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.
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.
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
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
I recently gave a talk at a conference in Gregynog on an extraordinary journey made by Iolo Morganwg, on foot, from London to Glamorgan in May-June 1802. It is extraordinary for several reasons – for a start, the route ‘home’ is not remotely direct, but takes him via Birmingham and Shrewsbury over to Meifod, and thence down through the border counties back to Flimstone. Extraordinary because he often walked over 30 miles a day. Extraordinary too for the eclectic range of thoughts, observations and feelings the journey provoked, and which Iolo jotted down in pencil in a fragile little notebook held here in NLW. To get into the spirit, I got off the train at Caersws and walked the last seven miles to Gregynog, with a small rucksack containing a water-bottle, bar of chocolate—and a map (the OS Explorer 1:25 000 for Newtown; aka the Orange One).
It wasn’t even a particularly tricky route (footpaths are infinitely better signposted in Powys than in Ceredigion, it seems) but I must have looked at that map a hundred times. At every stile or gate I got it out and tried to work out how the invisible line of that all-important right-of-way might cut across this field or that valley. And it struck me that this is not at all how Iolo would have done it. For one thing, he would often have been on main roads, checking off the milestones (unthinkable today, as the cars tear by); for another, he would have constantly met other people and asked the way, as he does with a group of ‘strangely ignorant Rustics’ near Wolverhampton, mercilessly mimicking their accents. I saw no-one, and spoke to no-one. The map told me everything I needed to know.
On the Curious Travellers project we have been transcribing and editing various early tours in Wales (including Iolo’s). Not everyone walks, of course. Coaches, post-chaises, horseback, the occasional ferry, all help in getting people to the inns and castles, the druidic monuments and the fine prospects they have come looking for. Only a few of these writers mention maps, but those that do are interesting. My blog posts over the next four weeks will be looking at four C18th maps, produced for different purposes and with different audiences in mind, and thinking about how they might relate to the various ways people perceived and described Wales in their tour narratives.
First up is this map from 1764 by the prolific Thomas Kitchin (or Kitchen), a London-based engraver who became Hydrographer to George III. Kitchin, the son of a hat-dyer (presumably now a lost art…) was born in what is now Bermondsey just south of London Bridge – at the time it was considered a place of ‘Aliens or Strangers and poor People’. By the age of 13, however, he was indentured to Emanuel Bowen, one of the most important cartographers of his age. Bowen (whose family came from Tal-y-Llychau /Talley), was a prominent Baptist, and Kitchin went on to marry his daughter Sarah and become a key figure in local Baptist networks himself. His output, as Laurence Worms has noted, was ‘prodigious’, and included not only maps but a vast range of other engraved material, including shop-bills, decorative prints, portraits and even political satires. His ‘Accurate Map of North Wales’ was reprinted several times and shows how Kitchin’s depictions of place, like those of his master, Bowen, delight in bringing different types of information together onto the page. This map is very busy.
Floating off the coast of Wales and down the English border are quite sizeable chunks of text. In twenty or so different interventions they provide the reader with useful information about the counties and their major towns (‘the County of Flint is about 115 miles in circumference Contains about 120,000 Acres & is Divided into 5 Hundreds’), along with the types of crops and minerals they produce. But we are also told that North Wales was formerly inhabited by the Ordovices, that Flintshire air ‘is Good and Pleasant’, that the Constable of Flint Castle is ‘commonly Mayor of the Town’, that Llyn Tegid is the largest lake in Wales, and that the Welsh call Anglesey ‘Mam Cymru, that is the Mother or Nurse of Wales’ (though here, apparently, the Air, ‘at certain times by reason of the mists and fogs prevailing from the Irish Sea, is Agueish’). History, topography and economics jostle, a trifle randomly, for attention, much as they do in tour narratives. Apart from that brief reference to ‘Mam Cymru’, however, one crucial element is missing: language. Wales in this map is as comfortably knowable, as measurable, as statistically computable as any county in England; yet this was emphatically not the case for many travellers in the period, who quite often found themselves (to their irritation, curiosity, bafflement or delight) in situations where English simply did not operate.
