A HISTORY RESOURCE
The Iron Age
It was not until the time of the Romans that written history began in and about Britain. For information on the earliest settlements, we have to look to our archaeologists. From them we learn that by 1000 BC, the Iron Age proper had arrived in what is now Wales where its people grouped themselves into large hill forts for protection; practised mixed, settled farming, but also worked extensive copper mines. Many of these impressive hill forts remain in Wales, some of them, such as Tre'r Cewri atop Yr Eifl Mountain in Gwynedd, were still occupied during the Roman invasions in the first century AD. Advanced metalworking seems to have been introduced as a result of contact with the Halstatt culture of Austria, from an area near present-day Salzburg. This culture itself had benefited from contact with others in the Mediterranean area, whose use of the symbols and patterns so characteristic of Celtic design, is named La Tene, after a village on the shores of Lake Neuchatel in Switzerland.
500-100 BC: The Celtic Age
It was at this time that the Celtic languages arrived in Britain, probably introduced by small groups of migrants who became culturally dominant in their new homelands, and whose culture formed part of a great unified Celtic "empire" encompassing many different peoples all over Northern Europe. The Greeks called these people, with their organised culture and developed social structure Keltoi, the Romans called them Celtai. In spite of the fact that they were perhaps the most powerful people in much of Europe in 300 BC, with lands stretching from Anatolia in the East to Ireland in the West, the Celts were unable to prevent intertribal warfare. Their total lack of political unity, despite their fierceness in battle, ultimately led to their defeat and subjugation by the much-better disciplined armies of Rome. Even the Celtic languages on Continental Europe eventually gave way to those stemming from Latin. But in Britain, at least for a few hundred years after the Roman victories on mainland Europe, the Celts held on to much of their customs and especially to their distinctive language which has survived today as Welsh.
The language of most of Britain was derived from a branch of Celtic known as Brythonic: it later gave rise to Welsh, Cornish and Breton (these differ from the Celtic languages derived from Goidelic, namely Irish, Scots Gaelic and Manx). Along with the new languages, new religions entered Britain, particularly that of the Druids, the guardians of traditions and learning. The Druids glorified the pursuits of war, feasting and horsemanship. They controlled the calendar and the planting of crops, and they presided over the religious festivals and rituals that honoured local deities. Thus they constituted the first target for the invading Roman legions.
55 BC: Romans land in Kent, during the Julius Caesar period.
43: Main Roman invasion of Britain ordered by the Emperor Claudius.
75: Romans reach the flat plain of Wales, where the rivers Rhymney, Taff and Ely reach the sea, and built a wooden fort. This fort was later replaced by a stone structure, the remains of which can still be seen in the light-coloured patches of stone at the base of some walls at Cardiff Castle.
78: Initial Roman conquest of Wales complete.
350: Irish raiders make permanent settlements in South West Wales.
43 BC - 383 AD: The Roman Age
The first invasion of the British Isles (Britannia) by the Romans took place in 55 BC under Julius Caesar, but it did not lead to any significant occupation. He had some interesting, if biased comments concerning the native inhabitants. "All the Britons," he wrote, "paint themselves with woad, which gives their skin a bluish colour and makes them look very dreadful in battle" ("De Bello Gallico"). It was not until a hundred years later, following an expedition ordered by the Emperor Claudius, that a permanent settlement of the grain-rich eastern territories of Britain began in earnest. From their bases in what is now Kent, the Roman armies began a long, arduous and perilous series of battles with the native Celtic tribes, first victorious, next vanquished. But as on the Continent, superior military discipline and leadership, aided by a carefully organised system of forts connected by straight roads, led to the triumph of Roman arms.
It was not long before a great number of large, prosperous villas were established all over Britain, but especially in the Southeast and Southwest. The villas testified to the rapidity by which Britain became Romanized, for they functioned as centres of a settled, peaceful and urban life. They are mostly found in present-day England. Mountainous Wales and Scotland were not as easily settled; they remained "the frontier" -- lands where military garrisons were strategically placed to guard the Northern and Western extremities of the Empire. Smaller forts were constructed to protect the Roman copper, tin, lead and gold mines that most certainly utilised native labour.
In what is now Wales, the Romans were awe-struck by their first sight of the druids. The historian Tacitus described them as being "ranged in order, with their hands uplifted, invoking the gods and pouring forth horrible imprecations" ("Annales"). The fierce resistance of the tribes in Wales meant that two out of the three Roman legions in Britain were stationed on the Welsh borders. Two impressive Roman fortifications remain to be seen: Isca Silurium (Caerleon) with its fine amphitheatre, in Monmouthshire; and Segontium, (Caernarfon), in Gwynedd.
Though the Celtic tongue survived as the medium of everyday speech, Latin was being used mainly for administrative purposes. Many loan words entered the native vocabulary, and these are still found in modern-day Welsh. Today's visitors to the principality are surprised to find hundreds of place names containing Pont (bridge), while ffenest (window), pysgod (fish), milltir (mile), melys (sweet or honey), cyllell (knife), ceffyl (horse), perygl (danger), eglwys (church), and many others attest to Latin influence. Rome, of course, became Christianised with the conversion of Constantine in 337, and thanks to the missionary work of Martin of Tours in Gaul and the edict of 400 AD that made Christianity the only religion of the Empire, the people of Britain quickly adopted the new religion. The old Celtic gods had to slink off into the mountains and hills to hide, reappearing fitfully and almost apologetically only in the poetry and myths of later ages.
383: The Withdrawal of Macsen's Legions. Magnus Maximus, the commander of the Roman armies in Britain took much of the British garrison with him to displace Gratian as Emperor. He appears in Welsh writing as Macsen Wledig in "Breuddwyd Macsen" (The Dream of Macsen), one of the two historical tales in "The Mabinogion". Macsen's brother Cynan and his army may have been the first Britons to settle in Armorica, later known as Brittany, where the Celtic language survives somewhat shakily today. Some historians consider 383 as the year that the concept of the Welsh nation began and see Macsen as the father of the Welsh nation.
400: Cunedda moves from Manaw Gododdin to Gwynedd to eject the Irish.
410: Remaining Romans leave Britain. Start of Saxon invasions.
440: The reign of Gwrtheyrn (Vortigern) and the arrival of the Jutes Hengist and Horsa and their mercenary band.
400-600: The Saxons.
When the city of Rome fell to the invading Goths under Alaric, Roman Britain, which had experienced centuries of comparative peace and prosperity, was left to its own defences. One of the local Roman-British leaders may have been a tribal chieftain named Arthur, who put up some kind of organised resistance to the oncoming Saxon hordes. As early as 440, an anonymous writer penned the following:
Britain, abandoned by the Romans, passed into the power of the Saxons (Chronica Gallica).
One prominent British chieftain, Vortigern (Gwrtheyrn) is remembered as being responsible for inviting the first Germanic mercenaries to help defend Britain against the invading Picts. The arrival of Hengist and Horsa and their Jutes mark the beginning of Germanic settlements in Britain (ironically, the first modern Welsh language centre is located in a remote valley named Nant Gwrtheyrn (the stream of Vortigern) in the Llyn Peninsular, Gwynedd).
Apart from the heroic defence of Arthur (reputed to have been killed at the Battle of Camlan in 539), Roman-Britain quickly crumbled under the onslaught of Germanic tribes, themselves under attack from the east and wishing to settle in the sparsely populated, but agriculturally rich lands across the narrow channel that separated Britain from the Continent. Their invasions met fierce and prolonged resistance, but more than three hundred years of fighting between the native Celts and the ever-increasing numbers of Germanic peoples eventually resulted in Britain sorting itself out into three distinct areas: the Britonic West, the Teutonic East and the Gaelic North.
These areas later came to be identified as Wales, England and Scotland, all with their very separate cultural and linguistic characteristics. (Ireland, of course, remained Gaelic: many of its peoples migrated to Scotland, taking their language with them to replace the native Pictish. Some Irish also settled in Western Wales but were eventually absorbed into the local population).
425-664: The Celtic Saints
Though much of Britain was settled by the pagan Saxons, the Celtic Churchsurvived in the West. This was the age of Saints Dyfrig, Illtud, Teilo, Padarn and David (Dewi, the patron saint of Wales). Much missionary work took the Welsh churchmen to Ireland (one of these was Patrick himself). It is from this time that the Welsh word Llan appears, signifying a church settlement. The Celtic Church survived the coming of Augustine to Canterbury. It continued many traditions of the early Church that had been superseded at Rome. Even as late as 731, the English historian Bede commented that the Welsh (the Britons) upheld "their own bad customs" against the true Easter of the Catholic Church.
Many of the early British church settlements are dedicated to David, about whom very little is known except that he lived in the 6th Century and died around 589. Information about his life comes from "The Life of St David" written in the late 11th century by Rhygyfarch of Llanbadarn (Church of Padarn) but supplemented by Geraldus Cambrensis around 1200. It was then that the church named for the saint at Ty Dewi (St David's) became a place of pilgrimage. David was not adopted as the patron saint of Wales until the 18th century, when his birth date, March 1st was chosen as a national holiday.
c500: St Illtud arrives from Ireland and founds Llanilltud Fawr monastery.
516:The Battle of Mount Badon. The "Annales Cambriae" (one text of which dates from 1100, but which is based on much earlier sources), states that the Battle of Mount Badon took place in 516 and that the Britons were victorious under Arthur, "who bore the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ on his shoulders for three days and three nights." The battle may have been the decisive one that made the existence of Wales possible by halting further westward expansion by the Saxons.
539: The battle of Camlan, in which Arthur is killed.
540:"De Excidio Britanniae" (Concerning the Fall of Britain), written by the cleric Gildas, gives us a garbled history in which he blames the coming of the Saxons as punishment for the many sins of the native Britons.
567-574 Urien Rhydderch battles with Hussa king of Bernicia.
577: The battle of Dyrham (Deorham), after which the Welsh lose contact with the Britons of Devon and Cornwall.
589: The death of Dewi Sant. (St. David), patron saint of Wales.
595: The battle of Catraeth, commemorated by Aneirin in 'Y Gododdin'
600: The battle of Chester and the massacre of the monks of Bangor Iscoed, after which the Welsh begin to lose contact with the Britons of 'the Old North'.
c600: It was around the year 600 that the Welsh language began to be written down, as the older Brythonic tongue gradually gave way to Welsh. Poets such as Aneirin and Taliesin showed that the "new" language could produce great literature and thus was much more than a local patois.
601: Cadwallon of Gwynedd, in alliance with Penda of Mercia, defeats Edwin of Northumbria at the battle of Meigen (Heathfield).
615: The Saxon Aethelfrith defeats the Welsh at Bangor.
615: The Battle of Chester. The English peoples gradually gained control over much of Southern Britain. The period saw the defeat of the Welsh at Dyrham in 577 that cut them off from their fellow Britons in the Southwest and the Battle of Chester in 615, that severed contact with the Britons of the North. The Welsh of the Western peninsular were now on their own but could develop as a separate cultural and linguistic unit from the rest of Britain.
635: The word "Cymry" is used to denote the Welsh. Cadwallon dies in the battle of Hexham.
638: The territory of the Gododdin is overrun by the Angles.
642: The Mercians attack the kingdom of Powys.
