Blog - Digitisation

Posted - 22-08-2017

Digitisation / Events / News / News and Events

The National Library of Wales at Wikimania

Just days after the National Library announced they were employing the Uk’s first, and world’s second, permanent Wikimedian I travelled to Montreal in Canada for Wikimania – the largest annual Wikipedia conference.


As the name suggests this is an exciting event, bringing together Wikipedians from all around the world, along with hundreds of ‘Wikimedians’ people involved in other Wikimedia projects such as Wikidata and Wikimedia Commons.


Before the main conference got underway I embraced my inner geek and attended the first day of the Wikimania Hackathon. As the National Library of Wales begins to open up its data to the world, we hope we will soon be hosting our own hackathons, inviting developers and programmers to develop new tools, apps and even games, powered by Welsh cultural heritage data.

So taking part in the Wikimania Hackathon was a hugely valuable experience. There were some great outcomes, from improvements to Wikipedia itself to a colour blindness simulator for digital images. So keep your eyes peeled for Welsh Hackathons soon!


Day two was the Wikipedia Medical Conference. In remote parts of the world Wikipedia is the only source of medical information for millions of people, including doctors! In a sector dominated by English language information, Wikipedia provides a platform for health related content in local dialects.


I spoke at the Medical conference about the National Library’s upcoming Wici-Iechyd (Wiki Health) project, aimed at providing free access to important health information in Welsh on Wicipedia, and I had some great discussions with the Wiki project Medicine team about how we can best achieve our goals, and about how they can support our project.


Day three marked the official start of the Wikimania conference, which was opened, as is traditional, by Jimmy Wales himself. With the recent banning of Wikipedia in Turkey, Jimmy was keen to highlight the importance of free access to impartial and accurate information.

The conference schedule was diverse with many threads running simultaneously. I took part in many workshops and informal discussion groups about Wikipedia’s relationship with the cultural sector, known as GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) in the Wikiverse.

What struck me was the range of projects taking place around the world, from volunteer projects aimed purely at improving Wikipedia content about a GLAMs collections, to long term wiki collaborations.  The National Archives and Records Administration of the United States, the only other institution with a permanent Wikimedian on their staff, has agreed to share all their digital content with Wikimedia on an open licence. They have already uploaded 130,000 images and frequently run events and outreach programmes aimed at making use of these images, and improving Wikipedia generally.


As the conference progressed I was surprised by the number of volunteers and Wikimedians who now look to Wales, and to the National Library of Wales as role model and an inspiration when running their own projects. This was particularly true of those working with small or minority languages.


Our success in engaging the Library, volunteer communities, the Welsh government and partner organisations with the Welsh language Wikipedia has been noticed by many, and I had some fantastic conversations with Wikimedians from Russia, Finland, Estonia, Brittany, and more, about how we can learn from each other to ensure our languages are able to thrive on Wikipedia and other online environments.

I presented a poster session on the Wikimedia UK residency at the National Library and there was plenty of interest in the work we carried out, and how we achieved our outcomes.

As with last year’s Wikimania, Wikidata sessions were hugely popular. This massive linked open data resource is growing rapidly and offers huge potential for GLAMS to share and develop open data for their collections.  Many GLAMS, including the National Library of Wales are already sharing data with Wikidata, but we heard from Beat Estermann of E-Government Institute of the Bern University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland that Wikidata is now being used to enrich library catalogues, and I think this method of drawing open data into core library metadata offers some exciting opportunities.


Another big theme of the conference was the planned development of Wikimedia Commons, the website which hosts millions of freely licenced images used on Wikipedia and beyond. The metadata behind these images will be converted to structured (linked) data making it far easier to search, analyse and visualize this massive media archive.


The National Library of Wales has innovated in this area, with the help of it’s Wikidata visiting scholar,  by converting detailed image metadata to Wikidata, a very similar data structure to the proposed Commons data, and I have been invited to advise the development team as the new website takes shape.


Despite the dominance of the English Wikipedia, the Wiki movement is truly global, and that was reflected clearly at Wikimania. What is exciting is that the National Library of Wales is at the forefront of this movement, employing new tactics, technologies and techniques to make sure Wales is properly represented online and to ensure that the Welsh language Wicipedia continues to grow and to build upon its status as the most viewed Welsh language website on the web.


Jason Evans


National Wikimedian

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Posted - 09-06-2017

Collections / Digitisation

The Cynefin Project and Placename Evidence for the Sites of Historical Vineyards in Wales

This is a guest post by one of our users, Mr Stephen Jones. 

