They say a picture is worth a thousand words and this is never truer than when it comes to maps. Maps predate the written word and it has even been suggested that they may predate speech itself and form part of our evolutionary history as humans.
Every map tells a story about the place it shows, which goes well beyond the mere content and purpose of the map to reveal the very roots of the society in which it was made and maps of Wales are no exception
Daearlen “Excelsior” Bacon Cymru / golygydd Timothy Lewis (ca. 1913)That a nation’s history is determined by its geography is never truer than when looking at Wales. The abundance of West-East trending valleys and the mountainous country dividing North from South have helped invaders from the East while at the same time hindering communication and cooperation within the country itself.
Inclosure of Cors Fochno – Manor of Generglyn Map B Roads and allotments (1847) It was not only the mineral wealth of the country which was exploited, the land was also exploited. Common land was fenced in or enclosed and often the best lands were granted to the gentry while the ordinary people were given the less fertile plots.
Great Western Railway map of system / GWR (1925)One of the greatest changes to the geography of Wales in the 19th century was the advent of the railways, now goods could be transported to the industrial heartlands of England much more quickly. This affected both the extractive industries and the agrarian economy as well as helping to fuel urbanisation across Britain.
Isovol map of the South Wales Coalfield / Dept. of Scientific & Industrial Research (1944)The railways fuelled the demand for coal as their primary power source and also improved access to other markets such as industrial and domestic fuel. Towards the end of the 19th century and throughout the first 3 quarters of the 20th century South Wales and coal were inextricably linked.
Trawsfynydd artillery training / War Office (1915)During the 20th Century many social changes were brought about as a result of war. The First World War caused the death of many thousands of Welsh people, including the poet Hedd Wyn whose house can be found on this map, within the sound of the practising artillery guns.
Stadtplan von Newport / German Army General Staff (1942)During the Second World War Wales was in the front line as it had never been before, when German bombers devastated a number of Welsh cities. This map was prepared by the Germans to help with targeting for air raids and also in preparation for the invasion of Britain, which never happened.
Tryweryn flow-regulating scheme / Liverpool Corporation Water Works (1956)After the two World Wars people were more willing to question and less willing to accept what they were told by those in power. When the village of Capel Celyn was flooded to provide water for Liverpool it caused great resentment in Wales and fuelled the growing sense of nationalism in the county.