The National Library of Wales hosts the second Wikipedia languages conference
On July the 5th and 6th, The National Library of Wales hosted the second Celtic Knot Wicipedia Language Conference.
The conference is quite unique in its ambitions – with the focus on how small and minority languages can grow and develop Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects in their language.
Wikipedia has nearly 300 language editions but some have just a hand full of editors and a few thousand articles. The challenges faced by these communities are often very different to those faced by much bigger Wikipedias. The Celtic Knot conference focused on discussing and addressing some of these issues, such as technical support, community building and partnerships.
The conference was attended by 55 delegates from all over the world, with people attending from as far afield as South Africa, Norway, Spain and Germany. The Celtic Nations were well represented too, with delegates from Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall, Brittany and, of course, Wales. We are grateful to the Wikimedia Foundation for funding a number of scholarships which allowed us to help volunteers travel to the event.
Delegates being welcomed to the conference by Jason Evans, National Wikimedian
Day one featured a structured programme of presentations and workshops, and the conference was opened by the Welsh Government Minister for Welsh and Lifelong Learning, Eluned Morgan AM, who spoke very positively of Wikipedia as a means of supporting the development of the Welsh language. And she spoke of the importance of the work that the National Library of wales has done in this area, thanks in part to Welsh Government funding.
Eluned Morgan AM speaking about the value of Wikipedia in giving access to Welsh language information
Wikimedia UK’s Wales manager Robin Owain then spoke, as eloquently as ever, about the growth of the Welsh Wikipedia. The Minister, Robin and several others spoke in Welsh with simultaneous translation and the audience seemed to enjoy listening to the Welsh language, some hearing it for the first time.
We were treated to a number of inspiring presentations and workshops during the day. Ewan MacAndrew of Edinburgh University ran a translation workshop and there were a number of Wikidata talks and workshops led by Lea Lacroix of Wikimedia Deutschland. Presentations highlighting the use of Wikipedia for, or within education were particularly popular, with Aaron Morris of Wici Môn discussing the impact of his work with school children and Koldo Biguri of the Basque Wikimedia user group talking about the Basque Wikipedia for children, or ‘Txikipedia’. The great work of the Basque Wikimedia community in this area was further highlighted by Inaki Lopez deLuzuriaga who spoke about their wider education programme, which is supported by the Basque government.
Pau Cabot of Catalonia talking about using Wikidata to generate infoboxes on Wikipedia
After a long day, delegates were treated to a trip on the Aberystwyth Cliff Railway for food and drinks at Y Consti cafe. The National Library of Wales choir kindly sang us all some traditional Welsh songs before we had a Breton folk dancing lesson!
A group of delegates discussing long into the evening
On the second day we kicked off with the a presentation on the Irish Wikipedia and a journey through language gaps on Wikidata, by the library’s very own Wikidata visiting scholar, Simon Cobb. A personal highlight for me, was a video presentation by Subhanshish Panigrahi, a National Geographics explorer who works with Wikimedia India. His talk focused on the importance of recording and preserving endangered languages, and highlighted an Indian dialect which is has just one serving speaker. For me, this brought home the importance of supporting and encouraging the use of minority languages before their use drops to unsustainable levels.
After lunch we ran an unconference session, where delegates set their own agenda. There were data workshops, strategy discussions, lightning talks and even a tour of the library. Delegates from Cornwall were thrilled to view important Cornish language manuscripts from the library’s collection.
Planning the unconferenced sessions
We all came together again for a productive group discussion before the National Librarian Linda Tomos closed the conference with a brilliant talk about the importance of the National Libraries work with Wikipedia and virtual tour through some of the libraries most treasured and important collections.
Feedback from delegates suggest the conference was a great success, and everyone indicated that they would attend the conference again next year. We will continue to work with interested parties to find a suitable home for the conference next year and Wikimedia Norge have kindly agreed to look at hosting the conference in 2020. We really hope the conference, and the worlds smaller language Wikipedia’s can continue to grow over the coming years, and we thank everyone who was involved in making this years event so successful.
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
Welsh estate maps 1: Property, Place and Power
In his influential book, Social Formation and Symbolic Landscape, the cultural geographer Denis E. Cosgrove (1948-2008) made the important assertion that:
‘Landscape constitutes a discourse, through which social groups historically have framed themselves and their relations with both the land, and with other human groups’.
This statement is entirely applicable to landed estates, which were dominant structures in the life of Wales from the late-medieval period, through to the early decades of the 20th century. From Mostyn, Penrhyn, Baron Hill and Nannau in the north, through to the sprawling Wynnstay lands, Powis Castle on the border, Trawsgoed and Gogerddan in mid-Wales and on to Bute, Tredegar, Cawdor and Plymouth lands further south – almost every corner of the Welsh landscape has at some point been influenced by the priorities of an estate. These estates came in all shapes and sizes, with their character and composition varying according to the interests, identities and influence of their owners and the nature of their geographical and community settings.
