Blog - Collections

Share a Story Month

Collections - Posted 26-05-2021

It’s Share a Story month and Wales’ tradition of sharing stories is reflected not only in our Manuscripts collection but also our printed books collections. From folklore and the legendary tales of Twm Siôn Cati to stories of Madog and his voyage to America, to the adventures of Wil Cwac Cwac and his friends in Llyfr Mawr y Plant and the magical world of Harry Potter, this is a chance to share some of our favourite stories from the printed books collections.

The hero of The adventures and vagaries of Twm Shôn Catti (1828) is the legendary character who sometimes corresponds to Robin Hood or Rob Roy. His exploits are claimed to be based on events in the early life of Thomas Jones of Tregaron, landowner, antiquary, genealogist and poet. This was the first book to celebrate this hero. It is evident that the book was intended for a Welsh readership from the author’s open criticism of English travellers.

Cymru fu : yn cynnwys hanesion, traddodiadau, yn nghyda chwedlau a dammegion Cymreig (1862) is one of the first important works published by Isaac Foulkes (Llyfrbryf, 1836-1904), publisher, journalist and man of letters from Llanfwrog in Denbighshire. As well as publishing books such as this collection of folklore, Llyfrbryf wrote biographies of J. Ceiriog Hughes and Daniel Owen, and edited the poetry and letters of Goronwy Owen and the works of Twm o’r Nant. He did more than any other editor of the time to arouse the interest of ordinary Welsh people in their country’s literature.


Madog ab Owain Gwynedd is said to have sailed with eight ships from Abercerrig near Abergele to search for a new country in the west after tiring of the quarrels between his brothers following their father’s death, and to have landed in Mobile Bay about 1169. In the 16th century, John Dee was the first to claim the New World for the Queen of England on the basis of Madog’s voyage. The descendants of the Welsh who emigrated with Madog were identified with the Mandan Indians living to the west of the Missouri river at the end of the 18th century. The myth came to public notice when the historian John Williams published Farther observations, on the discovery of America, by Prince Madog ab Owen Gwynedd (1792). As a result of Iolo Morganwg’s forgeries this became a strong motivation for emigrating from Wales to America.

The novelist Isaac Craigfryn Hughes (1852-1928) was born in Quakers’ Yard, Glamorgan. He was a miner and was blind for the latter part of his life. Y ferch o Gefn Ydfa (1881?) is the most popular of his six novels, which tells the story of Ann Maddocks (1704-1727), daughter of William Thomas of Cefn Ydfa, a house near Llangynwyd in Glamorgan, and wife of Anthony Maddocks. Her father died when she was a child, and according to the unfounded romantic legend she unwillingly married Maddocks, a wealthy lawyer who was her guardian’s son, although she was in love with a young poet called Wil Hopcyn, who composed the verses “Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn” for her. She is said to have died of a broken heart soon after marrying Maddocks. Iolo Morganwg was the first to claim that Wil Hopcyn was the author of the song, but Hughes added over-emotional details to the story in this novel.

Histori Sawney Beane (ca. 1800) is an extraordinary legend telling the tale of Alexander “Sawney” Beane, head of a 45-member clan in Scotland in the 16th century. His wife Agnes Douglas was accused of being a witch. The clan was responsible for murdering and cannibalizing more than 1,000 people while living undiscovered in a cave between Girvan and Ballantrae for 25 years, until they were discovered and executed on the orders of King James VI. This book about the history of Sawney Beane is a translation from the English.

This of course is only a small selection – the Library’s shelves groan under the weight of books that are full of stories of myths, magic and mayhem. There are boundless hours of entertainment between the covers of these books – search our catalogue to see what stories you will discover.

Covid Passports – 1600 style

Collections - Posted 17-05-2021

Proving one’s state of health may be a current preoccupation with modern would-be travellers, but that is by no means a new phenomenon.

Before he journeyed to Italy with two friends in 1600, Elizabethan author and poet Robert Parry of Tywysog, Denbighshire, tells us in his diary that he had first to obtain a ‘lycence’ for overseas travel from Secretary of State, Sir Robert Cecil. Like the modern passport, this document enjoined those officials whom they would encounter to give them aid and protection as they departed their own land, and whilst they travelled abroad. It was also a means of monitoring the movement of individuals in-and-out of Elizabeth’s rather paranoid realm!

