Unlocking the Chartist Trials

176 years ago, in November 1839, the authorities were calling people into the Westgate Hotel to record their testimonials. Most would not admit to supporting Chartism while the ringleaders stood accused of committing high treason. These testimonials give us a real sense of events unfolding in the days and weeks leading up to the uprising.

This film was created as part of Cynefin’s Trails to Trials project. It uses local actors and community members to read some of the words given as testimony by over 250 people in the days following fatal events at the Westgate Hotel during the uprising in Newport on 4th November 1839.

The film focuses on the people who made history as part of the Chartist uprising in the Gwent valleys and Newport at the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign, and celebrates the voices of ordinary men and women.

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Tithe map inspired gifts, just in time for Christmas!

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? Looking for a unique gift?

The Cynefin project has been working in collaboration with the National Library of Wales’ shop to create new products inspired by tithe maps. They are now available to buy online, just in time for Christmas!

Hen Gymru Fynyddig Coasters    Ar lan y môr Coasters

The National Library of Wales is preparing for Christmas with the launch of its online shop which will include Cynefin’s tithe map inspired items, as well as homeware, jewellery, prints, books, cards and stationery – many of which are unique and inspired by the Library’s collections.  As well as branded National Library items, the shop also features items by well-known local artists, such as the Big Surf at Llangrannog print by Ian Phillips and a specially commissioned seasonal greetings card design by Lizzie Spikes which depicts the Library at Christmas.

To find unique gifts for your friends and family this Christmas, come along to the National Library’s Celebrate Christmas Event on Thursday 3rd December or visit the online shop.

In a hurry? Purchase the tithe map inspired coasters here:

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Community film brings Chartist voices to life

On 2nd December at Gwent Archives, the public will get an opportunity to view a new film celebrating the voices of ordinary men and women. The film focuses on the people who made history as part of the Chartist uprising in the Gwent valleys and Newport at the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign.


The film was created as part of Cynefin’s Trails to Trials project. It uses local actors and community members to read some of the words given as testimony by over 250 people in the days following fatal events at the Westgate Hotel during the uprising in Newport on 4th November 1839. The project aims to transcribe over 3,000 pages of this testimony which is held at Newport Reference Library and Gwent Archives, and make it available online.

Project Officer Sarah Daly said: “Although Chartism was gathering strength across Britain, it was here, in south Wales that events came to a head. The people who marched on Newport wanted the right to vote. Most people, especially in industrial areas like the valleys of south Wales, had no way to make their voices heard or to fight for improvements to often appalling living and working conditions.”

Exactly 176 years ago, in November 1839, the authorities were calling people into the Westgate Hotel – the scene of the violence – to record their testimonials. Some of those interviewed either could or would only speak in Welsh, but all the testimony was recorded in English. Others were illiterate, signing their evidence with a cross. Most would not admit to supporting Chartism while the ringleaders stood accused of committing high treason. Despite this, these documents give us a real sense of events unfolding in the days and weeks leading up to the uprising.


Film maker Kevin Philips, of Green Valley Films says: “It was great to involve local people in the making of this film. We should be really proud that our communities here in Wales played such an important role in shaping democracy across Britain. 22 men died outside the Westgate Hotel so that we could have the right to vote. That’s something we should never forget.”

The 15 minute film was created by Community Enterprise Made in Tredegar and Green Valley Films, both based in Tredegar, Blaenau Gwent. It will be released on the Archives Wales You Tube channel and can be found by searching for Unlocking the Chartist Trials.

Anyone who would like to find out more about the project or register interest as a volunteer to help transcribe the testimonials can contact Sarah Daly at Gwent Archives on sarah.daly@gwentarchives.gov.uk or 01495 353363.

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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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Collecting the lost field names of Capel Celyn

Tithe maps, which were created in the 1840s, show lands which are now under water reservoirs, including the area under Llyn Celyn in Meirionnydd.

The village of Capel Celyn and the Tryweryn valley near Bala were drowned in 1965 in order to supply water for the city of Liverpool. Eight hundred acres of land was drowned to create the Llyn Celyn reservoir, which included the school, the post office, the chapel and the cemetery. Twelve farms and land belonging to four other farms were drowned.

