The Library is surrounded by around 9 acres of grounds, which include lawn and formal garden, a craggy knoll which has been left over to natural vegetation, mainly stunted trees and gorse, and open fields, grazed by sheep. At the southernmost point of the site is a knoll which is not grazed and is covered in gorse and with some more mature trees. The site is an extremely exposed location, with open aspects to the sea exposing it to high winds and rain, and in the summer the harsh effects of the strong sun. Originally part of the Gogerddan Estate, there are a number of examples of the original planting such as mature Scots Pine still to be found.
The Library has been undertaking a long term plan to make its gardens more environmentally friendly and enhance the natural environment to encourage biodiversity in all parts of the site. The fields are let for grazing, whilst the two “knoll” areas are left to nature, with occasional management in relation to oversize trees.
Although the gardens surrounding the Library are required to contribute towards the impression of formality and compliment the Grade 2* listed status of the building, recent improvements to the gardens have included a long term vision to make them more sustainable and to encourage biodiversity.
The main actions that have been taken are:
Adopting sustainable gardening practices
The Library has stopped buying in annual bedding, instead all annual flowers have been grown from seed and are aimed at attracting pollinators. Echium, cornflower, ecsholtzia, cosmos and geranium are all part of the planting scheme.
Flowering perennials were bought in as plug plants and will be grown on for future years. There are also a number of areas that have been planted with heathers that give permanent ground cover and the range of varieties ensure that there is always something in flower at every time of the year. The planters at the front of the building, which are particularly exposed to extremes of dryness and heat, have been planted with lavender which can tolerate the harsh conditions. A number of areas in the front gardens have now been planted with flowering bulbs which are left in situ, rather than being replaced by summer bedding which had been the previous practice.
The gardens on the north side of the main steps have been cleared and replanted with a selection of low maintenance shrubs and perennials that are bee and insect friendly. The fence at the top of the garden has been planted with the rambling rose “Seagull” which is very attractive to bees.
Carrying out environmental improvements
The Library’s car park has a hedgerow on the east and part of the south boundary, and a new hedgerow has been planted across the Library’s field to the east. On the northern boundary with the University fields and immediately surrounding the cark park the Library unstable and dangerous Leylandii was removed and the sterile conditions created by these conifers have been replaced with formal laurel trimmed bushes in the car park, and by native species such as crab apple and cherry trees on the northern boundary.
Being insect friendly
In the formal gardens around the Library we have consciously planted a number of insect friendly shrubs such as cotoneaster, hebe, fushia, buddleia, cotton lavender, artemesia and laurel, as well as allium, sedum, and hybrid roses.
The Library has also ceased to routinely use Pesticides and herbicides, only where absolutely necessary on an exception-only basis.
All garden waste is composted on site in three specially constructed compost bins. This compost is periodically removed and used as a mulch around the gardens.
Over the last few years the Library has made a great deal of effort to improve the condition, impact, and sustainability of the gardens immediately surrounding the building. The aim of these improvements has been to improve biodiversity, as well as to create a beautiful environment in which members of the public and Library staff can relax. In the next few years the planting will mature and it is hoped that the gardens will make a major contribution to wellbeing. The Library has started to involve the gardens within the Library’s volunteering scheme and hopes that this will offer unique opportunities to volunteers.
The Library provides an exhibition each year for the St. David’s Day Prayer Breakfast in Cardiff. This special event is organised by a group of Christian members of the Senedd from different parties, and the guests include members of parliaments from across Europe, church and chapel leaders, and representatives of a number of Christian organisations.
The theme of this year’s Prayer Breakfast was “Revivals”. The earliest item in the exhibition was Llythyr ynghylch y ddyledswydd o gateceisio plant a phobl anwybodus (1749) by Griffith Jones, who was responsible for establishing thousands of circulating schools in order to teach people to read the Bible. There was a close connection between these schools and the efforts to persuade the SPCK to provide Bibles in Welsh.
Two letters, giving an account of a revival of religion in Wales by Thomas Charles of Bala were published in 1792. The time of spiritual awakening recounted by Charles led to the founding of the Bible Society, and the exhibition also included the first edition of the Welsh Bible published by the Society in 1807.
In order to reflect the international aspect of the theme, we showed Hanes llwyddiant diweddar yr Efengyl, a rhyfeddol waith Duw, ar eneidiau pobl yn North America (1766), a translation by William Williams, Pantycelyn of a pamphlet describing the spiritual awakening in America two years earlier. Also included in the exhibition were the autobiography of Ben Chidlaw (1890), a Welshman who emigrated to America but was also involved in the 1839 Revival on a visit to Wales, and The revival in the Khasia Hills (1907), the history of the Calvinistic Methodist foreign mission in India.