While you would not wish this map on anyone actually trying to make their way around north Wales (and in particular the sadly deformed Ll?n peninsula), it is clear that Kitchin had an eye for a developing tourist market. Indeed, by 1783, a far sparser, more practical Kitchin map appeared in a volume explicitly aimed at travellers from London to various parts of Britain, including Wales. The Traveller’s Guide Through England and Wales, printed for Charles Dilly, offers the reader tables of distances between towns and cities, and includes some information on ‘Mansions, Castles and other remarkable Objects’ to be seen along the way. It opens with a map in which dark lines of roads branch and spread out like arteries from London. It is, claims the blurb ‘The Largest, most Accurate, and Compleat Map of Roads through England and Wales ever prepared.’ The era of tourist travel has begun.
Reference: Laurence Worms, “Thomas Kitchin’s ‘journey of life’: hydrographer to George III, mapmaker, and engraver’. The Map Collector, 62-63 (Spring/Summer 1993): Part I, 2-8; Part II, 14-20.
The Welsh Assembly Government has designated 2018 the ‘Year of the Sea’ and consequently sea charts and other matters maritime were the topics of the day in the Carto-Cymru Symposium at the National Library on 18th May.
This year’s symposium was themed ‘Charting the seas and coasts of the World – how maps depict the sea and coastline and how such mapping is used to widen our understanding of these environments’.
The presentations comprised:
From the Air, on Land and Sea: 21st century mapping of the seas and coast of Wales and Ireland – The CHERISH Project
James Barry, Marine Geoscientist, Geological Survey of Ireland, Rob Shaw, Senior Geo-Surveyor, Discovery Programme, Centre for Archaeology and Innovation Ireland and Daniel Hunt, Investigator – Cherish Project, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales
How selected terrestrial and maritime heritage sites expected to be impacted by climate change are being surveyed and mapped within a number of study areas across both nations during the first year of the project and during the next four years.
Bureaucracy, Cartography and the Hydrographic Office of the British Admiralty: Marine Charts and Charting in the Nineteenth Century
Dr Megan Barford, Curator of Cartography, Royal Museums Greenwich
The production and use of Admiralty charts in the nineteenth century.
The collections, history and work of the Hydrographic Office
Dr Adrian Webb, Head of Archive, United Kingdom Hydrographic Office
How this vast collection came into being, how it was developed and why it has moved location from humble beginnings in the Admiralty to a purpose-built archive facility in Taunton.
Ffuglen a ffaith: mapio glannau ac aberoedd Cymru (Fact and Fiction: mapping the coasts and estuaries of Wales)
Dr Hywel Griffiths, Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University
An overview of the mapping of the geomorphological features of Wales’s coasts and the way in which Welsh coasts and seas have been mapped in the poetry and prose of Cardigan Bay poets and writers in particular.
Cist siartiau Cymreig: Casgliad siartiau morol yn Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru (A Welsh chart chest: The marine chart collection at the National Library of Wales)
Gwilym Tawy, Map Curator, The National Library of Wales
An overview of the Library’s collection focusing on historic charts of Welsh waters, whilst also including charts of Britain, Europe and beyond, naval charts, specialist charts, harbour development plans and the unusual. Tribute was also paid to Olwen Caradoc Evans, an authority on Welsh antiquarian maps and charts.
Charting the Welsh Seas
Deanna Groom, Senior Investigator (Maritime), The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales
Royal Commission research to record archaeology in Welsh coastal and offshore areas and archaeological sites where historic charts have been particularly instrumental in establishing the identity of shipwrecks and dates of loss. Consideration was also given to surveys undertaken as part of U-boat Project Wales.
Yet another fascinating, informative and successful Carto-Cymru Symposium!
Many thanks to all who attended and contributed, particularly the speakers and a special thank you, as ever, to principal organizer Huw Thomas and the Steering Committee chaired by Sally for your hard work and competent navigation over the preceding months and on the day.
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.
Why not subscribe to our blog posts and learn more about our work and collections? Please enter your email address in the right column.
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.