A short history of Trostre and Velindre Camera Club

At Velindre Tinplate Works, in 1957, Bert Phillips, the tinning line superintendent, started a camera club with a few members meeting in the Velindre Social club on Monday evenings. Later, when a few more people had joined they used to meet on alternate Tuesdays and Thursdays to accommodate shift members. Bert had dabbled in photography during his service in the armed forces during the 1939 – 1945 war and was the main driving force in the attempt to establish a viable camera club. There was however a gradual falling off in interest and the club ceased to exist in 1958.

In 1959 Owen Jeremy started a new club together with four other members, Ernie Richards, Ken Grove, Tudor Morgan and Norman Payze. Meetings were held, as previously, in the Social Club. Owen discovered that some wooden huts on the Velindre site, used by contractors, were becoming available, and persuaded the works manager David Moses to allow one of them to be used by the photography group. This was the true beginning of the Velindre club and they started organizing lectures and demonstrations from well known photographers in South Wales, particularly from members of the Swansea and Mumbles and the Llanelli camera clubs and also from Flt. Lt. Pat Reynolds a regular visitor from St Athen CC. The first competition between members was judged by the renowned photographer Gilbert Hooper of Swansea and Mumbles CC. Visits by other photographers such as Fred Neale, Joan Chattfield and Ken Hill provided excellent grounding for the members development as quality photographers. In 1962 Eric Danielson, (now a life member of the club) joined, and this was a significant turning point in the club's structure. From its genesis Owen was the Chairman and Norman Payze was Secretary but Norman became ill and Eric took on the posts of Club Secretary and Treasurer and he and Owen remained in those posts for almost the entire existence of the club at Velindre Works. They ran, and essentially were, the Velindre CC, organizing everything in the early days whilst developing the club into its present format. Owen described himself as Chairman, tea boy and general factotum. David Moses was officially appointed as Life President of the Velindre Camera Club from its outset. Initially there were no fees as the club was part of the Sports and Social Club. Later they separated from the parent body to give themselves greater autonomy and began paying a fee of six old pence per week to cover their costs. The club had now joined, and was an active member of, the Welsh Photographic Federation (WPF). This enabled the club to enter inter-club competitions or 'battles' as they were called and the members began to submit photographs for consideration for the Welsh Salon Exhibition of Photography, the most prestigious event in the WPF calendar. The following year, Gareth Evans and Len Beard, relative newcomers to the club, had acceptances in the Salon as did Owen Jeremy and Eric Danielsen. One of the greatest triumphs of those early years was when the Velindre CC, shortly after joining the WPF won the Manneheim Plate, a competition open to all the clubs of Swansea but for which the very large Swansea and Mumbles CC had held a virtual monopoly of victories for many years. There was a magical moment when Owen Jeremy accepted the Trophy. He said, 'When we came into the room I heard people asking one another who are Velindre - now you know!'

In 1963 Eric negotiated with David Moses a new home for the camera club which was the old print room in the Velindre Works office basement. It had a large room, suitable for meetings and for use as a studio, with an adjoining well equipped darkroom. This remained the base for the club until the works closed in 1989. It was an excellent clubhouse and was used by the WPF on a number of occasions to host Federation events.
In 1970 Bert Phillips rejoined the club he was instrumental in founding, even though his own camera club had actually failed through lack of interest. Bert became a very enthusiastic and active club member until his untimely death in 2003.

In appreciation of the very significant part they played in the development of the club, two of its regular visitors and mentors, namely Joan Chattfield and Pat Reynolds, were made Life Members at around 1980.

Whilst initially the rules stated that only British Steel /Steel Company of Wales employees were eligible for membership this situation became untenable and the club then opened its doors to all who were interested in photography. As a result, the club increased its membership, and although numbers waxed and waned it remained in a healthy position for many years.

From 1986, until the works closed in 1989, there was a gradual loss of works personnel and these included Eric Danielsen who, after a short period of working as a freelance photographer, emigrated to New Zealand and now lives there in Nelson from whence he still participates in the club monthly competitions.

Trostre tinplate works 1951When the closure of Velindre was inevitable, the club started looking for a new home. The most obvious move was to retain the tinplate works identity and move to the sister plant at Trostre. Negotiations took place and strong support was obtained from a number of influential people at Trostre including Chris Smith, Gary Shinner (current Chairman), Des Daughton (current President), and also the then works manager. Derek Berry a stalwart member of the Velindre CC was a very powerful force in organizing the move and in the setting up of the new premises. Ultimately the new club, now renamed Velindre & Trostre Camera Club, became a reality within the works perimeter in the old statistics department. At this time Len Beard was the Chairman of the club and remained in the post for a number of years on an extended tenure due to the extraordinary circumstances and disruption arising from the moves.

Shortly before the Velindre works closure, Owen Jeremy suffered a period of significant ill health and this led him to decide not to join the move to Trostre. Owen, is at present in reasonably good health and lives in Swansea. He is now ninety years old and still takes an interest in photography although not as an active participant. Whilst he was never President of the club he was its founder and long time Chairman as discussed earlier, and his photograph and that of Bert Phillips, the first President of the Velindre & Trostre club occupy places of Honour in the present clubhouse.

However the new home was short lived and was reclaimed by the works for commercial use two years later. The manger offered new premises in the old bowling green clubhouse and this was readily accepted. Significant work was required to make it habitable and here again Derek Berry and some of the Trostre works members were major players in this task.

In 2003, due to problems with the clubhouse structure, it became uninhabitable and once again a new home was sought. Negotiations with the Trostre management were successful and the final "resting place to date' was provided by Trostre in the old gardening buildings
Bert Phillips who had been appointed as Life President of the Velindre & Trostre Camera Club in 1980 remained in this position until his death in 2003 at the age of seventy six. He was succeeded by Len Beard, who had joined the Velindre Camera Club in 1962 and who was appointed President of the club in 2003 with unanimous agreement that the position would, in future, be held for four years and not be a life membership.

As in its earlier years, membership has varied over the life of the club whilst at Trostre, but the very enthusiastic core of photographers has remained strong. This is exemplified by the fact that in 2009 the club achieved its greatest number of acceptances ever in the Welsh Salon with Des Daughton having five successful entries – a record for the club to date. The club has gained a number of new members over the last few years but, as appears the norm with clubs in the area, the number of lady members unfortunately remains very small.

The club is always ready to welcome new members whatever their level of photographic skills and remains an enthusiastic friendly organisation with a very bright future.

Len Beard June 2010. Len Beard worked in Research and Development for The Steel Company of Wales. When Velindre works closed he transferred to Trostre for a short while until his retirement in 1992. Len was Head of Chemistry.