Can We Make This Map of Wales Even Better?

This image is the result of thousands of hours of clipping and georeferencing by Cynefin volunteers.


This is the latest output and all known bugs have been resolved, only two or three maps remain to be added.
There are some gaps in the map, which can be seen if you zoom in. For example you can see some of the gaps in Brecknockshire here


Are they due to incomplete clipping or georeferencing? Can they be made to fit better? Or are the gaps simply land which wasn’t liable for tithes?
There are advanced features in Cynefin which can help us resolve this, so if you’re up for some serious georeferencing this is a great opportunity.
These guidelines may be useful, they are however advanced, only for people who already know how to georeference and clip on Cynefin

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Anglesey almost completed

There’s over five months to go with Cynefin and it looks like Anglesey will be the first county to be completed.


The parishes seen on this map were drawn by Cynefin website volunteers who clipped the tithe maps to the shapes shown. You can see a few gaps where maps have not been loaded yet, in Llangefni and Gwredog. We expect these to be loaded this week.

There is some overlapping and gaps between the maps, and in most cases it’s possible to tidy this up by clipping or georeferencing, accurate goereferencing points near the boundaries of these maps would help.

However, there are some areas which don’t have tithe at all, and where there is no map either, but as you see above, these are relatively small areas. One is Bodewryd in the north of the island, where Lord Stanley arranged to pay tithe to himself, and avoided the need for a tithe map. There were also no tithes payable in Llannerch y Medd.

Anybody can join in to do this detailed but interesting work on the website:

Anglesey apportionment documents are also almost complete, but there are a few individual pages which haven’t been transcribed: Beaumaris, Gwredog, Llanbabo, Llanfachreth (2nd page), Llanfigel, Llanfflewin, Llangaffo, Llangwyllog, Rhosmynach

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First glimpse of complete 1840s tithe map of Wales

An image has been released by the Cynefin project showing progress of how the historic tithe maps of Wales will be linked together to create a unified tithe map of Wales.

The image demonstrates the scale of the work involved in creating the complete tithe map, which will cover 95% of Wales. Over 1,200 separate maps have been conserved and digitised over the past two years. Once digitised the maps are placed online for volunteers to georeference and clip, in order to locate and define the boundary of each parish or township. The image shows just how much work has already been completed by volunteers, and how much is left to do.


The unified map will be accurately georeferenced in order to easily compare with other modern and historical mapping layers. Through the transcription work which volunteers are also doing online, the map will be fully searchable on a free online platform – it will be possible to search and locate land owners, land occupiers and field names from 1840s Wales at a touch of a button. It will also be possible to browse the map geographically and zoom in to see individual fields, as well as details such as dwellings and woodlands.

The image itself was produced by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, who have recently relocated at the National Library of Wales. This is the first time that a glimpse of the final unified map has been produced. It is now possible for volunteers to conveniently view which areas need further work. Anybody who wants to join in and help complete this incredibly detailed map of Wales from the 1840s is welcome to do so online on

Further information
Einion Gruffudd 01970 632842 or

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Cynefin reveals historic agricultural data

The data which has been transcribed by volunteers as a part of the Cynefin project is now being used to study long term changes in agriculture.


In collaboration with Aberystwyth University and the Farmers Union of Wales, the detailed information about fields and land use in the 1840s is being used for statistical analysis of the changes in the nature of Welsh agriculture.

A little over half of the 30,000 pages of tithe documents have been transcribed, but it is already possible to analyse some parishes in detail. Einion Gruffudd, Cynefin’s Project Manager said that this research was a great example of the advantages which come from digitising old maps and documents.


“We are familiar with statistical analyses of recent trends, but we now have increasing opportunities to do similar work with historical data.” said Einion. He added: “I’m very proud of the work we have done with students from Aberystwyth University, and I’m grateful to FUW and to staff at the Welsh Government for enabling us to connect this with recent data.”


Einion Gruffudd , Eryn White, Bethan Jones, Rhodri Evans, Nick Fenwick (FUW)

Einion Gruffudd (Cynefin) , Eryn White, Bethan Jones and Rhodri Evans (all Aberystwyth University),  Nick Fenwick (FUW)

A display of the early findings will be shown at the Tŷ-Mawr stand at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show this week (from 18th-21st July 2016).

The transcription data is all available on the website, as well as the opportunity to help transcribe the remaining 12,000 pages of tithe documents.

