Excerpts from


A Brief History of Wales


Peter N. Williams




Chapter 13 The Changing Face of Wales  -The Coming of Industry



The industrialization of Wales had been going on since Elizabethan times, but it had been small scale and extremely localized. The diggings on the Great Orme at Llandudno attest to Bronze Age activity in the region. The Romans had extensive quarries for lead and other ores in Flintshire, and sought gold in various locations. After the middle of the 18th century, however, there was an explosion of mining and its related industries. In Anglesey, the huge Mona and Parys copper mines helped transform both the economy and the landscape: copper smelting employed hundreds of workmen and poisoned the hillsides around Amlwch. In the ancient kingdom of Gwynedd, huge quarries began to hideously disfigure the landscape, but employed thousands of men to dig out the slate that roofed houses and municipal buildings throughout Europe. Today, the slate is no longer extensively mined, roofing materials are being produced much more efficiently and cheaply elsewhere, but the landscape is still being disfigured by monstrous stone quarries to build English roads. Whole mountains near Penmaenmawrare being dismantled in a process that seems to have   no end.


Before the end of the 18th century, in the Greenfield Valley, below St. Winifred's shrine at Holywell, a long line of industrial workings, including copper and brass foundries, supplied by 40 ships bringing raw materials from the Thomas Williams mines at Parys Mountain joined the older more traditional woolen and flannel mills. Collieries at Flint and iron foundries at Mostyn; the pioneering John Wilkinson iron works at Bersham also helped make the Northeast corner of Wales a center of industry (and a stronghold of the English language long before the area attracted the Merseyside hordes as a place of retirement or holiday homes). Much of the products of the Welsh quarries and the Welsh woolen mills was exported overseas; a flourishing maritime trade kept the weavers of Bala; the flannel workers of Llanidloes and Newtown; and the quarrymen of Gywnedd and Anglesey fully occupied. In the South, Swansea, (Abertawe) became the chief copper producer of Britain, if not the world; the Tawe Valley became notorious for its hell-like appearance that even today stubbornly resists attempts at re-greening, its bare, blackened slopes.


The Seven Years' War of 1756-63 had accelerated the demand for domestic iron, and all the raw materials necessary for its production were found in a narrow band at the northern edge of the Southeast coal field. The process of puddling invented by Henry Cort in Hampshire, England in 1783 finally ended the industry's reliance on charcoal, which was in increasingly short supply. The bituminous or semi-bituminous coals of Welsh Valleys provided a perfect solution: it was the wealth of London that supplied the capital and the influx of experienced iron masters, mainly from the Midlands, that supplied the technical know how to produce high quality iron. Workers flocked in from all parts of Britain, though a large supply came from the farming districts of Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire. Some of the major iron masters that helped develop Welsh industry were John Guest, associated with the Dowlais and Plymouth works; Anthony Bacon and William Brownrigg who began the Cyfartha Works; Richard Crawshay, who later bought and expanded Cyfartha; and the  Homfrays, who owned Penydarren.


The work of such industrial giants was in great demand, not only during the aforementioned war, but also during the War for American Independence, the Napoleonic Wars, and especially for the coming of the railways that were to change Britain (and the world) forever. Professor Davies has commented that the investment of London bankers in the Welsh iron industry, in at least a dozen large scale enterprises, was "a concentration of capital in heavy investment without parallel anywhere in the world." (330). And with this investment in industry, of course, came the accompanying investment in methods of transporting the finished products to the waiting ports and ships. By the year 1827, the south Wales iron industry was producing one half of all Britain's iron exports, much of it to the United States.


In 1781 the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion wrote a letter to Parliament in which it stated some of its aims:



     This society will present gold medals, or bounties, for the improvement of agriculture and the planting of trees in he Principality and to those assiduous in promoting trade, manufacture and commerce.


It is not known just how many medals were presented, but it is certain that trade, manufacture and commerce were soon to be rewarded handsomely. At the end of the 18th century, it was impossible to imagine that Wales was to undergo momentous changes that were to transform it from a quiet backwater on the western edge of Europe to one of the foremost centres of industry in the world in a few short years. Wales possessed what Ireland did not, coal. And it was coal that brought about so many changes, so rapidly that there was hardly time to realize just what was happening to the economic, political, social and literary life of the nation, not to mention the language. In light of its subsequent history, it is with an amused detachment that we read what a customs official at Cardiff said of his town in 1782:



We have no coal exported from this port nor ever shall, as it would be too expensive to bring it down here from the internal part of the country.