664: The death of Cadwaladr, the last Welsh 'King of Britain' in a great plague of that year. (Although other sources say that he died at Rome in 681 or 689)
The death of Cadwaladr marked the end of any hopes of the Britons regaining their ancient kingdoms on the mainland. Cadwaladr was the son of Cadwallon of Gwynedd, whose intention, according to historian Bede, had been to exterminate the English race. The death of Cadwaladr's father in Rome is the starting point of the Brut y Tywysogyon, the chronicle of the Welsh princes. The author of the "Brut" stated "And from that time onwards the Britons lost the crown of the kingdom and the Saxons won it." It was apparent that it was all over for Cadwaladr as "King of the Britons" before he even started his reign. The people of Wales would have to wait for the Tudors to re-establish any claim to the throne of Britain. It is significant, therefore, at Bosworth Field in 1485, the Red Dragon of Cadwaladr was carried by Henry Tudor in his defeat of Richard III.
c. 720: Links Between Wales and Brittany are Severed. Contact between the Welsh Church and Yvi of Brittany was the last known link between the two Celtic countries. After that, each "nation" went its own separate way.
754: Death of Rhodri grandson of Cadwaladr, Kynan his son rules Wales
768: The Celtic Church Reunited with Rome. Following centuries of isolation, first following the lead of the Irish Bishops, then those of the rest of Britain, the Celtic Church in Wales (which had been mainly monastic), decided to conform to the Rules of Rome and the authority of the Church that had been set up by Augustine and his successors at Canterbury and agreed upon at Whitby in 664.
784: Offa of Mercia, a powerful Saxon king, builds Offa's Dyke, marking Wales' eastern boundary. The Dyke is not a fortified one, but a permanent boundary line. This may have been the single most important event in the survival of the Welsh nation. Whatever its initial intention, the dyke became a permanent boundary between the Welsh and the English people. Thus the notion of Wales as a separate geographical area from the rest of Britain came to be established, though many Welsh people continued to reside east of the 240 kilometre-long bank and ditch. Even today, at towns such as Owestry, there is a large Welsh presence on the "English" side of the Dyke. English settlements have taken place on the western side since the castle-building programs of Edward I, beginning with Flint in 1284.
786: Maredudd, king of Dyfed killed at the battle of Rhuddlan.
788: Caradog king of Gwynedd killed by the Saxons.
800: Nennius, born around 800, Nennius was responsible for the work "Historia Brittonum," which purports to give the history of Britain from the time of Julius Caesar to the end of the seventh century. Nennius is important for the study of early Arthurian materials; he describes Arthur as a "leader of battles, who defeated the Saxons twelve times, the final battle being Mount Badon."
844-77: Reign of Rhodri Mawr (Rhodri the Great) who became king of Wales on the death of his father Mervyn who had married the daughter of Kynan. His reign coincides with an increase in Viking attacks on Wales.
844: Rhodri ap Merfyn became king only of Gwynedd, but by the time of his death in 877, he had united all of Wales under his rule. His reign certainly did much to heighten the Welsh consciousness of being one people.
850: Viking attacks on Wales begin.
856: Rhodri killed the Viking leader the "black pagan" Horme, restricting Danish occupation of Wales to a few scattered ports and trading posts (Norse names survive at Llandudno (the Great Orme); Swansea (Sweyn's Ey) and some small islands in the Bristol Channel.
878: Death of Rhodri mawr. The most notable Welsh figure before the arrival of the Normans is slain. Rhodri Mawr was the first Welsh ruler to unite the Welsh tribes and kingdoms under one rule. During his reign, the Vikings increase their raids.
879: Battle of Conway (called the avenging of Rhodri).
890: Welsh rulers acknowledge the overlordship of Alfred of Wessex. After Alfred of Wessex's successes against the Danes, the Welsh kings asked him for his patronage, and their recognition that the king of England had claims upon them became "a central fact in the subsequent political history of Wales" (Davies, p. 85). As Alfred's court became a center of learning, his patronage could only have been beneficial to the people of Wales, though a sense of subservience to the English Crown was established.
890: Black Norsemen invade Gwyneth. Norsemen ravage Brycheiniog, Gwent and Gwynllwg.
900-950: The reign of Hywel Dda, King of Wales, who reorganized the laws of Wales. The "Cyfraith Hywe" (Law of Hywell) was written, not in Latin, but in Welsh. It excelled in granting a high status to women, curtailing death by execution, abolishing the primitive English practices of proving guilt, pardoning theft if the sole intention was to stay alive; and safeguarding the rights of illegitimate children. The far-reaching, far-sighted laws were drawn up in Whitland, in Dyfed. It was Welsh law (and literature) that a French scholar called the product of "the most civilized and intellectual people of the age."
927: Welsh kings formally submit to the English king under the pressure of total invasion by the Vikings.
983: Bishop of Llandaff orders all priests to set up a school in connection with the church. There are no records of such schools being set up, other than Llandaff Cathedral school in 1470.
986: Norsemen invaders destroy the settlement of St. Cenydd and burned the church to the ground.
937: The Battle of Brunanburgh. Athelstan, the grandson of Alfred the Great of England, called "ruler of the whole orb of Britain," imposed heavy taxes upon the Celtic peoples of Britain. A rebellion against his rule was led by the Scots and the Northmen that culminated in their heavy defeat at Brunanburgh. The Welsh did not take part, even though the poem "Armes Prydein", written a few years before the momentous battle, had predicted their victory over the English King. Had the battle gone the other way, the people of Wales would have surely regained their independence.
960: The "Annales Cambriae" Around 960 a collection of documents, pedigrees and annals that deal with the early history of the Welsh kingdoms over the past 500 years was drawn up. Other stories bound up with these "chronicles" and which include mention of Vortigern and Arthur, were later called "Historia Brittonum" and ascribed to Nennius.
1039-1063: The Reign of Gruffudd ap Llewelyn. Gruffydd ap Llywelyn (Seisyll) becomes king of Gwynedd and Powys and defeats the Saxons of Mercia in the battle of Rhyd-y-groes on the Severn. He deserves praise as the only Welsh ruler to unite the ancient kingdoms of the whole of Wales under his authority. He started off a brilliant reign by utterly defeating an army of Mercians to secure the borders of his nation, recovering many areas in present-day Flintshire and Maelor that would remain part of Wales. His alliances with English rulers brought peace to Wales for a quarter of a century. Finding his country weak and divided, he left it strong and united.
1040: Gruffydd attacks Ceredigion where Hywel ap Edwin is king, and burns Llanbadarn-fawr.
1041: Gruffydd defeats Hywel at the battle of Pencader.
1042: Hywel defeats a host of 'Black Gentiles' at Pwlldyfach.
1043: Hywel with a host of Black Gentiles is defeated and killed by Gruffydd in the Towy estuary. Gruffydd still fails to secure Deheubarth and Gruffydd ap Rhydderch ap Iestyn rises against him.
1044: Gruffydd calls on the assistance of Swegen son of Godwin against the treachery of Gruffydd ap Rhydderch and his brother Rhys.
1047: About 140 of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn's war band slain 'through the treachery of the men of Ysrad Tywi. Gruffydd ap Rhydderch retains Ystrad Tywi for a further eight years.
1052: Gruffydd ap Llewellyn, invades Hereford and defeats a combined force of Normans and Saxons near Leominster.
1055: Gruffydd and the outlawed Aelfgar of Mercia burn Hereford. Gruffydd slays Gruffydd ap Rhydderch and gains possession of Deheubarth.
1056: Leofgar, bishop of Hereford leads an army against Gruffydd and is defeated by Gruffydd at Machaway (16 June). Through the efforts of earl Harold, earl Leofric and Ealdred of Worcester Gruffydd swears fealty to king Edward. Gruffydd marries Ealdgyth, daughter of Aelfgar.
1057: Aelfgar is exiled and Gruffydd combines with Magnus Haroldson and succeeds in regaining Aelfgar his lands.
1062: Aelfgar dies.
1063: The English, under future king Earl Harold, drive their army into Wales and attack Gruffydd at his court in Rhuddlan. Gruffydd ap Llywelyn escapes but is later killed by his own men and relatives, and England's ascendancy is reaffirmed. (Gruffydd's sons Idwal (Ithel) and Maredudd. One daughter Nest who married Osbern Fitz Richard).
1066: King Harold, the English King, defeated at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. It wasn't too long before the victorious William of Normandy set about establishing the Marcher Lordships on the borders of Wales, a country with which he did not seem particularly anxious to get involved. He had enough on his plate without getting involved west of Offa's Dyke; in any case it was in Norman interests to develop close ties with the Welsh rulers in order to secure their own frontiers.
The semi-independent Marcher Lords were responsible for many of the magnificent castles that today dominate the Welsh landscape. Beginning with Chepstow, erected by the Earl of Hereford, the castles commanded territories that became known as "Englishries." In them, English settlers practised a way of life and law totally unknown to the inhabitants of the "Welshries" the less fertile, upland and mountain areas. The divisions are apparent even today, as one travels from Clwyd to Gwynedd, or from Glamorgan into Carmarthen, or better yet, from southern Pembroke into Northern Pembroke across the linguistic dividing line known as "landsker."
1067: The Normans begin to penetrate Wales and the lordships of the March are created. William Fitz Osbern made earl of Hereford and begins construction of Chepstow castle.
1069: Battle of Mechain between Bleddyn and Rhwallon, sons of Cynfyn, and Maredudd and Ithel, sons of Gruffydd. Maredudd ab Owain rules south Wales.
1070: William Fitz Osbern captures most of Gwent and defeats Maredudd and Rhys ab Owain of Deheubarth and Cadwgan ap Meurig of Morganwg.
1072: Maredudd ab Owain killed by Gruffydd ap Rhydderch in alliance with the Normans.
1073: Normans in Ceredigion and Dyfedd.
1074: Caradog drives Cadwgan ap Meurig from Glamorgan and assumed the kingdom.
1075: Bleddyn ap Cynfyn killed by Rhys ab Owain (*by the treachery* of the princes of Ystrad Tywi - BYT). Gruffydd grandson of Iago takes possesion of Anglesey. Battle of Camddwr between Goronwy and Llywelyn, sons of Cadwgan and Caradog ap Gruffudd, Rhys ab Owain and Rhydderch ap Caradoc. Battle of Bron-yr-erw between Gruffudd and Trehaerne.
1076: Rhydderch ap Caradog killed by his cousin Meirchion ap Rhys.
1077: Battle of *Gweunytwl* between Goronwy and Llywelyn, sons of Cadwgan and Rhys ab Owain.
1078: Battle of Pwllgwdig, Trahaearn ap Caradog, king of Gwynedd avenges the death of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, his cousin and kills Rhys ab Owain. Sulien resigns as bishop of St David's.
1079: Rhys ap Tewdr rules South Wales (Deheubarth) (some sources give 1075).
1080: St David's pillaged and bishop Abraham killed, Sulien coerced into assuming the bishopric.
