Posted - 23-08-2018


First look at the new Dictionary of Welsh Biography website

The Library has given access to the the Alpha version of the new Dictionary of Welsh Biography website, giving us a first glimpse of the changes we can expect to see when it is launched in the autumn.

Here is some of the background to the project, a summary of what you will find in the Alpha version, and how you can help with the development of the new website in the coming weeks.

The Dictionary of Welsh Biography

The Dictionary of Welsh Biography (DWB) features nearly 5,000 biographies of men and women who have made noteable contrubutions to life in Wales and beyond. The Dictionary first appeared in print volumes, and their content has been available digitally since the launch of the website in 2003.

Through collaboration between the Honorable Society of Cymmrodorion, the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies and the National Library of Wales, new and revised articles are now added to the resource since it turned digital.

The current website

The current DWB website allows users to:

  • search by person name
  • search by keyword (the entire text of the articles)
  • Browse through the articles by subject’s surname in alphabetical order.

Articles are written in text, with some illustrated with images of the subject.

The value and potential of the DWB as a resource was stated in the Library’s Strategic Plan for 2017-2021, The Nation’s Memory: Informing the Future, and has led the project to update and improve the website. The delivery of the project has been made possible with the financial support of the Colwinston Trust and the National Library, and we aim to launch the new website in the autumn.

What’s different about the Alpha website?

The purpose of the Alpha website is to ensure that the functions are working as they should. A new design hasn’t yet been applied and not all of the articles on the current website have been added to it.

However, this version does include some new features that are worthy of note:

  • Improved searching functionality which notes if the name searched is mentioned in other articles
  • The ability to filter search results by gender, article author, thematic category and language.
  • The ability to browse article authors in order to read their contributions.
  • More prominence on the home page to new articles.
  • Featured articles on the home page
  • A ‘key facts’ box for articles

What other features can we expect to see?

Other new features that are not currently available include:

  • Video as well as images
  • The ability to make a donation to the DWB
  • Information on how to cite an article

Another aspect that is essential to the new website is ensuring that it adapts effectively when accessed on mobile devices.

What about the design of the new website?

The design for the new website is currently in development. Links to the initial design (seen below) can be found on the homepage of the Alpha version.

The intention is for the design to be more striking visually and based on the familiar red colour.

How can you help?

We would be grateful if you would begin to use the Alpha website, and let us know:

  • Is everything is working as it should, or as you would expect?
  • What else would you like to be able to do with the DWB website?

You can send your comments, suggestions and questions to or contact us using the @WelshBiography Twitter account.


Dr Dafydd Tudur

Head of Digital Access Section

Posted - 20-08-2018


Have your say on our Printed Journal Subscriptions

An extensive review of current print journal subscriptions is being undertaken at the National Library of Wales. Our printed journal subscriptions accounts for large proportion of the Library’s acquisitions budget, and in recent years have risen considerably in price. Furthermore, due to changing user needs, the Library is prioritising more of its purchasing budget towards online electronic resources, a number of which provide online access to journals.


During the review, the Library has identified a number of journals for cancellation. Before proceeding to cancel these journals, the Library will offer them for public consultation. If you believe that the National Library of Wales should continue subscribing to a journal that is on the review list, please email by 20th of September 2018. Your comments will be used to prioritize this list, and comments of a positive nature will result in a greater chance of continuing a subscription.


Archivio storico italiano

Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science

Buxtehude Collected Works

Cahiers d’etudes hispaniques medieval

Camillo Cavour. Epistolario

Catalogues regionaux des incunables des bibliotheques publiques de France

Ergänzungsbände zu den Hauptschriften / Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf

Heinrich Schütz. New Edition of the Complete Works

Hermes. Einzelschriften

Heinrich Heine’s Sämmtliche Werke Heine, H.: Werke-Briefe-Lebenszeugnisse

Hindemith, Paul, 1895-1963. Works

Italia medioevale e umanistica

Josquin, des Prez. New edition of the collected works

Mnemosyne : bibliotheca classica batava

Polish Analytical Philosophy

Poznań Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities

Recent Researches in the Music of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