At the end of the century, Cardiff would be exporting more coal than any other port in the world, and more than a million people had crowded the valleys that radiated out in the valleys north of the city. South Wales coal was the ideal fuel for the domestic fireplaces of London and other rapidly growing urban centers of England. It also was the preferred fuel for the ever-expanding navies of the world when steam replaced sail and iron replaced wood. In 1839, to export the vast amounts of coal now reaching the city from the Rhondda Valleys, there was feverish activity to complete the Bute Docks out of the mud in the Severn Estuary. Many impressive fortunes were made from south Wales coal; not all went over the border to England. The foremost coal owner was David Davies of Llandinam who founded the Ocean Coal Company and built a rail link from the coal fields to a purposely built new port at Barry, near Cardiff. On the transformation of the Valleys, W.H. Smyth commented, in his Observations on the Port and Maritime Vicinity of Cardiff (1840), "Providence ordained the universal deluge to create the south Wales coal field." By 1913 over 250,000 miners in south Wales were producing over 57 million tons of coal each year. The impressive civic buildings that grace the centre of the city of Cardiff are a testimonial to the wealth derived from King Coal and the city's growth in importance during the latter part of the century. ."


Practically overnight, Wales was transformed from "a marginal province into a sector of an imperial economy." (Gwyn A. Williams When Was Wales, p. l73); its growth is described by Professor Davies as the result of having become a central part of a capitalist system that "spread its tentacles. . .to all corners of the earth" (A History of Wales, p. 3l8). Along with industrialization came a dramatic increase in numbers of inhabitants, from approximately 500,000 people in the 1750's to over 1,600,000 in 1851 and 2,600,000 before Word War One. The rural Northwest and central areas of Wales however, did not share in this growth; they began a process of continually losing people to an increasingly anglicized and urbanized Southeast, where iron, coal and tin plate, steel and rails made the area one of the most prolific in the world in terms of industrial production, or to industrial communities in England. The movement into the five great valleys was so great that Wales ranked second to the United States as a world center of immigration in the latter half of the 19th century.


It was around Merthyr Tydfil (the town of Tydfil the Martyr) that most of the industrial growth in Wales took place. The insatiable demand for iron led the small country village into overtaking Swansea the largest town in Wales at the end of the century. It was here that the great iron works of Cyfartha, Pen y Darren and Blaenavon produced an inordinate share of British Iron, and at Dowlais was made practically the sum total of all iron rails for the fledgling United States railroad industry. South of Merthyr, and greatly profiting from its heavy industry and relentless toil of its workers, was Cardiff, its outlet to the sea at the bottom of the five valleys (Rhymney, Rhonda, Cynon, Taff, Ebbw) and the main center of export to the overseas empire. As early as 1794, the two towns were connected by the Glamorgan Canal and two more canals were constructed to link Ebbw Vale and Newport in 1796; and Swansea and its rapidly growing industrial hinterland in 1798. In fewer than 19 years, by 1839 the Glamorgan Canal alone increased its traffic sevenfold, to 350,000 tons. By that date, the railways had begun to take over much of the burden of transporting the raw materials to the ports and centres of production: the Taff Vale and the Rhymney were constructed by the middle of the century. It seemed as if everyone would benefit, especially after the discoveries of David Thomas, working under George Crane at the Yniscedwyn Iron Works in Ystradgynlais, in the Swansea Valley, opened up the West Wales coal field by making it possible to use anthracite coal in the smelting of iron ore.


Thomas' discovery, that the hot blast, invented by James Neilson in Scotland, could be also used to smelt iron ore with anthracite had its greatest effect in the iron industry of Pennsylvania, where Thomas was invited to set up a blast furnace in 1839, and where his expertise and management skills led to the Lehigh Valley becoming one of the world's great centres of iron production in the second half of the 19th century. The future of the New World looked bright; its promises beckoned a new wave of emigration from Wales. At home, however, progress was much more sporadic. There were all kinds of problems in the industry, and unrest came to the valleys, an unrest that led to them becoming known as one of the premier centers of British radicalism, an unrest that led to a particular Welsh kind of political activity and that, in time, would lead to a socialist-thinking, Labour voting electorate still predominant in the 1990's. The Merthyr Rising began in 1831.