You are welcome to submit posts for our consideration in Welsh or English. All posts must be in relation to either the Library’s work or collections, the Welsh Language or Wales. We will keep full editorial control over any posts published. Please send your posts through the Enquiries Service

Very many years ago I was taken on a family holiday to the lower Wye Valley and I have an abiding memory from that occasion of it being extremely hot down there. The area is on a similar latitude to London, and unsurprisingly it is one of the parts of the country where the climate changes of recent decades have encouraged attempts to revive the practice of grape growing and wine making.

This started me wondering how many historical vineyards there were in Wales, based on old place and field names in documents before the tithe maps (c. 1840) and in the tithe maps themselves. Of course, in Wales this will usually mean places not the English name vineyard but the Welsh for vineyard, namely gwinllan or, as gwinllan is feminine, more likely her mutated form winllan.

Google threw up a few references but I couldn’t find any central list on the subject. This note starts to fill the gap, and where else should such an online resource sit other than on the NLW website?

To make a start, I have drawn up a short table below which lists a few places. It is based entirely on resources that can be accessed online. How many more such names there must be! Readers may already know of others.

I might add that I did search the CYNEFIN tithe maps of Wales pages but found only one reference. Whether this was through my own incompetence, or because there are no matching field names on it yet, or because there are, but they need to be indexed manually, I don’t know, but the reference I did find, to the farm called simply Winllan (The Vineyard) in Llansantffraid is included in the list below.

No doubt, when the CYNEFIN Project is complete, it will be possible to generate a country-wide map showing all the locations. I can’t wait to see it!

It is slightly surprising how far north some of these places are. It would be interesting to know in due course if there is any correlation between the field locations and geology / soil types.





Date and Source

1 Carreg Winllan Anglesey, Llaneilian 1789, will of Rowland Owen
2 Cil y Winllan Montgomeryshire,  Darowen 1664, Oakly Park Collection in Shropshire Archives
3 Winllan Anglesey, Llechgwenfarwydd 1788, settlement in Anglesey Archives ref. WQ/S/POOR/7
4 Winllan Caernarfonshire, Llanllechid 1828, will of William Jones
5 Winllan Cardiganshire, Llanfihangel Genau’r Glyn 1796, Maesnewydd Estate Records in NLW
6 Winllan Denbighshire, Henllan 1775, will of John Williams
7 Winllan Monmouthshire, Michelstone Vedow 1709, Tredegar Estate Records in NLW
8 Winllan Montgomeryshire,  Llansantffraid 1784, will of John Williams
9 Winllan Pembrokeshire, ?Chapel Colman 1758, Ffynone Estate Records in NLW
10 Winllan Frwyn or Kroyn Denbighshire, Saint Asaph 1818, Plas-yn-Cefn Papers and Documents in NLW


Mr Stephen Jones

Posted - 24-04-2017

Collections / Digitisation / Research

A Welsh cinematic journey via the Library’s online newspapers

Whilst reading the current issue of Empire magazine, I came across an article on how “Citizen Kane” lost out to “How Green Was My Valley” for the Best Picture award in the 1942 Oscars. The article got me thinking about other Welsh films or films set in Wales, and I decided to see if I could find some more interesting articles in the Library’s collection of online newspapers. (*To access these resources from outside the Library building you will have to use your reader’s ticket. If you haven’t got a reader’s ticket you can register very easily here).

I began by searching for a report of the 1942 Oscars Ceremony, and found this in the Telegraph Historical Archive:


(The Telegraph Historical Archive, 1855-2000)



As you can see, this is a far cry from the awards hysteria we see today. However, to be fair, they did have more pressing matters to report about at the time!


Staying with the academy awards, my next search was for “Hedd Wyn”, the first ever Welsh language film to be nominated. It was interesting to find in this article in The Guardian that the Academy’s board was unaware of the existence of the Welsh language, and that the film was only selected after a Welsh-English dictionary was sent to them as proof!

(ProQuest Historical Newspapers (Guardian & The Observer))



Ask anyone who was a teenager growing up in Wales during the late 90s to name a Welsh film, and I guarantee you they’ll all have the same answer: Twin Town.  This tale of the Lewis twins causing havoc across Swansea remains a firm favourite, but I discovered there was an outcry in some quarters upon its release. To my surprise, I read in this article in the Sunday Times that some appealed for the film to be banned due to its “amoral” nature.