Clutching his vital lycence as he landed at Calais on 22 February, Parry had to face an obstacle to his journey. Intending to travel to Italy through France, the party discovered that areas of Savoy in the Western Alps, and Piedmont in north-west Italy, were experiencing outbreaks of plague, common enough at that time. Quite naturally, the Italians were worried by the spread of the disease:

“the Italians are very curious & circumspect in receavinge any strayngers into theire Contreyes wthout Bulletynes which could not be had but in places free from disseases the meanynge whereof in place more apte I will declare: for that I nothinge doubt, but that this worde bulletyne is straynge to our nation especially those that have not travelled in forren contreyes.”

Not to be thwarted, the intrepid travellers entered Switzerland, and travelled into Italy via that route, thus avoiding the need to satisfy the Italians by producing bulletynes of health!

Robert Parry seems more interested in the word than in the implications of his action. He suggests that this meaning for the English bulletin(s) – adapted from the Italian bullettino – was new. It may not have been accepted into wide-spread parlance, as the earliest instance in the Oxford English Dictionary is its use over forty years later by John Evelyn.

Thankfully, Robert Parry returned safely from his six-month ‘Iter in Italia’, minus the plague, and carrying a new English word as a souvenir. He entered it into his diary, now at the National Library of Wales: the earliest surviving diary written by a Welshman.

Maredudd ap Huw
Curator of Manuscripts


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Sensational Developments: Newsworthy Victorian Photographers

Collections - Posted 10-05-2021

Whilst working from home this last year, one of my tasks was to rebuild a basic spreadsheet of Welsh Photographers (1850 -1920) – names, addresses, dates. In all honesty this became a little tedious, so I started doing a little research. Every now and then I’d have a quick search on Google, which didn’t produce too many results. Then I started using online newspaper sources, searching specific names, as well as the simplest search term -“Photographer”.

Much of what I found were simply advertisements or notices of bankruptcy, quite a lot of bankruptcy actually! But of course, to be really newsworthy the stories had to have a sensational flavour and I found tragedy, assault, theft, accusations of indecent behaviour, drunkenness and fraud! I will visit some of these stories in future writings, but I thought I’d start with an interesting occurrence in the Police Court at Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire on 20th October 1897.

John Martin Powell of Milford Haven, photographer, artist and lay preacher, aged around 60, had been summoned to court by his wife of 32 years who wanted “..Separation and maintenance on the grounds of cruelty,”, something which Mr. Powell, of course, denied. His wife had been living with her daughter for some time and with the help of her sister, had brought the case to court.

The proceedings were progressing, albeit with some vocal outbursts from Powell, when suddenly, “… The court was startled by an hysterical scream from Mrs Powell, who was shrinking horrified away from where her husband was standing. Simultaneously there was a scuffle, and it was seen that Powell was pointing a revolver at his wife.”

Powell was still advancing towards his cowering wife when he was surrounded by half a dozen people, one of whom was his own son-in-law, and the revolver was ripped from his grip by Police Sergeant Brinn. “…It was a question for a moment whether the defendant would be preserved from violence..” as the crowd went into uproar with shouts of “Lynch Him!”, and people tried clambering towards the bench. Mrs. Powell had been ushered from the room and one of the Magistrates, Dr.Griffiths, stood on a chair and “…Appealed to the public to suppress their feelings, threatening to place under arrest anyone who incited a riot. He assured them the magistrates would do their duty by this man, and urged them not to say another word…”

Once calm had be restored, Powell, now handcuffed, stood before the Magistrates and was charged with the attempted murder of his wife and remanded in custody.

On 10th November Powell was brought to Carmarthen Assizes to be tried by Judge and Jury, and you’d think it was a fairly open and shut case. But, no, there was some question as to whether the trigger had actually been pulled. No one could say for certain that they saw Powell’s finger actually on the trigger. Some said they had heard a click, others heard nothing, but on examination the cartridge in the chamber of the gun had indentations as though the hammer had struck but not fired.