Below, you’ll see a tithe map composition of Llanycil and Llanfor parishes from the 1840s, which show the land and the fields that were drowned by Llyn Celyn reservoir.


As we remember 50 years since the drowning of Tryweryn Valley, we ask you to join us in transcribing information about the land which is now lost under Llyn Celyn. On the cynefin.wales website, you can view maps and documents from the 1840s which note the landowners and the land occupiers of the land which is now under the reservoir, as well as the field names and the land use.

capel   capel2

Contact us for further information on how to volunteer online, to help transcribe these maps and documents in order to preserve the history of Capel Celyn.


P.S. This film gives an excellent insight into the village life and scenery before the valley was drowned…


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Project gives a glimpse of life in 1840s Wales

Communities in the Hiraethog area of Denbighshire are busily researching the history of their villages as part of the Cynefin project. The pan Wales Cynefin project is digitising the tithe maps of Wales, which depict Wales as it was in the 1840s just as the railways were spreading across the country and when towns such as Penmaenmawr didn’t exist. The tithe maps which have been digitised to date can be viewed on the cynefin.wales website, where you the public can take part in transcribing the documents.

Samantha Jones, Cynefin’s Project Officer said; “The project provides an opportunity for local communities to learn more about where they live at the time the tithe maps were created by using their local archives. Archives are a wonderful resource of original material that helps us to understand more about what it was like to live in places like Llansannan in the mid-1800s.”

People from the villages of Bro Hiraethog are looking at the lives and homes of the higher classes and the common people. Through using websites such as Find my past and Ancestry which can be freely accessed at local archives and libraries, they have been able to find out who lived at certain houses throughout the decades from 1841 to 1911.

Speculum Gregis

As part of the project they have also studied original documents found in the local archives. One such document is Speculum Gregis written by R H Jackson who was once the curate of Llansannan. The book is a snap shot of the village in 1850 and contains information such as all the vicars of the parish and the numbers of people attending the church. It also has a colourful map of the village centre along with the names of the people living in the houses, their ages and occupations.



A couple of events will be takingplace in Llansannan throughout October which will give members of the public the chance to contribute.

Visit an open evening at Ysgol Bro Aled on 13th October at 7pm, where Llansannan’s original tithe map will be exhibited. It is an opportunity to share information about the buildings and place names of Llansannan, as well as memories of the village.

There will also be a leisurely walk through the village to explore the old buildings of Llansannan on Saturday 31st October at 11am starting at the square next to the car park.

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Comparing the tithe system with modern agriculture

Recently the Cynefin project, which is digitising the tithe maps of Wales, has been working with the Farmers’ Union of Wales to compare the tithe system with modern agricultural websites.

Farmers today can record field names on systems such as Rural Payments Wales Online or IACS, whilst in the 1840s field names were recorded on tithe apportionment documents. These documents referred to the tithe maps which were created following the Tithe Commutation Act in 1836. The tithe maps and apportionment documents are available to view on the cynefin.wales website.

Tithe maps were created to apportion how much tithe land users had to pay.  Each map also has an apportionment document which lists who lived on the land, who owned the land, and also what use was made of the land.  Looking at these documents and maps you can see evidence of substantial farming across all of Wales, including vast parts of the highlands. Forested areas are shown clearly, and it’s possible to see where there are forests today on formerly agricultural land.

Einion Gruffud, Cynefin’s Project Manager said; “The field names, often in Welsh, tell tales of the past, including references to old methods of farming, or early uses of the land. You can compare historic and contemporary land use on the website. The Cynefin project aims to collect all the information about the names of people and fields and land use in the 1840s and make it easily searchable across all of Wales.”

In partnership with the Farmers’ Union of Wales, Wales’ tithe maps have been on tour through the country, by being showcased at local agricultural shows over the summer. The tithe maps’ journey will end in Usk Show on Saturday 12th September, where the local tithe map will be displayed by the FUW.Tithe map of Usk

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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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Royal Welsh Show 2015: Taking a closer look at the origin of field names

The 2015 Show is sponsored by Monmouthshire, and the Show’s President, Mr David Morgan, also lives in the county, at Trostre Court in Trostre parish, north of Usk.