1081: Battle of Mynydd Carn, Treheaerne ap Caradog killed along with Caradog ap Gruffudd. The victory going to Gruffudd ap Cynan (of Gwynedd) and Rhys ap Tewdr of Deheubarth. King William I visits the shrine of St David. Around this time Hereford was given to William Fitzosbern, Shrewsbury to Roger Montgomery and Chester to Hugh (the Fat) of Avranches, all of whom were oportunists ready to seize territory in Wales. Shortly after the battle of Mynydd Carn, Hugh the Fat captured Gruffydd ap Cynan and held him in prison at Chester for twelve years, Hugh the Fat's cousin Robert given control of Gruffudd's kingdom.
1086: Powys under pressure from Roger of Montgomery.
1088: Rhys ap Tewdr defeated by the sons of Bleddyn and flees to Ireland. He returns with Scottish and Irish mercenaries and kills two of the sons, Madog and Rhiryd, at the battle of Llech-y-crau. Bernard of Neufmarche captures Brecon.
1089: The shrine of St David stolen and despoiled.
1090: "The Life of St. David" is the first of the lives of the Welsh saints. It was written by Rhygyfarch of Llanbadarn (near Aberystwyth) around 1190.
1090: First Norman castle commenced in Cardiff.
1093: Rhys ap Tewdr defeated at Hirwaun attempting to resist the advance of Bernard of Neufmarche and his Norman army into Ceredigion. Rhys took refuge in the mountains of the Rhondda (Penrhys), were he died of his wounds.
1094: Norman castles destroyed in Gwynedd and Dyfed. Cadwgan ap Bleddyn defeats Normans at the battle of Coedysbys. All the Norman castles of Ceredigion and Dyfed destroyed.
1095: Normans invade Gower, Cydweli and Ysrad Tywi. King William moves an invading force against the Welsh who avoid conflict by taking to the woods and hills.
1097: Death of William Fitz Baldwin. Rising of the men of Brecon, Gwent and Gwynllwg. Norman force sent into Gwent but the Welsh disperse and then regroup to slaughter the Normans at Celli Tarfawg? The sons of Idnerth ap Cadwgan and Gruffydd ap Ifor inflict heavy losses on the Normans at Aberllech. Uchdryd ap Edwin and Hywel ap Goronwy join with Cadwgan ap Bleddyn and destroy Pembroke castle.
c1100: Construction of Blackfriars monastery, Cardiff. Nothing is left, other than a few wall fragments
1106: Hywel ap Goronwy killed at Rhyd y Gors.
1107: Death of Fitz-Hamon, Chief Lord of Glamorgan. (March)
1115: First Norman bishop of St. Davids.
1120: Dewi sant is canonized by Rome as Saint David.
1120-1129: "Historia Regum Britanniae" Geoffrey of Monmouth's major work became the basis for a whole new and impressive European literature of Arthurian romance. Giving his source for his history as Walter, Archdeacon of Oxford, Geoffrey gives us the tradition of Arthur as a wise, noble and benevolent king presiding over a chivalric court in a kind of Golden Age of the British Isles, the tradition that is still one of the dominant themes of world literature today. It was Geoffrey's writings that provided the people of Wales with a claim to the sovereignty of the whole island of Britain, a claim of which the Tudors were later anxious to take advantage. To Geoffrey also we owe the story of "The Dream of Macsen Wledig", interpreted today by such visionaries as folk singer and nationalist Dafydd Iwan.
1129: Neath Abbey founded. (Benedictine)
1132: Birth of Rhys ap Gruffydd (younger son of Gruffydd ap Tewdr)
1136: South Wales rising. Battle of Gower. Fitz-Gilbert slain. Death of Gruffydd ap Tewdr, Anarwd and Cadell his sons, lead the fight against Norman rule in South Wales.
1137-1170: The Reign of Owain Gwynedd. Under Owain Gwynedd and Madog ap Maredudd, the kingdoms of Gwynedd and Powys were gradually freed from Norman influence and became re-established as major political units under Welsh rulers, enjoying Welsh law, and where the Welsh language flourished. Owain defeated an army led by Henry II at Coleshill on the Dee Estuary in 1157. Though eventually Owain was forced to recognize Henry's control over lands to the east of the River Clwyd (Tegeingl, part of the old Earldom of Chester), he refused to acknowledge the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Wales, holding the consecration service for the new Bishop of Bangor, not in that northern Welsh city, but across the Celtic sea in Ireland. After inflicting another humiliating defeat on the English forces in the steep-sided Ceiriog Valley and now in full control of the whole of native Wales, Owain took as his title "the Prince of Wales" (Princeps Wallensium).
1141: Henry the First dies and Wales experiences a resurgence under the two Llywelyns of Gwynedd. Wales moves toward unity as their territory is reclaimed and the culture flourishes.
1143: Cistercians found Whitland Abbey.
1143: Cadwaladr's Aberystwyth castle burned.
1146-1243: Giraldus Cambrensis. Gerald of Wales was born at Manorbier, in Pembrokeshire around 1146 into a Norman-Welsh family. His prolific writings include "Itinerarium Kambriae" and "Description Kambriae", both of which contain the only sources for much early Welsh history and folk tales.
1147: Margam Abbey founded. (Benedictine)
1148: David Fitz Gerald, son of Gerald de Windsor and Nest the daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr, appointed bishop of St David's on the death of bishop Bernard. This was a compromise appointment as David was half Welsh.
1149: Madog ap Maredudd builds Oswestry castle.
1149: Cadwaladr ao Gruffydd builds Llanrhystud castle.
1155: Rhys ap Gruffydd succeeds as sole ruler of Deheubarth on the death of his brother Maredudd. By this date the Clares had been expelled from Ceredigion and the Cliffords from cantref Bychan and Llandovery.
1156: Rhys builds Aberdyfi castle.
1156: Madog ap Maredudd builds Caereinion castle.
1158: Rhys burns castles in Ceredigion.
1158: Rhys ap Gruffydd submits to Henry II and is deprived of Ceredigion and a large part of Ystrad Tywi, he also agrees to drop the title of king and is henceforth known as The Lord Rhys.
1159: Rhys burns castles in Dyfed and attacks Carmarthen.
1160: Earl William attacks Rhys ap Gruffydd.
1161: Rhys burns the Grange at Margam.
1162: Rhys takes Llandovery.
1164: Rhys again seizes Ceredigion and Emlyn. Cardigan castle betrayed to Rhys and razed to the ground, Robert FitzStephen (another son of Nest, daughter of Rhys ap Tewdr by Stephen constable of Cardigan castle), is captured and imprisoned for three years by Rhys.
1166: Basinwick destroyed by Owain Gwynedd.
1167: Bishop David FitzGerald prevails on Rhys for the release of his half brother Robert.
1169: Prince Madog of Gwynedd, accompanied by a group of followers, made landfall on what is now Mobile Bay, Alabama some time in 1169. The explorers then traveled up the Missouri, where a remnant inter-married with the Mandans and left behind some of their customs and their language
1169: Lords of Glamorgan join the attack on Ireland.
1170-97: The Lord Rhys rules South Wales
1171: Rhys builds Cardigan castle.
1172: Henry journeys to Ireland, via Cardiff on April 23rd and later St.Davids.
1173: Birth of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth.
1174: Hywel ap Iorworth and Morgan ap Seisyll ap Dyfnwal attack and destroy Caerleon town and take the castle.
1176: The first Eisteddfod at Aberteifi (Cardigan). The "Brut y Tywysigyon" records the following anonymous entry for the year 1176: "At Christmas in that year the Lord Rhys ap Gruffudd held court in splendour at Cardigan (Aberteifi) . . . And he set two kinds of contests there: one between bards and poets, another between harpists and crowders and pipers and various classes of music-craft. And he had two chairs set for the victors." The word "Eisteddfod", can be translated as "a chairing" and chairs are still awarded for the winners of poetry contests.
1180: Morgam ap caradog ap Iestyn builds Briton Ferry castle.
1181: King proclaims an Assize of Arms on Welsh borders.
1182: King's sheriff of Gloucester slain by the Welsh.
1185: Welsh attack Glamorgan, burning Kenfig for a second time in two years, Neath and Cardiff. Neath was quickly relieved by the Normans, beating off the swarm of Welshmen and burning their machines of war.
1187: William, Prior of St.Augustine, became Bishop of Llandaff and consecrated the alter of the Holy Trinity at Margam Abbey.
1188: Gerald de Barri (Giraldus Cambrensis) accompanies Archbishop Baldwin on his journey through Wales to enrole men for the Crusades.
1189: Henry, King of England, dies on 6th July.
1192: Swansea besieged by Rhys.
1194: Llywelyn ap Iorwerth combines with his cousins, the sons of Cynan ap Owain and defeats his uncle, Dafydd I and seizes a share in the government of Perfeddwlad.
1196-1240: Reign of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth. (Llewelyn the Great). Llywelyn was the grandson of Owain Gwynedd. Under his dynamic leadership and military prowess, his lands were again united as a single political unit for one of the few times in their long history. In 1204, the Prince married Joan, the daughter of King John of England. In the "Brut", it is stated that Llywelyn "enlarged his boundaries by his wars, gave justice to all according to their deserts, and by the bonds of fear or love bound all men duly to him." He was further recognised as pre-eminent in Wales by the new king Henry III.
Llywelyn's long reign of 46 years brought an era of relative peace and economic prosperity to Wales. Welshmen were appointed to the Bishoprics of St. David's and Bangor. The bards referred to LLywelyn as the Prince of Aberffraw and Lord of Eryri, but to posterity, as Gwynfor Evans proudly points out, he became known as Llywelyn Fawr (Llewelyn the Great).
1199: Llywelyn captures Mold.
1200: Edward I's Welsh Castles. Following his wars against the Welsh under Llywelyn and the Treaty of Aberconwy, Edward began his major castle-building campaign, starting with Flint, Rhuddlan, Aberystwyth and Builth. After the death of Llywelyn in late 1282., Edward's second phase of castle-building began, including the mighty strongholds of Conwy, Caernarfon, Harlech, Cricieth, and Beaumaris.1205: Llywelyn marries Joan the natural daughter of king John. 1208: Gwenwynwyn seized at Shrewsbury and Llewelyn ap Iorwerth seizes his lands. Maelgwyn ap Rhys razes the castle of Ystrad Meurig and burns Dineirth and Aberystwyth. Llywelyn Rebuilds Aberystwyth castle. Rhys Fychan captures the castles of Llangadog and Dinefwr.
1210: Degannwy and Holywell castles built by Earl of Chester.1211: Royal expedition into Wales results in the loss of Perfeddwlad.
1215:English Barons force King John into signing The Magna Carta. Restores Welsh lands taken unjustly, and some Welsh laws.
1216:Gwenwynwyn, Llywelyn's greatest rival, is exiled. 1218: The Treaty of Worceter - Llywelyn retains control of Carmarthen, Cardigan and Montgomery. 1223: The Marshal family capture Carmarthen, Cardigan and Montgomery. 1229: Llywelyn gains Builth from William de Breos. Henry II acknowledges Dafydd ap Llywelyn as succesor to the exclusion of the older Gruffydd. 1230: Llywelyn recaptures Carmarthen.
1231: Llewelyn takes Cardigan.1234: Pact of Middle. 1240: 11 April, Llywelyn dies at Aberconwy.