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Locate your Welsh relatives on Cynefin’s tithe maps

The Cynefin project is digitising 19th Century Welsh Tithe maps and making them available online for all to access.  These maps, dating from the 1840s, have documents attached naming the landowners and land occupiers in Wales at that time, and show us the exact location of their farms and fields.

Many of the people found on these maps and documents later emigrated to other countries, or had relatives who had already emigrated, mostly due to the difficult living conditions in Wales at the time. One of the most popular countries that the Welsh emigrated to was the USA, and many subsequently took part in the American Civil War.

One of the Welshmen who fought in the American Civil War was John Griffith Jones who was born in 1843. He can be linked to the family farm of his grandfather, also John Jones, of Bryn y Fedwen, Llanrug. The website gives us a direct link between John Jones himself, the name of the farm and land which he occupied, and the location of the farm and land on the tithe map. The tithe map can also be overlaid with other modern and historic maps for comparison.

John Jones Llanrug Brynyfedwen

John Griffith Jones’ story is told through the Welsh letters he wrote to his family during the American Civil War. His letters have been digitised and can be seen online on the National Library of Wales‘s website.

Llythyr John Griffith Jones


Many others who emigrated from Wales can also be traced on Welsh tithe maps.  The information from these tithe maps will be fully searchable online once the documents have been transcribed by volunteers.

You can help make this fascinating resource freely available online by contributing to the Cynefin crowdsourcing website.

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Progress of Cynefin Volunteering Work

Transcription is continuing at a very rapid pace on the website with volunteers transcribing over 44 pages a day. 7631 pages have now been transcribed, only 19,503 pages to go!

Volunteers have told us that they need to be able to find which parishes have yet to be completed, so we have made this clearer on the website. Bar charts are now visible on all the parishes on the Tithe Maps page.  If you hover over each bar chart, an information box will appear to show how many pages are left to transcribe and how many maps are left to georeference. Completed parishes are marked with a star, and there are already 189 of those.

Has your parish been completed? Find out here.

Do you want to help with the transcription work online? Download our volunteer guidelines to get started. Don’t forget that we also hold volunteer workshops across Wales.

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Follow Early Welsh Railways

One of the best ways to study the development of railways in Wales is to look at the tithe maps which were drawn at the time the earliest railways were being built. Here you can see a picture of which railways were built when, although you also need to be aware of when the maps were drawn.

The Cardiff St Mary map shows the Taff Vale Railway which was built in the 1830s, but not the GWR which came later. Cardiff is much smaller, the central station is not there and the Taff river follows a different course
Cardiff St Mary

The railway passes through Pontypridd on the Llanwonno map, where another branch is also shown.

The Merthyr map shows the station at the top of the line, and also a new railway to Neath

Meanwhile the Sirhowy line starts in the Sirhowy Iron Works just north of Tredegar on the Bedwellty map…
…and ends up in Newport,where there is also a tramway into the town as it was at the time.
In the north the maps drawn in the late 1840s show the railway to Holyhead, for example here in Dwygyfylchi, where land allocated to the railway is shown, but however the village of Penmaenmawr does not exist yet.Dwygyfylchi
The railway is also clearly seen in Abergwyngregyn on the Aber map
Other maps may not show railways because they were drawn in the early 1840s, as opposed to the late 1840s, see for yourselves for example Bangor

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Meifod and Mathrafal – What’s in a name?

This year the National Eisteddfod returns to Mathrafal in Meifod. But what is the meaning of these place-names?


The second element of the name Meifod is bod meaning ‘home, dwelling, residence’, which occurs in many place-names. Traditionally, the first element has been explained as Mai ‘the month of May’, leading to the interpretation of the name as ‘May dwelling’, in comparison to hafod (haf + bod) ‘summer dwelling’. But in fact, what we have here is the element mei- ‘half, middle’. The name Meifod therefore denotes a ‘middle dwelling’, and refers (as stated in Owen & Morgan: Dictionary of the Place-Names of Wales, p. 315) to its position half way between Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain and Mathrafal. The same mei- element is present in Mehefin ‘June, i.e. the middle of summer’ and dimai ‘halfpenny’. It is also occurs in the place-names Meidrum (mei- + trum ‘ridge’) and Meiros (mei- + rhos ‘moor, heath’) in Carmarthenshire.

Further examples of the place-name Meifod can be found across north Wales, e.g. in Abergele, Llanenddwyn, and Llanrhaeadr-yng-Nghinmeirch, and it occurs with the definite article in Y Feifod near Llangollen.