Chapter 14   Revolution


In l820 Robert Jones wrote:


There has been riot and commotion in England, Scotland and Ireland, because {those countries} neither feared God nor honoured the King. . . but our nation {Wales} remained wonderfully faithful to the Government in all troubles. (Drych yr Amseroedd : Mirror of theTimes)


Jones had somehow neglected to mention serious troubles in Wales. In l793, several hundred copper workers and colliers marched on Swansea protesting the high prices of grain, cheese and butter, and demanding higher wages. They got nowhere. Nor did three Merthyr men who were sentenced to death for rioting in l80l. Then came the infamous Corn Laws ,passed in Parliament in l8l5 that kept the price of bread artificially high to benefit the landed interests and wealthy farmers. In an attempt to better conditions, unions began to form, but their members were treated harshly. At the Abbey Works in Neath,in the l820's, fifty men tried to form a union but they were immediately fired; the idea was abandoned by the rest of the workers, fearful for their jobs. The Cambrian, Wales's leading newspaper, published in Swansea, and ever on the side of the authorities, portrayed the union leaders as "gin-swilling degenerates." The very idea of a union was also roundly condemned by the Calvinistic Methodists, who called on all church members to boycott such "devilish" activity. The times were not yet ripe for the general acceptance of unionism, though they were times that severely tried the workers and their families; and in l83l a miner at Merthyr Tydfil told his magistrate: "My Lord, the union is so important to me that I would live on sixpence a week rather than give it up."


With the failure of unionism, there was a return to violence as a way of improving working conditions. In Monmouthshire, a group called the Scotch Cattle fought back against the absolute control and power over their lives by the iron masters and coal mine owners; they destroyed property of employers and threatened many workers who refused to go along with their demands. After one of their leaders, Edward Morgan, was hanged in l834 by the authorities, the activities of the Scotch Cattle faded considerably, but by that year the Merthyr Rising, with its fearful consequences for the participants had already taken place.


Starting as a popular rebellion against unjust and often deplorable working and living conditions, the Merthyr rising quickly grew into an armed insurrection. It has been described by one historian as "the most ferocious and bloody event in the history of industrialized Britain." (Davies, 366). The great depression of l829 led to massive unemployment and wage cuts leading to substantial debts among the working population. At Merthyr, where iron master William Crawshay had lowered wages, there was a crisis among the shopkeepers and tradesmen, and the Debtor's Court (the Court of Requests)was responsible for a widespread confiscation of property. A demonstration led by Thomas Llewelyn, a Cyfartha miner, demanded compensation; the mob freed the prisoners in the local goal and marched on to Aberdare. At the same time, at Hirwaun, a few miles away, when the Court seized a truck belonging to Lewis Lewis, miners and iron workers joined the political radicals and disgruntled tradesmen and raised the red flag of rebellionĄthe first time it was to be so used in Britain. On its staff was impaled a loaf of bread, the symbol of the needs of the marchers. It had a magical effect.


The crowd, growing ever larger, and probably emboldened by drink (for beer was both plentiful and cheap and far safer to drink than water), marched on Merthyr, raided shops and houses to seize property and goods earlier confiscated, and to restore them to their owners. A troop of Scots Highlanders was sent from Brecon Barracks to restore order, and when the large crowds of rioters appeared outside the Castle Inn, they opened fire. In the resulting panic and mass confusion, over two dozen workers were killed and hundreds wounded, but the soldiers lost l6 men and were forced into retreat. A detachment of Swansea Yeomanry came to restore order the following day, but the workers, described by The Cambrian as "thousands of men and women and a body of Irishmen carrying clubs" had set up camp near Cefn Coed, where they ambushed and disarmed the military reinforcements.


It took a week for the forces of the Crown to finally bring order to the area. Punishment was severe: Lewis Lewis, after first receiving the death sentence, was exiled for life and Richard Lewis, known as Dic Penderyn, was executed on a charge of wounding a highlander. On 3l July, l83l, he was hanged in Cardiff Gaol, despite the appeal of many thousands of people for his life. Forty years later, Ieuan Parker of Cwmafan, a Welshman living in the United States confessed to the charge. Lewis thus became a martyr of the Welsh working class. A popular ballad of the time ran:



I saw the Merthyr riots,

And the great oppression of the workers;

And some of the soldiers wounded

But dear heaven! the worst trick

Was the hanging of Dic Penderyn.