1246-1282: Reign of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (Llewelyn the Last). After the death of Llywelyn the Great, quarrelling between his two sons Dafydd and Gruffydd undid most of what their father had accomplished. In 1254, Henry II of England gave the young Prince Edward control of all the Crown lands in Wales.
The situation was restored under the brilliant leadership of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd whose success led to the acceptance of his claim to be called "Prince of Wales" by King Henry at the Treaty of Montgomery in 1267. This was the high water mark of Welsh political independence: the people of Wales had their own prince, governed their own lands under their own laws and were able to conduct their own affairs in their own language. Their country was poised to take its place among the developing independent nation states of Europe.
Then it all unraveled. Edward I took the throne in 1272 determined to crush all resistance to his rule in Wales. Not only did Llywelyn have to face the forces of the king of England but he was also faced with resistance among the minor Welsh princes as well as the powerful Marcher Lords.
1257:Llywelyn, accompanied by Maredudd ap Rhys and Maredudd ap Owain, attacks and siezes the territory of Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn, gaining all but the castle of Welshpool, a little of the Severn Valley and a portion of Caereinion. (BYT). Rhys Fychan ap Rhys Mechyl returns from England and attacks the castle of Dinefwr but is heavily defeated and captured. The Welsh burn the castles of Abercorram, Arberth, Maenclochog and Llanstephan. Llywellyn captures Cenmaes, and joining with Maredudd ap Rhys captures the castle of Trefdraeth before attacking Rhos followed by Llangynwyd. King Henry brings a force to Degannwy. The church of Padarn burnt. Llywelyn makes peace with Gruffydd ap Madoc and disposses Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn of his remaining lands.
1258:The Welsh leaders make a pact of loyalty 'under pain of excommunication'. Dafydd ap Gruffydd, Maredudd ab Owain and Rhys ap Rhys and other leaders travelled to Carmarthen to talk with Maredudd ap Rhys and Patrick de Chaworth, seneschal at Carmarthen. Patrick and Maredudd attack the Welsh but are heavily defeated. 1260: Llywelyn captures the territory of Roger Mortimer at Builth except for the castle and the town of Llanfair. The castle was taken later in the year by stealth and burned. Owain ap Maredudd of Elfael joins Llywelyn. 1261: Death of Owain ap Maredudd lord of Cydewain, and Gwladys ferch Gruffydd wife of Rhys Ieuanc ap Rhys Mechyll. 1262: Richard de Clare earl of Gloucester dies. The new castle of Roger Mortimer at Maelienydd is captured and burned. Llywelyn allows Roger Mortimer and his men to return to Builth. Llywelyn receives the homage of the town of Brecon. 1263: John Lestrange, constable of Baldwins Castle, attacks Ceri and Cydewain by night collecting a large haul of loot. The Welsh counter attack killing 200 of his party, some being massacred in a barn at Abermiwl. Dafydd breaks with his brother Llywelyn. Llywelyn captures and destroys the castles of Carreg Faelan and Degannwy as the Welsh rise in an attempt to eject the English. Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn captures the castle at Mold and destroys it. 1264: After the capture and imprisonment of Henry and his sons, Wales has threeo years of peace from English attacks. 1265: Prince Edward escapes from his prison at Hereford with the aid of Roger Mortimer. He defeats Simon de Montford at Evesham. Maredudd ab Owain dies and is buried at Strata Florida. 1267: Llywelyn makes a pact with the earl of Clare who shortly after, invades and captures London. After peace is restored Henry makes peace with Llywelyn at Baldwins castle. Treaty of Montgomery recognises Llywelyn as Prince of Wales, on payment of thirty thousand marks to the king. Llywelyn is given the right of overlordship of all other Welsh Princes and Barons. The treaty also states that there shall be princes of Wales from that time forth and they shall be so named. The charter was ratified and sealed by the Popes legate.
1267:Llywelyn, is recognised as Prince of Wales by the Treaty of Montgomery, with overlordship of all other Welsh Princes and Barons.
1267: Commencement of castles at Aberystwyth, Flint and Rhuddlan.
1268:Commencement of Caerphilly Castle. 1270: Destruction of the half built Caerphilly Castle, by Llewelyn, Prince of Wales.
1270:Merthyr Tydfil becomes a parish and named after Tydfil, a daughter of the prince of Breconshire.
1270: Tintern Abbey commenced.1271: Reconsruction of Caerphilly Castle by the English to strengthen their hold on Wales.
1276: First War of Welsh Independence, led by Llewelyn ap Gruffydd.
1277: The Treaty of Aberconwy. Llywelyn was humiliated and forced to give up most of his lands, being confined to Gwynedd, west of the River Conwy. Harsh measures undertaken against his people by King Edward, who began building English castles garrisoned by English mercenaries and settlers, led to a massive revolt led by Llywelyn.1280: Construction of Greyfriars monastery, Cardiff. 1282-3: Second War of Welsh Independence led by Llewelyn's brother Dafydd.
1282: Death of Llewelyn. Llywelyn II (ein Llyw Olaf). There is more than one account of Llewelyn's death.
1. By a chance encounter with an English knight at Cilmeri.
2. Killed in full battle near Cilmeri.
After his death, effective resistance ended, and for all practical purposes, Wales was henceforth forced to live under an alien political system, playing only a subordinate role in the affairs of Britain. Wales resurgence comes to an end. Wales falls beneath Edward the First's advances. Wales becomes an English principality under the Statute of Rhuddlan. In the future, the eldest son of the English king is designated Prince of Wales.
1283:Dafydd ap Llewelyn styles himself Prince of Wales. Castell y Bere surrenders (25th April). Dafydd captured on Cadair Idris (28th June) and hung drawn and quartered at Shrewsbury (3rd October), his two sons imprisoned for life at Bristol.
Major castle building starts in Wales, Conwy castle being sited directly over the tomb of Llywelyn the Great, Caernarvon castle has a hall made from the castle of Aberyswyth. Harlech castle commenced. Over 3000 Englishmen employed on building work in Wales.Castell y Bere in Meirionnydd was indeed held for Dafydd in 1283 and has been linked to the capture of the prince. It seems that the place of capture was a boggy moorland at Nant Dysglain on 'Y Bera Mawr', a mountain in the northern Carneddau, just up the valley from the royal court of Abergwyngregyn. Dafydd was then taken to Rhuddlan, the date of the capture is held to be 21 June 1283. Rhys ap Maredydd has his lands augmented for his stance against Llywelyn. Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn given further lands as his reward for opposing Llywelyn. Powys Wenwynwyn is the only area of Wales to become part of the March without conquest. 1284: Archbishop Pecham investigates Welsh churches. 1284: The Statute of Rhuddlan (The Statute of Wales). Welshmen were classed as meri Wallici and no Englishman could be condemned by a Welshman's word, Welsh people were excluded from every town in Wales as foreigners confirmed. Edward's ruthless plans for the subjugation of Wales "once and for all." New counties were created, and English law was firmly set in place. In 1300, Edward made his son Lord Edward "Prince of Wales and Count of Chester," at Caernarfon Castle, one of his magnificent strongholds built around the perimeter of Wales, and ever since that time these titles have been automatically conferred upon the first-born son of the English monarch. The Welsh people had no say in the matter.
The Preamble to the infamous statute shows fully its intent to bring Wales to order. It reads:
"Edward, by the grace of God, king of England, lord of Ireland and duke of Aquitaine, to all his subjects of his land of Snowdon, greeting in the Lord. The Divine Providence, which is unerring in its own government, among the gifts of its dispensation, wherewith it hath vouchsafed to distinguish us and our realm of England, hath now of its favour, wholly and entirely transferred under our proper dominion, the land of Wales, with its inhabitants, heretofore subject unto us, in feudal right, all obstacles whatsoever ceasing; and hath annexed and united the same unto the crown of the aforesaid realm, as a member of the same body. We therefore . . . being desirous that our aforesaid land of Snowdon and our other lands in those parts . . . should be governed with due order . . . and that the people or inhabitants of those lands who have submitted themselves absolutely unto our will . . . have cause to be rehearsed before us and the nobles or our realm, the law and customs of those parts hitherto in use; which being diligently heard and fully understood, we have . . . abolished certain of them, some thereof we have allowed, and some we have corrected; and we have likewise commanded certain others to be ordained and added thereto . . ."
Thus it was that many of the ancient Welsh laws, codified by Hywel Dda were now superseded by English ones. Welsh law had equally divided property among male children, the system of "gavel-kind." The English law honored "primogeniture" by which property went to the first-born male. The Statute of 1284 allowed the Welsh system to continue (perhaps an English measure to prevent the building up of large Welsh-owned landed estates?). Changes from Welsh law included the rule that bastard sons were not to share in the inheritance, and that the inheritance was to pass to females upon failure of male heirs. Females could also have the right to a dowry in Wales for the first time.1285: Robert le Neil (Sheriff of Glamorgan) seizes for the Earl of Gloucester, New Grange and Terry, two properties of Margan 1286: Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn dies, his son Owain assumes the name of de la Pole 1286: Bishop of Llandaff dies (19th March). Archbishop of Canterbury revokes the commission of Thomas de St.Audomard as official of Llandaff, and appoints Aniamo Calus (Canon of St.Asaph) as official. The Marcher Lords, under which the lands of the See were holden, took possession of them. The King's escheator objected and took possession for the Crown. 1287: Rhys ap Maredudd revolts and failing to gain support, soon loses his castles at Dryslwyn and Newcastle Emlyn. Oystermouth Castle burned by the Welsh. 1287: Griffith ap Meredith taken prisoner and spent 6 years 32 weeks in Nottingham Castle. He was charged 16s per annum for robes, and £25 2s "pro vadiis". Rees ap Maelgon and Conan ap Meredith were sent to Bridgenorth and in 1289 moved to Bamburgh. 1287: Bailiff of St.Briavels is ordered by the King to raise a force, to be placed, along with the forces of other marcher lords, under the control of the Earl of Gloucester. This force to repel Rhys ap Meredith. 1287: Rhys takes divers castle in the west (11th June), and advanced on Swansea.
1287:Rhys plunders and burns Swansea (27th June), and advances on Oystermouth Castle, Gower.
1287:Rhys plunders and burns Oystermouth Castle (29th June). 1289: Earl of Hereford charges Earl of Gloucester with building Morlais Castle on Hereford land (26th June). Their dependents took up arms and a breach of the peace took place. Edward I demanded that they cease and await his decision on the matter. Both parties disobeyed and continued their local war.
1290:Parliament appointed a commission on the matter (January). Both Earls were imprisoned. This was the first case that was subjected to the Kings laws, rather than that of the Marcher Laws which stated that trial shall be by neighbours and family. The King had taken advantage of the fact that both were related to him by marriage. Their lands and estates were vested in the Kings hands (20th April), for the remainder of their respective lives.
