The ghost in the attic

By Mari Lowe

When I first started working at the Temple of Peace, it wasn’t long before I was told about the ghost in the attic.  Some people swear they’ve heard strange noises and felt an unusual presence, beyond the first floor.  Given that one of my jobs was to dig around in the archive up there, I quickly brushed it aside, and told myself that it would be peaceful working amongst the rafters, rather than scary. 

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Temple opening 1938.  In the front row, third from the left, is Minnie James who was selected to represent those mothers of Wales who had lost children in World War 1.

Initially, working with the archive was frustrating, as it’s currently uncatalogued, making it difficult to find anything specific.  Also, as an institutional archive, some of the material can look a little dry at first glance (imagine minutes, accounts, etc.), so it took a lot of patience to understand the content and to begin drawing out engaging stories.

But after a few very dusty afternoons, I started to understand the Temple’s past.  We have documents and objects going right back to the 1910s, actually predating the Temple.  This includes ledgers from the Welsh National Memorial Association and publications by the Welsh League of Nations Union, both of which were given a home at the Temple when it opened in 1938.

Here on the Wales for Peace team, we are also working with various partners to open up the archive and to tell the story of the building, ready for our 80th anniversary celebrations in November.  We recently had a great sharing session with some of our creative partners and I selected some gems from the archive to help get the ideas flowing…

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In the wood-panelled Council Chamber, Bethan, John, Tracy, Emma and Mari, get stuck into some archive material.

One of the items which really caught our attention was a set of original photographs of the Temple opening ceremony in 1938.  Dr Emma West has been researching the story behind the opening ceremony but had never seen these beautiful snaps of the day itself.  The publicity campaign was, in fact, handled by a London-based PR firm. 

We also loved the menu card from the formal lunch which followed the opening ceremony, hosted by the Mayor of Cardiff at City Hall.  Included on the menu was crème portugaise, a soup made with tomato and bacon.  The menu also lists the formal toasts, including a toast to the League of Nations.  The toasts seem so full of hope despite the fact that World War 2 was already looming at the time.

Jumping forward in time, we explored a series of photograph albums featuring the work of Bill (W.R.) Davies, first Director of the WCIA when it was established in 1973.  This includes the Freedom from Hunger Campaign in Wales which was based at the Temple.  Film-maker Tracy Pallant will be interviewing Bill and using these recently-discovered albums in their conversations.

These are just a few highlights from 100 years-worth of historical material which we are in the process of researching and developing, and we look forward to sharing more with you.  

And just so you know, the next time someone pops up to the Temple’s attic and hears any strange noises, they needn’t be scared; it will probably just be me ferreting around in the archive!

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