Posted - 07-12-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections

Welsh waters, World waters

In this, the final ‘Year of the Sea’ Blog, we overview the Library’s collection of marine charts dating from 1800.

Charts are primarily intended for navigation and should provide clear, correct and up to date information to help plan, plot and navigate a safe course. Charts also provide researchers with information on the natural and man-made marine and coastal environment, past and present.

From the late seventeenth century the British became the foremost of chart makers. Over time, technological advances produced better charts which revealed earlier oversights and errors, for instance the Pembrokeshire chart of 1812 shown here mentions corrections to Lewis Morris’s earlier survey whilst the 1857-1859 chart records both sea and coast in intricate detail.

British private enterprises gradually gave way to the work of the Hydrographic Office of the Admiralty, now the UKHO, which was established in 1795, primarily to furnish Royal Navy requirements.  The UKHO remains one of the world’s  principal hydrographic organizations, its charts being widely supplied to  navies, merchant shipping and the public.

Over 15,750 UKHO electronic charts are currently available, although the Library only receives copies of their 3,500 sheet editions through legal deposit. The Library’s  12,000 modern charts encompass locations worldwide and are mainly received from the UKHO, together with their associated publications including  Notices to Mariners  and Pilot Books.


Supplementary collections include Admiralty Fleet charts originally only available to the Royal Navy and some recent publications from Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada, Argentina and the Philippines.

A smaller number of charts derive from British commercial publishers whose home waters and overseas charts are aimed at leisure users and fishermen. The collections can be accessed through the Library’s online catalogue and UKHO catalogue.

Map collectors habitually proclaim that modern charts are not as aesthetically appealing as their antiquarian forerunners in which errant sea monsters and mermaids recurrently appear. Contemporary charts do however contain the most pertinent, accurate and unequivocal information on the marine environment. Crucially they protect lives at sea and need to be heeded when sailing. Use this hard-won information wisely and never forget the naval adage  ‘A collision at sea can ruin your entire day’.

Gwilym Tawy

Map Curator

Posted - 27-11-2018


The archive of Wales ‘Second-chance’ College

For almost 100 years Coleg Harlech was one of Wales’s foremost educational establishments. It was established in 1927 by Thomas Jones CH (who had been cabinet secretary to both David Lloyd George and Stanley Baldwin) with the aim of providing residential adult education, especially to those who hadn’t had the opportunities of education. Students came from all over Wales and many former students went on to play key roles in the life of the nation.

Following the closure of the college in 2017, the Library began discussion with Adult Learning Wales to ensure that the college’s archive was preserved. This wonderful collection traces the whole history of Coleg Harlech through documents such as annual reports, minutes, correspondence, registers, prospectuses and photographs. It contains plans for the development of the college site and documents which bring the student experience to life. A book on the first 50 years of Coleg Harlech was published in 1977, I’m sure that the archive contains plenty of material for further books and articles.

The archive is a large one and will probably fill more than 100 archival boxes, so packing and moving it would have been challenging, even in the best of circumstances. Unfortunately, the dates we’d arranged to collect the archive – Thursday 20th and Friday 21st September coincided with the arrival of Storm Bronagh! I’d been up to Coleg Harlech to make preparations to move the archive beforehand; listing what there was to move, packing the archive in boxes and putting them all in one place. It was also a good opportunity to plan how we would physically move things – for example checking where could we park the van, how would we get the boxes out and whether there were there any steps.

So, in the middle of the heavy rain and high winds were we loading the Coleg Harlech archive in the van. We always plan for bad weather and the blankets and covers we’d brought to keep the boxes dry while being moved did their job. The archive stayed dry – but we got soaked!

As it was such a large archive, we needed to make two trips to Harlech and by the send day the heavy rain had caused roads to flood. Our trip to Harlech was diverted via Mallwyd and Cemmaes Road due to the Dyfi Bridge being closed. Our return journey was even longer as further flooding meant we had to travel via Caersws and Llangurig. The flooding at one point looked passable, but we decided not too risk it just in case water did get into the van and the precious archive would be turned into slush!