Schriften zu Leben und Werk / Alfred Döblin

Société des Textes Français Modernes

Studi sul Boccaccio



Aled Betts,

Acquisitions Librarian

Posted - 17-08-2018

Collections / Digitisation

Revealing the Objects: Music

As of October 2018 the Library will share a number of additional items from its collections on Europeana, a European digital cultural platform. We are currently working with 12 other partner institutions on a project entitled ‘The Rise of Literacy’ which aims to explore the history of reading and writing in Europe. In this weekly blog series – ‘Revealing the Objects, some of the Library’s contributions will be disclosed on a thematic basis.

Here’s a selection of published music that will be digitized as part of the project.


Ann Griffiths (edited by Thomas Charles) – Casgliad o Hymnau: gan mwyaf heb erioed eu hargraffu o’r blaen (1806)

Ann Griffiths was a renowned hymn-writer and her compositions are major landmarks in the history of Welsh women’s writing. This volume is a compilation of her early works. Griffiths was a committed member of the Methodist Society and her hymns expressed her personal spiritual experiences. Calvinistic Methodism encouraged members to develop a personal relationship with God and this experience was explored and discussed in the Methodist ‘seiat’ (fellowship). Her main inspirations included the intense language of the seiat and folk poetry. It must be noted that Griffiths was an oral composer and her hymns were not intended for congregational purposes. Griffiths’s maid, Ruth, memorised her compositions and eventually recited them to her husband, the preacher John Hughes, who noted them on paper. ‘Casgliad o Hymnau’ was edited by Thomas Charles from the Bala.

John Roberts (Ieuan Gwyllt) – Llyfr Tonau Cynulleidfaol (1859)

John Roberts was a Calvinist Methodist minister and musician. The publication of his book ‘Llyfr Tonau Cynulleidfaol’ (‘A Book of Congregational Tunes’) was an important milestone in the development of congregation singing in Wales. After laboring for six years, he published the volume in 1859.

John Owen (Owain Alaw) – Gems of Welsh Melody (1860)

John Owen, or Owen Alaw, was an award winning musician. His famous volume ‘Gems of Welsh Melodies’, published in 1860, was a compilation of popular musical pieces. This collection, edited by Owen, proved very useful and was widely used in Wales. Welsh classics such as ‘Hên Wlad fy’n Nhadau’ and ‘Ar hyd y Nos’ appear in this collection.

Want to see more posts from this series? See below:


Elen Hâf Jones – Digital Access Projects Officer

This post was created as part of the Europeana Rise of Literacy Project

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Posted - 16-08-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events

Humphrey Llwyd the man who put Wales on the map

The 21st of August 2018 marks the 450th anniversary of the death of one of the most important figures of the Welsh renaissance, Humphrey Llwyd of Denbigh. To commemorate this event the National Library of Wales will be holding an exhibition about Llwyd and his work.

Humphrey Llwyd was born in about 1527 in Denbigh. He studied at Oxford obtaining his M.A. in 1551. In 1553 he entered the service of the Earl of Arundel and remained in his retinue for the rest of his life.

One of Llwyd’s functions seems to have been to collect books for Arundel’s library as well as for the Library of Arundel’s son-in-law Lord Lumley, whose sister Llwyd married. These combined Libraries including some of Llwyd’s own books, eventually became part of the Royal Collection now at the British Library.

Returning to Denbigh, Llwyd was elected M.P. for the Denbigh Boroughs in 1563 and subsequently helped to steer the Bill for translating the Bible into Welsh through the Commons.
In 1566 he accompanied Arundel on a trip to the Continent where he was introduced to Abraham Ortelius and a firm friendship blossomed between the two. After returning home Llwyd wrote to Ortelius on at least two occasions providing information relating to Wales which were published after his death by Ortelius in his atlas Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, including the map of Wales Cambriae Typus, the work for which he is now best known. In addition to his maps Llwyd produced a number of works about Welsh history which were also not published until after his death.