Two manuscripts from the 1858-9 Revival were shown: the diary of Dafydd Morgan, Ysbyty, and a letter from John Matthews of Aberystwyth. The item which attracted most interest was Evan Roberts’s Bible, which he had with him when working as a miner. The Bible was partially burnt in an explosion in 1897 which killed five of his colleagues. This led to his conversion, described in the diary of the Rev. Seth Joshua, which was displayed beside the Bible. Evan Roberts became the leading figure of the 1904-05 Revival.
It was a privilege to display these treasures from the Library’s collections in the foyer of the Senedd and discuss them with the guests. In creating the exhibition I sought to recount the work of God through a number of revivals in Wales, as well as revivals in other countries which have either had an influence in Wales or benefited from the contribution of Welsh missionaries.
One of the Library’s main aims is to collect all kinds of recorded information about Wales and the people of Wales for the benefit of the public, with a new emphasis on ensuring that our collections represent all aspects of Welsh life and history, especially under-represented individuals and communities. The ‘Collecting’ exhibition gives a taste of our recent acquisitions, including archives and manuscripts, books, maps, photographs and artwork.
In terms of archives the material represents a number of themes – literature, wars, sport and entertainment, politics and music, industry and culture. It contains material of interest in the study of women’s history, the history of slavery, the social history of Wales, the history of art, and the history of the entertainment world, dating from 1866 to 2018. The writers Edward Thomas, David Jones, Menna Elfyn and Eigra Lewis Roberts are among those featured, as are Frederick Douglass, David Lloyd George and Jill Evans from the political world, and Mollie Doreen Phillips, Harry Secombe and Llio Rhydderch from the entertainment industry.
This is what’s on display:
The poet Edward Thomas’s exercise book contains drafts of ‘The Mountain Chapel’, December 1914. (NLW MS 24122B). Purchased with financial assistance of the Friends of the National Libraries.
An illustrated letter in Welsh which forms part of a collection of letters from David Jones to Valerie ‘Elri’ Wynne-Williams. (NLW MS 24167i-iiiE) Purchased with financial assistance of the Friends of the National Libraries.
Notebook of the writer Menna Elfyn dating from 1977 containing early poetic endeavors and drafts of poems. (Menna Elfyn Archive, 1/1/1) Purchase.
Eigra Lewis Roberts’ manuscript draft of the popular television program ‘Minafon’. She wrote about the lives and discontents of Welsh women in post-war Britain, a subject that was not widely addressed by Welsh writers at the time. (NLW MS 23074B) Donation.
Papers of Captain Ted Lees, relating to Island Farm Prisoner of War Camp, Bridgend. Captain Lees was the camp’s Intelligence Officer and interpreter during the period 1946-1948, when it held some of the most senior German officers, including Feldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt. (NLW MS 24094E) Purchase.
Scrapbook relating to Mollie Doreen Phillips, the Carmarthenshire-based ice skater who competed in the 1932 and 1936 Winter Olympic Games. (NLW ex 3043 (i)) Purchase.
A selection of items from the Harry Secombe archive, including a letter from Prince Charles in 1981, the script for the final ‘Goon Show’ radio programme, broadcast in 1972, and photographs of ‘The Goons’. (Harry Secombe Archive) Donation (below):
Copy of a petition, presented to the European Parliament on behalf of Residents against Ffos-y-fran in an attempt to stop opencast mining in Merthyr Tydfil. (Jill Evans MEP Papers, 1 ) Donation.
David Lloyd George’s War Department Pass, Military Identity Card and Westminster Palace Pass from 1940. (Coalition Liberal Association Papers, 1) Purchase.
Papers relating to the 2007 travelling exhibition, ‘Crossing Oceans: Wales, Slavery and Its Music’, the year of Women in Jazz’s 21st anniversary and the bicentennial anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. (Jazz Heritage Wales Archive : Women’s Archive of Wales) Donation.
A collection of Welsh music fanzines from the 1980s from Rhys Williams’ collection, including ‘Yn Syth o’r Rhewgell’ fanzine, April 1985. (Rhys Williams Fanzine Collection) Donation (below):
Manuscript score of ‘Dwy Gwningen Fechan’ by noted harpist Llio Rhydderch, to the words of I. D. Hooson, 1955. (Llio Rhydderch Papers, 1) Donation.