The jury retired for fifty minutes, and on their return announced that they had not reached an agreement. “Then why have you returned?” asked the Judge. “We wanted our dinner,” A juror said, to much laughter from the the crowd, “I don’t think we can agree, as we are eight to four”. “I have known eight to convert four. I’m afraid I cannot discharge you,” replied the Judge, then adding, to more laughter, “Not withstanding the fact that you want your dinner.” “I’m very sorry for that,” the Juror said, ”For I shall never be converted.”

To the sound of more laughter the jury was ordered to retire once more, and in quarter of an hour they returned.

“We find the prisoner not guilty of pulling the trigger, but of presenting the revolver for the purpose of intimidating his wife.”

The Judge had to concede that this amounted to a verdict of not guilty and before he discharged Powell he warned that any further cruelty to his wife would result in serious punishment. Ten days later a settlement between Powell and his wife was reached with maintenance of ten shillings a week to be paid. Powell continued in business until 1901.

Simon Evans
Curatorial Assistant, Photographs

Sources: South Wales Echo 21st October 1897.
South Wales Daily Post 10th November 1897
Cardiff Times 13th November 1897
South Wales Daily News 19th November 1897
Carmarthen Weekly Reporter 12th November 1897

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Collecting the Election

Collections - Posted 19-04-2021

When the people of Wales elect a new Senedd on May 6th, a period of frantic political campaigning will come to an end. But while the politicians have been campaigning, the Welsh Poltical Archive has been quietly working to make a record of the campaign for researchers of the future. Staff at the National Library of Wales are recording party election broadcasts and the leaders’ debates on the TV and we’re also making copies of the websites and Twitter feeds of the political parties and individual candidates.

Despite the Covid-19 restrictions and the general move towards online campaigning the leaflet or election address is still one of the most important methods which candidates use to reach electors and many will be sent out during the campaign. The Library holds a large collection (nearly 200 boxes) of election addresses and other campaigning ephmera and it’s one of my favourite collections. While the oldest material in the collection dates from 1837 most of it is from the 20th century and since 1983 the Welsh Political Archive has been helped by a group of supporters across Wales who collect any election ephemera they receive and send it to us to add to the collection. This means that we have a comprehensive collection from all parties and all parts of Wales.

The network of supporters is at work now helping to ensure that the candidates and their promises in the 2021 Senedd Election are recorded in the collection and I’m looking forward to sorting and cataloguing them all over the summer. However, our supporters aren’t able to collect everything so we’d be really pleased to receive any donations of campaign material you receive, especially from independent or minor party candidates or from the constituencies of Alyn and Deeside, Blaenau Gwent, Cardiff North, Clwyd South, or Ynys Môn. You can send them to The Welsh Political Archive, The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, SY23 3BU. Surely that would be better than putting them in the recycling!

Rob Phillips
The Welsh Political Archive


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Who was George Crudge ?

Collections - Posted 12-04-2021

And why is the Library blogging about him?

Ernest George Crudge arrived in the Tregaron area in about 1910. Why he came here is something of a mystery – in the 1911 census he was lodging with David James, Chapel Street, Tregaron. He was 24 and his occupation photographer. In 1912 he married Annie Hogan of Cardigan House, Pontrhydygroes. It is not known if they had met prior to his move to the district or subsequently as in the same census Annie Hogan was working in Aberdare. Their bilingual wedding service was held at Bwlchgwynt Calvinistic Methodist Chapel.

Whether George’s past history was known to his bride is not known. In June 1908 George had been under the influence of a dubious Mr Hoffman who operated, probably fraudulently, under the name F Lewis & Co , Photographers in Tottesdown, Bristol. It seems that on two occasions Crudge used a business card to dupe businesses into letting him hire a bicycle, promising to pay later. He didn’t and was sentenced to a month’s hard labour for “obtaining on June 15th from Percy Harold Taylor the sum of six shillings and sixpence by means of fraud other than false pretences.”