It is recorded that the last words spoken by Richard Lewis on the scaffold were O Arglwydd, dyma gamwedd (Oh Lord, what an injustice).


The martyrdom of Richard Lewis is well remembered in Wales, but in England there seems to have been general indifference, as pointed out by an entry in the diary of a Mrs. Arbuthnot in June, l83l:


    There has been a great riot in Wales and the soldiers have killed twenty-fourpeople. When two or three were killed at Manchester, it was called the Peterloo Massacre and the newspapers for weeks wrote it up as the most outrageous and wicked proceeding ever heard of. But that was in Tory times; now this Welsh riot is scarcely mentioned.


In Parliament, Lord Melbourne, who had advocated severe repression of all popular workers' movements as "unlawful assemblages of armed individuals," declared that South Wales was "the worst and most formidable district in the kingdom." He wrote to a friend that "The affair we had there in l83l was the most like a fight of anything that took place."


It wasn't only in the industrial areas that discontent made its presence known. There were other causes of social unrest that manifested themselves in Wales, especially in the Carmarthen area, where the most tangible and visible symbols of oppression were the numerous toll gates on the turnpike roads, with their excessive rates. Some towns were entirely surrounded by toll gates and farmers were hard hit by excessive rates on the transportation of such necessities as lime and the movement of livestock to and from market. One night in May, l839, gates at Efailwen were destroyed when a group of about 400 people, many dressed as women, drove away the special constables gathered to protest the toll gates. The leader of the protesters, reputed to be Thomas Rees, known in the area as Twm Carnabwth, was disguised in the clothes of a local woman named Rebecca and thus the term Rebecca Riots came to designate the disturbances, burning and destroying of toll gates and work houses that continued for some years in South west Wales. A statement in The Welshman of September, l843 expressed the feelings of those who took part in the demonstrations:



    The people, the masses, to a man throughout the counties of Carmarthen, Cardigan, and Pembroke are with me. O yes, they are all my children. . .Surely, say I, these are members of my family, these are the oppressed sons anddaughters of Rebecca.


It wasn't until a government commission recommended reduction of tolls, especially on lime and other agricultural products, that the riots finally came to an end.


The rise of the movement known as Chartism constituted a much more serious threat to public order throughout Britain. The Chartists were part of a new popular movement named after the radical London reformer Williams Levett, who drafted a bill known as The People's Charter in May, l838. With the early failure of the unions, much of their energy was channeled into the Chartists who believed, mistakenly, that they could somehow bring about a democratic parliament and an enfranchised working class that would be able to solve some of their problems and redress their grievances. Like the unionists, they were far too premature in their hopes in spite of their impressive strength. In the valleys, however, the movement received a warm welcome, attracting a large following among the largely immigrant miners and iron workers, many of them Irish, and not as reticent as many of their Welsh colleagues to challenge authority. Henry Vincent, an early Chartist leader and a fiery orator, issued a call to arms in The Western Vindicator in April l839:



    I could not help thinking of the defensible nature of the country in the case of foreign invasion. A few thousand of armed men on the hills could successfully defend them. Wales would make anexcellent republic.


There were many who were emboldened by such appeals. The Cambrian of May 11, l839 noted that a large number of colliers in the hills of Tredegar had given notice to discontinue work, and the leaders of the Chartists were to give a demonstration requested many of those who were unemployed to join them. A meeting was to take place at Duke' s Town, about a mile beyond Tredegar. Considerable apprehension was felt by the inhabitants, and Mr. Samuel Homfray, acting magistrate, took efforts to preserve the public peace, including the banning of all sales of alcohol from mid-day until six the following morning. A serious riot was averted when the military arrived and the crowd rapidly dispersed. Despite its early enthusiasm, the whole event was labeled a complete disaster by the editors of The Cambrian, who condescendingly wrote:


    The town assumed its wonted aspect after the departure of the Chartists, and it is generally believed, the ill success of this essay will deter them from exhibiting their wickedness and folly in that neighbourhood again.


The newspapers underestimated the strength of the movement and the anguish of the workers. The Tredegar fiasco had closely followed another attempt to stir the conscience of those in power that had taken place at Llanidloes, a mid-Wales center of the woolen industry also during April. The newspaper reported that the Chartists, having previously been apprehended for rioting, came armed with guns, pistols, pikes and bludgeons to the Trewythen Arms, where they broke doors and windows to force their way in. They then rescued the parties that had been apprehended, "nearly killed the police officers," turned the landlord and his family out of the house, and completely ransacked the whole place. They even went so far as to "run a pike through the hat of the resident magistrate." In the face of this threat to the British Crown (italics mine) the Montgomeryshire Militia were ordered to hold themselves ready to act, and if necessary, the South Salopian Yeomanry "would be instantly marched to the neighbourhood."