There aren’t many field names recorded on the Tithe Schedule for Trostre parish, but fortunately, there is a reasonably full record of the fields of Trostre Court.  Here we shall look at a selection of those names:

The significance of some of them are obvious, for example Caer Eglwys (‘field of the church’) which borders with the parish church (Trostre church), or Caie Ddwr (containing the elements caeau ‘fields’ and dŵr ‘water’) where a small pool is shown, probably supplying water at one time.  (It is likely that the mutation of the element dŵr is an error, possibly by a transcriber who was not familiar with the Welsh language).

Part of Trostrey Tithe Schedule

Page 9 of Trostrey Tithe Schedule


Further thought must be given to the meaning of other names.  The name Cae Main doesn’t contain the element main meaning ‘narrow’ and referring to the shape of the cae or ‘field’, but rather main, plural of maen ‘stone’, describing a stony field.

The element gwrlod is common in the field names of Trostre Court, for example Wrlod y panta Ishaf and Wrlod Clomendy. Gwrlod is a variant form of gweirglod or gweirglodd meaning ‘meadow or hay meadow’.  The first example has the elements pantau ‘hollows’ and isaf ‘lower’.  It is worth drawing attention to the clomendy or colomendy in the second example, which is a ‘dovecote, pigeon-house’, used in former days for breeding pigeons.  Here is a reminder therefore of an old rural practice.

As one would expect in an area not far from the English border, the names include a mixture of Welsh and English elements.

Directly to the west of Trostre Court house, there are two fields recorded on the Tithe Map as Ffor Lands and Ffor Land Uchaf.  They appear to have forms of the English element foreland meaning ‘land lying in front’, possibly describing the location of the fields in relation to the house.  It occurs in other place-names in Monmouthshire, e.g. Cae’r-foreland, Dingestow (J. A. Bradney: A History of Monmouthshire ii. 64).  The Welsh element uchaf ‘upper’ is probably used to distinguish between the two fields.

Page 10 of Trostrey Tithe Schedule

Page 10 of Trostrey Tithe Schedule


Another example of the mixing of elements from both languages in the field names of the area is Cae Ygen Cover and Thirty Covers.  One field containing the Welsh numeral ugain ‘twenty’, and a nearby field having the English numeral thirty.  But the last element of the names, cover or covers, is worth a closer look.  The English cover is recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary as an ‘Anglicized spelling of Welsh cyfair’ (with cyfair, cyfer being a measure of land varying in size in different areas).  An example of its use is cited from the beginning of the eighteenth century, but possibly these two examples should be added to the OED’s collection.

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


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Locals prepare for the National Eisteddfod in Montgomeryshire and the Marches

On Wednesday, a group of Cynefin volunteers met at Newtown Library, with a particular task at hand. The aim of the collaborative session was to geo-reference and clip nine neighbouring tithe maps, in order to create a unified map of the Meifod area.

Volunteers at Newtown Library

Volunteers hard at work at Newtown Library

Locals got involved to ensure the work was completed in time for the National Eisteddfod, where the unified map will be exhibited. Visitors to the Eisteddfod will be able to view this large scale tithe map at Y Lle Hanes, a dedicated space for local history.

The Cynefin project would like to thank all the volunteers for their hard work and commitment to ensure all the work was completed in a single day!

Y Lle Hanes, which is HLF funded, aims to create for the first time at the National Eisteddfod a designated local history area on the Maes. It will be a collaboration between the Powysland Club, many local history societies in the Montgomeryshire area, Newtown Area Library’s new Local Resources Centre, Peoples Collection Wales and Cynefin.
The Eisteddfod runs from 1st to 8th August, and Cynefin will be exhibiting in the Y Lle Hanes pavilion and on the National Library of Wales stand. We hope to see you there!

Preview of the unified tithe map

Preview of the unified tithe map


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