(The Sunday Times Digital Archive 1822-2006)



“Twin Town” was released at the height of Cool Cymru. Sticking with that theme, Gruff Rhys from the Super Furry Animals has ventured into film making in the last few years. His last film was “American Interior”, which traced the story of a 22-year-old farmhand from Snowdonia who travelled to America in 1792 in search of a fabled Welsh-speaking Native American tribe called the Madogwys. It’s a fascinating story, and it was fantastic to find out that Gruff had used the National Library’s archives when researching for the film.




Of course, I couldn’t write this blog without giving a mention to the film that was recently filmed at the Library!




As you can see, these online newspapers provide users with a wealth of information at their fingertips. Also, if this blog has given you an urge to watch any of these great Welsh films, remember that they’re available to view from the National Screen and Sound Archive, and are also available to buy from the Library shop.


Paul Jackson

Legal Deposit, Electronic and Acquisitions Librarian

Posted - 04-04-2017

Collections / Digitisation / Exhibitions / New Accessions

5 New opportunities during the Edward Thomas centenary

100 years on the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth is securing the legacy of Edward Thomas by collecting and digitising his archive, with 5 new opportunities for the public to engage with his archive.
This week we will be noting the death of the poet Edward Thomas (1878 – 1917) who was killed in action soon after he arrived in France at Arras on Easter Monday, 9 April 1917. It was not until 1914 that he wrote his first poem, and due to his tragic death he did not live to see the publication of his Poems (1917) (under his pseudonym Edward Eastaway), nor the subsequent Last Poems (1918) and Collected Poems (1920).


1. Lunchtime presentation
On Wednesday (5 April 2017) Dr Andrew Webb, (Head of School of English Literature, Bangor University) will explore Edward Thomas as a Welsh writer, considering his Welsh heritage, his connection to figures including O. M. Edwards, and the ways in which Wales informs his prose and poetry. Tickets for the lunchtime lecture are available here.

2. Archives and manuscripts at the National Library of Wales
The diaries and manuscripts of the poet and prose writer Edward Thomas are held at the Library, and include diaries, letters, draft poems and the original manuscript of Edward Thomas, The Heart of England (London, 1906) and the catalogue is available to view online.
Also a newly acquired archive of Geoffrey Woolley contains letters from Edward Thomas, and a file on Edward Thomas publications, with loose pages from ‘The bookman’, comprising copies of Edward Thomas’s poetry columns and book reviews. This is a brand new source of research for life and work of Edward Thomas.

3. Exhibition
The presentation given by Dr Andrew Webb coincides with our exhibition to note the centenary of his death in action during the Battle of Arras. One hundred years ago two poets were killed in battle during the Great War: Hedd Wyn and Edward Thomas. The exhibition Fallen Poets: Edward Thomas & Hedd Wyn runs to 2 September 2017.

4. Digitisation
Many of his manuscripts have already been digitised by the National Library and more are being digitised during the centenary year.

5. Edward Thomas webpage
A new webpage relating to Edward Thomas and his collection has been published and available to view on the Library’s website.


Nia Mai Daniel

Pennaeth Isadran Archifau a Llawysgrifau	
Head of Archives and Manuscripts Section


Posted - 27-02-2017

Collections / Digitisation / Research

Syrup of turnips anyone? Early Welsh books on popular medicine


Books on medicine and public health, which we’re currently in the process of assessing, form an important part of the Welsh Print Collection. Welsh interest in medicine and the medical has a long pedigree dating back to the Physicians of Myddfai and beyond. Welsh works on medicine date back to William Salesbury’s 16th century treatise on herbs and herbal medicines, Llysieulyfr, not published until 1916, through to the profusion of books on popular medicine published in the 18th and 19th centuries and towards the present day.


This blog will focus on three of the many books published about popular medicine in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The growth in the publication of books on the subject during this period was part of a boom in the publication of books on specialist subjects for the general reader that was fueled by the emergence of a growing literate population, hungry for new knowledge of all kinds.


The first book under consideration is Nathaniel Williams’s Pharmacopoeia, originally published in 1793, with a second edition following in 1835. Williams, besides being a controversial preacher and theologian, was also an amateur doctor and his book continued a tradition of Welsh works on the medicinal properties of herbs and their application dating back to the herbal remedies of the Myddfai Physicians included in the Red Book of Hergest and other manuscripts. The first herbal in the Welsh language, Llyfr Meddyginiaeth a Physygwriaeth i’r Anafus ar Clwyfus, had been published in 1750. Williams’ own book was a follow up to his Darllen Dwfr a Meddyginiaeth, published in 1785. Williams’ Pharmacopoeia was a bilingual book that offered herbal remedies for a large range of maladies ranging from asthma and rheumatism to liver complaints, scurvy and consumptive fits, along with recipes and instructions for preparation of a good poultice, bitter wine, purging drinks and the ever-so-appetising syrup of turnips.


