Blog - #LoveMaps

Posted - 14-05-2019

#LoveMaps / Collections

A forty year old mystery solved

This is a bit of a detective story. In 1979 the Library received a photocopy of a small map of Breconshire; the owner knew nothing about the map and asked if the Library could identify it. Despite the best efforts of the Library staff who even enlisted the help of the British Library’s map curators the item could not be identified. The photocopy was added to the collection with a note to the effect that should the map ever be identified the owner was to be informed.

 

Fast forward to spring 2019 and a Pembrokeshire map dealer called Berian Williams contacted me sending a scan of a small map of Breconshire and asking if I could identify it for him. At first I was stumped, it didn’t match any of the county maps I’d seen before. According to Mr Williams the previous owner had suggested that it might come from “The Pocket Tourist & English Atlas” by Orlando Hodgson published in 1820; however, that atlas did not contain county maps of Wales, though the style of the maps did look similar. Mr Williams also mentioned an article about a pack of playing cards by John Allen upon which Hodgson’s maps were based, but again this had no Welsh counties.

It was at this point that I came across the photocopy from 1979, it appeared to be the same map and on closer examination it turned out to be exactly the same copy (several stains and marks on the scanned image matched the photocopy). Having looked through all my printed references I was stuck and wrote back to Mr Williams saying so and telling him that it might take some time to track it down, if indeed that were possible.

And there this story might have ended; but I started thinking about the similarity with the Allen playing cards, was there a connection between the Breconshire map and the maps in Allen’s pack of cards? I decided to check the literature to see if Allen might have produced another set of cards with the Welsh counties, however there was no record of such a set. The article about the Allen cards also mentioned an imprint by Robert Rowe the engraver so I decided to look into him also. One of my reference works told me that Rowe had engraved another set of playing cards for a John Fairburn in 1798, could this be the source of the card?

I decided to see if there were any references to this set of cards online as they were not recorded in any of the reference works I checked. Eventually I came across a reference to Fairburn’s playing cards of 1798, this stated that the set included Welsh counties and more importantly had images of some of the cards – which matched the map we had. Finally the mystery was solved.

But this detective story ends with a surprise twist. After informing Mr Williams about my discovery I decided to enquire whether the map was going to be put on sale, with a view to purchasing it for the collection. To my complete astonishment Mr Williams replied that he had decided to donate it to the Library. This is an incredibly generous donation and we are most grateful to Mr Williams for his kind gift. This map has now joined the 1.5 million maps which form the National Map Collection here at the Library as part of Wales’s cartographic cultural history.

Huw Thomas
Map Curator

Posted - 18-01-2019

#LoveMaps / Collections / Exhibitions

Humphrey Llwyd – the man who invented Britain

January 19th sees the opening of the Library’s latest exhibition: Inventor of Britain – The Life and Legacy of Humphrey Llwyd. This exhibition is the latest in a series of events to mark the 450th anniversary of the death of Humphrey Llwyd, the author of the first published map of Wales. Last August to coincide with the actual anniversary a smaller exhibition was held for two weeks, but this larger exhibition will be on for the next six months.

While Llwyd is probably most famous for his map of Wales, in addition to being the father of Welsh cartography he is also considered to be the father of Welsh history as a result of his Cronica Walliae the first history of Wales in English based on the ancient Welsh chronicle the Brut y Tywysogion.

This would be enough of a contribution in itself to ensure the legacy of most people, however in addition to this Llwyd was also responsible for helping to steer the Bill for the Translation of the Bible into Welsh through Parliament, thus leading to the Welsh Bible which was a major factor in helping Welsh to survive as a language.

But Llwyd’s influence goes beyond the borders of Wales; his works were also used to help justify the British Empire (a phrase he is credited with coining) and the English reformation. Part of his extensive library was purchased by the Crown and now forms part of the collections of the British Library.

This new exhibition is being held in association with the AHRC funded project Inventor of Britain: the complete works of Humphrey Llwyd. A number of lectures will be given over the coming months by members of the project team and this year’s Carto-Cymru – the Wales Map Symposium will also be on the theme of Humphrey Llwyd.

The exhibition runs until the 29th June and further details of the associated events can be found on the Library’s website.

