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The story of Italian immigrants to Wales
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The story of Italian immigrants to Wales


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  • I had never seen it before. Very interesting. I will use it in an Erasmo's class. Thank you Rebecca. Will there be any relatives of yours among Erasmo's pupils? Many are from the South........
    Mirella of the POLITICS project.
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  • 1. PROMISE Blaengwawr Comprehensive School Italian Immigration into South Wales in the early 1900
  • 2. Origins of the Project
    • We are Blaengwawr Comprehensive School in the Cynon Valley, South Wales.
    • South Wales was the centre of the first Industrial Revolution which began with the Iron Industry in 1760.
    • Merthyr Tydfil (15 Km from our school) was the biggest iron town in the world, and our town Aberdare was also an important iron centre.
  • 3.
    • By the 1840s supplies of the raw material (iron ore) were running out. A new industry had to replace it.
    • That was coal. Mines could now be dug much deeper (up to 2km). Coal mines sprung up all over South Wales.
    • Men came from all over the world to work in the coal mines of South Wales including Spain.
    • In the early twentieth century Italians came over to London with the intention of finding work as large families were causing poverty in the rural areas if northern Italy.
  • 4.
    • Almost all the Italians who came to the UK were from the same town, Bardi in northern Italy.
    • From London they moved to South Wales and started to work in the coal mines.
    • Soon they also began to set up small cafes. How they found the time to manage two jobs was amazing.
    • Before long every village in South Wales had an Italian Café. The names Bracchi, Servini, Conti, Marenghi, Farrari, Capannini and Rabaiotti were soon as famous as Jones, Williams, Evans and Thomas.
  • 5.
    • Their cafes were popular with the men as they could spend all day in there and not have to buy anything more than a cup of tea.
    • The miners wives lied the cafes as well – because when their husbands were there they were not spending money on beer in the bars! The cafes became known as Temperance bars.
    • In 1939 the second world war started – the police had orders to arrest all Italians as enemies of the state. This was not popular with the Welsh people as many of the Italians had been born in Wales, and they had always been very friendly with the Welsh.
  • 6.
    • During the War many of these Italians were made to work on the land as farm labourers, or were kept in prison camps. Others were sent away to British colonies abroad.
    • In June 1940 the ship the ‘Arandora Star’ sailed from Liverpool carrying sixteen hundred men – Italians and Germans to be taken to Canada. Off the coast of Ireland on the 1 st July the ‘Arandora Star’ was torpedoed by a German U-boat. 486 Italians and 175 Germans were lost at sea.
    • After the war the cafes continued, but the coal industry had died by the 1980s. Many of the cafes closed or changed to other shops – Ferrari’s became a bakery.
  • 7.
    • Italians still remain proud of where they came from – Bardi. Many visit regularly. They largely remain Catholics – but they are beginning make their mark in other areas of welsh life.
    • Robert Sidoli comes from a family of Italian Immigrants. His family own cafes and run ice-cream parlours in South Wales. Robert though plays professional rugby and plays for Wales. He is one of their star players – although he could also have played for Italy – the country of his parents’ birth.
  • 8.
    • For our PROMISE Comenius project we have investigated the story of Italian immigration in Wales, and we have spent a lot of time interviewing second and third generations of Italians in Wales – their origins and feelings for their ‘home country’.
  • 9. The Interview See accompanying DVD
  • 10.
    • A coalmine in the Rhondda Valley c.1890
  • 11. Aberaman colliery c.1961, which is where our school is now positioned.
  • 12. The main reason for the Italians to come to South Wales was for work (the mining industry)
  • 13.
    • A coalmine in the 1960s
  • 14. Tower Colliery, near Aberdare, is the last coalmine still working in South Wales
  • 15. At one stage there were many Bracchi (Italian cafes) dotted through the valleys. Over the years the coalmines have closed – and many of the cafes have closed with them.
  • 16. The Italian café is just as popular today with a new generation of loyal customers, many of whom go several times a day, queuing outside in all weathers to sample the roast dinners and home made cakes.
  • 17. Some cafés have now changed hands and have been developed into bakeries.
  • 18. Italian café changed into a bakery
  • 19. An Italian café retains its Italian name
  • 20. Despite being changed into a bakery this business keeps its Italian roots