Autograph album belonging to the journalist John Griffith, compiled during visits to Reconstruction Era America to report for Baner ac Amserau Cymru between 1866 and 1868. Seen here is the autograph of the famous African-American abolitionist, Frederick Douglass. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York. (NLW MS 24173B) Purchase.
Poster for a gig August 8th 1991 where Welsh bands Tŷ Gwydr, Llwybr Llaethog and Datblygu played. This poster was donated as part of The Welsh Music Archive’s appeal for Welsh gigs posters #poster2020 . Donation (below):
Casglu / Collecting – our exhibition of recent acquisitions is on from 14.02.22 – 03.06.22. Remember to pop in to see it.
Nia Mai Daniel
Head of Archives, Manuscripts and Contemporary Records Section, and The Welsh Music Archive Coordinator
In our current exhibition ‘Collecting’ there is a scrapbook on display which belonged to Mollie Doreen Phillips (1907-1994), figure skater and Olympic judge. It is one of three scrapbooks (NLW ex 3043i-iii) purchased at auction in London by the Library in November 2020.
They comprise press cuttings from newspapers relating to her varied skating career including The Skating Times and European newspapers, letters from the National Skating Association of Great Britain and programmes for skating competitions. She began competing as a pair with Rodney Murdoch but later chose to compete solo. Mollie Phillips was the first woman to carry a national flag at the opening ceremony of an Olympic Games at the 1932 Winter Olympics held at Lake Placid and the first woman to judge at the 1948 Winter Olympics held in St. Moritz. She was also the first woman to be elected to the National Ice Skating Association.
Although Mollie Phillips was born in London she had strong Welsh family connections and lived mainly in Cilyblaidd, a mansion in Pencarreg, near Llanybydder, Carmarthenshire, where she bred dairy cattle. Her father was George Phillips, founder of the Phillips Rubber shoe-soling company, and chairman of the Carmarthenshire Society (Cymdeithas Shir Gâr Llundain) in 1936. She was an eminent public figure in her adopted county and was High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire, 1961-62, and Justice of the Peace for many years. Mollie Phillips also studied law at Lincoln’s Inn. In 1978 she was awarded an OBE.
In her obituary published in The Independent Dennis Bird wrote: ‘She was a well-liked personality with a vast fund of skating experience and anecdotes. Her smile became a familiar sight on television as she held up her marks at a championship.’
As part of International Women’s Day 2022 celebrations the National Library is displaying some items from the collections of Menna Elfyn, Jan Morris and Margiad Evans:
• Menna Elfyn is an award-winning poet and playwright who writes with passion of the Welsh language and identity. She is one of Wales’s best known and most translated modern Welsh-language poets.
• Jan Morris (1926-2020) was a Welsh historian, author and travel writer. Published in 1974, Conundrum was her first book under her new name, and one of the first autobiographies to discuss a personal gender reassignment.
• A novelist, essayist, poet and writer of short stories, Margiad Evans (1909-1958), born Peggy Eileen Whistler, was one of the most remarkable women writers of the mid-twentieth century. She is known for her ground-breaking depictions of love, sex, illness and death in the lives and work of women inhabiting harsh and restrictive rural environments.
Learn more about the collections by searching our catalogue:
It’s hard to believe that 1997 is 25 years ago, but a chat last year reminded me that it was getting on for a quarter of a century since the Welsh devolution referendum on 18 September 1997, and that the Welsh Political Archive should do something to make this historic event.
A number of ideas were discussed, including holding a travelling exhibition, but in the end we decided that the best thing to do would be to digitise the parts of the Welsh Political Ephemera Collection which focussed on the two referendums held in 1979 and 1997 so that the campaign material would be permanently available all across Wales. Last week we prepared the files for digitisation.
Going through the material brought back a number of memories and seeing the various messages and arguments in favour and against the devolution proposals was really interesting. In 1979, some influential trades unions such as NALGO were urging a No vote – but not because they opposed devolution. They wanted devolution for England at the same time and an independent civil service for Wales. Another No campaign leaflet raised the spectre of violence saying “Bu gan Gogledd Iwerddol Gynulliad ers 1921. A ydych chi am weld hynny yn digwydd yma?” (Northern Ireland had an Assembly since 1921. Do you want to see that happen here?). At the same time leaflets produced by the Communists and Labour urged a Yes vote (although Labour was divided on the issue), while the Liberals resurrected David Lloyd George to play a part in their campaign in favour!