Huw Thomas
Curator of Maps

Posted - 07-12-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections

Welsh waters, World waters

In this, the final ‘Year of the Sea’ Blog, we overview the Library’s collection of marine charts dating from 1800.

Charts are primarily intended for navigation and should provide clear, correct and up to date information to help plan, plot and navigate a safe course. Charts also provide researchers with information on the natural and man-made marine and coastal environment, past and present.

From the late seventeenth century the British became the foremost of chart makers. Over time, technological advances produced better charts which revealed earlier oversights and errors, for instance the Pembrokeshire chart of 1812 shown here mentions corrections to Lewis Morris’s earlier survey whilst the 1857-1859 chart records both sea and coast in intricate detail.

British private enterprises gradually gave way to the work of the Hydrographic Office of the Admiralty, now the UKHO, which was established in 1795, primarily to furnish Royal Navy requirements.  The UKHO remains one of the world’s  principal hydrographic organizations, its charts being widely supplied to  navies, merchant shipping and the public.

Over 15,750 UKHO electronic charts are currently available, although the Library only receives copies of their 3,500 sheet editions through legal deposit. The Library’s  12,000 modern charts encompass locations worldwide and are mainly received from the UKHO, together with their associated publications including  Notices to Mariners  and Pilot Books.

 

Supplementary collections include Admiralty Fleet charts originally only available to the Royal Navy and some recent publications from Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada, Argentina and the Philippines.

A smaller number of charts derive from British commercial publishers whose home waters and overseas charts are aimed at leisure users and fishermen. The collections can be accessed through the Library’s online catalogue and UKHO catalogue.

Map collectors habitually proclaim that modern charts are not as aesthetically appealing as their antiquarian forerunners in which errant sea monsters and mermaids recurrently appear. Contemporary charts do however contain the most pertinent, accurate and unequivocal information on the marine environment. Crucially they protect lives at sea and need to be heeded when sailing. Use this hard-won information wisely and never forget the naval adage  ‘A collision at sea can ruin your entire day’.

Gwilym Tawy

Map Curator

Posted - 14-11-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections / Digitisation

The Great War in maps

In the wake of the Armistice Day Centenary commemorations, it is perhaps timely to  draw attention to the Library’s maps relating to the conflicts of the First World War, a cataclysm in which 20 million lives were lost, some 40,000 being Welsh.

The Library’s many war maps and atlases display frontlines, trenches and other military paraphernalia, the war’s geopolitical impact in changing political boundaries, post-war redevelopment schemes and even include recreational map-based war games. The maps are of both military and civilian origin, the latter published to inform the  public and boost morale.

Some two hundred maps have been digitised as part of the Library’s War Centennial programme. Included are these two examples of maps from the unsuccessful Gallipoli Campaign – which was associated with inaccurate maps that regularly included outdated information gathered during the Crimean War.

The Gallipoli collection comprises contemporary War Office maps such as the two illustrated examples showing Ottoman defences on the campaign’s opening day and a later map of ANZAC positions, together with commercially published sheets.

 


The Allied attack on Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula, popularly known as the Gallipoli or the Dardanelles Campaign, lasted from April 1915 to January 1916. Here, British Empire and French forces engaged the Ottoman Empire in an unsuccessful attempt to aid Russia and break the impasse on the fighting fronts by opening a shipping route with Russia  unimpeded by excessive winter sea ice and extreme distance.

A failed naval attack in the Dardanelles Strait in early 1915 progressed to a major land invasion on 25th April by British and French troops together with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps or ANZAC forces. A later landing occurred at Suvla Bay on 6th August.

Allied intelligence deficiencies, indecision and delay, combined with fierce Ottoman resistance thwarted headway and success and mired the belligerents in an entrenched battle of attrition and consequential heavy casualties. The British authorized evacuation began in December 1915, and ended the following January.

 

Gwilym Tawy

Map Curator

Posted - 27-10-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections

Dylan’s ‘wood and asbestos pagoda’ and the Captain Killick affair

An architectural drawing of Dylan Thomas’s Majoda bungalow in New Quay, Ceredigion has recently been purchased by the Library. The poet lived at Majoda from 1944 to 1945 where he found creative inspiration and started to write Under Milk Wood. Here he also succeeded in furthering his reputation both near and far -and what better fillip for any all-too-quiet, war-weary community than a resident Dylan Thomas perking things up?

