A Tiny Gallery of a Very Unique Collection of Photographs

Sitting at the junction of two roads in rural south Wales sits an old red phone box. Long gone is the phone, a casualty of the modern world, after all who needs a box when everyone is carrying their own phones in their pockets. Most of these old phone boxes are now long gone, but this one is different, given a second chance of life.

This phone box sits just outside the small town of Cilgerran, an area that Tom Mathias called home. Tom lived between 1866 and 1940, a self taught photographer who captured a unique collection of photographs showing rural life at the turn of the century. He made his livelihood recording important family occasions but also captured other local events too.

But this collection was almost lost. After his death the collection of glass negatives were dumped in an outhouse where they lay forgotten for years. It wasn't until after the death of his son in the 1970's, that the negatives were found again in the family home. Luckily they were found by another local photographer who took on the painstaking task of trying to get prints from what negatives survived.

In 2009 British Telecom launched an "Adopt a Kiosk" competition where they were looking for the most innovative uses of their old red phone boxes. The Cilgerran Language and Heritage Committee put forward their plans to turn their phone box into a tiny gallery dedicated to their local photo her, Mathias. Luckily they were chosen and given £1,000 to help towards their goal.

Well after a bit of an icy mishap at the beginning of 2010, where a vehicle slid on black ice and crashed into the phone box, which then had to be replaced, the gallery finally opened to the public in May 2011. While the phone box has been given a fresh coat of paint inside and out, the area outside was ringed by a low Cilgerran slate wall. When you stand in the phone box you are surrounded by a unique collection of photos showing a snap shot of rural life long gone. Loads of tourists must drive past this phone box every day, not realising what photos it contains.

Further reading

Smallest museum in Wales, Cilgerran.info

Mini-museum hit by icy road chaos, This is South Wales

Phone box's museum calling, This is South Wales

The red telephone box photographic museum, the BBC

Tom Mathias photographs, National Museum Wales

Copyright: Robert bilsland
Type: Spherical
Resolution: 17316x8658
Uploaded: 01/09/2011
Updated: 26/08/2014


Tags: tom mathias; black; white; photographs; small; gallery; old; red; phonebox; unique; collection; rural; life
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Wales (Cymru in the Welsh language) is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  The major cities are Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and Bangor.  The city of St. Davids is the smallest city in the UK with a population around 2000.  Wales itself has a population of around 3 million.  The Welsh language is spoken by around 20% of the population.