How the St. David’s Collection was Created

The Richard Burton Archives Source: Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University.

The Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University.

This web guide is concerned with The St. David’s Priory Collection of archive documents held at the Richard Burton Archives, Swansea. Whilst investigating the documents was our primary concern for this web guide, it was also important to find out how the collection came to be, and how it reached the archives. In terms of the St. David’s collection, there are numerous documents available within the collection itself which detail how some of the sources found there way to the Richard Burton Archives. For the others, it took some investigation.

In August 1979 the church confirmed that there were no objections to transferring historical documents to Swansea University College Library, and it was in October 1979 that Father Peter Fell of St David’s donated a collection of early records (dated 1856-1904) to the Richard Burton Archives.[1] The next month a provisional catalogue of the collection was created, consisting of thirty seven items divided into three sections: Manuscripts, Records of St. David’s School and Records of St. Benedict’s Church, Sketty.[2] The documents were then moved to the Richard Burton Archives, located on campus at Swansea University.

The Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University.

The Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University.

However, not all documents concerning St David’s Priory and its connected schools and churches are located within the Richard Burton Archives. There are documents which are currently held at the Presbytery of St. Davids, to be transferred to the archives in the near future. These records largely relate to events during the nineteen eighties, and include papers relating to the re-development of St. David’s place and the surrounding area of the church, as well as documents concerning the move of St. David’s School to West Cross.

The Collection referred to in this web guide now currently consists of over two hundred documents, divided into 14 sections and organised by relative topic. Unbelievably, this is not the complete scope of documents available concerning St. David’s Priory held within the Richard Burton Archives. Other available documents can be found over three extra deposits, including items such as the dairies of Father Peter Fell, weekly notices, photographs and articles from the twentieth century.[3] These deposits are also located within the Richard Burton Archives, meaning there is a great wealth of material available concerning St. David’s Priory.

Located within the St David’s Collection itself is a record of correspondence between Father Peter Fell and David Beven, archivist at the Richard Burton Archives. As the correspondence extends over a number of months, you get a real sense of the relationship which developed over time, as well as being able to track the steady movement of documents into the archives. In particular, one somewhat humorous example can be found within a letter to Peter from David in 1979. The letter accompanied a small Swansea guide-book, which had been restored and improved by a bookbinder working at Swansea University. David then goes on to give Peter the following advice:

‘May I now suggest that you keep it inside the slipcase and packing in your own study (not back in that dampish cupboard) and that occasionally you give it an airing.’[4]

Fell replied with thanks for the restored guidebook and told the archivist that he ‘wholly agree[s] with your recommendation not to keep it in the damp cupboard.’ He then confirms he has decided to remove particular records from the collection including: a register of sick calls, dated 1915-65, an account book for 1935-47 and a minute book for 1936-51.[5] The reasoning behind the removal of these documents is not noted, but one can assume it is because of the personal nature and fairly recent date range, meaning that there may be issues with data protection.

The advice offered by Bevan is not only witty, it also demonstrates the importance played by archives in preserving history. Not only do they offer a safe environment to store historical documents – offering a practical solution to storage – they can also restore documents, giving Welsh history a better chance of preservation for decades to come. For more information about the collection or the Richard Burton Archives please do not hesitate to contact the archivists who would be happy to help.


[1]This was voiced in a letter to Reverend Peter Fell of St. David’s Swansea. See RBA LAC/99/H17/1 Letter dated 10th August 1979.

[2]See RBA LAC/99/H17/1 Loose Correspondence for information concerning the movement of documents into the archives.

[3]Second deposit call number: GB 0217 LAC/144; Third deposit: GB 0217 LAC/145; Fourth deposit: BG0217 LAC/146.

[4]RBA LAC/99/H17/1 Letter from David Bevan to Father Peter Fell, 7th December 1979.

[5]RBA LAC/99/H17/1 Letter from Peter Fell to David Bevan, undated.


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