Mathrafal is a combination of the elements ma ‘field, plain’ and tryfal ‘triangle’, describing the plain that lies in the fork at the confluence of the rivers Banw and Efyrnwy. The same ma element is present in the names Machynlleth, Machynys, and Mechain, along with the personal names Cynllaith, Cynys, and Cain. (Note that ma causes an aspirate mutation to the element that follows.) In the name Mathrafal, tryfal has been changed to trafal through the assimilation of the y with the two as either side of it in the name.

Prepared by Angharad Fychan in cooperation with the Welsh Place-Name Society

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Chartism and Human Rights

Were the South Wales Chartists, who campaigned for the vote and ultimately marched on Newport in 4th November 1839, concerned about human rights? On the face of it, the six point charter that they wanted to see introduced was about very specific changes to the political system rather than fighting for basic rights, but the historical context suggests their battle was about much more than just the vote.


Chartism was a movement that captured the imagination of middle and working class people in the 1830s, most of whom did not have the right to vote. Members of Parliament at the time were required to be independently wealthy as MPs weren’t paid. They were also required to own property. Those who could vote could not do so in secret and constituencies often didn’t reflect the explosion in population that had come about as a result of the industrial revolution. Many people felt that parliament was not representing the views of most people in Britain.


In addition, Wales had a strong tradition of cyfiawnder or justice, partly based on relatively egalitarian Welsh medieval laws. All of this led many people in Wales to support the Chartist cause passionately. Support didn’t die with the conviction of the ringleaders for high treason. Across Britain, people continued to campaign for the charter to become law and slowly, the political system in the United Kingdom began to change.  Since 1918, all men aged over 21 have been eligible to vote and in 1928 that was extended to include women over 21 too. Human rights, as well as civil rights are also better protected now than they were when the Chartists stood trial.


The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was signed on 4th November 1950, exactly 111 years after the Chartists marched on Newport. It paved the way for other legislation, including Britain’s Human Rights Act, which came into force in October 2000 and which incorporates the ECHR into UK Law. The Human Rights Act includes the right to Free Elections and enshrines in law one of the points of the People’s Charter – the right to secret ballot:

The Human Rights Act requires the government to support your right to free expression by holding free elections at reasonable intervals.

 The elections must enable you to vote in secret.

The right to free elections only applies to those who are eligible to vote under UK law.


What the law says

Protocol 1, Article 3: Right to free elections

The High Contracting Parties undertake to hold free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot, under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature.”

 The European Convention of Human Rights is clearly relevant to the early battles of the Chartists, but what would they make of the current Government’s proposed changes? According to the Conservative party’s pre-election manifesto it plans to:

Scrap the Human Rights Act and curtail the role of the European Court of Human Rights, so that foreign criminals can be more easily deported from Britain.”

  and replace it with a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities which will:

  •  Make Britain the ultimate arbiter of human rights in this country – ensuring our Supreme Court is supreme
  • Balance rights with responsibilities”

The Chartists, had a keen sense of what these rights should be. Their legacy lives on in our legislation and in our political system today. 22 of the Gwent Chartists died fighting for the political rights we now enjoy.  The Chartists would have strived to keep our politicians accountable, whatever their political persuasion, to ensure that the rights that they fought for remain enshrined in law, and in today’s context they would certainly have looked very closely at what was being won and lost in changes to the Human Rights Act, and how people’s lives would be impacted.

This letter was written by Baptist Minister Micah Thomas in Abergavenny on 22nd January 1840 to the Marquess of Normanby. In it he is pleading for clemency for John Frost, the Chartist leader recently sentenced to death for high treason.  While he distances himself from the chartist cause himself, he says of Frost: “His notions of what he considered, popular rights, might by moderate men be deemed extravagant, but his humanity and regard for social order prior to the recent catastrophe, have been honourably attested.”

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The Chartists’ Heartland

One of the strongest areas of the campaigners for the right to vote in 1839 was the north of the valleys in the counties of Glamorgan and Monmouth. This area can be seen on the tithe maps from the period which have all been collected by the Cynefin project. Below are the maps of Aberdare, Merthyr, Gelli-Gaer, Bedwellty and Aberystruth joined together.

Chartists' Heartland

These maps show clearly that the areas had seen considerable industrial development, with a number of iron works in the area, for example i Tredegar and Rhymney.



On the 3rd of November 1839 the Chartists attacked the town of Newport, this is a part of a tithe map showing the town as it was at the time.


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