The letter shown here is his final letter to Ortelius, written from his deathbed sending one of his texts along with the maps he had made. He apologises that is works are not in better order and regrets that his impending death did not leave him time to improve them, he died 18 days later. The letter is a poignant testimony to the esteem in which this great Welsh polymath was held, kept by Ortelius, who became one of his greatest proponents.

During his life he was described as “the most famous antiquarius of all our country” and his biographer Anthony Wood described him as “a person of great eloquence, an excellent rhetorician, a sound philosopher, and a most noted antiquary, and a person of great skill and knowledge in British affairs.”

Llwyd’s reputation as one of the leading lights of the Welsh renaissance and indeed as one of the creators of modern Welsh national identity has been neglected in the years since his death. Saunders Lewis described him as “one of the most important of Welsh humanists and a key figure in the history of the Renaissance in Wales”.

In recent years, however, there has been a new appreciation of Llwyd’s contribution, there is an ongoing AHRC funded project based around his work “Humphrey Llwyd – Inventor of Britain”, and next year the results of this project will be shown alongside a major exhibition about Llwyd here at the National library.

The current exhibition runs from the 20th to the 31st August in the Summers Room, come along and find out more about the man who put Wales on the map.

Posted - 10-08-2018

Collections / Digitisation

Revealing the Objects: History Books

As of October 2018 the Library will share a number of additional items from its collections on Europeana, a European digital cultural platform. We are currently working with 12 other partner institutions on a project entitled ‘The Rise of Literacy’ which aims to explore the history of reading and writing in Europe. In this weekly blog series – ‘Revealing the Objects, some of the Library’s contributions will be disclosed on a thematic basis.

Here’s a selection of history books that will be digitized as part of the project.

Theophilius Jones – A History of the County of Brecknock (1805)

At the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century, many comprehensive texts were written on local history in Wales. This volume by Theophilus Jones however is the most refined and polished of them all. Jones’s account of the history of Brecknock is generally of a scholarly nature and despite its biased tone; it is the most noted record of local history in Wales to be published. Theophilus Jones was the grandson of renowned historian Theophilus Evans.

Thomas Price (Carnhuanawc) – Hanes Cymru, a chenedl y Cymry, o’r cynoesoedd hyd at farwolaeth Llewelyn Ap Gruffydd : ynghyd a rhai cofiaint perthynol i’r amseroedd o’r pryd hynny i waered (1842)

In the first half of the nineteenth century scholarly enthusiasts, mostly clergymen, across Europe, actively wrote histories on the cultures of small or underprivileged nations. Carnhuanawc is the most obvious example of such an individual in Wales. He was inspired by the same ideas as the German philosopher Herder; that all cultures are uniquely significant and valuable. They also shared the belief that such cultures were mostly guarded by the numerous, yet lower and poorer classes. ‘Hanes Cymru’ or ‘A History of Wales to the Death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’ was, and is considered Carnhuanawc’s masterpiece. The publication appeared in fourteen separate volumes between 1836 and 1842. Though the author had an inadequate grasp on the historian’s duties, no other historical work would match that of Carnhuanawc for several years.

Jane Williams (Ysgafell) – A History of Wales derived from authentic sources (1869)

Jane Williams was a London-born historian and miscellaneous writer. She spent many years of her life in Brecon, Wales and as a result developed a friendship with the famous cultural sponsor and supporter Augusta Hall, or Lady Llanover. Thereafter Williams took a great interest in Welsh literature and learnt the language. She published many important volumes including ‘A History of Wales derived from authentic sources’ (1869). This book is a compilation of her most ambitious work, and in spite of its defects, was not superseded until the publication of Sir John E. Lloyd’s researches on the history of Wales at the beginning of the twentieth century.

