The 175th anniversary of the first Rebecca rising is a great opportunity for the Cynefin project to demonstrate the value of the information held in the tithe maps and apportionments, and also show the benefit of digitisation.
The leader of the rebellion on the 13th of May 1839 was a farmer known as “Twm Carnabwth”. He was not a rich farmer, “Carnabwth” is a reference to his house quickly built on common land according to the Welsh tradition of “Ty Unnos”. He should appear on the apportionment documents, but how easy is he to find?
Try it for yourself – how much tithe did Twm pay? The map and the relevant apportionment page are provided below, but this is insufficient to confirm we have the right man. Is Carnabwth the name of his farm? You will probably need a quick check on Wikipedia and spend some time on the historic maps provided by the People’s Collection.
Can you find Carnabwth – or a similar name?
Once the Cynefin project is complete the map of Mynachlog-ddu will be geo-referenced, the apportionment document will be transcribed, and Twm Carnabwth’s house will be geo-tagged. We will be able to carry out this type of query and many other similar queries much more efficiently.
The historical context of tithe maps is extremely interesting, as we can see in the area of Cilmaenllwyd in Carmarthenshire which includes the village of Efailwen, the location of the first Rebecca rebellion.
The tithe map of Cilmaenllwyd was made in early 1838, a year before the infamous tollgate was built. The tollgate is not shown as it was built in May 1839 and only lasted for a few days before it was destroyed.
It was a period when the majority of the people who lived in rural areas faced difficult living conditions with an increase in poverty partly due to the population growth.
The tithe payments were controversial enough as so much of the money went to the church while a good proportion of the Welsh attended chapels. However, the main objects of fear and hate for the public were the new workhouses which were prisons for the poor, and tollgates which undermined farmers’ ability to trade.
There was a particularly large number of tollgates set up by turnpike trusts in Camarthenshire and Pembrokeshire, but they did not keep to government guidelines and the roads they were meant to fund were of poor quality. When the Whitland Trust built an additional tollgate in the village of Efailwen the local community was infuriated and they decided to take action in a particular style when hundreds of them dressed as women and noisily attacked the tollgate during the night. This was the first dramatic appearance of the women’s leader – “Rebecca”.
The date of this attack was the 13th of May 1839 – almost exactly 175 years ago. It was very significant as it set the pattern for a far bigger rebellion when Rebecca reappeared in 1842-43. On that occasion she ruled over all of south west Wales destroying dozens of tollgates while resisting the efforts of over a thousand soldiers.
For the whole map in lower resolution see the Map of the Month for May.
This is a map of Cilmaenllwyd in Carmarthenshire – and includes the tiny but historically significant village of Efailwen near the top right hand corner – on the boundary with Pembrokeshire. This map was made in 1838 by Alfred Thomas of Carmarthen, valuer and surveyor. The map itself is 62 cm high and 106 cm wide, but this is not particularly large compared to other tithe maps. It was possible to scan it on our A0 scanner.
This is an image of the first Tithe Map to be digitised by the Cynefin project. This beautiful map of Neath was requested for an exhibition so the National Library of Wales digitised the map before releasing it.
As tithe maps are very large, often 2m by 3m or more, there is no scanner available which can do the work. We have had to develop a special technique for digitisation which involves hanging the map on a curved wall and taking a number of photographs of every part of the map. These photographs are then digitally stitching them together to make one large map. Some of these files are more than 1GB
A few maps have already been digitised for testing purposes but since the 10th of April two members of staff have started to go through them all.