In May, The Cambrian reported on an anti-Chartist meeting held the previous month, chaired by Crawshay Bailey.(the iron master of Dowlais, in the Merthyr District, who had fortified his mansion against possible assaults from his own workers). It seemed that many of the iron masters were terrified of the new radical movements that were spreading throughout the valleys. Bailey spoke, he said, to "counteract the baneful effects of the principles of the Chartists and to show the inhabitants of this place who are their real friends." He had known some of the protesting workers for 20 years or more, he said, and they should be grateful for his favours, as none of the Chartists will give them employment as he had done. Reminding his listeners of all the work he had brought to the valley "from Brynmawsr to Aberbeeg," increasing its population from 200 to more than l0,000, he would as rather sacrifice his life, he went on, than lose any of his property.


Other speeches in similar vein, some in English, some in Welsh, but all speaking out against the evils of Chartism, the goodness of the British Constitution, and the need for loyalty. The speakers contrasted "the happy, well-fed, well-housed working classes of Britain" with those of such countries as Canada or France, where "revolution or Roman Catholicism or laziness or dishonesty had caused butchery and inhumanity." Chartists leaders, they stated, would only bring calamity to all through their appeals for such abominations as universal suffrage (italics mine). The very term brought shivers to the landed, privileged classes who alone had the right to vote. There were voices in Wales, however, that did not lavish such praise on those who controlled the lives of the workers. Williams Jones, for example, saw conditions in the Valleys from a much different viewpoint:



    Merthyr, the Gehenna of Wales, where black beings dwell, amidst fire and smoke, who dive into deep caverns, where oppor- -tunities are afforded them to concoct their treasonable designs against the inhabitants of the upper world.

 The Character of the Welsh as a Nation in the Present Age, l84l


In some towns, conditions were even worse. Even the government's acknowledged such:



    Brynmawr contains 5,000 people, nearly all of whom are of the lowest class. . .Not the slightest step has been taken to improve the mental or moral conditions of this violent and vicious community. Report on the State of Education inWales, l847)


While the coal owners and iron masters lived lives of luxury in their splendid mansions, their workers toiled in squalor. The same report that condemned the state of education in Wales and that looked at life in the valley towns put the blame on the employers:



    I regard the degraded condition [of the people of Monmouthshire as entirely the fault of their employers, who give them far less tendance and care than they bestow on their cattle, and who with few exceptions, use and regard them as so much brute force instrumental to wealth, but as no wise involving claims on human sympathy.


Many of the working population agreed with such sentiments. Turning their backs on the hated owners, they trusted their Chartist leaders such as Henry Vincent, John Frost, Hugh Williams, Charles Jones, Zephania Williams and John Rees, all of whom pressed for revolutionary activity following the government's complete refusal to consider the six points of the Charter presented on June l4, l839. These were universal male suffrage, vote by ballot, equal electoral districts, annual parliaments, abolition of the property qualifications for election to Parliament, and payment for members (so that it could be open to all classes). Rather than consider such radical ideas, the government took measures to suppress the movement, ruthlessly if necessary. Large meetings at Bath, Liverpool, Birmingham and other towns were broken up by the military or by the use of fire hoses. (The Cambrian advocated the use of hotwater!). Many of those who had taken part in the riot at Llanidloes were found guilty and deported for life. Undeterred, workers throughout the country joined in the protests, though their efforts were at first spasmodic and unorganized.


Far more serious events were about to take place in the port town of Newport, on the southeastern edge of the south Wales coal field and the site chosen for a Chartist rally. In May l839, The Cambrian had a lengthy report of the arrival of the military: fearing some kind of massive disturbance to the public order, the Lord Lieutenant of Monmouthshire sent a division of "the gallant 29th" from Bristol. His fears were justified: in November came the Newport Rising.


According to The Cambrian, up to 5,000 rioters "from the hills" Ebbw Vale and surrounding districts entered Newport in three columns, one being commanded by John Frost. They marched, in a heavy rainstorm, to the Westgate Hotel where a small detachment of military waited inside. Accounts of what happened next vary, but someone opened fire on the soldiers, who responded with a volley into the crowd. In the ensuing panic, a score of workers were killed and many more wounded; the rest fled back into the hills, the first shattering volley from the troops having brought this particular rebellion to a violent and speedy end.