In 1997, many of the same arguments were seen, but Labour’s campaign, in which Prime Minister Tony Blair played a high profile role, was much more united. The campaign focussed on democracy, the Assembly saving public money and the opposition of the Conservatives. The No campaign went after the costs of devolution and portrayed it as the start of a slippery slope to independence.
I don’t remember the 1979 referendum – I was more interested in Duplo at the time – but the circumstances and feeling of the 1997 campaign was very different. In 1979, a weak government which was on the verge of losing a General Election called the referendum and the No result was clear. In 1997, with Tony Blair’s government still fresh, very popular in Wales and with a huge majority called the vote.
Even then, the result was very close but the Yes campaign won the day. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Over two weeks in January the Library’s trainee conservators, Rhydian Davies and myself, traveled to Wakefield. While there, we attended a paper conservation module at the West Yorkshire History Centre. We are half way through the training, and here’s a taste of what we learned in the first half of the module.
Repairing wet documents
Wetting paper is a very useful way to relax it and wash dirt inherent in the fibers in preparation for repairing the document. Before washing the document, the surface should be cleaned. If this isn’t done, there is a danger of removing dirt inside the paper fibers. A soft brush is used to clean the dust, and a ventilated latex sponge (smoke sponge, aerated latex sponge) to remove more stubborn dirt. Sometimes a Staedtler eraser is used too.
After cleaning the surface, the document is ready to wet. The biggest risk with wetting any document is that the ink runs when it comes into contact with the water. To avoid disaster, we test the ink with a drop of water and alcohol. Shown above is a photograph of Rhydian doing just that.
Most manuscripts use “iron gall” ink that is not soluble in water or alcohol. The document has a seal present, which is soluble in alcohol but not in water, so we wetted the document in water only.
After washing it in water, we transferred the document to a glass table to start repairing. Due to the fragility of the document it was decided to place Japanese silk paper (2gsm) over the entire back; the tissue paper is so light and thin that it does not hide any words on the document.
The photograph above shows myself holding the Japanese tissue paper. The material is easily seen through, and once placed on the document, will be almost invisible!
This is the document after receiving the Japanese silk paper over the back. As as you can see from the photograph, it is much more stable. But the tissue paper alone is not strong enough to protect the document from mechanical damage. The document could be easily damaged further.
The next step was to learn to use the leaf casting method. It uses the concept of how paper is created in the first place, using a paper pulp to fill in the missing areas. The document is flooded, and once plugged, gravity pulls the pulp down to the places that need filling.
We don’t have a photograph of the final result, as the first half of the module finished after this step. We start the second half of the module on 7 February, so there will be much more to say after then! But for now, I hope you found this article informative.
It’s already a month into 2022 and a new year brings with it new digital resources. Our digitisation work has continued behind the scenes and the following items and collections are now available to view from home on the Library’s website and/or the catalogue:
Archives and Manuscripts
Peniarth, Llanstephan, Cwrtmawr and Brogyntyn Collections
It is an exciting time for family historians with the recent release of the 1921 Census for England and Wales by Findmypast. This is the most detailed census so far and the last one to be released until 2052 due to the 1931 census being lost to fire and no census taken in 1941 due to the Second World War. It gives a snapshot of life at the beginning of the 1920’s soon after the end of the First World War and the Spanish flu pandemic and at the time of miner’s strikes. The threat of strikes led to the Government moving the census from 24 April to 19 June.
With the change of the date to June, this meant that many would not be found at home at the time of the census, but on holiday where they would be enumerated. Some holiday destinations saw an increase in the population compared with the 1911 census. This was the case in Aberystwyth where the population rose from 21,482 in 1911 to 23,508 in 1921. Our very own Librarian, Sir John Ballinger and his wife were on holiday at Llandrindod Wells at the time.
What information can be found on the form? In order to entice people to give more accurate ages this was asked in years and months for the first time. Those under 15 years were also asked if both parents were alive if not to note whether the father or mother had died or both.
Under ‘Birthplace and Nationality’ parish and county of birth were still asked, but if born outside of the UK to note whether a visitor or resident and which nationality. This is the first time information regarding education was collected, asking whether in full time or part time education.
The information regarding the number of children within a family was collected differently this time, not asking how long the wife had been married, but asking for the number and ages of children and step-children under 15 years, whether residing in the same property or not.
And of course the last column in Wales refers to the language spoken whether Welsh, English or Both. Many households have returned the Welsh language schedules but many of the English versions do list households that spoke both English and Welsh.