Estate maps which developed in England from the 1570s and became more widespread in Wales from the mid-18th century, formed part of the rich and varied accumulations of records which were generated by these estates over the course of their existence. Many of these records have survived in the hundreds of estate archives and solicitors’ collections which have been deposited in repositories such as the National Library, Bangor University Archives and local record offices across Wales.
These estate archives contain a huge variety of record types: title deeds, settlements, wills, surveys, rentals, leases, accounts, correspondence, receipts, legal papers, architectural plans, enclosure documents and official commissions – sometimes stretching across centuries. These records were produced as part of the acquisition, development and management of estates, and to ensure their transfer through inheritance.
Estate maps and surveys should not be considered in isolation from the corpuses of related records found within estate archives. Analysed within this context, they provide vivid insights into how the owners of Welsh estates appropriated, fashioned and inscribed the landscape in ways which communicated their self-identity: their social, political, religious and economic values; their status, tastes, power and wealth.
These maps were often created as working documents, displayed and used in estate offices and country houses to assist with the management of a landed patrimony, providing the owners of estates and their agents with visual representations of the territory subject to their control. Writing to Owen Meyrick of Bodorgan in 1725, the multi-talented Lewis Morris (1701-65) referred to his recently-completed survey of the Anglesey estate, boasting that ‘he can scarce believe that ever a gentleman hath such an insight of his estates as he is likely to have from these maps’. The use of maps as tools of estate management can be seen in the additions that were often made to them over the years: pencil marks denoting boundary changes, sales, new tenants or references to other records held in the muniment room.
For centuries, ownership of land constituted a primary signifier of status and power in Welsh society. The ability to retain control of this land, add to it and then pass it on to future generations of the same ‘blood and name’ framed the existence of those dynasties which dominated Welsh society up until the demise of estates in the early-20th century. Together with records such as valuations and rentals, estate maps and surveys can provide indications of the territorial extent of an individual’s influence; and if part of a long chronological series of records, can show how a family acquired, expanded, consolidated, ‘improved’ or indeed lost their landed interest over a succession of generations. The maps were often commissioned at points of change: at times of inheritance, purchase or sale, or indeed to provide blueprints for future works. Estate maps were therefore fully bound up in a consciousness of dynastic pride and territoriality, expressed most assertively through the display of coats of arms and other heraldic symbols on the face of the document.
As well as giving an indication of the extent of an estate (or part therefore) these maps also provide valuable insights into how their owners moulded their dominions to enhance their wealth and to imprint their identities – their power and status – within the landscape. It is no surprise that the plas or country house is usually the most prominent feature depicted on estate maps – reflecting its importance in the locality and its status as the primary architectural symbol of its owner’s influence over the surrounding community. Indeed, detailed depictions of country houses are often included in the margins of estate maps.
In addition to the country house with its outbuildings, gardens and parklands, estate maps can also depict farms, fields, roads, woodlands, mills, churches, towns, walls, ponds, trees, boundaries, bridges, industrial sites such as mines and quarries and occasionally even livestock or hunting scenes. All of these physical features were shaped by the priorities of the estate to which they belonged and served, in varying degrees, to inscribe certain values and concepts into the landscape. Some estate owners invested significant money and energy in creating Designed Landscapes, or in schemes of ‘improvement’. A printed map of the Hafod estate, produced to accompany George Cumberland’s Attempt to Describe Hafod (1796), gives some indication of Thomas Johnes’ (1748-1816) efforts to draw out the picturesque qualities of his landholdings, with numerous ‘walks’ and ‘viewing points’ marked out on the map. All estate maps suggest ways in which estates contributed to place-making.
They also provide snapshots of the theatre on which the landholding elites of Wales developed and negotiated those all-important social and community relations – with tenants, neighbours, local-clergy, servants and employees – which underpinned their position in local society. The names of tenants or tenements are occasionally inscribed on the maps or feature in adjoining documentation (often missing), sometimes with details of leases, rents and services. The estate landscapes depicted by maps were lived in, with cottages and farms providing housing and the wider activities of the estate sustaining a range of work and employment.
In this sense the maps provide unique entry points for exploring that discourse between power, people and place which underpinned the creation of the symbolic landscapes and social structures talked about by Cosgrove.
Notwithstanding the excellent work of Bob Silvester, research into Welsh estate maps remains slight, despite the numerous insights they can provide into Wales’ landscape history. At the Institute for the Study of Welsh Estates, we hope to play our part in addressing this deficit over the coming years.