1291:Rhys ap Maredudd captured by supporters of Llywelyn. 1292: Rhys executed at York. Wales taxed heavily in the sum of £10,000. War between Bohun and Clare over the boundary between Glamorgan and Breconshire. 1294: Revolt of Madog ap Llywelyn large numbers of Welshmen refuse to embark for France (August). Madog assumes title of Prince of Wales. Almost all of Gwynedd in Welsh possesion. Cynan ap Maredudd and Maelgwynap Rhys leaders in Deheubarth. Morgan ap Maredudd (leader in Glamorgan) rises in the south. Caernarfon castle burnt. Geoffrey Clement justice of Deheubarth killed at Builth. 1295: Edward brings a great army into Wales. Battle of Maes Madog. (5 March). Madog ap Llywelyn and his son captured. Cynan captured at Hereford and executed. 500 Welshmen slaughtered in their sleep (10 March). Hostages including the descendants of Ednyfed Fychan taken from Anglesey to Shrewsbury (23 April). An additional 236 hostages taken from various parts of Wales. 1295: Earl of Gloucester dies (7th December) at Monmouth Castle. Laid at Tewkesbury (22nd December) next to his father. Richard de Talbot was appointed governor of Cardiff and Cardiff Castle.
1295: Beaumaris castle commenced.1296: Joan, the Earls widow secretly married Ralph de Monthermer. The re-settlement of the Earls estates on Joan created Ralph de Montherme as the administrator of the lordship of Glamorgan until the majority of the young Earl, Joan's son.
1304:Subsidy levied upon Wales for the war. North Wales (£1,333 6s 8p); West Wales (£833 6s 8p); Flint (£333 6s 8p); Powys (£216 13s 8p); Builth (£50); Montgomery (£40).
1305:Earl Ralph appoints Richard de Rochelle as Sheriff of Glamorgan. 1314: Llywelyn, bishop of St Asaph died. Dafydd ap Bleddyn appointed.
1315:Payn de Turbeville (III) custos of Glamorgan, ousts Llywelyn Bren and other Welshmen from official positions in the county.
1316:Rebellion of Llywelyn Bren. Following previous rebellions by the Welsh, this year (1316) brought more discontent. Llewelyn Bren, a landowner on the left bank of the Taff within the hill country, leads a rebellion which broke out in East Glamorgan.
9th February, the Sheriffs of Gloucester and of Somerset, and John de Wysham, constable of St. Briavels, were ordered to provide men and victuals for a force to put down the rising. Stephen le Blund was to provide the money.
13th February, Humphrey de Bohun was ordered to take command of the combined forces.21st March, peace was restored after the capture of the Welsh leaders. 23rd March, Bohun was ordered to send Llewelyn Bren, his wife Llewelina, and sons Griffith and Gevan, to the Tower, where they remained until 17th June, 1317. 26th March, Wm. de Montacute, Henry de Pembrugge, and Robert de Grendon were instructed to take fines in Glamorgan for breach of the peace. Bail was taken for Llewelyn's wife, for David, Meuric and Ruyn ap Llewelyn, Howel ap Ivor, Ywaun ap Ivor, Llewelyn ap Madoc, Madoc Vachan, Grono Ap Res, and Res Miskyn. All relations or neighbours of Llewelyn Bren. 20th September, the King informs the Bishop of Llandaff that he will not tolerate the Church of Llandaff being used as a safe house for many outlaws and other malefactors who appear to be received and kept, with frequent going to and fro at their leisure, and committing robberies in the area. The Bishop was instructed to apply a remedy. 5th November, Letters patent inform the men of Glamorgan that John Walwayn and John Gifford were assigned to receive arrears of fines left unpaid to Wm. de Montacute, earlier in the year. On the same day a writ was issued for the delivery of all the Welsh who had already paid the fines awarded by Wm. de Montacute. Llewelyn was executed at Cardiff by the younger Despenser. Payn de Turbevill moves all Welsh from the mid Glamorgan plains into the hillier grounds of northern Glamorgan. 1318: Payn de Turbevill dies and is succeeded by his son Gilbert.
1320-70: Dafydd ap Gwilym. At the time of Chaucer in England, and just following that of Dante in Italy, Wales produced its own world-class master of the art of poetry, Dafydd ap Gwilym. Utilising his knowledge of many Anglo-Norman themes and literary practices, and much influenced by the poems of Ovid, which had just been made available in Britain, Dafydd entertained his wealthy patrons with stories of love, beautiful if unattainable women and the wonders of nature.1326: The Queen returns to England with Roger Mortimer and the count of Hainaut, Edward II flees to Glamorgan. Sir Hugh Spencer seized and drawn. Sir Hugh the younger and Simon Reding drawn at Hereford. Edward II captured at Swansea and tortured to death. 1326: Carmarthen recognised as a staple port.(a chief port for export). 1330: Llywelyn ap Hofa, archdeacon of St Asaph died. Owain Lawgoch born 1340: Cardiff. Market charter to hold a two week fair every Midsummer. 1344: Welsh people, at St Asaphs fair, attack the English burgesses of Rhuddlan. Unrest over a wide area of Wales. 1345: Henry Shaldeford, deputy of the prince, killed by Hywel ap Gronow. 1346: Battle of Crecy, Welsh archers contribute to the victory.
1349:The Plague, or Black Death, sweeps through Wales, leaving up to 40 per cent of the population dead.
1394-1400: Welsh Rebellion and Owain Glyndwr. It wasn't long after the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd that other Welsh leaders raised the flag of rebellion. Prominent among these were Madog ap Llywelyn (who called himself Prince of Wales); Llywelyn Bren, Lord of Senghenydd; and Owain Lawgoch (Owen of the Red Hand). Before the latter was betrayed and killed, he had raised the hopes of the Welsh people of fulfilling the old prophesies of restoring his people's rule over Britain, a tradition that was also seen as part of the destiny of the greatest of all the Welsh rebel leaders, Owain Glyndwr.1399: Owain Glyndwr in dispute with Reginald Grey, lord of Ruthin. King Richard lands in Haverfordwest (28 July) fails to obtain support in Wales and captured by Bolingbroke (19th August) and taken to Flint castle. Bolingbroke takes the throne as Henry VI and his son invested with the principality, (15 October).
1400:Third War of Welsh Independence. Glyndwr's rebellion began in 1400 and for the first four years everything seemed to be going his way. Even the comet of 1402 was seen as a herald of Welsh successes against the English, whose armies Owain "almost destroyed by magic."
1400: 16th September Owain Glyndwr attacks Ruthin and other areas in the region. Ednyfed Fychan joins revolt.1401: Owain victorious against English forces in Plynlimmon area. 1402: Owain captures Reginald Grey and ransoms him for 10,000 marks. The English Parliament passes Penal Laws against the Welsh, due to the astonishing success of Glyndwr's rebellion, and the frustration of the English authorities in their failures to apprehend the Welsh leader. These laws prohibited the Welsh from gathering together, gaining access to office, carrying arms and living in the fortified towns (Englishmen who had the temerity to marry Welsh women were also denied the same privileges). 1404: The capture of Aberystwyth and Harlech by Owain, treaty with the French. 1404-06: Owain Glyndwr holds Parliaments at Machynlleth and Pennal, and offers his allegiance to the Pope of Avignon, proposing an arch-bishopric and two universities for Wales. Owain had himself declared "Prince of Wales." Tradition has it that he was crowned by his followers in a ceremony attended by envoys from France, Scotland and Castile, all of which promised to help the Welsh independence movement. 1405: French soldiers land at Milford Haven in support of Owain. Battle of Pwllmelyn brings defeat for Owain's forces. 1406: Anglesey yields. 1407: Aberystwyth castle surrenders to the king. 1409: Harlech castle surrenders.
1409: The Charter of Brecon. The tide of victory turned against the Welsh armies when young Prince Henry (later Henry V) retook most of the lands captured by Glyndwr. King Henry IV enacted "the usual" punitive measures against the Welsh, who were forced to pay large subsidies, were prohibited from acquiring land east of Offas's Dyke or even within "English" boroughs in Wales. The harsh conditions are exemplifed in the Charter of Brecon, which stated "The liberties of Brecon shall be restricted to those whom we deem to be Englishmen and to such of their heirs as are English on both their mother's and their father's side."1413: Rhys ap Thomas, the sheriff of Carmarthen petitions Parliament to be made an Englishman.
1415:Owain Glyndwr's rebellion ends as he disappears and Henry IV and his son suppress it. Defeat means second class citizenship for the Welsh and humiliation. In the battle of Agincourt many Welsh serve with France.
1416: Owain Glyndwr dies in hiding.1420: Owain ap Maredudd travels to London and later marries Catherine, widow of Henry V. He adopts his grandfather's name of Tudur. His sons Jasper and and Edmund were half brothers of henry VI. 1430: William ap Thomas buys the Raglan estate and founds the Herbert Dynasty. 1431: The Penal Code reaffirmed by English Parliament. 1433: John Scudamore dismissed from office for having a Welsh wife, (Alice or Elisabeth ferch Owain Gyndwr).
1485: The Battle of Bosworth. The final battle of The Wars of the Roses was fought in August, 1485 at Market Bosworth in the English Midlands. Henry Tudor, the only surviving Lancastrian claimant to the English throne, was of Welsh descent. Owain Tudor of Penmynedd in Anglesey, had secretly married Catherine, widow of Henry V. Of their five children, one was Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond who fathered Henry Tudor, the future Henry VII of England. As a result of the battle at Bosworth, and the defeat of Richard III, Henry Tudor (Henry VII) ascended to the English throne, thus in a way fulfilling the old prophesies that one day a Welsh monarch would rule the whole of Britain.1489: Arthur Tudor invested with the principality but dies in 1502. 1496: Rhys ap Thomas of Carmarthen becomes the third Welshman to be appointed to a justiceship in Wales. A Welshman appointed to St David's for the first time since 1389.
1521: William Owen's Book. Lawyer and author William Owen from Henllys, Pembrokeshire, published his "Bregement de Toutes les Estats", the very first book by a Welshman to be printed in Britain. The first book to be published in the Welsh language (that was not a translation) had to wait until 1585.
1523:Caerwys Eisteddfod. Rhys ap thomas dies and his estates inherited by his grandson, Rhys ap Gruffydd. His offices though were granted to Walter Devereux. After a dispute in 1529 Devereux accused Rhys of seeking to become prince of Wales. Rhys was executed and his lands given to Devereux.
1536: Henry VII begins his suppression of the Welsh monasteries.
1536: The Act of Union. Henry VIII, as greedy as ever to acquire lands and property, disposed of the Duke of Buckingham in 1521, and added his Welsh lordships Brecon and Newport to lands owned by the Crown. He then granted the lands of Rhys ap Gruffudd to Walter Devereux, steward of the household of Henry's daughter Mary. When a bitter quarrel ensued between Devereux and Rhys, the King accused the Welsh lord of plotting with the King of Scotland to make himself ruler of Wales. In 1536, King and Parliament showed their determination to settle the matter once and for all.
The so-called Act of Union of that year, and its corrected version of 1543 was inevitable. As many historians have pointed out, full union with England had been practically achieved by the 1284 Statute of Rhuddlan. The new Act stated "persons born or to be born in the said Principality . . . of Wales shall have and enjoy and inherit all and singular Freedoms, Liberties, Rights, Privileges and Laws . . . as other Kings' subjects have, enjoy or inherit."
The Act of Union is one of the most important documents in the whole history of Wales; but though it was welcomed by the ever-increasingly anglicised Welsh gentry and the commercial interests, it was passed with no consultation, or consent by the majority of the Welsh people who had no central authority, or Parliament to represent them.