John Edward Lloyd – A History of Wales: from the earliest times to the Edwardian conquest (1911)

John Edward Lloyd was one of Wales’s most noted historians. He was educated at Aberystwyth University and Lincoln College, Oxford, where he successfully obtained a First Class degree in 1883. An academic career soon followed – he was appointed lecturer in History at Aberystwyth University in 1885 and Professor of History at the University College of North Wales, Bangor in 1899. John Edward Lloyd was a medieval specialist and he wrote many comprehensive papers on the early history of Wales. ‘A History of Wales: from the earliest times to the Edwardian conquest’ was published in two volumes in 1911 and is remembered as Lloyd’s great standard work; his masterpiece. It was unique in the sense that its content was compiled through a critical assessment of the sources and thorough scientific research. This book was a turning-point in the study of Welsh history and was arguably the first substantial publication to be considered by professionals as an authoritative assessment on the subject. It is no surprise therefore that some scholars have referred to John Edward Lloyd as the ‘father’ of the study of Welsh history.

Want to see more posts from this series? See below:


Elen Hâf Jones – Digital Access Projects Officer

This post was created as part of the Europeana Rise of Literacy Project

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Posted - 09-08-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events

#LoveMaps – Dr Shaun Evans

Dr. Shaun Evans is Director of the Institute for the Study of Welsh Estates, an all-Wales research centre based at Bangor University which explores issues relating to the history, culture and landscapes of Wales, through the prisms of estates and their cultural heritage collections.  @YstadauCymru

 ‘This place ain’t big enough for the two of us’ – what happens at the boundaries of estates?

My final contribution to the series of blogs on Welsh estate maps focuses on the theme of boundaries. As previously discussed, ownership of land was a crucial part of the Welsh gentry’s claims to status, honour and authority. These connections between land and power often led to strong assertions of territoriality from estate owners and provided a major impetus for the production of estate maps: records which visually asserted the location, extent and composition of an individual’s domains.

The vast majority of estate maps were commissioned to show the lands belonging a single estate. Typically, little or no detail is shown for land not owned by the individual commissioning the map. They do however often give an indication of who owned the adjacent lands, inscribing the names of neighbouring landowners at the margins of the territories marked on the map. This was especially the case if the estate in question was not consolidated, but rather a patchwork of lands intermixed with the landholdings of other estates.

The question I want to explore in this blog is what happened at the boundaries of two estates?

Boundaries were often marked in the landscape by physical features such as trees, rivers, hedgerows, walls and ditches. There are also many examples in Wales of boundary stones marking out the limits of an estate in a landscape, such as in the Black Mountains, Breconshire, which features a line of early-19th century stones demarcating the lands of the Macnamaras of Llangoed Hall . In some places, there was also a tradition of ‘beating the bounds’, which involved groups of local people walking around the boundaries of a manor or parish, thereby inscribing the limits into the memory of the local populace.

Despite these attempts to sure up boundaries, they were regularly the subject of disputes, which could often lead to law cases.

In the National Library of Wales there is a map which focuses on the boundaries of two estates situated around a stretch of Afon Cothi in the parish of Cynwyl Gaeo, Carmarthenshire. The map appears to have been produced in response to a lawsuit filed in the Court of Great Sessions in 1778 by John Johnes, the squire of Dolaucothi, against William Davys of Kencoed (Cefn-Coed Mawr) relating to ‘the watercourse’ (Eaton Evans & Williams Solicitors Records, 3281, 7469).

The map signals an attempt to differentiate between the two estates, with Mr. Johnes’ lands outlined in black and Mr. Davys’ in red and green (the lands in green having been recently acquired by Mr. Davys, previously forming part of the Millfield / Maesyfelin estate). The map shows the proximity of the two houses and though the Dolaucothi mansion was clearly the more eminent structure (surrounded by formal gardens and outbuildings including a barn and mill), the map gives the impression that Kencoed was too close for comfort. The two estates were interfering with one another’s territorial assertions.

A yellow line on the map marks the boundary between the two estates, which for the most part follows the course of the river, though there are two small areas, marked in blue, which are referred to as ‘unknown property’. The lands adjoining the river are marked with 28 numbers, which relate to written notes and explanations on the side of the map.