Sarah A. Bendall, Maps, Land and Society: A history, with a carto-bibliography, of Cambridgeshire estate maps, 1600-1836 (Cambridge, 1992)
Denis E. Cosgrove, Social Formation and Symbolic Landscape (2nd edn., Madison, 1998)
P.D.A. Harvey, ‘English Estate Maps: Their early history and their use as historical evidence’, in David Buisseret (ed.), Rural Images: Estate Maps in the Old and New Worlds (Chicago, 1996), 27-61
Colin Thomas, ‘Estate Surveys as Sources in Historical Geography’, National Library of Wales Journal 14, 4 (December, 1966), 451-69
Hilary M. Thomas, A Catalogue of Glamorgan Estate Maps (Cardiff, 1992)
R.J. Silvester, Mapping Montgomeryshire: Estate maps from 1589 to 1840’, Montgomeryshire Collections 100 (2012), 149-80.
When Thomas Pennant evoked the view, on a rare clear day, from the top of Snowdon, he remembered it as a map:
In a former tour, I saw from it the county of Chester, the high hills of Yorkshire, part of the north of England, Scotland, and Ireland: a plain view of the Isle of Man; and that of Anglesea lay extended like a map beneath us, with every rill visible. I took much pains to see this prospect to advantage; sat up at a farm on the west till about twelve, and walked up the whole way.
Other travellers in Wales who mention maps often use them in the same, metaphorical, way to describe extensive views. Many, indeed, borrow Pennant’s image, particularly when they find themselves at the summit of Snowdon. Henry Wigstead, though pessimistic of the chances of actually seeing anything, claimed that ‘when the prospect is unobstructed, it is the most wonderful map imagination can form.’
By the end of the century we start to find more references to people using real maps, to plan their routes and to interpret the landscape around them. Sometimes, their observations reveal interesting mismatches between the way places are represented and the actual terrain. William Hutton, describing the dirty, straggling little village of ‘Dinas Mouddy’ (Dinas Mawddwy) is much amused by its historic claims to ‘considerable eminence in the scale of Welch towns’. ‘I had observed also’, he notes wryly, ‘its name distinguished with bold letters in our maps’. More dramatically, his experience in Snowdonia points up the problems with reading contemporary maps for gradient. Having successfully identified ‘a sheet of water, a mile long, and three quarters wide […] which, by the map, I knew must be Ogwen Pool’, he finds himself quite literally brought up short:
But what was my surprize, when, at the extremity of the pool, I instantly found myself upon a precipice two hundred feet high, and burst, in a moment, upon a most beautiful valley, nearly one mile wide and four long.
The mineralogist Arthur Aiken experienced no such ‘surprize’, having taken the precaution of purchasing John Evans’s beautifully detailed large-scale nine-sheet map of 1795, ‘pasted on canvas, and folded up into single sheets for the conveniency of carriage’. With this, he and his companions could trace ‘every turning of the road, every winding of every rivulet’. Even more gratifyingly for the geologist:
the plan of every mountain is given with such accuracy that a person conversant with the forms of mountains may, by a bare inspection of the map, distinctly trace the course of the primitive, secondary, and limestone ridges through the whole of North Wales.
After 1797 most travellers mentioning maps are referring specifically to John Evans’s smaller map, published by his son two years after his death. For William Bingley, travelling on foot in 1798, it was ‘the correctest map I ever travelled by’, and particularly accurate in its depiction of roads. When, a few years later, he published an expanded version of his Tour, he felt obliged to include his own map ‘compiled from the most authentic sources, to which I could have access, and corrected by my own observations’. This, he explained, was not due to his superior cartographical skills, but rather because ‘Mr John Evans’s ‘Map of North Wales’, which contains by far the fewest errors of any that has yet been published, now sells at the enormous price of a guinea’.
One of the most fascinating responses to Evans’s 1797 map appears in a lively description of several tours in north Wales by the Birmingham writer Catherine Hutton, who travelled with her father William Hutton in the late 1790s, and like him, kept a record of their experiences. An account of her tour appeared as a series of letters to her brother in the Monthly Magazine in the 1810s, but the manuscript version, held here in the National Library, is more detailed, and more intimate. Catherine Hutton was obsessed with the mountains of north Wales. She familiarized herself with their names and their contours – counting them off, for example, as she rode along the eastern shore of Anglesey, enjoying the dramatic line of peaks across the Menai Straits. Suffering acutely from vertigo, Hutton, though a keen rider and pedestrian, could not emulate her seventy-six-year-old father in his energetic ascent of Snowdon. But her descriptions of the mountains, seen from the valley floor, from different angles and in different weather conditions, are vivid and full of a kind of reverence.
Towards the end of the final tour in 1800 Hutton writes from the new hotel at Capel Curig with a description of Snowdonia that verges on the visionary. Drawing on the Biblical phrase ‘an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens’ (2 Corinthians 5:1) she tells her brother:
I have fancied Snowdonia a city not made with hands, whose Builder and Maker is God. I have bounded my fancied city by the district of Arvon; an imaginary line drawn from the Rivals to Pont Aber Glaslyn; the vale beginning at Pont Aber Glaslyn, and ending at Pont y Pair, and the Vale of Conwy, from Pont y Pair to the sea.