The Preamble gives notice that one intention of the Act was "to extirpate all and singular the sinister usages and customs differing from the same [the Kings' realm]" and to ensure that" the said country or dominion of Wales shall stand and continue for ever from henceforth incorporated, united and annexed to and with his Realm of England."1547: First three books to be printed in Wales. (1) "Yn y llyvyr hwnn", containing a Welsh alphabet, calendar, The Lord's Prayer, The Creed etc.: (2) "Oll synnwyr pen", containing a collection of proverbs; (3) Welsh/English dictionary.
1547: William Salesbury's "Welsh-English Dictionary". Salesbury worked tirelessly to give the Welsh people the ability to read the scriptures in their own language. Until such scriptures were available, they would have to do with versions in English (a language that most Welsh people could not understand).
1551: "Kynniver Llyth a Ban" of Salesbury. This was Salesbury's translation of the main texts of the English Prayer Book. The author had previously set out his mission to the Welsh nation as "to obtain the holy scripture in your own tongue as your happy ancestors, the ancient British, had it."
1563: Parliamentary Bill to have the Holy Bible Translated into Welsh. Though John Penry of Breconshire, had pleaded passionately in Parliament to have the Bible translated so that the Welsh people might better learn English, the Queen and her advisors were more interested in completing the Protestant Reformation throughout Britain than in granting any favours. One of the quickest and surest ways to accomplish this was to give the Welsh people a Bible in their own tongue.
1567: William Salesburys "Y Testament Newydd a Llyfr Gweddi yn Gymraeg". (New Testament and Common Prayer Book in Welsh). This book was a forerunner of Salesbury's intention to translate the whole Bible into Welsh, but his quarrel with Bishop Richard Davies (that may have been over a single word) ended the project. The completed New Testament never became popular, however, because of its archaic, difficult language.
1567: The Caerwys Eisteddfod. The two eisteddfodau at Caerwys, a little town in Flintshire, in 1525 and 1567 marked changes in the craft of Welsh poetry. Though the bards were called together to "bring order and government to the craftsmen in poetic art," the meetings were probably royal attempts to curb the anti-royalist sentiments of the nationalistic poets. The 1567 eisteddfod also marked the end of the Bardic Order as the humanist influences now sweeping in from Europe necessitated changes in Welsh prosody including the replacement of the old bardic system of twenty-four strict metres by that of free metres. The poetic art was thus made more accessible to the ever-increasing amateur poets of the gentry.
1571:Jesus College was Oxford's first Protestant foundation. Following the establishment of many grammar schools in Wales, Jesus College was founded by Dr. Hugh Price of Brecon to cater to the needs of Welshmen anxious to continue their education, especially in law. It has remained a particular venue for the education of ambitious Welshmen throughout the centuries. Its list of graduates reads like an Honour Roll of "Who's Who in Welsh history."
1573: The First Map of Wales. Humphrey Lhuyd's Map, the first that was specifically a map of Wales, was published in Antwerp in 1573. Its immense popularity is attested to by its being reprinted almost 50 times during the next 200 years.
1584:Copper works created at Neath Abbey. The ore being transported from Cornwall, there being plenty of local wood for charcoal. Further works were soon established locally at Cwmfelin and Melyncrythan. Swansea eventually became the centre of this industry with the local coalfields taking over as the fuel source.
1584: "Historie of Cambria, Now called Wales". This book, published by David Powel, closely followed the arguments of antiquarian and map-maker Humphrey Lluyd's adaptation of the ancient "Brut y Twysogion". It was one of many books to answer the claims of the Italian Polydor Vergil who had the temerity to cast doubts on the authenticity of Geoffrey of Monmouth's stories of King Arthur. Powel's book remained the standard version of the history of Wales for centuries.
1585:The First Book Published in the Welsh Language. This collection of religious texts, entitled "Yn Llyvyr Hwnn" (In This Book) published by Sir John Price (John Prys of Brecon), was the very first book published in the Welsh language. The very first book actually printed in Wales itself may have been "Y Drych Gristianogawl" (The Christian Mirror produced in a cave at Llandudno, North Wales).
1586: William Camden's Britannia. Camden's book, in Latin (in form and content following the precedent set by Giraldus Cambrensis in the late 12th century), detailed the tribal divisions of Roman Wales. A classic of its kind, the book set the standard of travel books about historical Wales.
1588:Printing of the Bible, in Welsh, by Bishop Morgan. The Welsh Bible of Bishop Morgan. In order for the people of Wales to have a book they could read, in a dignified and elegant language yet that could be understood in all parts of Wales, the task was entrusted to William Morgan, vicar of Llanrhaeadr-Ym-Mochnant, and later Bishop of Llandaf and St. Asaph. Aided by a group of scholars, Morgan completed the task in 1588, giving the people of Wales a Bible that became the foundation and inspiration for all the literature written in Welsh after the end of the 16th century. Welsh was the only non-state language of Protestant Europe to become the medium of a published Bible within a century of the Reformation. The Irish did not get their own Bible until 1690; the Scots had to wait until 1801 for its Gaelic Bible, long after the Highland Clearances and massive emigration had almost emptied the country of its Gaelic speakers.
1603: James I, King of Great Britain. The year 1603 marked the union of the crowns of Scotland and England under James I. Many historians see this union as perfectly acceptable to the Welsh, who had no outstanding leaders of their own, and who now perhaps could take pride in being part of the British kingdom as opposed to being merely part of England. There followed a new exodus of Welsh gentry to London to take part in the bestowal of royal favors.1621: Dr. Davies's British Grammar. In addition to helping William Morgan with his translations, Dr. Davies also helped revise the Book of Common Prayer in 1621, the same year in which his Welsh grammar in Latin appeared. Of these two influential works, James Howell wrote "It was a rough task . . . to tame a wild and wealthy language, and to frame grammatic toils to curb her, so that she now speaks by rules, and sings by prosody."
1621:Cynwal's "Salmau Can". Poet William Cynwal is best remembered for his metrical Psalms published as an appendix to the Welsh Book of Common Prayer of 1632. This book was practically the only hymnal used in Wales for over 100 years; many of the psalms included are still used in churches in Wales for congregational singing.
1644: Battle of Montgomery, the first battle of the English Civil War to be fought in Wales.
1646: Harlech and Raglan castle besieged as a result of the English Civil War.
1647: Harlech castle, the last Royalist castle, falls.
1650: Act for the Better Propagation and Preaching of the Gospel. The Act followed the defeat of King Charles. In Wales it was intended to root out dissident clergymen, but it also led to the opening up of 63 new schools in which children were taught to read and write (albeit in English). The Act also created a new class of literate ministers and enthusiastic preachers whose influence in Wales was a lasting one, doing much to prepare the ground for cultivation by the Methodists a century later.
1650-1654:Schools started in Cardiff, Cowbridge, Llantwit Major, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath, Penmark (Rhoose), St.Mary Hill (Bridgend) and Swansea
1662: Act of Uniformity. When Parliament became alarmed at the growth of Nonconformism, it decided to bring congregations into line by passing the Act of Uniformity requiring all ministers to assent to the rites and liturgy of the Established Church (in Wales still regarded as an alien institution). One unintended effect of the Act, along with those created by the restrictive Clarendon Code (1661-5), was that whole congregations moved to the New World, leading to such settlements as that of the Welsh Quakers that later became the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
1664: The Conventicle Act prohibited groups of more than five persons from assembling for religious worship other than that prescribed by the Established Church. It had the effect of furthering emigration to North America, where Welshmen became prominent in municipal government and the universities (both of which had been excluded by the Conventicle Act even after the passing of the so-called Toleration Act of 1689).
1655:Swansea. Market charter for two markets every week and four annual fairs
1667: Charles Edwards' "Y Ffydd Ddi-ffuant" (The Sincere Faith). Edwards promulgated the belief that the people of Wales were the chosen of God, having replaced the Israelites or having been descended directly from "the lost tribes" themselves. His book deals with the history of the Welsh people, the history of the Christian religion and the spiritual condition of individual Welshmen.
1674: The Welsh Trust Set Up in London. With the arrival of the Methodist preachers in Wales, the need was brought home for printed works to educate the common people. In 1674 Thomas Gouge set up the Welsh Trust to establish English schools in Wales, but also to publish books in Welsh.
1681: "Canwyll y Cymru" of Rhys Pritchard. Much 17th century Welsh literature was designed to preach the Gospel. Preacher-poet Rhys Pritchard published his "Canwyll y Cymry" (The Candle of the Welsh) in 1681. The book contained simple, moral verses that later became the source of many Welsh hymns; it also had the enormous effect on keeping the language alive as one of the only books available for children.
1681: William Penn Given Proprietary Rights to Pennsylvania. In a letter to his friend Robert Turner, one day after being granted his lands in North America, Penn gave his reasons for not calling the area New Wales. He chose Pennsylvania instead, with the translation as "Head Woods."
1682:Grammer school founded in Swansea, by Dr.Hugh Gore who was previously an Irish bishop
1684:Neath. Market charter for every Wednesday and three annual fairs of two days each
1688: Stephen Hughes Published "Taith y Pererin". This book, a version of Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" was one of the many Welsh works to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the proliferation of the printing press. For Welsh Protestants, the book has remained one of the most popular works ever printed.
1699: The SPCK Founded. The Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge was founded by Sir John Phillips of Pembrokeshire (along with Mrs. Bridget Bevan and Stephen Hughes). The SPCK helped found a network of charity schools in Wales that condoned the use of the Welsh language, and helped publish a number of influential books including Ellis Wynn's "Gweledigaetheu y Bardd Cwsc" (The Vision of the Sleeping Bard) in 1703, a satire of the ills of the age and a book now considered a classic of Welsh High Anglicanism.
1707:Edward Lhuyd's "Archaeologia Britannia". Edward Lhuyd, of Llandorda, Oswestry, was regarded as the finest natural scientist in Europe. Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum Oxford, his notes for a new edition of Camden's 1586 "Britannia" are an outstanding contribution to the history of topographical and archaeological studies in Britain. In 1707, Lhuyd published his own book in which he desired to put objective truth above the current fad for romantic antiquarianism.
1716:Theophilus Evans "Drych y Prif Oesoedd" (Mirror the First Age). Evans was alarmed at the rise of nonconformity that he felt was destroying many ancient Welsh traditions. His book recounts the history of the Welsh people all the way from the Tower of Babel to Llywelyn ap Gruffudd's death in 1282. He retells some of the great myths of Welsh history such as the descent from Noah's grandson Gomer, the founding of Britain by Brutus of Troy, and the betrayal of the Britons by Hengist. Written in their own language, the book gave the Welsh people a sense of their own unique history.
1717:"Treasures of the Ancient Ages" (Lewis Morris). Continuing the appeal to the classical past, Lewis Morris, anxious to counter the appeal of English books to Welsh readers, also produced books in Welsh that were designed to entertain. His "Tlysau yr Hen Oesoedd" was the first Welsh periodical, containing much-needed light-hearted verse and prose.
1718:Printing Press Set Up at Trefhedyn, Cardiganshire. Over 500 books were printed in the Welsh language at Trefhedyn and at another press set up in 1721 at Carmarthen. Most of these were translation of religious works in English, but the production of so many cheap catechisms and prayer books had the unintended effect of helping ensure the survival of the Welsh language.