Coleg Harlech was also home to a fascinating library which included a substantial collection of political books. Sadly we weren’t able to take the library was well – the books are in the National Library’s collection in any case – but we were able to preserve the library catalogue as part of the archive. This comprises 120 books listing the contents of the library by location and author.

The archive is now safely at the National Library of Wales and we aim to start sorting and cataloguing it in the new year. It will be a complicated project, but it will mean that the records of Wales’ ‘second-chance college’ will be available for researchers for the future.


Rob Phillips
Head of Archives and Manuscripts

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Posted - 19-11-2018


Unlocking the Hidden History of the Great War

To coincide with commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, The National Library of Wales (NLW) has published on its website The Cardiganshire Great War Appeals Tribunals Records.

Conscription came into effect in January 1916 through The Military Service Act; this required adult males to register for military service, unless they possessed a certificate of exemption.  Men could apply to local tribunals, made up of borough or district councillors, for exemption on the grounds of:

  • that the man was engaged in work of national importance;
  • that the man was training for a role of national importance;
  • family or financial hardship; or
  • a conscientious objection.

Members of the local tribunals were not trained and their decisions were highly inconsistent; therefore, county tribunals were set up to adjudicate in cases where men were appealing against the decision of the local tribunals.  In 1921, the Government ordered that all county tribunal records should be destroyed; nevertheless the Cardiganshire records survived and were deposited at the NLW in 1924 by George Eyre Evans and Sgt. Major Thomas Richard Fear (founder of the ‘Aberystwyth Comforts for Fighters Fund’).  Now the archive is completely unique in Wales, and one of the few of its kind that exists in the United Kingdom.

Completing the Application for Exemption forms, that were presented in English, would in itself have posed a significant challenge to the mainly monolingual applicants, who would often have to rely on their employer or an educated member of the community to apply on their behalf.  The information within the Tribunals Records offers an insight to the personal circumstances of those applying for exemption, as well as the impact of conscription on rural communities.

For example, in April, 1916, Davies & Edwards, Corn & Flour Merchants, Baker and General Grocer, based at Mile End, Lampeter, apply for exemption on behalf of Thomas Davies Evans, as follows:- “Thomas Davies Evans is the only male servant employed by us. He does the carting of incoming and outgoing Grain Stuffs, and has to handle generally every day a considerable number of Sacks of Flour (280 lbs), Maize (240 lbs), and other heavy grain; cart and deliver the same to Cottages and Farms up to a distance of about 10 miles from Lampeter.  Having regard to the heavy and arduous nature of grain handling, and also to the Compensation Acts, a man of his capacity is absolutely indispensable to our Grain trade.  We maintain that by delivering Foodstuffs he supplies essential domestic needs of the district.”

The local tribunal grants him exemption for 3 months, stating:- “Davies and Edwards state that they cannot carry on the business of grain and corn merchants without the aid of this man, as they have failed to find a substitute, and under the circumstances we thought that they ought to have at least two or three months to disperse of that branch of their business, which they state is about two-thirds of their whole business.”

However, Llewelyn Bankes Price, the Military Representative for the area, contests this decision stating “that no serious hardship would ensue if this man were called up for Army service”.

As with the majority of appeals, the county tribunal adjudicates in May 1916 – “that the man be not exempted”.  Thomas Davies Evans leaves his home town of Lampeter to serve in the Royal Engineers; sadly, he will never return. His fate can be traced by referencing the Welsh National Book of Remembrance, which was recently transcribed and indexed as part of the ‘Wales For Peace’ programme.

The Cardiganshire Great War Appeals Tribunals Records were digitised and made available to the public through an online crowdsourcing resource recently developed by the NLW, while financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund enabled NLW staff to visit community groups to train their members in how to use the online resource to transcribe and index the records.  Thanks to the dedication of over 200 volunteers, the collection can now be searched by name, address, date, etc.