The limits and features of this eternal city are described at length and with precision: it is intersected by huge ‘streets’ (the deep valleys between the ranges) and has Snowdon as its ‘temple’. To give her brother a clearer idea of its form, she notes: ‘I have annexed a sketch of Snowdonia, from Evans’s map, which will explain my ideas better than all the words I could use’. This ‘sketch’, folded neatly into her hand-written account, is a map of a map—a spiritual map derived from a geographical one—a visual record of Catherine Hutton’s, creative, imaginative grasp of the complex mountainous space around her.
Derek Williams ‘John Evans’ Map of North Wales 1797’, Ystrad Alun 11 (Nadolig, 2010).
Mary-Ann Constantine, ‘”The bounds of female reach”: Catherine Hutton’s Fiction and her Tours in Wales’, Romantic Textualities: Literature and Print Culture, 1780–1840, no. 22, 92-105 Curious Travellers
4800 Welsh portraits added to Wikimedia Commons and Wikidata
Over the last 4 years the National Library of Wales has worked with Wikimedia to provide open access to more than 10,000 public domain images. These include the Welsh Landscape Collection, photographs, maps and manuscripts.
This partnership has led to more than 455 million views of Wikipedia articles containing National Library images to date.
Now the Library is pleased to announce that nearly 5000 portrait prints, photographs and paintings have been placed in the public domain on Wikimedia Commons.
Along with the images, the Library’s National Wikimedian has also shared rich metadata for every image as linked open data on Wikidata.
The Library’s main goal in releasing such content is to increase access to our collections and to contribute to the creation and sharing of knowledge about Wales and its people.
It is now hopped that the Wikimedia community will begin to use these images to illustrate Wikipedia articles. The National Library also plans to run a project to increase engagement with this collection, and hopes that volunteers will be encouraged to create Wikipedia articles about the Welsh sitters, artists, printers and photographers involved in the collection.
Because all these images are freely downloadable and in the public domain, we also encourage others to reuse them for any purpose they see fit, from education to the creative industries this is a free resource for everybody.
The creation of linked data for the collection also offers interesting opportunities for researchers and academics. For the first time we can properly disambiguate (untangle) the names of the artists and sitters in order to better understand the makeup of the collection. For example 12 different individuals named John Jones have been identified in the collection, and we now know who they all are, and many are now connected via Wikidata to Wikipedia articles or Dictionary of Welsh Biography entries.
We can query and visualize the data in a number of ways using a Sparql query service. For example, we can analyze which engravers copied works by specific artists, and we can see the most frequently depicted types of people (clerics, by a country mile) and features, such as coats of arms, and border decoration.
visualisation of the data showing which printers copied work by certain artists
Visualization of the most frequently depicted things in the collection
We can easily visualize the sitters who appear most in the images using Wikidata’s ‘Main subject’ property. General Thomas Picton, a Welsh born war hero is depicted most often, with 32 portraits. Interestingly his Wikipedia article reveals he was not such a great hero after all, having been convicted of abusing women.
Visualization of the most frequently depicted sitters
We can also explore the collection chronologically and a first look reveals a clear correlation between the popularity of certain types of portrait and historical events. For example the number of images of preachers and clergymen increase dramatically at times of Religious revival.
A timeline of the most frequently depicted things in the collection over time
Wikidata is a multilingual platform, so it also allows us to utilize the multilingual nature of Wikidata’s descriptive labels to view our data in dozens of languages. The Metadata held by the library for this collection was only available in English, however, by converting it to Wikidata 83% of the 40,000 data items were automatically available in Welsh, thanks to the work of Wikidata volunteers, who have added Welsh language labels to many Wikidata items. We hope to engage with Welsh speaking volunteers in order to make 100% of the data available in Welsh.
Linking our heritage
Another advantage of sharing our data on a public platform like Wikidata is that many other institutions have done the same, and this means that we can begin to build an extensive network of connected data. The data allows us to connect our own collections together, so for example we can see which publishers have published works in both the Welsh Portrait Collection but also the Welsh Landscape Collection. We have also been able to quickly identify over 400 portraits of people featured in the dictionary of Welsh Biography, and we are now connecting those portraits to the Welsh Biography Website.
All images by one publisher. Blue denotes images in the Welsh Portrait Collection and yellow shows images published by the same publisher which now form part of the Welsh Landscape Collection
Beyond our own institution, we can see which of our sitters also have portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, and we can identify the artists and sitters in our collection who have an Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry. In this way the worlds cultural heritage can be connected together to provide the public with easy access, in one place, to a rich and diverse range of sources.
At the beginning of summer in 1818, a group of enterprising emigrants from the Cilcennin area in Ceredigion were about to complete an extremely long and troublesome journey. Before embarking on this trip, it is unlikely that any of them had roamed any further than their own county, but the desire to seek a better life had driven them to travel over three thousand miles from their homeland to North America.