The second book under consideration is Pob dyn yn phisygwr iddo ei hun ac i’w anifeiliaid hefyd, which, reflecting the closer symbiosis of humans and nature at this time, offered advice to the general reader on how to treat both themselves, their families and their animals. First published in 1771, Pob dyn yn phisygwr was hugely popular; by the 1820s it was on its seventh edition. The first part informed the reader of the symptoms and remedies for a large number of ailments ranging from the most mundane such as bad breath and dealing with itches to serious illnesses such as diabetes and smallpox. The second part offered remedies for common aliments amongst horses, cattle, sheep and pigs.


The final book under consideration is Elfenau Meddyginiaeth, published in 1852, a translation of Alfred Smee’s Accidents and Emergencies. Elfenau Meddyginiaeth is an example of an early illustrated first-aid book offering the reader advice on how to treat a large number of injuries and ailments including wounds, broken bones, animal bites and fits as well as treating victims of drowning and other life-threatening situations.


All three books offer a fascinating glimpse into the type of popular medicine practiced during this period and how this practical knowledge was presented and disseminated to an increasingly literate population. In a period when registered medical practitioners were thin on the ground in Wales it is little wonder that these books were popular. They also offer a glimpse into the state of popular medical knowledge during this period, which remained to a large extent dependent on the traditions of herbal medicine, Elfenau Meddyginiaeth is to some extent an exception. Some significant breakthroughs, such as Edward Jenner’s development of a vaccine for smallpox, were still to register in these works. Within a generation significant steps would to be taken in the development of medical knowledge coupled with a further professionalization of medical practitioners, leading to the emergence of a recognisably modern medical practice in Wales.



  1. Robin Chapman – ‘The Turn of the Tide: Melancholy and Modernity in Mid-Victorian Wales’, Welsh History Review 27 (3), 2015, pp. 503-527.

Melfyn R. Williams – ‘Yr Hen Gyfrolau Meddyginiaethol’, Y Casglwr 4, 1978, p. 13.

Nathaniel Williams, Dictionary of Welsh Biography.

Pamela Michael – ‘An Overview of the History of Health and Medicine in Wales’ in Health and Society in Twentieth Century Wales, Cardiff, 2006, pp. 1-59.



Dr Douglas Jones

Published Collections Projects Manager.

Posted - 13-02-2017

Collections / Digitisation / News

Chaucer goes global

Two of the National Library’s Chaucerian treasures have enjoyed world-wide acclaim during the last few months.

Our most famous English manuscript, the late 14th- or early 15th- century Hengwrt Chaucer (Peniarth MS 392) was selected by Christopher de Hamel for inclusion in his Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts (Penguin, Allen Lane, 2016), published in September, and thereafter shortlisted for the Waterstones Book of the Year.  Sharing the stage with twelve of the world’s top medieval manuscripts – including the Codex Amiatinus and The Book of Kells – our celebrated manuscript of the Canterbury Tales, which may be the earliest extant version, is examined, discussed, and survives the experience relatively unscathed.

Christopher met and examined the manuscript here at the Library in 2015, and also made use of the beautiful images which are available to all on the Library’s website.
Our second Chaucerian celebrity, a lesser-known gem known as Troelus a Chresyd (Peniarth MS 106), was discussed by our Chaucerian champion, Sue Niebrzydowski of Bangor University, in a blog on the Global Chaucers platform in November.

The tragedy of Troilus and Cressida’s doomed romance was dramatized by Shakespeare at the beginning of the 17th century, and around the same period, an anonymous dramatist wrote a Welsh-language play based on Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde as well as Henryson’s Testament of Cresseid.  The Welsh Troelus a Chresyd survives in only one manuscript, written in the distinctive hand of John Jones of Gellilyfdy, Flintshire, a scribe who spent many hours transcribing texts in London’s debtors’ prisons before his death in 1658.

A common bond between both Chaucerian manuscripts is their crucial preservation, during the mid 17th- century, on the shelves of Robert Vaughan’s remarkable library at Hengwrt, Meirionnydd.  It seems that in 2017 – 350 years after his death – Vaughan’s legacy is truly one of international significance.