What becomes clear from these notes is that both estates had been making extensive use of the watercourse as part of their schemes of land and resource management. Two of the notes refer to ‘the water diverted from its usual channel to Kencoed’ and ‘the trench made by Richard Davies about 30 years past to convey water to Kencoed’; whereas reference is also made to ‘the reservoir of water for watering Cae-cwm-yr-hen-dŷ Issa and other lands of Dolecothy demesne’ and ‘a trench to convey water to Cae Rodyn & other lands of Dolecothy demesne in winter and spring for watering the same’.

Both the Dolaucothi and Kencoed estates had redirected or channelled the watercourse to meet their needs, with notes referring to:

– ‘The place the water formerly divided, part going to the mill and the remainder thro Henberllan to Dolecothy mansion’;
– ‘The channel of the watercourse formerly in the upper part of Cae Rodyn and Cae Tŷ Bach’;
– ‘That part of the trench which conveyed the water by Waynnefain hedge, years past & upwards’;
– ‘A trench that formerly conveyed the water to Dolecothy’.

However, the schemes were incompatible, leading to a dispute over the water resources. One of the notes mentions ‘the new trench cut by Mr. Johnes and ye water diverted from thence by Mr. Davys’ servants to the ancient channel’; and others refer to ‘the trench that conveys the water in dispute to Kencoed’ and ‘the trench for conveying the water in dispute to water Cae-cwm-yr-hen-dŷ Issa and other lands at Dolecothy demesne.’ In addition to the dispute over the water, the various schemes which had necessitated the redirection of the watercourse had moved, or at least complicated, the boundary between the two estates, one of the notes referring to ‘the piece of land in dispute’.

The outcome of the Great Sessions case is unknown, though the map gives the impression that the area was unable to sustain the pretentions of the two neighbouring estates. It is perhaps of little surprise that Kencoed and its surrounding lands were purchased by the Dolaucothi estate in 1856 (Dolaucothi Estate Records, 179). The proximity of Kencoed, plus the competition it provided over use of the watercourse, would have provided a significant driver for consolidation, swallowing up the lands to bring them fully into the Dolaucothi ambit of authority.

Over the forthcoming months and years the Institute for the Study of Welsh Estates plans to promote further research into Wales’ collections of estate maps. To keep up to date with our work, news and events, please email to subscribe to our mailing list.


Posted - 06-08-2018

Reader Services

5 Resources for Tracing Property History

The resources listed here may contain evidence regarding the existence of a building but will not necessarily date the original structure or subsequent alterations. Remember that houses could be rebuilt often on an adjoining site but using the same name or subsequent buildings on the same site were renamed or renumbered.

1 Maps
Home to the largest cartographic collection in Wales and one of the largest in Britain, the Library has a wide range of maps and plans to consult – Ordnance Survey maps, antiquarian maps, estate maps and sale catalogues and architectural drawings, tithe maps and apportionments. Digital images of the tithe maps and apportionments and more modern maps can be found on the Places of Wales website and most are available to search through the catalogue  or on open access in the South Reading Room.

2 Census Returns and the 1939 Register
The Census taken every 10 years since 1841, except 1941, gives a snapshot of who was at a property at the time of the census. The 1911 census is the latest available; the 1939 Register can also be very useful as this provided information of inhabitants of properties at the beginning of WWII. Access to these are available free of charge within the Library through Findmypast and Ancestry.

3 Estate Records
A property may be easier to trace if it was part of an estate as records were drawn up for the administration of the estate – rentals, surveys, title deeds, mortgages, leases. To find if the Library holds any information a search of the catalogue should be made.