Their intention was to join the Welsh settlers who had already established a community in Paddy’s Run in western Ohio – and who could blame them? Life in rural Ohio was a far cry from rural Wales. There were flat and fertile lands in the Paddy’s Run area and plenty of opportunities for industrious emigrants. Communities in Wales were suffering oppression and poverty due to an increase in population, high taxes and rents and a series of poor harvests in 1815 and 1816. It is no wonder that John Jones Tirbach, the innkeeper of “The Ship” in the village of Pennant, managed to persuade six extended families to leave their native land and sail America.
On 1 April 1818, a group of around 36 emigrants left Aberaeron harbour bound for Liverpool and from there they ventured across the Atlantic. After a voyage of almost two months – and the loss of a little girl at sea – the pioneers landed in Chesapeake Bay. They then proceeded in wagons to Pittsburgh and down the Ohio River on flat boats. Their ambitious journey and some of their first experiences in the new country have been documented by Virgil H Evans, in The Family Tree of John Jones Tirbach.
Landing in the town of Gallipolis in southeast Ohio was a significant turning point in the story these courageous Welsh pioneers. It was at that point that they decided to stay put rather than continue on their journey to Paddy’s Run. They later became known as “The 1818 Welsh” and the founders of the famous Welsh community in the counties of Jackson and Gallia in southeast Ohio.
Only a few Welsh emigrants followed them during the years that followed. However, the emigration from Ceredigion started anew in the thirties when families began packing their bags to join their former neighbours in Jackson and Gallia. By 1850 around 3,000 “Cardis” (inhabitants of Cardiganshire or Ceredigion) had crossed the Atlantic to start a new life in areas such as Tyn Rhos, Moriah, Nebo, Centerville, Peniel, Oak Hill and Horeb. They took their culture, traditions and religion with them and Jackson and Gallia became known as “Little Cardiganshire”!
Two centuries later, the story of “The 1818 Welsh” is still alive on both sides of the Atlantic and the links between southeast Ohio and Ceredigion continue to flourish. Thanks to the efforts of the Madog Center at the University of Rio Grande, benefactors such as Evan and Bet Davis and the organizers of the Cymru-Ohio 2018 celebrations in the Aberaeron area, the relationship between Wales and Ohio is still being nurtured. The history of the emigration has also been documented for future generations of genealogists, researchers and historians thanks to the generosity and vision of Evan and Bet Davis. In partnership with the National Library of Wales, the Wales-Ohio Website was created to chronicle the experiences of the Welsh settlers in Ohio through digital images and interpretative text and to strengthen the bonds that exist between Wales, Ohio and the United States of America.
John Evans (Llwyn-y-Groes), Map of North Wales 1795 & 1797
In the first volume of his Tour in Wales, published in 1778, Thomas Pennant thanks a Mr John Evans of Llwyn y Groes for identifying the ‘vast ditch’ buttressing Basingwerk Abbey in Holywell as Wat’s Dyke, rather than Offa’s. A footnote to his observation states:
This gentleman is now engaged in an actual survey of North Wales, and of publishing a large map of that part of the principality: a work extremely worthy of public encouragement. A further account of the plan will be published in the last page of this volume.
At the end of the book we do indeed find ‘Proposals for publishing by Subscription from an Actual Survey a large six-sheet, and also a smaller Map, of the Six Counties of North Wales by John Evans’. At the bottom of the page, presumably to encourage the subscribers, appears the line: ‘N.B.: the Work is now under the Engraver’s Hands’.
Few of us have not promised to meet unfeasible deadlines, and John Evans had set himself a huge and complex task. But that map was a long time coming by any standards. As Paul Evans has shown, by 1792 Pennant found himself compelled to draft a letter to a local newspaper on behalf of the by now rather irate ‘North Wales Subscribers’, making it clear that unless something happened soon they were considering ‘entering into new arrangements’. In the event the map, twenty years late, was still not published for another three years. In 1795, when it appeared, its creator died. Two years later his son, another John Evans, published the promised ‘smaller Map’, which his father had also prepared.
Most cartographers agree that John Evans’s 1795 work, which was eventually published in nine large sheets, impressively raised the standard of Welsh mapping. Engraved by Evans’ neighbour, Robert Baugh, it has a wonderful clarity of lettering and detail, and comes close to the style of the Ordnance Survey, who would begin their work in Wales in 1810. An informative article by Derek Williams tells us more about the man himself and the circumstances of the map’s creation. Llwyn-y-Groes (now a Grade II listed building), near Llanymynech, is very close to the Shropshire border, and Evans was a landowner with artistic and antiquarian interests. Born in the same year as Thomas Pennant, the two clearly had much in common, and Pennant writes warmly of a visit to the ‘public-spirited’ Mr Evans in his Welsh Tour. Evans also provided information on local sites.