On his arrival in the district he set about earning a living as a photographer. Most of his works survive as real photographic postcards with a caption at the bottom in distinctive upper case white lettering, often featuring a date. The advantage of this format is that as many, or as few, of the desired photograph could be produced as necessary. The reverse of his cards are usually stamped “E. George Crudge, Pontrhydygroes” in purple ink. Crudge produced series of views of Pontrhydygroes, Cwmystwyth and Llanilar. He also photographed communal sheep shearing at farms in a wide area and seems to have dabbled with the idea of publishing printed postcards, though only of Tregaron. The couple seem to have moved from the area during WW1, though he was present when his brother William married Annie’s sister in September 1916, also in Ysbyty Ystwyth.

By 1939 George and Annie were living in Bristol. By this time he was employed in the aircraft industry and died in October 1944, Annie in 1956.
Although his tenure in this part of the world was short his small postcard sized photographs capture aspects of rural communities on whom change was about to be foisted. His posed groups of farmers and their families suggest he was readily accepted into the area. Sadly, none of his original negatives have come to light, unless of course you know differently!

W Troughton, April 2021.

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Archives in Danger

Collections - Posted 06-04-2021

Archives and Records Council Wales have recently been have awarded a Covid-19 Archives Fund Grant of £50,000 from The National Archives. This generous award will allow us to employ a Records at Risk Officer for Wales to lead on the development of a national strategy to identify records at risk due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Covid-19 pandemic has a number of implications for the continued operation of businesses, charities, and other community organisations, with many closing with very little warning. The records created by these bodies have historical value, not only for their own business operation, but for the evidence they provide of their part in the life of the local community and of the story of Wales at a national level. Many of these organisations are the life blood of our local communities, and their records form an integral part of the local and national story. These are the places where people live their lives, work, shop, meet their friends and come together as a community, and their records will tell us more about how people in Wales really lived.

Over the coming year, as the country emerges from the pandemic, an increasing number of these types of local organisation will face closure, or may be unable to continue to care for their historic assets. It is crucial that that there is a coherent approach to ensure that any vulnerable archives and records are safeguarded for future generations. It will be the role of the Records at Risk Officer to survey the current record keeping landscape in Wales, to ensure that records at risk are identified, and to develop the framework for a longer-term national Records at Risk Strategy for Wales.

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NLW on Google Arts & Culture

Collections - Posted 22-03-2021

In early March the National Library of Wales’ presence on the Google Arts & Culture cultural platform was launched. Many of the Library’s unique digital collections have been released on the Google Arts & Culture website and app bringing Welsh culture to the attention of the world.

The National Library is the first national cultural institution from Wales to share content on the Google Arts & Culture platform and joins over 2000 other partners from around the world who are committed to making art and culture available to everyone wherever they are. For the first time, our collections will sit alongside other cultural content from around the world.

Currently there are 190 items from the National Library’s collections available to explore in an online gallery on the Google Arts & Culture website and app. These include photographs by iconic early photographers such as Mary Dillwyn, works of art by one of Wales’ favourite artists, Kyffin Williams, and treasures such as a map of Wales by John Speed.

Sharing high resolution images on Google Arts & Culture enables audiences to explore items for themselves, to look in detail at objects and to learn about them through a variety of visual and audio-visual media. It is possible to view the ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ music manuscript and at the same time listen to the first recording of the anthem for example, as well as looking at paintings of some of our iconic castles alongside Google ‘street view’ images of them.

This is also the first time Google Arts & Culture has included the Welsh language on its digital platform. In order to view the content in Welsh you will need to change your language settings on Google and there are instructions on the Library’s website on how to do this.

The Library plans to add more items and curate more digital stories over the coming months.


Digital Access

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Letters of the artist, engraver and poet David Jones

Collections / New Accessions - Posted 15-03-2021

On 19 August 2020, with generous assistance from the Friends of the National Libraries, the National Library of Wales purchased at auction a substantial group of letters of the artist, engraver and poet David Jones (1895-1974) to his friend Valerie Wynne-Williams (née Price).

When they first met in 1958 Jones was in his early sixties and Price nearly forty years his junior. Whilst their relationship was entirely platonic, Jones was undoubtedly besotted with Valerie and the letters are certainly, in part, love letters to her. He addresses her throughout by her pet name ‘Elri’, occasionally decorating her name with illustrations of flowers and birds. His infatuation continued long after Valerie married her fiancée Michael Wynne-Williams in early 1960.