1723:"Mona Antiqua Restaurata" Published in London. One of the results of this book of Henry Rowlands, in which he surveys the antiquities of his native Anglesey, was to set in motion a "druid fad" that became highly popular in London and that resulted, eventually, not only in misconceptions about role of the druids in Welsh history, but also in the colorful (and very popular) shenanigans of the present day ceremonies of the Gorsedd.
1729:Welsh Society Established in Philadelphia. In addition to religious persecution, land enclosures in Wales sent whole villages fleeing to the New World, especially to an area near Philadelphia, where Welsh books had been published as early as 1721 and where the St. David's Society was established in 1729, the oldest of its kind in North America.
1735:Hywel Harris Converts to Methodism. Because of his tireless work on behalf of his new-found faith and his zeal in converting others, Harris has been given the title of "father of Methodism in Wales." He worked closely with other religious enthusiasts such as Daniel Rowland, William Williams, Peter Williams and the English evangelist John Wesley.
1740:Griffith Jones' "Welch Piety". In publishing his "Welsh Piety", Griffith Jones stressed the need for the people of Wales to be able to read the Scriptures for themselves. Married to the sister of John Philips (one of the founders of SPCK), Jones helped set up schools in almost every parish in Wales. Evening classes were also set up for labourers and farm workers. These "circulating schools" became one of the great success stories in the long history of the country, acquainting much of the population with the literary language of the Bible and making Wales one of the most literate countries in Europe. Professor John Davies points out that Empress Catherine of Russia commissioned reports on the schools in Wales in 1764 as did UNESCO in 1955.
1751: The Honourable Society of the Cymmrodorion Founded. There is a Welsh expression that translates as "the best Welshman is one who lives outside Wales." In the middle of the 18th century, most of the advocates of Welsh nationhood lived in London where the Cymmrodorion was founded by Richard Morris after the travels of such writers as Daniel Defoe and Samuel Johnson had toured Wales and stirred up interest in all things Celtic. Morris saw the need for an organisation that could give the Welsh people a strong voice in the social and cultural affairs of the British nation The appetites of the London Welsh were also whetted after the unfortunate forgeries of James Macpherson's "Songs of Ossian".
1760: John Guest. Under the directorship of John Guest (husband of Lady Llanover), an industrial enterprise begun at Dowlais, near Merthyr in 1761 and within a few years was producing over 5,000 tons of iron a year. It was the beginning of Merthyr's phenomenal growth as one of the leading iron manufacturing centres of the world. Another industrialist, Anthony Bacon, built a road from Merthyr to Cardiff in 1867. When Bacon's works at Cyfartha came into the possession of Richard Crawshay in 1794, a dynasty was established that lasted well into this century.
1761: John Wilkinson of Bersham, a small village near Wrexham in Clwyd, holds special importance for economic historians, for not only did it house the workshops of the skilled Davies Brothers, it was one of the cradles of the Industrial Revolution. This is the place where British iron making began in 1670, where smelting iron ore with coke began in 1721, and where John "Iron-Mad" Wilkinson set up shop in 1761. For many years the area was one of the most important iron manufacturing centres in the world. The Bersham Industrial Centre tells the story of the man who bored cannon for the American War of Independence and cylinders for James Watts' revolutionary steam engine that changed the face of the modern world.
1762: Publication of "Caniadau y Rhai Sydd ar y Mor o Wydr". William Williams' collection of hymns, translated as "Songs of Those that are on the Sea of Glass", is a collection of 130 hymns that constitute the great classical body of Welsh hymnody by one of its greatest writers. William Williams' "Pantycelyn" was converted by Hwyel Harris and through his hymnologies helped give the fledgling Methodist Movement a firm literary base. Perhaps his most well-known hymn is "Guide me, O thou Great Jehovah" (usually sung in Wales to the tune "Cwm Rhondda". Williams inspired many of his contemporaries, including Dafydd Jones, who translated many of the hymns of Isaac Watts; David Williams, of "Ebenezer" fame; Peter Jones; and David Charles (brother of Thomas) who wrote the stirring hymn "Llef".
1763: Goronwy Owen's Work Published. The drunken escapades and profligacy of the lifestyle of Goronwy Owen, who emigrated to take up a teaching post at William and Mary College in Virginia in 1757 read like the history of an early Dylan Thomas. Yet, like his 12th century counterpart, the earlier poet left behind some outstanding works of literature.
Before emigrating, Owen had taken upon himself the task of reviving Welsh poetry by writing his awdlau and cywyddau in the manner of the classical poets, notably Horace. He also planned a Welsh epic in the style of Milton, the composition of which occupied many 19th century Welsh poets greatly influenced by the form and content of Owen's work. Much of Owen's poetry was published in the anthology "Diddanwch Teuluaidd" in 1763 and again in 1817. A plaque installed by the NWAF at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg commemorates the memory of this brilliant, if eccentric literary figure who spend the last years of his life as tobacco planter and a vicar in St. Andrew's Parish, Virginia.
1764: Evan Evans published "Some Specimens of the Poetry of the Ancient Welsh Bards" the result of his tireless research into the ancient manuscripts. He was also responsible for the preservation of so many priceless medieval Welsh literary works such as "The Red Book of Hergest" that alerted the literary world to the glories of much hitherto-unknown Welsh literature. It was Evans (Ieuan Brydydd Hir) who discovered and published the work of Taliesin and "Y Gododdin" of Aneirin.
1768: Copper Ore Mined at Mynydd Parys in Anglesey. The copper industry, begun at Holywell in Flintshire around 1750, could now use Welsh ore mined at Parys Mountain. Huge copper works were built first at Holywell in the North and then at Swansea in the South (by Thomas Williams), leading to an industry that controlled half the world's production by the end of the century. In the hinterland of Swansea, the Tawe Valley's hell-like appearance marked its position as the leading copper producer in Britain if not the entire world.
1770: The very first edition of the Welsh Bible to be printed in Wales was that of Peter Williams at Carmarthen in 1770 by John Ross. Popular throughout the 19th century, and reprinted many times, it had pride of place in most Welsh homes where it became a standard possession (for his translation of the Bible, Williams was excommunicated for heresy in 1791).
1770: The Gwyneddigion was founded by two prominent Welshmen in London, Edward Jones and Edward Williams (Iolo Morgannwg) with aims similar to that of the Cymmrodorion. It is to stone-mason Williams that we owe the elaborate ceremonies of the modern eisteddfod, for he invented many "traditions" he felt belonged to such an ancient Celtic race such as the Welsh, and who had either lost them or who had not enjoyed them in the first place.
1770:The first Bible to be printed in Wales. Population estimated as 500,000 most of whom were dependant on the soil. 1773: "In a legal action, Welsh jurors elected to churches. 'Wales is a conquered country... and it is the duty of the bishops to endeavour to promote the English, in order to introduce the language... It has always been the policy of the legislature to introduce the English language into Wales.' " 1776: Richard Price of Llangeinor publishes "The Nature of Civil Liberty". Price, a prolific author of books on divinity and theology, is best known for his "Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty" in which he fervently supported the right of the American colonies to independence. For his work, Price was honoured in both England and America, where he was offered citizenship. On October 6, 1778, The American Congress resolved: "That the Honourable Benjamin Franklin, Arthur Lee and John Adams . . . to apply to Dr. Price, and inform him that it is the Desire of Congress to consider him as a Citizen of the United States, and to receive his Assistance in regulating their Finances."
Price's ideas were indeed revolutionary: he urged that governments create a surplus of revenue over expenditure, allow it to build at compound interest and retire the public debt. He also had the startling idea that British MP's were simply trustees to carry out the wishes of their constituents and that communities such as Wales had the right to govern themselves.1777: Lancashire interests establish a cotton mill at Hollywell.
1778: Thomas Pennant. The first of Pennant's tours of Wales, (the second was published in 1781) that helped spread the word about the intellectual and literary treasures to be found in the practically unknown country to the west of Offa's Dyke. Professor John Davies sees this as the beginning of a Celtomania affecting English literary society at the close of the century. From 1770 to 1815, over 80 books were published describing tours in Wales, where the superb mountain scenery was now to be admired, not scorned as barbaric and untamed. Landscape artists such as Richard Wilson added their talents to the pool of praise; even the great Turner painted romantic Welsh mountain scenes.1780: Thomas Williams becomes 'Copper King' after initially gaining control of Parys Mountain in Anglesey. 40 ships continually used to move ore from Amwlch to his brass foundry at Holywell. He also founds copper smelting works at Swansea. (The earl of Uxbridge receiving £2,000 per anum in mineral rights for Welsh ore extraction). Expansion of Welsh maritime activity lessens Welsh dependence on English trade. (JD) 1782: North-West Wales slate industry launched by Lord Penrhyn.
1782: David Williams publishes "Letters on Political Liberty". The essays of David Williams, in which he advocated radical political reform, like those of Richard Price, put him way ahead of his time. Many of his ideas were later adopted by the Chartists whose activities so frightened those in the establishment in the mid-1800's.
1784: Henry Cort's Iron Puddling Adopted at Merthyr Tydfil. The method of puddling iron, invented in Hampshire by Henry Cort in 1783, ensured that, no longer reliant on charcoal, the iron industry could find a perfect home in the Southeastern valleys of Wales with their vast supplies of bituminous or semi-bituminous coal. Merthyr quickly became the home of industrial giants such as John Guest, Richard Crawshay, and the Homfrays. By 1827, the South Wales iron industry was producing one half of Britain's exports. The peaceful, verdant valleys of the South began their rapid transformation.
1784: Thomas Charles is credited with setting up the successful Sunday School movement in North Wales that had such a profound and lasting influence on the language and culture of that region; an influence that is still a constant source of wonder to monoglot English-speaking Welshmen and women from other parts of Wales, not to mention visitors from other parts of the British Isles. Under Charles' leadership, the British and Foreign Bible Society published the standardised text of their first Welsh Bible, and the SPCK its edition of the New Testament. Another major achievement was the "Thomas Charles Bible" published in 1814.
1788: The first Welsh people to arrive in the new colony of Australia were guests of the "First Fleet." They were convicts: two men and two women. Before that, the medical officer on Captain Cook's ship the Discovery, was Dafydd Ddu Feddyg (Black David the Doctor). In the 1830's more convicts arrived, including Lewis Lewis, sentenced following the Merthyr Riots and John Frost, following the Newport Rising. Perhaps the most famous of all the Welsh immigrants to arrive "Down Under" was Joseph Jenkins, who left Wales because of a nagging wife and whose exploits as "the jolly swagman" of the popular song has earned him a prominent place in the pantheon of Australian folk heroes.1789: Thomas Charles' Welsh Sunday Schools established at Bala. 1790: Sir George Everest, (1790-1866). Born Gwernvale, Brecon. Everest joined the East India Co in 1806 and carried out a trigonometric survey of India and Java. He became surveyor general in 1830 and introduced the most accurate surveying instruments available at that time. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1827 and knighted in 1861. Previously known as Peak XV, Mt. Everest was named after him in 1865.
1790:Richard Pennant. The growth of the North Wales slate industry was ensured by the building of a road from the inland quarries to the coast at Port Penrhyn, near Bangor by capitalist Richard Pennant. Such ports also helped in the growth of the Welsh maritime industry, an important part of the country's economy, especially in the export of the products of the burgeoning Welsh woollen industry.
