Blog - News and Events

#LoveMaps – Shaun Evans

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events - Posted 02-08-2018

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

Trees and woodlands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#LoveMaps – Dr Shaun Evans

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events - Posted 26-07-2018

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

A 17th century map of Whitlera, Carmarthenshire

I mentioned in my last blog post that commissions for estate maps in Wales only really gathered pace from the mid-18th century.  Examples from the two preceding centuries are comparatively rare.

The National Library of Wales has a handful of 16th and 17th century estate maps within their collections, including Humfrey Bleaze’s map of the Powis Castle demesne, completed in 1629 and Robert Johnson’s 1587 survey of the Earl of Worcester’s manors of Crickhowell and Tretower in Breconshire.

The Robert Johnson’s survey is significant because it encapsulates the shift from textual description to cartographic depiction.  Traditional estate surveys usually consisted of written descriptions, noting details such as the name, extent and composition of individual farms, tenants’ names, the annual rent and details of any customs pertaining to the land.  Johnson’s survey combines this form of textual survey with a set of beautifully produced maps, creating an early example of what was essentially an ‘atlas’ of the estate.  Humfrey Bleaze’s map of the Powis Castle demesne was a different type of product: a large single sheet of vellum depicting the main features of the estate landscape, with the name and extent of fields (in acres, roods and perches) etched onto the face of the document.  Both of these products were specially commissioned by landowners, with a view to long-term use and display.

However, there are other types of early estate map which were altogether less conspicuous.  One example from the National Library of Wales is the simple pen-and-ink map of Whitlera in the parish of Llanfynydd, Carmarthenshire, which appears to date from the mid-17th century.  The map is sketched on a single sheet of paper and shows ‘the mease [i.e. house] of Whitlera’, together with an adjacent building and adjoining lands.


A number of other landscape features are depicted, including Afon Sannan and ‘the hie waye’.  Some of the fields feature rows of markings which may be an attempt to show that they had been ploughed.  Other areas include clumps of ‘furrs’ [furze or gorse], suggesting uncultivated wasteland.  A number of trees are also depicted, ranging from what looks like a patch of small woodland, to a large tree standing alone in the middle of one of the fields and a number of smaller trees forming part of one of the hedgerow boundaries.  These spikey hedgerows (perhaps resembling Hawthorn) enclose every field; and there is a clear attempt to depict a more established hedge to the east.

Some of the field-names are marked on the map, such as ‘kae dan y ty’, ‘kae trwynvain’, ‘wayn bwll’ and ‘kaer ddintir’.  Most of these fields are marked as ‘whitleras lande’ – indicating their association with the house.  However, the lands included on the map were not consolidated under the ownership of one individual or estate; the ‘whitleras land’ was intermixed with the land of ‘Owen ap Hennri & Mallt verch Wallter ap Thomas’, ‘Kae Koch, being the lande of Ieuan Lloyd ap Gwillym Vychan’ and bounded to the south by ‘the lands of Sir William Thomas, Knight’.

The main purpose of the map was to depict the extent and boundaries of the lands associated with Whitlera.  Compared to Robert Johnson’s 1587 survey of Crickhowell and Tretower, and Humfrey Bleaze’s map of Powis Castle, there is less emphasis on display.  Indeed, the map was folded up and retained as part of a collection of deeds and documents relating to Whitlera.  It is these associated records which provide some indication as to why the map might have been created.

Since at least the beginning of the 16th century the ownership of Whitlera was the subject of contention and legal proceedings.  In 1604 Richard ap Rutherch and others brought an action in the Court of the Council in the Marches of Wales to settle the title to the messuage and lands of Whitlera.  Six years later the Court of Great Sessions was making judgement on an allegation of trespass into lands around Whitlera.  By the 1620s the house of Whitlera and some of the adjoining lands were in the ownership of Thomas ap Richard ap Ruddergh and his son and heir William Thomas ap Ruddergh.  In 1627 they appear to have sold the lands to Griffith Lewis, an alderman of Carmarthen, who a couple of years later sold the lands to Thomas Newsham of Abersannan.  Over the next few decades the lands were mortgaged on a regular basis, until they were eventually acquired by Nicholas Williams of Rhydodyn (Edwinsford) in the 1670s.

The records relating to these transactions form part of the Edwinsford Estate Archive and they provide useful context for why the map was created.  During the 16th and 17th centuries, it was not uncommon for maps to be commissioned as evidence to support legal proceedings relating to the ownership of land.  It is possible that the map was produced as part of the cases heard by the Council in the Marches of Wales or at the Great Sessions.  However, given the past uncertainties surrounding the ownership of the lands, it is more likely that the map was requested by either Griffith Lewis, Thomas Newsham or Nicholas Williams to append to the deeds evidencing their acquisition of the lands.  In either instance, it is clear that the map cannot be fully understood without reference to the wider body of records relating to the ownership history of Whitlera.  Context is key.



Celtic Knot

Collections / Events / News / News and Events / Research - Posted 23-07-2018

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.


Jason Evans


National Wikimedian



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#LoveMaps – Dr Shaun Evans

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events - Posted 19-07-2018

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.

Further reading:

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.


#LoveMaps – Mary-Ann Constantine

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events - Posted 28-06-2018

Mary-Ann Constantine is Reader at the University of Wales Centre for Welsh and Celtic Studies. She works on C18th Welsh literature and is currently leading the AHRC-funded project, Curious Travellers: Thomas Pennant and the Welsh and Scottish Tour 1760-1820.

Responses to John Evans’ Map of North Wales 1797.

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

Welsh Portrait Collection

Collections / Digitisation / News / News and Events / Research - Posted 27-06-2018

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.


Jason Evans, National Wikimedian

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Remembering “The 1818 Welsh”

Collections / Digitisation / Events / News and Events - Posted 25-06-2018

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.


Menna Morgan,

Digital Access

#LoveMaps – Mary-Ann Constantine

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events - Posted 21-06-2018

Mary-Ann Constantine is Reader at the University of Wales Centre for Welsh and Celtic Studies. She works on C18th Welsh literature and is currently leading the AHRC-funded project, Curious Travellers: Thomas Pennant and the Welsh and Scottish Tour 1760-1820.

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).

#LoveMaps – Mary-Ann Constantine

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events - Posted 14-06-2018

Mary-Ann Constantine is Reader at the University of Wales Centre for Welsh and Celtic Studies. She works on C18th Welsh literature and is currently leading the AHRC-funded project, Curious Travellers: Thomas Pennant and the Welsh and Scottish Tour 1760-1820.

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

Ten Heroes of Welsh Cartography

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events - Posted 17-05-2018

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

2) Robert Johnson Survey of the manors of Crickhowell & Tretower, 1587
Robert Johnson’s survey of the manors of Crickhowell and Tretower is the earliest known example of an estate survey created with maps as an integral part of the survey

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.

5) Thomas Taylor – The Principality of Wales exactly described, 1718
Thomas Taylor produced the first published atlas specifically of Wales

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.

7) Lewis Morris Plans of harbours, bars, bays and roads in St. George’s Channel, 1748
Lewis Morris was a polymath originally from Anglesey, he produced a set of detailed charts of the Welsh coast in order to improve safety for ships sailing around the Welsh coast. His work was later expanded upon by his son William

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

Huw Thomas
Map Curator

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