4 Printed works
Local history books, local directories, guide books and electoral registers that date back to the nineteenth century will give further clues of who lived in particular properties and used in conjunction with other documentary evidence can give you more information about the people who lived in a property. These can be found by searching our catalogue

5 Newspapers
The Library has a digitised collection of Welsh newspapers available free to view online up to 1919, there may well be mention of the occupants of or the history of a property amongst the pages as well as adverts and details of sales of property. To begin your search visit the website

These are only a few of the sources available to aid you in the search for the history of a house. For more information have a look at our information leaflet Sources for the History of Houses

Beryl Evans
Research Services Manager

Posted -

#LoveArt / Collections / Exhibitions / Kyffin Blog

Kyffin: The London Years

Kyffin joined Highgate School in north London in September 1944. Much of the School had previously been evacuated to Westward Ho! in Devon but art had not been on the wartime curriculum so a teacher was needed on return to the capital. After working full-time (six days a week) for the first two years, Headmaster Geoffrey Bell suggested that Kyffin should find a colleague to share the job so that he could do more of his own painting and so the elusive William Cole, a friend from the Slade days, took over half of his timetable. Cole only lasted a couple of years though. Kyffin soldiered on alone for a further twelve months but his epilepsy wasn’t under control, so on the advice of his doctor and with the agreement of the School Governors he was awarded a sabbatical from the summer of 1949. This provided an opportunity to start travelling and in 1950 he visited Italy, the first of many trips abroad during the ensuing decade. His replacement was another acquaintance from the Slade, Antony Kerr, whose wife was the artist Elizabeth Rendell. On his return to Highgate Kyffin taught alongside Antony for nine years. Tom Griffiths, mentioned in ‘A Wider Sky’ and yet another Slade graduate, was tempted into teaching for a year, as subsequently was CF Ware. Then stability returned as Kyffin’s former pupil Anthony Green (1951-56) joined the Art Department in 1961 at the age of twenty-one. He was the last of the ‘Slade brigade’ to help Kyffin out – A Dear and JL Lowe from the Royal Academy Schools were his ‘other halves’ from 1968 until his retirement in 1973. Patrick Procktor, who had also studied under Kyffin from 1948-52 chose not to enter the profession. By the time Kyffin returned to Anglesey in 1974 a full-time Director of Art, Gordon Tweedale, had been appointed in his place.

Of course Kyffin had enjoyed another six months off in 1968-9 to travel to Welsh Patagonia on a Churchill Fellowship, an event that was probably responsible for his being nominated to be an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1969 and elected the following year, following an unsuccessful first attempt in 1961.
His becoming a full Academician four years later was proof, if any was needed, that he could finally make a living as an artist. Kyffin had first been accepted at an RA Summer Exhibition as early as 1946, though it wasn’t until 1959 that his work became an annual feature for almost forty years. His first show in a commercial gallery was at Colnaghi’s in 1948 and the Leicester Galleries were soon representing him too. It wasn’t until after he had left Highgate that the Thackeray became his main promoter in London.

Kyffin lived in or close to Highgate for his first twelve years in London, most famously as a tenant of Miss Mary Josling on Bisham Gardens in Highgate Village, a period that is vividly described in ‘Across the Straits’. During that time he recorded many local scenes and personalities, such as the former School cricket coach and groundsman Albert Knight. Albert, in his seventies when Kyffin painted his portrait, had played for England in the 1903-4 Ashes series in Australia, which was won by the visiting side. Brief residencies in Hampstead followed, including a stay with Fred and Diana Uhlman on Downshire Hill, before he spent a few years further west in Holland Park. When his artist friend David Smith moved from Finchley with his wife Elizabeth Hawes, Kyffin occupied one of the flats that they had created in their house for a year before learning that 22 Bolton Studios near the Fulham Road was vacant from Jane Richards, and old acquaintance from North Wales. The eight years he spent on Gilston Road, his last London address, also received a colourful rendering in his first volume of autobiography.