On December 7, Newport held a public meeting to thank the soldiers for their brave defense of the town "thus saving it and the whole of England (italics mine) from rebellion." The troops, chiefly recruited in Ireland and commanded by Lt. Gray (who was promoted to captain) "had gallantly defended the Westgate Inn." The Cambrian also commented that there was every reason to believe that the Chartists' order of the day was for simultaneous attacks of the crowd upon Cardiff and Pontypool, but the outbreak at Newport had taken place a day too early. According to the paper,its failure had prevented the general uprising expected to take place throughout south Wales. The whole affair had lasted no more than twenty minutes though repercussions lasted for more than a century in the political life of South Wales and Monmouthshire.


Harsh sentences followed the arrest of the Chartist leaders. Frost was found guilty of high treason along with William Jones and Rees (Jack the Fifer). The sentences were imposed despite the stirring speech of the defense council Mr. Rickard, who said that many of the witnesses who had given testimony against Frost (praised for their honesty by the prosecution) had themselves been apart of the transaction, and were protecting themselves by giving information worth rewarding. Surely, he argued, the jury could not believe that the taking of Newport was to be preliminary to a general insurrection, and he would ask, by whom?



    Was it by a famished and hungry mob perishing with cold in a winter's night with arms such as the jury had seen, some of them designated spears, but which were nothing more than rude pieces of iron fixed upon shapeless hedge stakes? Some of that army had sticks, some muskets, some nothing, and what was it said such an army intended to overthrow, the ancient and well-compacted Monarchy of this country, supported as it was by many bulwarks, supported as it was by an ancient Peerage, by a wealthy and intelligent aristocracy, by men whose existence was bound up with the preservation of the present state of things, supported by a numerous and loyal army, supported by a gallant navy; above all, supported by a loyal and attached and united people, a very portion of whose national character is the maintenance of the Monarchy, and then to suppose that all these could be struck down by a body of men, who were at once scattered through the well-directed fire of a lieutenant, two sergeants, and thirty privates!


The case, Rickard concluded, presented a mass of absurdity which it was necessary to believe before the prisoners were convicted. The mass of absurdity was believed by the jury: Rickard's stirring, impassioned appeal went for naught.


Frost, along with other leaders of the mob, was sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Petitions from thousands of people in towns all over Britain had implored the Queen for pardon. In addition, not only was there a huge strike of workers in the Monmouthshire collieries, but noone would work alongside the witnesses at the trial: the mine owners were anxious to get their men back to work; their influence probably counted far more than the signatures presented to Victoria. Frost himself, a linen draper at Newport and a former member of the town council (removed for his political behavior) became something of a hero; his portrait, showing "the attributes of moral courage and physical endurance" did a brisk sale at the "very moderate charge" of one shilling. After serving some time in Australia, where he made himself useful to the authorities, he lived for two years in the United States, returning to Wales to an enthusiastic welcome in l856.


Still active in denouncing the Government, Frost spoke at a public meeting in Merthyr in l857. But by the following year, the year of the final National Chartist Convention, the movement was fading rapidly. That year an act was passed declaring that property qualifications were no longer necessary for a seat in Parliament, and thus the first great democratizing point of the Charter had been conceded by the Government. In any case, because the Corn Laws had been repealed in l846 and bread was a little cheaper, people were less inclined to armed revolt. The Great Reform Bill of l867 finally ended the Chartist Movement, for in that year nearly one million voters were added to the register, almost doubling the electorate. Forty-five new seats were created and the vote was given to many working. Frost died in l877 at the age of 93: his pioneering work, alongside that of the others, had not been in vain.



  Comments: e-mail us at peterw@britannia.com  © 1995, 1996, Britannia Internet Magazine, LLC






 * A History of Wales

There are many excellent books available on the history of Wales. The most comprehensive is that of Dr. John Davies "A History of Wales" (Penguin Books, l993). Originally published in the Welsh language as Hanes Cymru , this is a masterly account, full of absorbing detail, of the whole history of Wales from the very earliest times .


* When Was Wales? A History of the Welsh

Another book well worth reading, with a lively, direct style unique to its author, is "When Was Wales? A History of the Welsh" by Gwyn A. Williams, published in l985 by Black Raven Press, London.