To view The Cardiganshire Great War Appeals Tribunals Records, please visit the Archives section of the Digital Gallery on –

Gwyneth Davies
Volunteer Co-ordinator


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Posted - 14-11-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections / Digitisation

The Great War in maps

In the wake of the Armistice Day Centenary commemorations, it is perhaps timely to  draw attention to the Library’s maps relating to the conflicts of the First World War, a cataclysm in which 20 million lives were lost, some 40,000 being Welsh.

The Library’s many war maps and atlases display frontlines, trenches and other military paraphernalia, the war’s geopolitical impact in changing political boundaries, post-war redevelopment schemes and even include recreational map-based war games. The maps are of both military and civilian origin, the latter published to inform the  public and boost morale.

Some two hundred maps have been digitised as part of the Library’s War Centennial programme. Included are these two examples of maps from the unsuccessful Gallipoli Campaign – which was associated with inaccurate maps that regularly included outdated information gathered during the Crimean War.

The Gallipoli collection comprises contemporary War Office maps such as the two illustrated examples showing Ottoman defences on the campaign’s opening day and a later map of ANZAC positions, together with commercially published sheets.


The Allied attack on Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula, popularly known as the Gallipoli or the Dardanelles Campaign, lasted from April 1915 to January 1916. Here, British Empire and French forces engaged the Ottoman Empire in an unsuccessful attempt to aid Russia and break the impasse on the fighting fronts by opening a shipping route with Russia  unimpeded by excessive winter sea ice and extreme distance.

A failed naval attack in the Dardanelles Strait in early 1915 progressed to a major land invasion on 25th April by British and French troops together with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps or ANZAC forces. A later landing occurred at Suvla Bay on 6th August.

Allied intelligence deficiencies, indecision and delay, combined with fierce Ottoman resistance thwarted headway and success and mired the belligerents in an entrenched battle of attrition and consequential heavy casualties. The British authorized evacuation began in December 1915, and ended the following January.


Gwilym Tawy

Map Curator

Posted - 13-11-2018


Explore Your Archive: UNESCO opens doors to the Library’s Treasures

Explore Your Archive is a campaign guided by the Archives and Records Association to raise awareness of archives across the UK and Ireland.  The campaign, which runs all year, will be launched in Wales in Gwynedd Archives on 16 November. The Library is contributing to the campaign by focusing on the five items which have been enrolled on the UNESCO Memory of the World UK Register. UNESCO established the Memory of the World Programme in 1992 to highlight the value of the documentary heritage as reflecting and promoting the understanding of national memory and identity and for underpinning good governance and sustainable development. UNESCO states that that the documentary heritage should be permanently accessible and re-usable to all without hindrance.

Since its foundation, the Library has been committed to collecting, preserving and giving access to all kinds and forms of recorded knowledge, especially relating to Wales and the Welsh and other Celtic peoples, for the benefit of all. Every day during the launch week, the Library will focus upon one of the enrolled items and promote it through its Twitter account. There will also be talks about the fascinating story of the discovery of the film The Life History of Lloyd George and the work of the Library’s conservation section. Tickets are available through the Library’s website.

Posted - 12-11-2018

Collections / New Accessions / News / Research

Heraldic Visitation of Wales

During Tudor and Stuart times, heraldic visitations were tours of inspection undertaken by Heralds or their deputies to scrutinise, register and record the coats of arms of the nobility and gentry in England, Wales and Ireland. Having recently purchased a fine pedigree roll of the period, the National Library invited two modern-day heralds to visit us in October: the present Wales Herald Extraordinary, Mr Thomas Lloyd, and his predecessor, the sprightly 90-year old Dr Michael Powell Siddons.

They are seen here inspecting (and no doubt approving of) the heraldic roll, dated 3 December 1591, which was recently purchased by the Library at auction in Shrewsbury. The roll (now NLW MS 24125G) traces the pedigree of Frances Vichan (or Vaughan), heiress of Hergest Court, Herefordshire to ‘Kradog, Earle of Herefourde, Lord of Radnor and Knight of ye Round Table in King Arthur’s time’. Frances married Herbert Jeffreys of Kirham Abbey, Yorkshire, whose grandfather, Col. Herbert Jeffreys, had been Governor of Virginia.