To mark Kyffin’s centenary and celebrate his ‘London years’ to some extent, two exhibitions under the banner ‘Kyffin Williams: Paper to Palette Knife’ are planned in Highgate in the autumn – one at the Highgate School Museum on Southwood Lane and a second in the Gallery of the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution (HLSI) on Pond Square. The former will feature the School’s collection of oils alongside paintings borrowed from private collectors and small loans from the National Library of Wales and Oriel Môn on Anglesey; while the HLSI will be displaying a substantial loan of (mostly) works on paper from the NLW. Together the two exhibitions will possibly constitute the largest ever retrospective of Kyffin’s work to be shown in England. They will run concurrently from 14th September to 7th October with opening times: Tuesday to Friday 1-5pm, Saturday 11am-4pm and Sunday 11am-5pm. On Monday 10th September at 7 pm I will be giving a lecture about Kyffin’s London years at the School. Tickets can be booked online nearer the time here: Then on Friday 21st September at 8 pm Rian Evans, co-author of ‘Kyffin Williams: The Light and The Dark’, will be giving a talk at the HLSI. Tickets can be booked by e-mail: or by phone: 020 8340 3340.

David Smith, Heritage Officer, Highgate School –

Posted - 03-08-2018

Collections / Digitisation

Revealing the Objects: Travel Books

As of October 2018 the Library will share a number of additional items from its collections on Europeana, a European digital cultural platform. We are currently working with 12 other partner institutions on a project entitled ‘The Rise of Literacy’ which aims to explore the history of reading and writing in Europe. In this weekly blog series – ‘Revealing the Objects, some of the Library’s contributions will be disclosed on a thematic basis.

Here’s a selection of travel books that will be digitized as part of the project.


Thomas Pennant – A Tour in Wales (1778)

Eight unique volumes of the travel book ‘A Tour in Wales’ were produced for the author’s own library at Downing, Flintshire at the end of the eighteenth century. However, the series above was condensed for public sale and two volumes were printed, one in 1778 and the other in 1781. These chronicle the three journeys Thomas Pennant made through Wales between 1773 and 1776. The volumes contain a number of original drawings by Moses Griffiths, Ingleby and other well-known artists of the period. Pennant is recognised today as the finest Welsh travel book writer of his time.

W. E. Jones (Cawrdaf) – Y bardd, neu, y meudwy Cymreig: yn cynwys teithiau difyr ac addysgiadol y bardd gyda rhagluniaeth (1830)

W. E. Jones was a known printer, writer and poet. In his Welsh romantic prose ‘Y bardd, neu, y meudwy Cymreig’ or ‘The Bard, or the Welsh Hermit’ Jones presents a host of imaginary descriptions that depict various international travels. The author describes his journey along with specific locations. The volume has been referred to as the first Welsh novel, yet it does not possess the attributes of a novel.

George Borrow – Wild Wales: its people, language and scenery (1862)

George Borrow was born in Norfolk in 1803. His father was a soldier, and as a result the family moved around the country frequently. He was educated in Edinburgh and Norwich. Borrow trained as a lawyer but soon took to literature and wrote novels and travel books, drawing on his many journeys around Britain and Europe. ‘Wild Wales’ describes a stay in Llangollen in the summer of 1854, with many hikes through North Wales, followed by a longer tour to and through South Wales. Borrow was a noted linguist; he spoke Welsh and had a particular interest in the origins of place-names.

Want to see more posts from this series? See below:


Elen Hâf Jones – Digital Access Projects Officer

This post was created as part of the Europeana Rise of Literacy Project

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Posted - 02-08-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events

#LoveMaps – Shaun Evans

Dr. Shaun Evans is Director of the Institute for the Study of Welsh Estates, an all-Wales research centre based at Bangor University which explores issues relating to the history, culture and landscapes of Wales, through the prisms of estates and their cultural heritage collections.  @YstadauCymru

Trees and woodlands

The historian and ecologist Oliver Rackham (1939-2015) asserted that ‘woodland by its very nature can be understood only in terms of historical processes’. In a Welsh context, the understanding of these historical perspectives is not as advanced as it could be, and remains heavily dependent on William Linnard’s seminal work on Welsh Woodlands and Forests: History and Utilization (1982).