* A Pocket Guide: The History of Wales

A most useful book that traces the main outlines of the history of Wales from the Celtic settlements to the political, social and economic life of the twentieth century is "A Pocket Guide: The History of Wales", by T. Graham Jones (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, l990).


* A Most Peculiar People: Quotations about Wales and

the Welsh A fascinating collection of more than 2,300 quotations about Wales and the Welsh, drawn from sources both native and foreign, is Meic Stephens' "A Most Peculiar People: Quotations about Wales and the Welsh" ( Cardiff, University of Wales Press, l992).


* A Pocket Guide to The Literature of Wales

A concise and informative guide to the richness of Welsh literature can be found in "A Pocket Guide to The Literature of Wales", edited by Dafydd Johnston and published by the University of Wales Press, Cardiff, l994. This is a short survey of both the Welsh and English literature of Wales.


* The Oxford Companion to the Literature of Wales

An indispensible book for the student of Welsh literature, culture and history from Arthurian times onward is "The Oxford Companion to the Literature of Wales", edited by Meic Stephens. Published by Oxford University Press, New York in l986. it contains nearly 3,000 entries covering writers from all periods, books, periodicals, the principal lilterary genres, mythis, legends, folklore, places with literary associations, events, movements, and institutions.


* Blue Guide to Wales

For detailed descriptions of the many attractions that Wales has to offer: its lmountain and coastal scenery, its castles and great houses, ancient cathedrals and ruined abbeys, modern museums and centres of industrial technology, one should consult the "Blue Guide to Wales", by John Tomes (London, A & C Black, l990). The book also contains background articles on the history of Wales and its people, and much practical information for the traveler.


* Welsh Nation Builders

An interesting study of the most important figures in the history of Wales who have contributed to the building and moulding of the Welsh nation is "Welsh Nation Builders," by Gwynfor Evans, himself a leader of unyielding patriotism and ardent fervor who has contributed much to the present resurgence of pride in Welsh nationhood. (Published by Gomer Press, Llandysul, l988)


* Guide to Welsh Wales

Those lucky enough to visit Wales will find a most informative book "Guide to Welsh Wales" by Ralph Maud (Y Lolfa Press, Talybont, l994) Maud details a week of day tours to the sites in Wales that are most evocative of the national spirit of the people.


* A Book of Wales: An Anthology

A good overview of Welsh literature, with translations, is that of Meic Stephens, "A Book of Wales: An Anthology" (J.M. Dent & Sons, l987)


* The Mabinogion

Many books have dealt with the tales of the Mabinogion. One of the best works is "The Mabinogion," ed. by Gwyn Jones and Thomas Jones (JH.M. Dent, l948)


* The Earliest Welsh Poetry

One of the best editions of early Welsh poetry, with translations, is Joseph P. Clancy's "The Earliest Welsh Poetry" (Macmillan, l970). Also excellent is Medieval Welsh Lyrics by the same editor (Macmillan, l963)


* Dafydd ap Gwylym: A Selection of Poems

For the poetry of Dafydd ap Gwylym, there is no finer book than that edited and translated by Rachel Bromwich, "Dafydd ap Gwylym: A Selection of Poems" (Penguin Books, l985).


* The Burning Tree: Poems fron the First Thousand Years

of Welsh Verse Another collection of early Welsh poetry is "The Burning Tree: Poems fron the First Thousand Years of Welsh Verse" selected and translated by Gwyn Williams (Faber and Faber Ltd; undated)


* 38 Favorite Hymns in Welsh and English

For a collection of Welsh hymns with pronunciation guides, phonetic transcriptions, comprehensive vocabulary and translations, see "38 Favorite Hymns in Welsh and English" by Peter N Williams (Red Dragon Press, l996) (review)


* David Thomas, Man of Iron: The Story of an Immigrant

and of the Country He Left Behind The story of "David Thomas is told in David Thomas, Man of Iron: The Story of an Immigrant and of the Country He Left Behind" (by Peter N. Williams, published by NWAF, l995)


* A Classified Bibliography of Welsh Americana

For a list of books dealing with Welsh emigration to the United States and of distinguished Welsh Americans, see "A Classified Bibliography of Welsh Americana" by Edward G. Hartmann (NWAF, l993)


* Insight Guides: Wales

Finally, a very comprehensive guide to places and characters in Wales is "Insight Guides: Wales," edited and published by Brian Bell as one of the APA publications that deal with what it terms "the Celtic fringes of the British Isles." The book is profusely is profusely illustrated though it contains no mention of Caerphilly Castle, by far the largest medieval structure in Wales and second only to Windsor as the largest castle in Britain.


