April 6, 2018

Newsletter 2010

The President of the Cambrians this year is Richard Keen who will be well-known of members from his series of programmes on Welsh industrial history for television a few years ago. Richard has worked for the National Museum and for the National Trust and his ability to make industrial history lively and inspiring was made clear to members during our Summer Meeting in the industrial valleys of south-east Wales. Next year’s President will be the Right Revd J. Wyn Evans the Bishop of St David’s who will be leading us, most appropriately, to Canterbury in July.

At the AGM last year a new Trustee, Sian Rees, was elected. We are delighted to have her with us, sharing her knowledge of monuments and conservation gained during her career with Cadw. We hope she will enjoy blending voluntary with official work for Welsh heritage.

Members who were at the Krakow meeting will be saddened to know that Dermot Keogh died during the year. North Wales has lost a notable campaigner for history and archaeology in the person of Mrs Gwenno Caffell, the daughter of Sir Ifor Williams the great scholar of Welsh literature, who died in March. She founded the award-winning Llandygai Archaeological Society (always known as ‘Gwenno’s army’) and was a formidable and frequently successful campaigner for historical conservation. She was the driving force behind the first campaign to save Bangor Museum and a very inspiring celebration of her life was held there after her funeral. She has left her cremated bones, in an uncrushed condition, to benefit archaeological research and training.

The Cambrians are looking for a new Treasurer!

Our long-standing and very successful Treasurer, Brian Newman, has told the Trustees that he wishes to relinquish this responsibility at the AGM this coming year and the Association is hoping that another member will offer to take on this role. The job involves controlling the various bank accounts (general fund, additional meetings, research, education, Blodwen Jarman prize etc) and paying out cheques from them. The gathering of subscriptions and recording incomings to the Subscription Account is dealt with by the Membership Secretary but moving money between accounts and the year-end accounts are done by the Treasurer. The Treasurer is also responsible for the investments of the Association, but Brian has said that he would be willing to continue to advise on this matter and, if need be, the job could be split in two.

If you are interested in the job and would like to discuss it with Brian Newman his telephone number is 01874 611859 and his address is 34 Beacons Park, Pendre, Brecon LD3 9BR; or get in touch with the Chairman, Prof Muriel Chamberlain, 22 Wimmerfield Drive, Killay, Swansea SA2 7BR (01792 205120).

Meetings held in 2009

Two meetings were held this year, in the south-east Wales valleys and in Bristol. Both were particularly fascinating and for both the weather of this notorious summer was relatively kind. We were also lucky to redeem the impact of the credit crunch which closed our first choice of hotel with the discovery of the comfortable Premier Inn at Ebbw Vale, the epicentre of our summer programme looking at industrial history. We are particularly grateful to David Young who organised the week for dealing with that alarming crisis so efficiently.

We were especially blessed with our guides to the sites visited during our Summer Meeting: our new President Richard Keen and Frank Olding the archaeological officer of Bleanau Gwent. Both of them were not only expert in the history and significance of the industrial sites we visited, but were passionate communicators.

The first afternoon was spent in Pontypool and introduced us to Japanned Ware and the importance of communications to the prosperity of industry. Tuesday was spent in Merthyr Tydfil with ironworks and railways where nature was reclaiming some of the formative sites and some members even managed to fit in a medieval castle as well the Crawshays’ new one. The following day was devoted to Blaenavon, the morning underground at Big Pit and the afternoon, in welcome sunshine, at the ironworks among the casting houses where so many crucial developments occurred and the workers cottages, ending up at the relict quarries and tramways above. Thursday was in Gelligaer and Pontypridd where some prehistory and 17th century architecture entered the week, with a memorable visit to Llancaiach Fawr in the morning; Dr William Price’s strange monument on Pontypridd Common and the glistening engine at Hopkinstown springing to life for our benefit were the highlights of the afternoon. Friday began with the industry of the Clydach Gorge and ended in the late medieval calm of Abergavenny church where the famous funerary monuments have been recently cleaned and the impressive tithe barn restored. On our final morning we visited the evocative Cholera Cemetery at Tredegar in a fitting mist and then went to the puzzling defended farmstead at Nantyglo and had a privileged tour of the interior. Finally we set off in the cloud for a long mystery tour to Llanhilleth church, less than a mile above the Llanhilleth Miners’ Institute where we had had our lectures, but inaccessible by bus by that steep route. Mais ça vaux le detour, as Michelin would say.

The Autumn Meeting in Bristol, led by the Chairman, Professor Muriel Chamberlain, assisted by Nansi Mascetti, was attended by 29 members. Lectures & some meals were at Burwalls, the University of Bristol’s Centre for Continuing Studies – an opulent Edwardian building located at the southern end of the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Others stayed at The Avon Gorge Hotel, at the north end. We had a truly excellent series of lectures, beginning with a masterly overview of Bristol’s history, especially in the medieval period by Dr Peter Fleming of the University of the West of England who was in many ways the mainstay of the conference. Others spoke on Roman Bristol and links to south Wales, Bristol Channel trade under the Tudors and an intriguing lecture on scholarly detective work, ‘The Cabot Mystery’. Dr Madge Dresser led a tour of Clifton culminating in a surprise visit to the Palladian splendours of Clifton Hill House – now a Hall of Residence of Bristol University. Peter Fleming’s tour of the medieval city and harbour was accompanied by Stephen Jones’s ‘on the platform’ visit to Templemeads Station. This and our proximity to the Suspension Bridge, let alone an excellent visit to the SS Great Britain and, finally, Stephen Jones’ lecture, meant that Isambard Kingdom Brunel was a constant presence during the weekend. Medieval Bristol held its own though, with visits to St Mary Redcliffe, the Lord Mayor’s Chapel and a cruise aboard the Mathew, an exact replica of Cabot’s ship. Some of the crew on board on our trip had made the Atlantic Crossing in the Mathew in 1997 to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the discovery of Newfoundland.