Prior to the 20th century the overwhelming majority of woodlands and trees in Wales were located on lands belonging to landed estates. A map of the Bodrhyddan demesne in Flintshire, included in an estate atlas of 1756, gives some indication of the primacy of trees and woodlands in estate landscapes. Here, trees constitute a key aspect in the gardens immediately surrounding Bodrhyddan; they are seen lining the main driveway to the house and other paths and avenues; large standalone trees (probably oaks) feature in the parkland; there are small areas of woodland and wood pasture; there are indications of trees demarcating old field boundaries; and they feature as part of the hedgerows.

Since medieval times, woodlands formed important features in elite recreational landscapes; medieval ‘forests’ were inextricably linked to hunting. Later on, trees and woodlands often played essential roles in the creation of ‘designed’ landscapes, with emphases on the picturesque and sublime. This is clearly suggested in John Davenport’s 1791 plan of intended improvements at Nanteos, the Cardiganshire seat of Thomas Powell. The plan was never implemented, but shows the sites and species of trees which were to be planted or retained to create the desired landscape aesthetic.

On many estates, individual trees could be vested with significant symbolic weight. The Ceubren yr Ellyll, a large hollow oak on the Nannau estate in Merionethshire, provided the vessel for a legend which was at the heart of the Vaughan family’s identity. This was held to be the resting place of the skeleton and spirit of Hywel Sele (ancestor to the Vaughans) who was slain by Glyndŵr after an act of treachery. After the old oak fell down in 1813, the timber was used to create a range of family heirlooms for the Vaughans, including a set of six acorn-shaped toasting cups, which symbolised important links with ancestry and land: a deep-rootedness in the locality. There are numerous examples of this type. It is indicative that in his 1774 map of the Bachymbyd estate in Denbighshire, Meredith Hughes ensured that the three sweet chestnuts known as ‘The Three Sisters’ were depicted in the grounds below Bachymbyd. According to a family legend, the trees were planted in the late-17th century by three sisters of the Salesbury family in recognition of their mutual love and affection. As with the Nannau Oak, it is an example of the owners of the estate affixing parts of their identity to trees within their landholdings.

In addition to their aesthetic and cultural significance, trees and woodlands played important economic roles in the functioning of estates. From an early period they were often subject to intensive management, largely through pollarding and coppicing – to provide a huge range of products, fuel and food – ranging from charcoal, to architectural timbers, acorns for animal fodder and bark for tanning. Woodlands could form valuable economic assets for estates and were often fiercely protected by landlords and their agents. Their economic significance is evidenced by the decision of some families to commission maps dedicated to woodlands in their ownership. A good example is the 1774 map of Canaston Wood, associated with the Slebech estate in Pembrokeshire.

Particularly from the 19th century, forestry became a big part of the business of some estates, signalled by huge schemes of afforestation, the employment of increasingly professionalised foresters (especially from Scotland) and the establishment of large estate sawmills.

Estate records, including estate maps, potentially have a crucial role to play in enhancing understanding the ‘historical processes’ underpinning the Wales’ woodland assets. At the Institute for the Study of Welsh Estates at Bangor University, we are beginning to explore some of the research opportunities linking ecology, history, forestry, land management and archives – connecting research to policy and practice. Earlier this year we partnered with Bangor’s Forestry Students Association (BFSA) and the Woodland Heritage charity to organise an event focused on the Past, Present and Future of Woodland Management; in essence, how can an enhanced understanding of the historical framework of woodland management on Welsh estates be used to promote principals of sustainable woodland management in 21st century Wales?

One important way that estate maps might be able to contribute to this agenda relates to the Ancient Woodland Inventory (AWI), managed by Natural Resources Wales. This dataset identifies areas in Wales that have had continuous woodland cover since c.1600, thereby producing ecosystems which tend to be more ecologically diverse, culturally significant and worthy of protection. Thus far the AWI in Wales has been primarily based on the woodlands marked on 19th century OS Maps. There would appear to be real opportunities for exploring how earlier estate maps (and related estate records) can be used to enhance the accuracy, coverage, depth and detail of the AWI, including the identification of changing woodland boundaries over time and the marking of ‘veteran’ trees.

This is just one of the ways in which old estate maps can be employed as a useful resource for Wales’ land futures.

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