The letters concern his usual preoccupations such as his declining health, his living conditions in successive lodgings in Harrow-on-the-Hill and Harrow and his struggles with his art, but also his deep interest in Wales, the Welsh language and Welsh history. In this last regard Valerie was an ideal correspondent, being a Welsh speaker and a supporter of, and later a parliamentary candidate for, Plaid Cymru.

Between them David and Valerie knew many stalwarts of the Welsh language cultural and political establishment and in the letters the likes of Saunders Lewis, Gwynfor Evans, Aneirin Talfan-Davies and Keidrych Rhys jostle for space with Jones’ other friends such as T. S. Eliot, Stephen Spender and Harman Grisewood.

The letters contain several illustrations, including pigs, ponies and a sleeping cat, a portrait of a beautiful woman and the view (drawn from memory) of Stonehenge as seen from his tent whilst stationed on Salisbury Plain in 1915. There are several of his distinctive inscriptions, mostly in Welsh, the most impressive being a version of his inscription commemorating the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in 1282.

The letters are unpublished but were made use of by Thomas Dilworth for his recent biography David Jones: Engraver, Soldier, Painter, Poet (London, 2017).

The National Library of Wales is home not only to David Jones’s personal library but also to his main archive, consisting of personal papers, correspondence and literary and artistic works. His letters to Valerie Wynne-Williams are another significant addition to our holdings, complementing as they do the sixty letters from her to Jones and a handful of draft letters from Jones already in the archive. They are also the second significant group of David Jones papers recently acquired with the aid of a Friends of the National Libraries grant, following the purchase at auction of his letters to Morag Owen in November 2019.

The National Library remains keen to acquire further groups of David Jones’s correspondence, in particular to complement letters already in the archive. We are especially interested in correspondence reflecting his interest in Wales and Welsh affairs, such a notable and interesting feature of his letters to Valerie and Morag.

The letters have now been catalogued (reference number NLW MS 24167E) and are available to access in the Library’s reading room.


Rhys M. Jones
Assistant Manuscripts Librarian

Wynnstay connections in the papers of James Harris

Collections - Posted 08-03-2021

This article aims to explore some musical connections between the Wynnstay estate records at the National Library of Wales and the Harris family papers deposited by the Earl of Malmesbury at Hampshire Record Office.

In the Library’s printed collections is a substantial volume entitled Music and Theatre in Handel’s World by Donald Burrows and Rosemary Dunhill (Oxford : Oxford University Press 2002). It contains edited extracts from the family papers of James Harris (1709-1780), who directed the concerts and music festivals in Salisbury for almost fifty years.

James Harris knew Handel personally and his brother was a beneficiary of the composer’s last will. He was MP for Christchurch from 1761 and he held several other prestigious public appointments. His duties frequently took him to London, which presented his family with ample opportunity to attend the theatres and musical concerts there. The Harris family letters and diaries supply a lively contemporary commentary on the cultural life of the capital. Familiar figures in their world included David Garrick, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Charles Burney, Thomas Arne and Johann Christian Bach. Inevitably the Harris family’s musical and theatrical interests brought them into contact with Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, fourth Baronet Wynnstay (1749-1789).



Sir Watkin had inherited the Wynnstay estate as an infant, upon the death of his father in 1749. As might be expected of a prominent landowner, he was MP for Shropshire and Denbighshire but political ambition was not the prime motivator in his life. He was renowned instead for his extravagant patronage of culture. The Wynnstay estate records provide the evidence of his lavish expenditure on art, music and theatre, the indulgence of his interests, within exactly the same social milieu as the Harris family.

Sir Watkin was a steward at the annual music festival at St Paul’s to benefit the Corporation of the Sons of the Clergy and he was treasurer of the committee for Antient Concerts. His London residence provided the venue for private concerts given by the popular musicians of the day. His musical tastes had probably developed while he was still at Westminster School. From an early age he knew John Parry, the famous blind harpist, who had been associated with Wynnstay in his father’s time, probably since 1741.

