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People's Collection Wales: History archive goes online

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Nick - Web Team Nick - Web Team | 13:58 UK time, Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Banknote of the Wrexham & North Wales Bank, 1844, courtesy Denbighshire Record Office

It's amazing what turns up when you go rummaging through old things, like this £5 banknote from 1844 carrying the name Wrexham & North Wales Bank, originally set up as Lloyds (Wrexham) Bank, no less, in 1785 by local merchant Richard Lloyd.

Go digging in a new online archive launched yesterday called People's Collection Wales, and there's no telling what you'll find.

Or, as BBC history broadcaster and blogger Phil Carradice puts it, the site "promises new ways to explore, share and engage with Welsh history and culture".

So, I went looking and turned up the apprentice report of a young Daniel Owen in a tailor shop in Mold in 1851, before he became a famous Welsh novelist; there was images of 19th Century Buckley pottery; HM Stanley's records of attendance at St Asaph Workhouse from 1847-1856.

And there's a fascinating letter, dated 16 March 1571, from Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, to the Bishop of St Asaph and others, urging them to build a 'new' town hall in Denbigh.

Today, it's Denbigh Library Museum and Gallery.

The letter starts:

"A Lettre from ye Earle of Leycester to ye Bishop of Saint Asaph, and Jon Salusbury, Ellis Price, and the rest of ye Iustices of ye County of Denbigh recommendinge it to them to levey monie towardes building a new Shire Hall in Denbigh - Wth my right hartie commendaçons."

I trawled the archive using the name of towns in north east Wales to see what's, so far, available - as it's important to note that anyone can add their own 'history' to the archive.

Staying in Denbigh, the archive holds 105 objects relating to the town, including aerial views and old prints such as a lithograph of a water mill.

Of the 67 images of Ruthin, there's an aerial view of Ruthin Castle hotel and its grounds.

But more interesting is a picture showing Ruthin Castle in 1769 surrounding only by muddy tracks and views across empty fields - nothing like the scene today.

I searched places along the coast such as Prestatyn and in searching for Rhyl images you can see how much the front has changed since 2001 which was when archive contributor T.G. Driver took a colour aerial photograph of the seafront.

Among other personal favourites, there are interior views of machinery in the now flattened Wrexham Lager Brewery; a photo of the last pony to work at Bersham Colliery, near Wrexham, taken in 1952; and a crowd scene at a football match between Exeter City and Wrexham in 1909.

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