The 2-metre long roll, which seems to be in the hand of Richard Adams, scribe and painter of Ludlow, was produced by Thomas Jones (c. 1530-1609) of Fountain Gate, Cardiganshire. Jones, the almost mythical ‘Twm Siôn Cati’, is popularly depicted in later literature as a brigand and rogue, and is sometimes described as ‘the Welsh Robin Hood’. In real life, he was a canny producer of pedigrees for the up-and-coming Welsh nobility, and had cornered the market for ornate displays of prestige and one-upmanship on parchment. Strict accuracy was not always a primary consideration, and having appealed to the vanity of his patrons, one can almost imagine this entrepreneur’s smirk as the pocketed the proceeds of his latest venture.

Thomas Jones – the ‘Del Boy’ of Tudor Wales?


Maredudd ap Huw
Curator of Manuscripts

Posted - 06-11-2018

Collections / Events

The Welsh Political Archive Annual Lecture 2018

Last Friday, 2nd of November, The Welsh Political Archive Annual Lecture was delivered by The Revd Dr D. Ben Rees at Y Drwm, The National Library of Wales. The lecture is delivered in Welsh every three years, and the title for this year was ‘Camp Aneurin; y Gwasanaeth Iechyd Gwladol’ [translated as Aneurin’s triumph; the National Health Service in English].

The lecture was an opportunity to mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the National Health Service and to acknowledge the magnificent achievement of Aneurin Bevan in all this. With all the tickets sold out before the evening, a great lecture was delivered by D. Ben Rees who traced the relationship of the Minister for Housing, Health and Local Government with the Tredegar Medical Aid Society which gave him a socialist vision to create a National Health Service.

This was the thirty-second public lecture in a celebrated series instituted in 1987. The previous lectures include Lord Kenneth O. Morgan, Lord Roberts of Conwy, Professor Angela V. John and Menna Richards.

Although he has spent the last 50 years in Liverpool, Dr Rees is a native of Llanddewi Brefi, Ceredigion, and is one of the most prominent preachers of his denomination. In addition, he is a well-known lecturer and broadcaster, and is an author of over 70 publications in Welsh and English.

He published a biography in Welsh on Jim Griffiths in 2014, a volume which was well-received as it was the first in Welsh to encompass the life and career of one of the most important political figures in Wales in the second half of the 20th century and the first Secretary of State for Wales. A sister volume was published last summer, which was a comprehensive biography of another political giant in 20th century Wales, Cofiant Cledwyn Hughes.

Interesting questions and a good discussion were had following the lecture, and a vote of thanks was proposed by Rhys Evans, Head of Strategy and Education at BBC Wales, who is a member of The Welsh Political Archive Advisory Committee which met earlier that afternoon.

The lecture is now published on the pages of The Welsh Political Archive (together with lectures of the past fifteen years) on the Library’s website, and a recording of the lecture forms part of The National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales.

D. Rhys Davies
Assistant Archivist, The Welsh Political Archive


Posted - 27-10-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections

Dylan’s ‘wood and asbestos pagoda’ and the Captain Killick affair

An architectural drawing of Dylan Thomas’s Majoda bungalow in New Quay, Ceredigion has recently been purchased by the Library. The poet lived at Majoda from 1944 to 1945 where he found creative inspiration and started to write Under Milk Wood. Here he also succeeded in furthering his reputation both near and far -and what better fillip for any all-too-quiet, war-weary community than a resident Dylan Thomas perking things up?


The plan is associated with a notorious incident at Majoda on the night of 6th March 1945 when Captain William Killick, a Special Operations Executive (SOE) Commando and also Dylan’s neighbour and erstwhile watering hole chum appeared with a Sten gun and hand grenade and fired into the bungalow in which Dylan and his family were residing. Three friends were also present at the time.  The grenade (which had no detonator) was not deployed and luckily there were no casualties. The ferment led to a court case in Lampeter which was covered by the major newspapers and portrayed in the semi-biographical film The Edge of Love in 2008.