Maredudd ap Huw
Curator of Manuscripts

Posted - 26-01-2017

Collections / Digitisation / News / News and Events

New Welsh Journals Website

During the next few months, a team of Library staff will be working together to develop a new website for Welsh journals.

What will be on the new website?
The journals available on the new website will span a period of over two centuries between 1795 and 2006. These titles were digitised by the Welsh Journals Online project funded by jisc and also as part of the project funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the Welsh Government, which also created content displayed on the popular Welsh Newspapers Online website. The exact number of titles and pages on the website will be confirmed soon.

What will be the difference between the Library’s Newspapers and Journals websites?
The main difference between the two websites will be their content: the Newspapers including daily, weekly and fortnightly publications, and the Journals those that were published monthly or less often.

Generally, the two websites will work in a very similar way. It will be possible to search the journals and filter your results. We will also be looking to see how the journals data can be used to offer users ways of browsing the content when they may not be looking for specific information, much in the same way as the Newspapers website. However, differences in the original materials and the related data will be reflected in the presentation of the titles and some of the functions on the Journals website. This will also be an opportunity to make some improvements, which will eventually be introduced on the Newspapers website too.

How will the website be developed?
The Project Team includes staff with the range of skills needed to develop the new website, including curatorial knowledge, skills relating to the management of data, technical infrastructure, digital access and web development. The team meets daily to share information and report on progress. The Agile project management methodology is applied to develop the website that best meets the needs and expectations of users using the resources and data available.

When will the website be launched?
We are working to complete the work and launch the website in the spring (April-May). Thr launch date will be announced in due course.

How can I get more information about this work on the new website?
The Twitter account (Username: Cylchgronau Cymru, @welshjournals) is used to share the latest information about the work.

Can I help in any way?
We are looking for individuals to give their opinion on the new website and to help with its testing. If you would like to contribute to the project in this way, please contact We would be very pleased to hear from you.

Dr Dafydd Tudur
Head of the Digital Access Section

Posted - 17-01-2017

Collections / Digitisation

Rheola’s pictorial survey and its creator

Manuscript estate maps which flourished between the late 16th and late 19th Century  constitute a significant resource in topographical research.


The National Library of Wales is currently investigating the possibility of digitising a large number of these maps as part of a project that will establish a gateway to estate archives all over Wales.


Also don’t forget that Carto-Cymru – the Wales Map Symposium 2017 at the Library on 12th May has the theme ‘Measuring the Meadows’ and will evaluate the development of estate mapping and its value in portraying the historical landscape.


Thomas Hornor’s  depiction of the Rheola Estate is without doubt an outstanding and unique example of the genre in the Library’s collection.


Hornor’s exquisite ink and watercolour map and landscape panorama depicts the Rheola Estate in the Vale of Neath in 1815 on a four square metre expanse. Titled “Plan of Rheola and those parts of the estates of John Edwards Esq … by Thomas Hornor, Inner Temple, 1815”, it shows  pastures, arable fields and woodlands, together with the River Neath and  its  tributaries. Structures include Rheola House (with garden plan), estate farms, the Melin-cwrt Ironworks, roads, tracks and the Neath Canal. The map’s scale is 1:3,168 (4 chains to an inch or 1 mile to 20 inches).


A smaller ancillary map, “Plan of the Vale of Neath from Rheola to Briton Ferry with the principal roads of the adjoining country” locates the estate within its vicinity and also shows the extent of urban development in 1815.


Below, the panorama “View of Rheola and the Vale of Neath” portrays the landscape from Swansea Bay to the Brecon Beacons.


Thomas Hornor (1785–1844) was born in Kingston upon Hull. He set up as a surveyor and cartographer in London and gained a reputation as an accomplished delineator of landed properties, common lands, roads, canals and drainage.


Hornor’s  interest in landscape gardening  and the Picturesque influenced his style  of estate mapping with panoramas which he called ‘panoramic chorometry’. He expounded  this combination of  surveying with landscape painting in his  ‘Description of an Improved Method of Delineating Estates’ (1813).


In 1814 Hornor was in Wales promoting himself as a ‘Pictural Delineator of Estates’. His aptitude as surveyor, artist, and entrepreneur are evident in hundreds of watercolours, similar to those in Repton’s Red Books and in large estate maps and panoramas.