One nice coincidence is that the mysterious Wat’s Dyke noted by Pennant on his ‘home patch’ at Basingwerk near Downing runs a diagonal forty miles down to Maesbury Marsh, only a couple of miles from Evans’s own house. It is marked as a confident black line on the section of the map reproduced here, running in parallel for a few miles at the bottom of the image with Offa’s Dyke, which disappears at Caergwrle just below Mold. A fascination with these border areas runs throughout Pennant’s writings on this eastern edge of Wales, and he draws on the testimony of place-names and (often inscrutable) archaeological monuments to evoke earlier periods of political flux and border warfare.
Twenty years is a long time for any work-in-progress, and one cannot help feeling sympathy for Evans in his attempts to map a landscape undergoing so much change. Turnpike trusts meant new roads were being built; mines were exploited, cotton factories established, and smelting houses blossomed along the coast of the Dee; over in the north-west, Richard Pennant (Thomas’s distant kinsman) ploughed the profits from slavery into a rapidly-growing slate industry. In 1796 Pennant himself would map the distances travelled, rather poignantly, in his History of the Parishes of Whiteford and Holywell: revisiting the little wooded Greenfield valley, whose stream runs from St Winefred’s Well to Basingwerk Abbey, he describes a place now crowded with copper and cotton mills (‘by those behemoths of commerce, our little Jordan was soon drunk up’). Yet this, he insists, is progress, and he is proud of the contribution made by the busy stream, and its local investors, to the greater British economy. Zooming in to the Evans map around Holywell it is hard to tell quite what stage of industrial development is being represented here. The mills may be those little black dots along the stream; there is a ‘coal pit’ on the coast above Bagillt, and a ‘smelting works’ just under the castle at Flint. More clearly marked than the signs of rapid industrialization, however, are the houses and halls of the North Wales gentry, including Pennant’s seat at Downing.
The other big change over those two crucial decades was of course the sheer number of tourists coming in to North Wales, many of them primed by Pennant’s own Tours. As the irate letter from 1792 pointed out:
Of late years the tour of North Wales has become very fashionable, but the crowds who favour us with their company are clamorous after such a director to the picturesque Beauties of our country. When Evans’s map did eventually become available—and particularly after his son issued the smaller version in 1797—it was welcomed by many. My final blog will look at the reception of the Evans map in the 1790s and 1800s, and explore some of the ways it was used by our curious travellers.
Derek Williams ‘John Evans’ Map of North Wales 1797’, Ystrad Alun 11 (Nadolig, 2010).
R. Paul Evans, ‘Thomas Pennant’s Writing on North Wales’ (unpub M.A Dissertation, University of Wales, 1985).
A Map of Wales according to the Antient Divisions of GWYNEDD, POWYS and DINEFAWR; with their respective CANTREVS, subdivided into COMOTS. By Wm Owen (1788)
This is a map of the Welsh past, viewed from the vantage point of the late eighteenth century. It was created at a period when the past, and especially the medieval past, was an object of passionate enquiry amongst an industrious and dynamic group of writers and scholars, many of them based in London.
It’s a complicated, intriguing, map, crowded with evocative names and hidden stories. It first appeared in the second edition of the Rev. William Warrington’s History of Wales (1788), and was designed and drawn by William Owen (1759-1835). Owen, who took the name William Owen Pughe after receiving an inheritance in 1806, was born in Meirionydd but had been living in London since 1776. He joined the Gwyneddigion Society around 1783, and by the time he designed this map (published with an accompanying map showing modern county divisions) he was already deeply involved in various projects aimed at recovering Welsh medieval texts, including the first ever edition of the poems of Dafydd ap Gwilym (1789). That work brought him into contact with, amongst others, Iolo Morganwg, who appears to have played some part in putting him in touch with Warrington.
Who was William Warrington? We know that he came from a family in Wrexham, and that he spent most of his life in orders in the south of England, eventually becoming vicar of Old Windsor. He writes in his preface that his position as an ‘Englishman’ absolves him from accusations of partisanship in his History of Wales, which is full of admiration for the Welsh as defenders of their national liberties against their oppressors over the centuries. An anonymous manuscript and a couple of letters held here in the National Library tell us more about him than was previously known, and help to explain how this much reprinted history came into being in the first place.
It’s a complicated story, involving subtleties of class, precedence and authorship worthy of Jane Austen, but it looks as though Warrington had originally planned to publish an ‘Antiquarian Tour’ of north Wales in the late 1770s. He was revising his manuscript for that purpose when he heard of Thomas Pennant’s impending publication, the Tours in Wales (1778) and realized that they would be, almost literally, treading the same ground. Warrington seems to have backed down and changed his mode of exploring the Welsh past from one which reads the past in situ, on a journey through the landscape, to a more academic, chronological narrative. The success of Pennant’s Tours, and, ten years later, his own History, suggests that he made the right call.
