Society along with donations by some very generous people. The museum is run entirely by volunteers from the Society.
Before local boundary changes extinguished Islwyn Borough Council, one of their last acts was to acquire the Risca Colliers Institute by means of a European development grant, to house the museum and extend the facilities of Oxford House Adult Education Centre. The Institute was built in 1916 and is now a Grade II listed building..
Risca Colliers Institute
Risca Colliery NUM banner
Our chemists shop
Some of our artifacts
Our Industrial Heritage - Iron and Coal
Iron, steel and tinplate Coal
The large ironworks at Rogerstone, Pontymister and Abercarn were the very visible presence of heavy industry in the valley with smaller forges and foundries making their own contribution to Industrial Risca.
Coal, clay and lead mines.
With deep mines at Blackvein, North Risca and Abercarn plus dozens of small levels on both sides of the valley, Risca's mining industry also played an essential part in the local economy.
Our Industrial Heritage - Commercial
Printing and other commercial activities
We were lucky to rescue one of the printing presses from 'Starling Press' of Risca which is back in occasional working order. A good selection of other commercial equipment helps to set the scene.
Our Industrial Heritage - Transport
Railways, Tramroads, Canals and Buses
A veritable spider's web of transport systems wound its' way up and down the valley from the early canal and associated tramroads to today's modern bypass. Relics of these systems are still to be found in odd corners and we've assembled some pieces to remind us of their importance.
W H Thomas - The Edwardian Chemists shop
'Next patient, please'
One of our prime exhibits is the Edwardian chemist's shop of W. H. Thomas, re-erected from James Street in Cardiff using the original shop fittings and contents.
Our previous museum
Pontymister Upper School
This society had been collecting artefacts from the earliest days and in 1979 the late Wynford Vaughan Thomas opened our Risca Industrial History Museum in the old Pontymister Upper School. Pictured here is the coal dram recovered from the Blaendare level in the former museum.
In December 1979 the museum was flooded to a depth of 3 feet by the River Ebbw. Following the sale of the old school buildings and their eventual demolition, the museum was put into temporary storage, courtesy of what was then Islwyn Borough Council, until our new home was found.
A coal dram recovered from the Blaendare level
The Pontymister Floods