Captain Killick, who had recently returned from active service in Greece, was venting his spleen following tensions with Dylan which included the relationship between Dylan and the Captain’s wife, Vera, with whom Dylan had grown up in Swansea.


The plan was commissioned from an Aberystwyth architect specifically for the court case. PC Islwyn Williams was the village ‘Bobby’ who investigated the incident and whose pencil notes  appear on the reverse of the plan. These notes describe his observations at the scene – primarily the location of bullet holes.


Captain Killick was fortunate in being acquitted of all charges, including attempted murder. In both court and local community there had been some sympathy for the soldier who had survived several highly dangerous war missions behind enemy lines and indeed had been described by the SOE as having ‘an excellent operational record’.



Gwilym Tawy

Map Curator

Posted - 22-10-2018


Conjectures about Stonehenge

On 26th October 1918, Stonehenge was given to the nation by its owner Cecil Chubb, who had purchased it three years earlier.  The site had been put up for auction in 1915 following the death in the First World War of the only male heir of the family which had owned it since the 1820s.

Although it is one of Britain’s most famous monuments, the purpose of Stonehenge remains a mystery.  This is reflected in the title of a book recently purchased for the collections of the National Library, Conjectures on the mysterious monument of ancient art, Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain.  Published in 1826, this is the fourteenth edition of the 82-page publication, reflecting the enduring interest in the monument and its history.  The book contains accounts of different aspects of Stonehenge by sixteen writers, including two Welshmen, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Bishop of St. Asaph (1100?-1154), and Giraldus Cambrensis (1146?-1223?).  Both writers recount that the stones had originally been taken by giants from Africa to Ireland, where the monument was known as the Giants’ Dance, and were brought to their present location by Merlin for Aurelius Ambrosius, King of the Britons, to commemorate the treachery of Hengist, the Saxon general.  Other writers in the book advance different theories about the origins of Stonehenge, and the preface acknowledges that it is almost impossible to ascertain the true purpose of the monument.


The preface begins by stating the purpose of the book: “No publications afford more entertainment, and prove of more public utility, than local delineations and descriptions, drawn with correctness and fidelity; they enable persons to form a just idea of remarkable places, to which fortune or situation denies them access.”  Thanks to the generosity a century ago of Sir Cecil Chubb (created a baronet the following year on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George), access to Stonehenge is now available to all.


Timothy Cutts

Rare Books Librarian

Posted - 17-10-2018

Collections / Screen and Sound

Unlocking Our Sound Heritage

Unlocking Our Sound Heritage is a five-year project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and led by the British Library. The project is part of the ‘Save Our Sounds’ programme which aims to preserve and provide access to sound recordings across the UK. Ten Network Audio Preservation Centres have been established across the UK and will receive funding for three years to deal with the threat facing sound recordings. These institutions are:


  1. National Museums Northern Ireland
  2. Archives + Manchester
  3. Norfolk Record Office
  4. National Library of Scotland
  5. University of Leicester
  6. The Keep in Brighton
  7. Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums
  8. National Library of Wales
  9. London Metropolitan Archives
  10. Bristol Culture



The project will focus on digitising and preserving rare unique sound recordings, those that are under threat of physical deterioration and those at risk of being lost because the playback equipment is no longer available.

The British Library will lead the project, sharing skills and supporting hubs across the UK to preserve their own unique and rare sounds while making them available to the public.

By the end of 2021 the National Library of Wales will have digitally preserved and provide access to unique and rare recordings from our own collection and from partners’ collections across Wales.

The recordings will be used in learning and engagement activities and will raise the profile for collections for Sound Archives across the UK. By the end of 2021 more people will have engaged in sound recordings and a new website will allow listeners to listen and explore a selection of online recordings.


Alison Lloyd Smith

Unlocking Our Sound Heritage Hub Project Manager



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About this blog

A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.

Due to the more personal nature of blogs it is the Library's policy to publish postings in the original language only. An equal number of blog posts are published in both Welsh and English, but they are not the same postings. For a translation of the blog readers may wish to try facilities such as Google Translate.

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