Autumn Meeting, Brecon, 22nd – 24th September, 2023

Brecon is one of Wales’s most interesting and attractive county towns, best known today as the Gateway to the Brecon Beacons National Park and for its festivals, notably the Brecon Jazz Festival and Brecon Baroque.

A strategically located Norman foundation, it still retains the key features of a ‘castle borough’, with substantial parts of the castle surviving within one of the town’s hotels, the remains of its Dominican friary at Brecon College (where we will have a private guided tour by the College archivist) and of course the former priory of St John the Evangelist, which became the cathedral church for the new diocese of Swansea and Brecon in 1923. The cathedral and close fully merit a morning’s exploration with a number of speakers.

The medieval town developed on the eastern side of the Afon Honddu at its confluence with the Usk and although its street plan reveals its medieval origins, its constraining walls and gates were swept away in later 18th century improvement. The prosperity of the town was due to its proximity to the burgeoning industrial south Wales valleys and many of its fine town houses and civic buildings are from this Georgian era.  Saved from dereliction, the basin of the Brecon and Abergavenny Canal is now used by leisure craft but its railway, appearing late in 1863 succumbed to closure in 1962. We shall explore the town’s plan and buildings on a succession of short perambulations.

The recently completed new development of a conjoined Museum, Art Gallery and Library – Y Gaer – will be explored with the help of staff and a member of the Brecknock Art Trust. Brecon was – and is – a ‘garrison town’, its 1804 Barracks housed the South Wales Borderers from 1873 and we plan to visit the Royal Welsh Regimental Museum housed in the Barracks.

We hope to be accompanied in parts of our programme by members of the Brecknock Society.

With our Summer Meeting for 2023 being held in France, the Presidential Inauguration and Lecture will take place at the Brecon meeting in September with Dr Elizabeth Walker handing over to President-elect Professor Alasdair Whittle.

Our final morning will also involve prehistory with Dr Toby Driver leading a guided walk around Pen-y-Crug hillfort close to the town. Other options are available. We hope that those members joining us who are familiar with Brecon will find much that is new in this Programme and, for those unfamiliar with the town, the weekend will be full of exciting discoveries.



In order to keep costs down we do not plan to hire any transport. Brecon can be reached by bus from Cardiff, Hereford and Abergavenny, where there are train stations, and also Merthyr Tydfil, Swansea, Neath, Llandrindod Wells and Newtown. Within the town assistance can be provided by members who will be travelling by car. Moderate levels of walking are involved. Our day costs therefore involve hire of a sound system for the walks and talks, entry charges to the museums and donations, together with some speakers’ costs. The registration fee will be £30 with an additional £35 to cover the day costs. Meals must be pre-booked with the organiser. These comprise lunch at the Cathedral (£10) and dinners at The Clarence Inn, Watton, £30 per night.

Members will need to make their own accommodation arrangements; a list of hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs can be supplied on request from Heather James and early booking is recommended.

A booking form can be found at the end of this programme


Friday 22nd September

12.00-2.00   Registration at The Guildhall Brecon, and confirm booking choice for Sunday morning’s visits.

2.00-2.30   Short walk and talk to Christ College.

2.30-4.30    Guided Tour of Christ College by Mrs Felicity Kilpatrick, College Archivist followed by tea at the College.

4.30-5.30   Walk and talk returning to the Guildhall.

5.30   Lecture in the Theatre, Brecon Guildhall by Nigel Clubb, President of the Brecknock Society and Museum Friends: ‘An Overview of the Development of Brecon, its Buildings and Monuments’.

7.00   Dinner at the Clarence Inn

Saturday 23rd September

9.00   Assemble at The Guildhall.

9.00-10.00   Walk and talk from the Guildhall to the Cathedral.

10.00    Assemble at the Cathedral car park (those not wishing to walk to the Cathedral can drive and park there).

10.00-12.30   Guided tour of the Cathedral by Dr Mike Williams, Chapter Clerk, Brecon Cathedral,  followed by an examination of the monuments and ledger slabs with Professor Emerita Maddy Gray and of the nineteenth-century funerary monuments in the north transept by the Welsh sculptor John Evan Thomas FSA (1810-1873), with William Gibbs, Chair of the Brecknock Art Trust.

12.30-1.30   Lunch (pre-booked only) at the Tithe Barn, Cathedral Close.

1.30-2.00   Walk and Talk from the Cathedral to Y Gaer.

2.00-4.00   Assemble at Y Gaer (Museum and Gallery) – Welcome and Introductory talk by John Gibbs, former Chair of the Brecknock Society and Museum Friends, and by William Gibbs on the art in Y Gaer, including the current major exhibition of the work of the Welsh artist and poet, David Jones (1895-1974), who had strong associations with the Capel-y-ffin group of artists in the 1920s, followed by visit to the museum and art gallery – self guided.

4.00-5.00   Free time for tea OR guided Walk and Talk on the Watton area in Brecon.

5.00   Assemble at the Guildhall.

5.00-5.30   Reception and Presidential Inauguration.

5.30-6.30   Presidential Lecture by Professor Alasdair Whittle: ‘West Side Story: the early Neolithic in Western Britain and Ireland’.

7.00   Dinner (pre-booked) at the Clarence Inn.

Sunday 24th September

Choice of activities:

9.30   Guided walk around Pen-y-Crug hillfort by Dr Toby Driver, RCAHMW. The hillfort is close to the town – transport by private cars, but lifts can arranged, although it is a fairly steep climb up to the top of the monument. This will also feature as an event in the Cambrians Walks 2023.


9.30   Short walk and guided tour of Brecon Canal Basin, speaker Sue Ware.

11.00-12.00   Private visit to The Royal Welsh Regimental Museum, The Barracks, Brecon.


Meeting concludes around midday.


Click here to download booking form.


Click here to download the entire programme and a copy of the booking form.