While some consider the Welsh language to be relatively weak in Monmouthshire, the Cynefin project has unlocked sources testifying to the historical importance of the Welsh language in the county’s history.
A discussion of the Welsh language in Monmouthshire will be held at the National Eisteddfod, in the cymdeithasau 2 tent on Thursday at 4:30pm, with Einion Gruffudd, Cynefin Project Manager, and Dr Elin Jones, President of the Eisteddfod.
As a leading historian Dr Elin Jones will be giving historical context, while Einion Gruffudd will focus on evidence from the tithe maps which Cynefin has already digitised.
Tithe maps were created in the 1840s, at the same time as when Eisteddfodau of Cymreigyddion were held regularly in Abergavenny. Nowadays, the tithe maps can be found online on the cynefin.wales website, and show the popularity of the Welsh language during that period.
Einion Gruffudd said “There is reason to believe that more than half of the area’s field names during the 1840s are in Welsh, reflecting the language of farmworkers in the area during that period.”
Llanover estate is shown on the tithe map for Llanover parish, where Lady Llanover, Augusta Hall or ‘Gwenynen Gwent’ lived, who played a key role in organising and financing Eisteddfodau’r Cymreigyddion.
Tithe maps of the area also tell the story of the Chartists. The maps were created at the same time the Chartists had marched along the South Wales valleys to protest for a fairer vote. As part of the Cynefin project, documents surrounding the court proceedings against the Chartists, following their attack on Newport in 1839, will be introduced and transcribed online. Although the court proceedings and documents were recorded in English, they include references to the Welsh language and to translation. These documents demonstrate that many of the defendants were Welsh speakers and indeed in many cases, unable to speak English.
Looking at these historical sources, it is clear that the language was in widespread use in Monmouthshire – this should be taken into account when studying the history of the county. This demonstrates the importance of historical documents to create a clear and complete picture of our history as a nation.
The Chartist documents are currently being transcribed on chartist.cynefin.wales and the tithe documents on cynefin.wales.