In 1820, he began work on a 360 degree panorama of London as viewed from the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral. A substantial domed building was erected in Regent’s Park in which to display this tour de force and in 1825 artist E. T. Parris began copying Hornor’s views to an acre of curved canvas. The venture was costly and protracted.


In 1829 Hornor opened his so-called Colosseum, as yet unfinished,  to a public who could view the panorama from various  levels using an ‘Ascending Room’, designed by Hornor and ostensibly England’s first passenger lift. Alas, costs outstripped income and later that year  Hornor, in reduced circumstances, fled to the United States. There he continued in his profession but died destitute in New York city. The waning Colosseum together with its contents were auctioned in 1868, the building being demolished in 1874. Hornor lapsed into obscurity. Several of his finest creations lay unsung in private collections in Wales, but during the twentieth century, he attained recognition as a significant artist when his Welsh watercolours and prints came to wider attention. Hornor professed to have reunited the plan and the prospect, but he lacked devotees and today is remembered as a rare and talented entity rather than as an innovator.



Gwilym Tawy

Posted - 03-11-2016

Digitisation / Exhibitions / News and Events / Research

The National Library of Wales on Flickr

Explore thousands of images from the archives on Flickr Commons

Users of the National Library of Wales website can explore many thousands of digital images from the library’s vast collections.

However, we also believe in sharing our digital content as widely as possible, and sharing our content with the popular Flickr community gives us a great opportunity to engage with new users and share the rich visual history of Wales.

Over the years the images we have shared with Flickr have been viewed millions of times, and there appear to be some clear favourites, like ‘Dog with a pipe’ which went viral, attracting more than 25,000 views.

Every month at least 20 new images are hand picked and uploaded to Flickr and this month we have kept it topical, uploading old photographs of Bonfire builders and fireworks displays.

New content is being added all the time so why not follow us on Flickr to see all our latest uploads?

Jason Evans, Digital Access

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Posted - 14-09-2016

Collections / Digitisation

John Cambrian Rowland, ‘Bell ringer of Caernarvon in costume of trade’

This is an unique treasure from our collections. Here we have the artisan painter John Cambrian Rowland depicting the bell ringer of Caernarfon in a traditional Welsh costume. This work is interesting form a nationalistic perspective as well as from an art-historical perspective.

John Cambrian Rowland was born in the small village of Lledrod, Ceredigion which is situated in mid-west Wales in 1819 and later established himself as an artist in the nearby coastal town of Aberystwyth. It is speculated that he studied at the Kensington School of Art.  He often received patronage from the local minor gentry and his practice took him around Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Radnorshire. As can be seen in this painting he painted in a simple, flat style which was typical of the artisan painters of this period. Artisan painters began losing trade by the mid nineteenth century due to the discovery of photography in 1839 as the middle class patrons deserted them and photography studios appeared on every high street in Wales. Many artisan painters such as William Roos therefore descended into poverty. Rowland was unique in the fact that he managed to evolve with the times and by the late 1840s his style had changed dramatically. Rowland was resilient and had a head for business.

His inspiration came from Augusta Hall (Lady Llanover) the Welsh heiress and patron of the Welsh Arts. Hall was in a sense the inventor of the Welsh national costume. In 1834 she wrote a prize-winning essay submitted to the Cardiff Royal Eisteddfod which emphasised the importance of the Welsh Language and the National costumes of Wales. In actual fact the traditional dress of Wales with its heavy wool was a costume worn by the working classes across Europe from the medieval times but Lady Llanover turned it into a Welsh national costume. In 1848-1850 Rowland inspired by this new fashion created a number of costume prints which were later turned into engravings and were published by Edward Parry of Chester. They proved to be extremely popular and sold well. As Paul Joyner the art historian stated ‘Whilst the compositions are competent, the anatomy is usually inaccurate’. The images were also at times placed on kitsch ornaments and sold as far as Scotland.

By the 1850s Rowlandson had moved to live in Caernarfon where he transported his Welsh characters in traditional dress from the landscape of Ceredigion into the landscape of Snowdonia in his works which once again proved to be extremely popular. This painting therefore of the Bellringer of Caernarfon could be seen in the same light. The scene Rowland depicts of the bellringer in her traditional dress with the spectacular Caernarfon Castle in the background had nationalistic appeal and one could speculate that it may have later been developed into engravings to be sold to the wider public as his earlier works.

This painting is part of the Europeana 280 initiative, that involved the 28 European Ministries of Culture working with their national cultural institutions to select at least 10 paintings that represented their country’s contribution to Europe’s art history.

For more information see our Digital Gallery

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