Allen Valleys archive
A visitor from 50 years ago returning to the Allen Valleys would feel very little had changed there in agricultural life. Both the East and West Allen valleys would still appear to be communities relying mainly on agriculture.
During the peak of the lead mining industry in the late 1800’s agriculture provided many families with a ‘bread and butter’ income. Small holdings were run to supplement the meager earnings to be made in the mines as well as providing the family with food.
As mining declined many families left the valleys for jobs elsewhere and those that stayed relied increasingly on the land to provide them with an income, slowly extending their small-holdings to create larger farms.
In more recent years farming seems to have gone full circle. Farm income today is having to be supplemented through other employment- tourism, haulage or work outside the farm. This trend could accelerate after the devastating effects on the Valleys from ‘Foot and Mouth’.
Development of the image archive
It was this historic background that prompted the development of the image archive. Supported by the Heritage Lottery work was undertaken to scan and gather information about the photographs held by people. The archive now holds over 2000 images together with their details – the earliest image dating back to 1855.
Using the skills of a university student, a dedicated program was created to store the images and data. The program also allows access to the general public to search the archive by name, date or key words.
From the creation of the archive a website was developed giving access to these images.
A CD “Pikes, Dykes and Sikes” has also been created using many audio recordings of people who lived and worked in the valleys. Copies can be purchased. This CD contains snapshots of the community, in both images and audio, recording the life of people born in the Allen Valleys and spending most of their working time there.
The 2001 outbreak of Foot and Mouth in the Allen Valleys devastated the lives of many living and working in the area, particularly on the farms. Even the production of the CD was affected due to road closures and restricted access to infected farms. It will no doubt leave a lasting legacy and impact on the future history of farming and the way of life in the Valleys.