 

The plan is associated with a notorious incident at Majoda on the night of 6th March 1945 when Captain William Killick, a Special Operations Executive (SOE) Commando and also Dylan’s neighbour and erstwhile watering hole chum appeared with a Sten gun and hand grenade and fired into the bungalow in which Dylan and his family were residing. Three friends were also present at the time.  The grenade (which had no detonator) was not deployed and luckily there were no casualties. The ferment led to a court case in Lampeter which was covered by the major newspapers and portrayed in the semi-biographical film The Edge of Love in 2008.

 

Captain Killick, who had recently returned from active service in Greece, was venting his spleen following tensions with Dylan which included the relationship between Dylan and the Captain’s wife, Vera, with whom Dylan had grown up in Swansea.

 

The plan was commissioned from an Aberystwyth architect specifically for the court case. PC Islwyn Williams was the village ‘Bobby’ who investigated the incident and whose pencil notes  appear on the reverse of the plan. These notes describe his observations at the scene – primarily the location of bullet holes.

 

Captain Killick was fortunate in being acquitted of all charges, including attempted murder. In both court and local community there had been some sympathy for the soldier who had survived several highly dangerous war missions behind enemy lines and indeed had been described by the SOE as having ‘an excellent operational record’.

 

 

Gwilym Tawy

Map Curator

Posted - 08-10-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections

Murdoch Mackenzie the elder

Murdoch Mackenzie (Senior) contributed more enduringly to British theoretical and practical hydrography than any other individual. Born in Orkney in 1712, this grandson of the Bishop of Orkney had a mathematical  aptitude  which brought him into contact with mathematician Professor Colin Maclaurin who successfully advocated Mackenzie’s suitability to undertake a hydrographic survey in the Orkney Isles from 1742. Here, Mackenzie had valuable contacts to aid his work which resulted in the most precise and comprehensive marine survey yet undertaken in the British Isles. In 1750 his charts were published  as Orcades, or a geographic and hydrographic survey of the Orkney and Lewis Islands.

With Admiralty patronage, Mackenzie then embarked on a much grander project. He was commissioned in 1751 to survey the west coast of Britain and the entire coast of Ireland, a twenty-two year task which culminated in the publication of two chart volumes in 1774 and 1776.

By 1757 Scotland’s west coast mainland and islands had been surveyed. There followed a ten year survey of Ireland before his return to Great Britain’s western shores. In 1770 the survey ended in Pembrokeshire, the Menai Strait being omitted,  having been regarded by Mackenzie as unnavigable for larger vessels.

 

Mackenzie’s tried and tested surveying methods were acceptably accurate. They were also relatively swift, as is apparent from the prodigious length of coast surveyed in twenty years. This achievement was also particularly commendable bearing in mind the limitations of his surveying and monetary resources.

On Mackenzie’s retirement in 1770, he was succeeded as Admiralty Maritime Surveyor by his nephew, Lieutenant Murdoch Mackenzie (Junior). In 1771 Lieutenant Mackenzie continued where his uncle had ended by surveying the Bristol Channel.

 

Gwilym Tawy

Map Curator

Posted - 24-09-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections

A sea change for English hydrography

This ‘Year of the Sea’ blog highlights the initial bourgeoning of English hydrography, focusing on the work of Captain Collins, who also surveyed the Welsh coast.

In 1657 hydrographer and printer Joseph Moxon ventured into what had traditionally been the Dutch preserve of marine chart production with A Book of Sea Plats. These charts of European waters were nevertheless of Dutch origin.

John Seller envisaged an atlas containing charts surveyed, drawn, engraved, and printed at home. He was appointed Royal Hydrographer and remarkably secured a successful thirty-year order forbidding the import of Dutch ‘Waggoner’ charts (see Waghenaer’s ‘Spieghel’, our preceding maritime blog). Alas, Seller’s ambitions were beyond the means of an individual bookseller and instrument maker. Samuel Pepys later wrote that private individuals were incapable of such huge undertakings, and yet from 1671 Seller’s The English Pilot with its defects and partially refreshed old Dutch plates, progressively ousted ‘Waggoners’ from England.