Free access to the 1921 census is available within the National Library of Wales building as one of the three designated regional hubs offering free access, otherwise you can pay to access through the Findmypast website. You will need to register for a reader’s ticket to gain access.
In my book A History of Women in Men’s Clothes: from cross-dressing to empowerment (Pen and Sword Books, 2021) I outlined how women have defied social dictates for centuries by cross-dressing, cross-working, and cross-living. After delivering a talk on the book, I was contacted by Nia Mai Daniel (Welsh Music Archive, National Library Wales) alerting me to a Welsh language ballad, Can Newydd, about some cross-dressing women. Unable to read Welsh, I asked Mair Jones (Queer Welsh Stories) if she could do a preliminary translation to assess the content and Welsh poet Grug Muse then provided a more contemporary version.
Can Newydd was written by a rather eccentric one-eyed balladeer Abel Jones, (Bardd Crwst) who, according to the Dictionary of Welsh Biography, is ‘the last of the “great” balladists’ and it was set to the tune of Mae Robin yn swil. A song Prof. E Wyn James, Cardiff University points out as ‘more suitable for the tavern than for singing at respectable concerts and eisteddfodau.’ Adding Bardd Crwst’s words made it even more risqué.
(Domesticated translation, by Grug Muse, with reference to literal translation by Mair Jones)
The tale of two young women from this region who dressed themselves in men’s clothes, and went courting to a country house to seduce two young women, who were strangers to them.
Sung to “Robin is Shy”
Well men of Gwalia/Wales what do you think of this- See women in clothes, but isn’t it something surprising? So rare are the tender men in our region/vale That some women are out of their mind with wanting love. But isn’t it surprising to see women like this Knocking at the the maidends of Plas uchaf and Glyn &c
Some light evening in the middle of May, Went two young women like irreproachable young men To knock at a Manor house (Plasdy) where there were two young women Starving for a lover to put on him their love &c
They beat the glass until the two arose And soon asked, my dear, O! Who? Well two wonderful young men- very pretty ones You will know them the moment the door is opened.
They opened in a minute without any delay After a few words to bed they went quickly; Embracing, kissing, a sweet thing is man, But four young women starving each one (i.e. in need/wanting (still) each one)
They tired of kissing, nature was strong and Siani felt something, I won’t name where She understood this wasn’t a cockerel she had here Or it was one very strange and odd &c
Lusi and her companion were in a bed nearby Diligently loving without a single alarm And she said to her love that the beauty of a son is to do if he can of her displeasure or pleasure, &c
Lust is a great thing in a rooster or hen,
greater still in a young woman yearning earnestly; And says an old saying “without a cockerel there’s no chick,” And strange was the loving between Sian and Cit Puw &c
I pray you young men to come in a hurry, The women are foolish so much is their lust; Their troubles worry them, they are gay in lust, Their passions will be tamed when they have children, &c.
The fashion is starting for the women to come Pursuing young men, but isn’t it something od? Isn’t it something surprising to see women like this, Wearing trousers on them so tight.
Farewell to every bustle and crinoline there was The women are for trousers to wear instead; They give some sign in every country and town, To show the men that they have a plea.
But isn’t it something surprising to see women like this Knocking at the maidens of Plas uchaf a’r Glyn.
Dating the ballad is difficult as Prof. James explained, the absence of a printer’s name makes it difficult to pin down. However, Prof. James notes the first item on the sheet is a poem about a Baptist minister missing a Dowlais train. As the minister was in Dowlais from 1865-1872, it can be calculated that the leaflet was probably printed during that period. Copies in other collections such as Bangor University and Archifdy Ceredigion Archives shed no further light on the dating.
The content of Can Newydd concerns two women who cross-dress as men to visit a country house and have sex with two women. One reading appears to be a criticism of men who have left these women in want of male attention:
A’i prinion yw’r meibion rhai mwynion ein bro Nes ydyw rhai merched am gariad o’u co.
(So rare are the tender men in our region/vale
That some women are out of their mind with wanting love.)
However, the ballad also draws attention to the growing number of women who were cross-dressing, something I cover in my book. The mid-late 19th century was a time when women in their thousands were ‘masquerading’ and many of these were individuals whom we would today identify as lesbians or trans.
The ballad is to be performed (perhaps for the first time since the 19th century) at Aberration on the 26th March as part of LGBTQ+ History Month 2022 – so you can judge for yourselves what it’s all about.
Promoting LGBT+ history and Welsh heritage
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.