In an excellent article Iolo and Menai Roberts have analysed William Owen’s map from a cartographical point of view. This was the first attempt ever made to visualise the divisions of Wales right down to the level of commotes: to give shape and form, in other words, to the places evoked in the medieval texts. The main source for these names, they show, was a list collated by the scholar Sir John Price (?1502-1555) which had appeared in David Powel’s Historie of Cambria (1584), also an important source for Warrington. Though disparaged by early twentieth-century scholars, who associated William Owen Pughe with his later eccentric spelling reforms (and, worse still, with Iolo Morganwg), the Roberts’s article shows what an achievement this 1788 map really was.
Besides the names themselves, which have an attraction all their own (Perfeddwlad, Anhunog, Yr Ardd Ganol) there are other curiosities to note here. Both Cantre’r Gwaelod and Llys Helig—the drowned territories of Welsh legend—are marked on the map with brief explanatory notes ( ‘This Tract was overflowed about the end of the Sixth Century’); Watts Dyke, not Offa’s Dyke, forms the border with England, and Bristol (Caerodornant), Gloucester (Caerloyw) and Worcester (Caerwrangon) only appear under their Welsh names. ‘Druidical ruins’ appear on the slopes north of Barmouth, and Beddau Gw?r Ardudwy (The Graves of the Men of Ardudwy) are marked just above Harlech. This is a landscape of stories, or rather hints of stories, to be pieced together further from clues and allusions in the slowly-forming canon of early poetry and prose.
The map also marks innumerable battle-sites and castles: not just the usual Edwardian suspects, but scores of others, all testifying to the fact that these ‘Divisions’ were often indeed real divisions, and that medieval Wales was not a settled or peaceful place. The shifting allegiances, the alliances and hostilities of the Welsh kingdoms with each other, and with different factions of Saxons, Normans and English are all evoked in this patchwork-quilt of territories. The constant strife of the middle ages is a recurring theme in later tourist narratives. In 1813 Richard Ayton noted of the peninsulas of Gower and Pembrokeshire that: ‘as both were inhabited by the same people, engaged continually in the same kind of warfare, their general history is necessarily very much alike, and in both of them castles are as multitudinous as milestones.’ Many, like William Warrington himself, felt obliged to conclude that, admirable as that Welsh fighting spirit may have been, they were better off exchanging their ‘wild and precarious liberty’ for a different kind of ‘freedom secured by equal and fixed laws’, through ‘uniting in interests, and mingling in friendship with their conquerors’. Warrington’s conclusion has, inevitably, coloured assessments of him as a historian. But, as William Owen’s beautiful and intriguing map suggests, this does not really do justice to his deep engagement with Wales. There is still much to discover about the intellectual connections between Wales and England at what was a fascinating and significant period for both cultures.
Iolo and Menai Roberts, ‘William Owen (Pughe), y Mapiwr’, National Library of Wales Journal, Vol. XXX, no. 3 (Summer, 1998) 295-322
William Warrington’s ‘Antiquarian Tour’ and his letters to Thomas Pennant will be published on the Curious Travellers website
Tomorrow The National Library of Wales and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales will be holding the third annual Carto-Cymru – Wales Map Symposium at the National Library in Aberystwyth. Our theme this year is Charting the Seas, but for this blog I decided to take a look at some of the great names in Welsh cartography and their achievements.
1) Humphrey Llwyd – Cambriae Typus, 1573
Humphrey Llwyd is the father of Welsh cartography and produced the first printed map specifically of Wales
3) George Owen– Penbrochiæ comitatus, 1602
George Owen’s map of Pembrokeshire includes a number of innovative features such as the depiction of roads and an alphanumeric grid with a place name index giving coordinates
4) Gabriel Thomas – Pennsylvania and West Jersey, 1698
Gabriel Thomas was a Welshman who settled in Pennsylvania and wrote a book about the colony, this book included an early map of the colony produced by the London mapseller Philip Lea.
6) Emanuel Bowen – A New and Accurate Map of South Wales, 1729
Emanuel Bowen’s map of South Wales was the most detailed map of South Wales available when it was published and remained so for a generation.
8) Lewis Evans – A map of the middle British colonies in North America, 1755
Lewis Evans was another Welshman working in America, his map of the British colonies is one of the most important and influential maps of the period, and was still being reproduced at the time of the War of Independence.
9) John Evans– Map of North Wales, 1795
John Evans’s map of North Wales did for that part of the country what Bowen’s map had done for South Wales, i.e. provide a detailed standardised portrayal of the area.
10) Robert Roberts – Darluniad y Ddaear, 1805
Robert Roberts was a Geographer from Holyhead; he produced some of the first maps to be published in the Welsh language. This map of the world was originally published in the Rev. Thomas Charles’s Y Geiriadur Ysgrythyrol (The Scripture Dictionary) and was reissued a number of times in this and other publications
Dr Bob Silvester, FSA, Visiting Professor, University of Chester takes part in our #LoveMaps campaign.