John Parry frequently accompanied his patron to perform in London during the 1740s. Historical sources record that he gave other concerts in Leeds, Oxford and Cambridge. He also appeared at Salisbury, as Jane Collier described in a letter to James Harris, dated 1 April 1744:

The famous Mr Parry gave us a voluntary on the Welsh harp, in hopes of inclining the company to be at his benefit next Tuesday night.

Two days later Mary Smith referred to Parry ‘as a successor of [the biblical] David’s who is come from Wales harp in hand, to exorcise the evil spirit, & raise contributions here; & last Tuesday advertised a benefit for himself without the least ceremony, at halfe a crown a ticket; & this very night is to have another’.

The Harris papers contain several direct references to Sir Watkin and Lady Williams Wynn.

In spring 1770 James Harris attended several musical events in London, including a concert by J. C. Bach, and catches and glees at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket, conducted by Thomas Arne. On 20 March he dined at the Catch Club where, unsurprisingly, the company included Sir Watkin Williams [Wynn], who had been a member since 1768. It may be noted that Sir Watkin was also a regular attendee at the concerts arranged by J.C. Bach and Karl Abel.

One interesting celebrity of the London stage was the Italian castrato, Gaetano Guadagni, star of Gluck’s opera Orfeo ed Eurydice, premiered in Vienna in 1762. Guadagni and the cellist, Stephen Paxton, both spent eight weeks at Wynnstay in the late summer of 1770 and gave solos in a concert to celebrate the installation of the new organ in Ruabon church. On 12 January 1771 Richard Owen Cambridge reported to James Harris that Fielding menaced Guadagni, referring to the magistrate, Sir John Fielding, a month before the prosecution of Guadagni and Theresa Cornelys for staging unlicensed operas at Carlisle House, Soho Square: for hire, gain or reward without license. The Wynnstay accounts for March 1771 noted a payment to Guadagni for a private performance at Sir Watkin’s first London house in Grosvenor Square. The content of the concert was not specified but Guadagni dedicated the libretto of Orfeo to his benefactor, claiming that he sang for no financial gain! James Harris’s wife, Elizabeth, wrote to her son, James [future first Earl of Malmesbury] in May 1771: ‘Guadagni……is the finest acter [sic], the finest figure, & the finest voice imaginable, & is undoubtedly the most insolent of all fellows; he gives out that he acts only to oblige Sir Watkins Williams [sic] & takes no reward whatever’.

Given Sir Watkin’s propensity for theatre, it was no surprise to encounter him at Lady Townshend’s house just before a May Day masquerade at the Pantheon in 1772, dressed as a milkmaid! Elizabeth Harris gleefully described to her son:

…a most jolly party of milkmaids with the May Day garland. Sir Watkins William Wynne [sic] carried the pail and was a most excellent figure; Lady Williams Wynn, Lady Frances Wyndham and another danc’d round the pail in the true milk maid stile.



In the spring of 1775 the Harris family attended a ‘musical breakfast’ hosted by Sir Watkin and Lady Williams Wynn in their newly renovated house at 20, St James’s Square. The lavish interior, designed by Robert Adam, included an exquisitely decorated music room equipped with chandeliers, music stands and a Snetzler chamber organ. Elizabeth Harris described the event to her son James, who was then in Berlin, 5 May 1775:

The rooms below are elegant and large; the music room is very judiciously ornamented, a fine picture of St Cecilia by Reynolds, Orpheus by Dance and many smaller paintings in the musical way. The upper floor is not quite finish’d so not open’d. All the fine world were there……..The music was all Handelian.

More details of the interior decoration may be discovered in the Wynnstay accounts.

The Wynnstay accounts recorded the names of the musicians who played and sang at Sir Watkin’s concerts during the 1770s: Giardini, Baumgarten, Linton, [Richard] Hay, [Stephen] Paxton, Sykes, Noferi and Meredith, among others. This last name was not mentioned by James Harris but an editorial note draws attention to the Wynnstay connection. On 12 December 1774 Harris attended a concert at the Pantheon, noting only the conductor, Giardini, and the soprano, Agujari. The names of the other singers at the Pantheon for the winter season of 1774-5 are known from contemporary concert advertisements and they included the Welsh bass, Mr Meredith.