Additional Reading


* Cyfres Y Cewri l: Dafydd Iwan

The story of the l960's protests, beginning with the sit-down at Trefechan Bridge, is perhaps best told by one of its leaders, Dafydd Iwan, in "Cyfres Y Cewri l: Dafydd Iwan," published by Gwasg Gwynedd, l98l.


* Gramadeg Cymraeg Cyfoes

An excellent Welsh Grammar book is "Gramadeg Cymraeg Cyfoes" (Contemporary Welsh Grammar), published at Bontfaen, Glamorgan, l976 by D. Brown a'i Feibion (Brown and Sons).


* Y Geiriadur Mawr

At present the best Welsh dictionary is "Y Geiriadur Mawr" (The Complete Welsh-English, English-Welsh Dictionary, edited by H. Meurig Evans and W.O. Thomas. Gwasg Gomer, l989.


* 234 Welsh Verbs

For an understanding of the intricacies of Welsh verb forms, see Kathy Klingebiel, "234 Welsh Verbs," published in Massachusettes by Ford and Baillie, l994.


* 38 Favorite Hymns in Welsh and English

For Welsh pronunciation and a guide to Welsh hymns, see.Peter N. Williams, "38 Favorite Hymns in Welsh and English" (Newark, De. Red LIon Press, l996) (review)


* Welsh Hymns and their Tunes

A good book on Welsh hymnology and history is Alan Luff, "Welsh Hymns and their Tunes," published at Carol stream, IL. by Hope Publishing Co., l990.


* Colloquial Welsh: A Complete Language Course

Welsh language beginners should see Gareth King, "Colloquial Welsh: A Complete Language Course" (New York: Routledge, l995).


* Y Geiriau Bach: Idioms for Welsh Learners

Another highly recommended book for Welsh-language beginners is "Y Geiriau Bach: Idioms for Welsh Learners" by Cennard Davies, one of the foremost language teachers in Wales (Gwasg Gomer, l987).


* Aspects of Bilinguism in Wales

For the situation of the Welsh language up to the mid-eighties, a useful study is "Aspects of Bilinguism in Wales," by Colin Baker, published as Multilingual Matters l9 by Multinual Matters, London, l985.


* Language Regained in Changing Wales

Also useful booklet on the language aspect is that by Bobi Jones, "Language Regained in Changing Wales," ed. Meic Stephens: Gomer Press, l993.


* The Welsh and their Country: Selected Readings in the

Social Sciences Further studies should include "The Welsh and their Country: Selected Readings in the Social Sciences," ed. I. Hume and W.T.R. Pryce, Gomer Press, l986.


* A Walk Through Wales

Of the myriad books on walking tours of Wales, a recent one, as good as any other, is "A Walk Through Wales," by Anthony Bailey. Harper Perennial, l992.


* Folk Tales of Wales

There are many books dealing with folk tales of Wales. A small collection is found in "Folk Tales of Wales," ed by Eirwen Jones. (Gomer Press, l978).


* Ninnau

North American readers can keep up with events in the US and Canada, as well as what's happening in contemporary Wales by subscribing to "Ninnau," ll Post Terrace, Basking Ridge, N.J. 07920) or Y Drych, Box 8089, St. Paul, Mn, 55l08.


* Yr Enfys: The Journal of Wales International

An international Welsh magazine is "Yr Enfys: The Journal of Wales International," published four times a year at 7 Victoria Rd, Old Colwyn, Clwyd, Wales, LL 29 9SN.


* Y Monitor Cymreig

A monthly newsletter, "Y Monitor Cymreig" for North American readers is also published at l225 E. Sunset Drive, # 609, Bellingham, WA, 98226.


* Wales Review

A publication that made its debut in August, l996 is "Wales Review" (Trem ar Gymru) a monthly review of news and opinions on Welsh current affairs, published in Cardiff by Gwalia Ltd.


Some Reviews


* Here Be Dragons First volume of The Welsh Trilogy by Sharon Kay Penman


            * Falls the Shadow Second volume in the series.


            * The Reckoning Third volume of the series.