A professional archaeologist for all of his working life, first in Devon and Somerset and later in Norfolk, he moved to Wales in 1989 when appointed deputy director of the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust. He retired from CPAT at the beginning of 2016, and for research purposes he is now affiliated to the Department of History and Archaeology at the University of Chester. His interest in all types of historic maps, but especially estate mapping, emerged during his time in the Norfolk fenlands where maps were a vital adjunct to the fieldwork that was unravelling the development of the historic landscape. Over the last twenty-five years his interest in mapping has grown, and now with retirement, he is able to spend more time immured in local record offices and, of course, the National Library, examining maps of east Wales and the adjacent border counties in England.
Mapblog 4 Tredegar Volume 1780 Map 1
Estate map coverage across the counties of Wales is distinctively uneven. Monmouthshire can boast some impressive and extensive surveys, now held in the National Library, from the second half of the eighteenth century by the likes of Robert Snell and John Aram. Radnorshire on the other hand is arguably the most impoverished of Welsh counties when it comes to estate surveys. Geographically between the two is Breconshire, a county that produced only two or three land surveyors during the course of eighteenth century, and whose estate map legacy is decidedly unremarkable.
One surveyor, though, whose work in the county is of particular interest was Edward Thomas who came from Margam in Glamorgan. The National Library has amongst the Tredegar archives, a fine volume of Thomas’s surveys of Charles Morgan’s holdings in Breconshire undertaken in 1780-1. A companion volume in the sense that it is very similar in its appearance and layout was prepared in 1780 for the Breconshire estates of Lord Camden, although direct comparison has to rely on digital images of the title pages, maps and schedules for this one is held in the Kent county archives in Maidstone. A third Thomas ‘atlas’ of estates in the county belonging to George Venables Vernon of Britton Ferry dates from 1776 and is now in the West Glamorgan archives in Swansea.
Collectively, these three surveys cover in excess of 14,000 acres and thus around 3% of the land surface of the historic county of Breconshire. This may not appear a particularly impressive figure but is rather more than many eighteenth-century surveyors will have achieved in any region of comparable size. And for the landscape historian Edward Thomas offers some unanticipated benefits. Many surveyors were content to map just the field layout, the watercourses and the roads and lanes passing through their patron’s estate, and the buildings within its bounds. Much less commonly, a surveyor incorporated incidental features that he came across in the landscape, features that add next to nothing to the agricultural picture that he was commissioned to depict and quantify, but which can be of considerable interest to us.
Take for instance the first map in the Tredegar atlas, reproduced here. A large and informative map, it was folded twice to allow its accommodation within Thomas’s volume. Close to the western edge is the town of Brecon. Charles Morgan’s holdings within the town were small although he did own the castle, and Thomas too depicted the priory church (now Brecon Cathedral) providing further context. Now if we were to combine this map with Thomas’ depiction of Lord Camden’s holdings in and around the town, we would achieve quite a useful representation of Brecon as it was in 1780. Further east, and almost central on the map, is Slough Tump. Interestingly, this had been surveyed twenty years earlier by the Brecon surveyor, Meredith Jones, whose map is also in the National Library. Jones portrayed Slough Tump as a simple field, albeit a curiously shaped one, and adjacent fields were shown in a similar manner, bereft of any detail. Thomas, however, chose to label it an ‘old fortification’ (quite correctly, as it’s an Iron Age hillfort) and also gave it the intriguing title of ‘Ginger Wall’, presumably courtesy of a local informant, but a name that I have not come across in any other source. North of the tump but not on Morgan’s land was St Eluned’s Chapel: there are no visible signs of the building today, but evidently at the end of the eighteenth century its ruins were visible. And to the north-west of the chapel were relict traces of the medieval open fields around the town, showing as narrow strips, again something that Meredith Jones failed to show. Edward Thomas’s attention to detail, just in this one small area, can be rounded off with depictions of an ‘old bank’ and the ‘remains of a hedge’, field boundaries that by his day had fallen out of use. Its regrettable that there are not more eighteenth-century surveyors in Wales who had a similar appreciation for the minutiae of the landscape.
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This Saturday 12th May the fifth Family and Local History Fair will be held here at the Library. It will be a great opportunity for anyone with an interest in starting their journey to discovery their ancestors or perhaps to research the history of a house or area of importance to them. There will be something for everyone, including two enthusiastic speakers in their field of excellence – Dr Reg Davies, who maintains the Welsh Mariners website and Richard Suggett, an expert in old buildings who work for the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments – remember to book your free tickets.
There will be an opportunity to talk to experienced genealogists from the Library and the county Family History Societies, who will be able to give you advice. We have all probably inherited collections of photographs over the years, there will be a photo restorer on hand to give advice on how to store and restore your photographs.
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.