Edward Meredith was reputedly talent-spotted by Sir Watkin Williams Wynn while singing at his work in a Wrexham cooper’s shop. His career is described in Charles Avison in Context, ed. Roz Southey and Eric Cross (Oxon ; New York, NY : Routledge 2017). He was trained, partly at least, at Sir Watkin’s expense; the Wynnstay accounts for 1773 recorded 165 lessons for Mr Meredith. His first known public performance was at Durham in August 1772, in a benefit concert organised by William Paxton, the brother of the cellist. Meredith sang to acclaim in Handel’s Messiah at the Haymarket Theatre, London, in February 1773. Despite his subsequent success in the London concert venues he left the capital in 1778 to take up employment as a ‘singing man’ at Durham Cathedral, where he worked with Thomas Ebdon, Matthias Hawdon and the Welsh tenor, William Evance. Having taken the trouble to appoint him, the Cathedral authorities must have been exasperated by his frequent departures to Wynnstay, where he took part in the dramas and music festivals of his erstwhile patron.

James Harris died in December 1780. It is regrettable that he did not live to witness the colossal Handel commemoration celebration at Westminster Abbey and the Pantheon in 1784, under the management of the Concert of Antient Music. The organising committee included the Earls of Sandwich and Exeter, and needless to say, Sir Watkin Williams Wynn.


  • Donald Burrows and Rosemary Dunhill, Music and Theatre in Handel’s World (Oxford : Oxford University Press 2002).
  • Patricia Howard, ‘Guadagni in the Dock : a crisis in the career of a castrato’ in Early Music, Vol. 27, No. 1, Music and Spectacle (Feb., 1999), pp. 87-95
  • Roz Southey and Eric Cross (ed.), Charles Avison in Context (Oxon ; New York, NY : Routledge 2017)

Hilary Peters
Assistant Archivist

Augusta Hall and the traditional Welsh dress

Collections - Posted 01-03-2021

As today marks St David’s Day, I’m sure many of you – young and old – have dressed for the occasion, either by way of the increasingly popular Welsh rugby or football shirts, or the more traditional waistcoat and flat cap, or characteristic tall hat, apron and shawl that has come to embody our national dress. But what’s the history behind the traditional Welsh costume?

The costume is linked with Augusta Hall, Lady Llanover (also known by her bardic name, ‘Gwenynen Gwent’). She was an important patron and sponsor of folk culture in Wales during the nineteenth century, especially with regards to music and dance. She was born in Monmouthshire in 1802 and became an influential member of the Cymreigyddion y Fenni society, along with her friend Thomas Price (Carnhuanawc).

Today, she is primarily recognised for her image of the traditional Welsh costume. In her Eisteddfod-winning essay in 1834, ‘The Advantages resulting from the Preservation of the Welsh Language and National Costumes of Wales’, she argued that women in Wales should wear clothes made from traditional Welsh wool, as opposed to the cheaper cotton fabrics that were becoming increasingly popular at the time. It is possible that she commissioned a series of watercolours of women’s costumes from various parts of Wales, including Cardiganshire and Pembrokeshire, in the volume Dull-wisgoedd Cymreig by Cadwaladr (1830) [NLW Drawing vol. 299].



She tried to promote her vision of the Welsh dress, that included the typical hat, petticoat and bedgown, within her circle and beyond, but without much luck. Aside from forcing her servants in Llanover to dress in this way and compelling some of her closest acquaintances to do so also, it would appear that her efforts to popularise the dress on a larger scale were unsuccessful. It is debatable whether the evidence exists to support the common belief that she was responsible for its ‘invention’. Nonetheless, her version of the dress and perceived role in its popularity has become heavily linked with the story of Wales’ national costume and how it is recognised today.

Happy St David’s Day to all!


Further reading:

Michael Freeman, ‘Lady Llanover and the Welsh Costume Prints‘, The National Library of Wales Journal, vol. XXXIV, no. 2 (2007), pp. 235-252


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