In 1680 Captain Greenvile Collins began lobbying for a British survey. Collins, an experienced Royal Navy captain and skilled hydrographer was commissioned by King Charles II in 1676 to survey home waters and was promised significant assistance. Collins’s seven year survey began in 1681 and in 1693 his charts  were published in Great Britain’s Coasting Pilot.

 

The survey demanded rigorous coastal measurements and the precise coordinates of headlands. Progress was bedevilled by financial shortages and the waning interest of supporting bodies. Collins’s proposal to survey Ireland in its entirety was not realized.

Collins’s Pilot was the first systematic survey and first maritime atlas of British waters to be engraved and printed in London from original surveys and included forty-eight charts together with sailing directions, tide tables and coastal profiles. Despite inaccuracies and shortcomings the work was an immense advance for British navigation and validated Collins as one of history’s foremost hydrographers.

The Pilot, little altered, was issued between 1693 and 1792 and on at least twelve other occasions. Inevitably, by 1792, it was regarded as requiring considerable improvement.

The Library holds a 1779 copy of this atlas and several individual charts variously dated. Our illustrated charts of the western coasts of Wales and Milford Haven are dated 1693.

 

Gwilym Tawy,

Map Curator.

Posted - 27-08-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections

Waghenaer’s ‘Spieghel’

In Wales, 2018 has been designated the ‘Year of the Sea’ and this, our third maritime themed blog of the year, concerns the earliest chart of the Welsh coast in the Library’s collection. It dates from 1590 and displays the Bristol Channel compiled by Dutch hydrographer Lucas Janszoon Waghenaer (1534-1606). The Dutch were foremost European hydrographers and cartographers, with Leiden, Antwerp and later Amsterdam becoming centres of chart as well as map production.

Waghenaer was a navigating officer and later a collector of marine dues. His practical seafaring experiences and his contacts with seamen and harbour officials proved advantageous in compiling his pilot guide to European coastal waters. Waghenaer’s text was based on traditional 16th-century navigation publications, but his charts added an innovative component, making this the world’s first published pilot guide.

 

The success of the Teerste Deel vande Spieghel der Zeevaerdt (The First Part of the Sea Mirror) of 1584 emanated from Waghenaer’s pioneering chart compilations, their fine engraving and their practical, bound presentation in a single volume. The charts show coastal panoramas and illustrate cliffs and land profiles viewed from the sea signifying that the charts were initially prepared at sea, compass intersections being used to plot prominent coastal features.

Accuracy of coastal configuration was however often lamentable, there being a tendency to exaggerate significant features whilst extensive tracts of topography appear to have been imprecisely drawn from sight. It has been argued that these distortions were excusable since such charts were primarily intended for pilotage at the approaches to important harbours and not for general navigation. In this respect Waghenaer was simply continuing a long-standing chart making tradition.

The success of this first volume encouraged  Waghenaer to publish a second part in 1586 with Latin text. Other translations ensued. When the atlas was shown to Queen Elizabeth and her Privy Council, such was its impact that it was decided to translate the 1586 edition into English, a task  allotted to Anthony Ashley (1551-1628), Clerk to the Privy Council. In 1588 The Mariner’s Mirrour first appeared in its anglicized manifestation and this too proved instantly popular. The guides became known to the British as ‘Waggoners’, a generic moniker for sea atlases and charts which persisted long after  the obsolescence of The Mariner’s Mirrour and its replacement by new Dutch charts. Waghenaer subsequently issued smaller and more practical formats.

 

 

Gwilym Tawy

Map Curator

Posted - 16-08-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events

Humphrey Llwyd the man who put Wales on the map

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted - 09-08-2018

#LoveMaps / Collections / News and Events

#LoveMaps – Dr Shaun Evans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– ‘The place the water formerly divided, part going to the mill and the remainder thro Henberllan to Dolecothy mansion’;
– ‘The channel of the watercourse formerly in the upper part of Cae Rodyn and Cae T? Bach’;
– ‘That part of the trench which conveyed the water by Waynnefain hedge, years past & upwards’;
– ‘A trench that formerly conveyed the water to Dolecothy’.

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

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

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

 

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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.

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