1790:In an eisteddfod at St Asaph organised by the Gwyneddigion, (a London society of Welsh patriots), the main prize was awarded for a work entitled - Owain Myfyr and 'Liberty'.
1790-1800: Welsh Canals link the iron works of the Merthyr district to the port of Cardiff. By 1800, the towns of Swansea, Neath, Cardiff and Newport had all been linked to the coalfields by these canals. In North Wales, the completion of Telford's 1007 ft-long Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, a stupendous feat of contemporary engineering, carried the Shropshire Union Canal across the River Dee at a height of over 120 feet in a leak-proof, cast-iron trough supported by 19 piers.
1792: The Ancient Eisteddfod. An article in "The Gentleman's Magazine" of October, 1792 noted the following: "This being the day on which the autumnal equinox occurred, some Welsh bards, resident in London, assembled in congress on Primrose Hill, according to ancient usage. Present at the meeting was Edward Jones who had published his "The Musical and Poetical Reelicks of the Welsh Bards" in 1784 in a belated effort to try to preserve the native Welsh traditions being so ruthlessly stamped out by the new breed of Methodists.
1792: Sir William Jones (whose study of Sanskrit led him to discover the link between Welsh and other Indo-European languages), announced the discovery of America by Prince Madoc 300 years before the voyages of Columbus.
1792:Iolo Morgannwg holds the first session of Gorsedd beirdd Ynys Prydain in London.
1793: Swansea Revolt. Not all was peaceful in Wales despite the country being favorably compared in The Cambrian to Scotland and Ireland with their history of "riot and commotion." Some time in 1793, several hundred copperworkers and colliers marched on Swansea protesting the high price of grain, cheese and butter and demanding higher wages. They got nowhere in their demands, but it was a foretaste of later industrial disputes.1793-1818: Enclosures of Land. Though the process of enclosing land had been going on for centuries, the process was vastly speeded up during the years following 1793 when Parliament passes almost a 100 acts authorising the enclosure of 200,000 acres of land in Wales. More and more of these lands came into the possession of those who already owned wealthy estates, greatly expanding those estates and depriving the poorer of their rights to common land. Many Welsh people were forced to emigrate overseas or move to such rapidly-growing industrial districts around Merthyr or into its adjoining valleys.
1793:The first Welsh journal to become established, "Trysorfa Gwybodaeth" (Treasury of Knowledge) by Morgan John Rhys.
1793-4: The first Welsh periodical.. Supported by members of the Gwyneddigion, Morgan John Rhys of Llanbradach, Glamorgan, published five issues of "Cylchgrawn Cymmraeg" (Welsh Magazine) expressing the rather radical ideas of the need for education, social reform and freedom of conscience. Rhys later emigrated to found the Welsh settlement of Beulah in Pennsylvania.
1794: The Glamorgan Canal Links Merthyr to Cardiff. Cardiff was already the main centre for exporting Welsh coal to the Britain's overseas empire. The success of the 1794 canal in getting the coal and iron products to the waiting ships easily and quickly was soon followed up by other canals linking the ports of Newport and Swansea to their industrial hinterlands of Ebbw Vale (in 1796) and the Swansea Valley (in 1798). The importation of Irish "navies" to dig these canals did much to hasten the decline of the Welsh language in these areas as well as help spread the seeds of the later Chartist Movement.
1795:South Wales becomes the Iron Industries stronghold as Crawshay develops Cyfarthfa. Large capital investments in the Iron Industry around Merthyr. Increase in Welsh migration to America particularly from the Brecon and mid Wales areas. The population of Wales particularly in the rural areas is close to starvation. The press gangs achieve notoriety in the coastal areas by singling out Methodist counsellors and other 'non desirable elements'. Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff canal opened. 1797: A French revolutionary fleet lands a force at Fishguard (Abergwaun). A number of non-conformists in Pembroke were prosecuted for treason. In the main square of the town of Fishguard, is situated the Royal Oak Inn where you can view a copy of the treaty that ended the invasion by a body of French troops led by Irish-American General Tate. The troops had landed from three frigates at Carreg Wastad, but were apparently frightened into surrendering by the militia of Lord Cawdor aided by a troop of local Welshwomen who looked like Grenadier Guards in their red cloaks and tall black hats. One local townswoman, the fearsome Jemima Nicholas (or Niclas) with her trusty pitchfork, was personally credited with capturing 14 French soldiers. The fact that they were probably drunk hardly excuses their cowardice.
1804: "The Cambrian," Wales's First Weekly Newspaper (in English). In February 1804, "The Cambrian and General Weekly Advertiser for the Principality of Wales" was founded at Swansea by T. Jenkins to encourage commercial growth in the town. In 1891 it was sold to the Cambrian Newspaper Company and in 1930 merged with "The Herald of Wales".1804: Richard Trevithick, a Cornishman, ran his steam locomotive at Penydarren, on the horse-drawn tramroad (a plateway completed in 1802) that bypassed the many locks on the Glamorganshire Canal linking Merthyr to Cardiff. The earliest steam locomotive in the world, it was a four-wheeled tramway locomotive that hauled a five wagon load of 10 tons of iron [some sources state 20 tons] and 70 persons at a speed of five miles an hour, for a distance of nine miles. Though the track proved too brittle and not developed enough for effective use, a new, exciting phase in the history of transportation was about to begin.
In early 1804, Trevithick had carried passengers on Christmas Eve, at a speed of 9 miles an hour at Camborne in England in a steam carriage, but had run out of steam going up hill. A locomotive was needed to run on iron rails. Mr. Samuel Humfray, owner of the Merthyr Iron Works suggested that Trevithick build a steam locomotive for the nine-mile track to Navigation House, Aercynon.
An article of Friday, February 24, 1804 in "The Cambrian" referred to "the long-expected trial of Mr. Trevithick's newly-invented steam engine, which he named Catch -me-Who-Can, to draw and work carriages of all descriptions on various kinds of roads. "The successful test had taken place on February 21; it drew forth the prescient comment: It is not doubted but that the number of horses in the kingdom will be very considerably reduced, and the machine, in the hands of the present proprietors, will be made use of in a thousand instances never yet thought of for an engine."
1804: "The Campbell's Political Survey of Wales". The publication of such surveys showed that Wales was more and more being recognised as a distinct political unit within the British Isles despite the hundreds of years since the Acts of Union. Campbell's survey stated that Swansea was named by the Saxons as Swinesea, "from porpoises or sea-hogs in these parts." (Most sources give the derivation of the name as Viking Sweyn's-Ey (Sweyn's Island).
1804: The Swansea and Oystermouth Railway. On the 29th of June, 1804 an Act was passed "For making and maintaining a Railway of Tramroad, from the town of Swansea, into the Parish of Oystermouth, in the County of Glamorgan." The railway (utilising horse-drawn locomotion) was built for the passage of wagons and other carriages to communicate with the Swansea Canal and to open a communication with "several extensive limestone quarries, coal mines, iron mines and other mines. A notice in "The Cambrian" on August 31, 1804 stated "The new rail-road from this town to Oystermouth is already begun, and the jetty at the pierhead is in a state of great forwardness."
An innovation began in 1807 when passengers were carried along the tramroad in horse-drawn coaches; thus the railway established its place in history as the very first fare-paying passenger rail in the world. Horses were replaced by steam locomotion in 1877. The line was electrified in 1929, finally closing on June 5, 1960 after 153 years of continuous service.1810: Report from the Committee on the Petition of the Owners of Collieries in South Wales.
1811:Wales becomes a "non-conformist nation" as the Calvanistic Methodists break with the Church of England
1813:Nantgarw pottery established by William Billingsley, a china painter from the famous Derby pottery. William and his partners moved to Swansea in 1814 and started another porcelain works, when financial difficulties hit the Nantgarw enterprise. The only years of manufacture between the two works were Swansea 1814-1817 and Nangarw 1813-1814 and 1817-1820, with the surviving pieces being very expensive, collectors items, today. 1814: First Welsh monthly journal appears, "Seren Gomer".
1815:European peace after the Napoleonic Wars brings Welsh farming to a point of crisis. Soaring population adds to the discontent.
1826:Completion of the Menai Suspension Bridge. The first suspension bridge in Wales, some say the world. The original cables, made in Merthyr Tydfil, are still in place today.
1830:Report from the Select Committee of the House of Lords appointed to take consideration of the State of the Coal Industry.
1831:The Merthyr uprising. Debtors Court is ransacked by debt stricken workers. The town is raided of sequestered goods and troops are brought in, leaving two dozen towns people dead. For the next ten years Welsh miners stage "Scotch Cattle" raids taking action against blacklegs.
1834: Robert Owen's Grand National Consolidated Trade Union. Owen's visions of improving factory conditions, shortening the long, back-breaking hours of labor and educating factory children had led him to set up "villages of co-operation," first in New Lanark, Scotland and then in New Harmony, Indiana. But his most enduring legacy was the creation of the GNCTU in 1834. The Union, despite its current anonymity, became a major influence on the future development of trade unionism in both Britain (and its Commonwealth) and in the United States.
1836:Minutes of Evidence of the TVR (Taff Vale Railway) Bill before the Select Committee of the House of Lords. 1837: Report of the Commissioners of Enquiry into the Charities of Wales. Welsh language weddings, and registration of births and deaths, allowed. Mining disasters, May 10th, Plas yr Argoed, Mold 21 killed, Jun 17th, Blaina, Mon. 21 killed.
1837: Anthracite Coal was used to Smelt Iron at the Yniscedwyn Works, Ystradgynlais, in the Swansea Valley, on February 5, 1837. David Thomas of Neath utilized a hot blast to smelt iron ore with anthracite coal. His success not only opened up the Swansea Valley to industry, but also led to the Lehigh Valley's becoming the chief centre of the world's iron industry shortly after Thomas's arrival at atasauqua, Pennsylvania in 1839 where he tapped his first furnace on July 4, 1840. Thomas is rightly honoured as "the father of the American anthracite iron industry".
1838:Bishops allowed to refuse a non-Welsh speaker for a Welsh parish. The publication of Lady Charlotte Guest's translation of "The Mabinogion".
1838-1849: Publication of the "Mabinogion" in English. Lady Charlotte Guest (Lady Llanover), intrigued by the Welsh language spoken by the workers at her husband's iron works at Dowlais, was responsible for publishing an English translation of the 12 folk tales that she called "The Mabinogion." She was aided by John Jones ("Tegid") and Thomas Price ("Carnhuanawc"). Thus this great body of late medieval Welsh literature was brought to the attention of the literary world.
1839: The Building of the Bute Dock at Cardiff. Vast amounts of coal were now being produced in the Southeast Wales Valleys; it was an ideal fuel for the world's navies, now changing over from sail to steam. The huge new Bute dock at Cardiff led to that city's rapid expansion into the largest and most important in Wales.
1839: The Rebecca Riots. In May 1839 toll gates at Efailwen, near Carmarthen, were destroyed by a large crowd of farmers led by Thomas Rees (Twm Carnabwth) dressed in the clothes of women. The riots were to protest the high fees charged at the toll gates for the transportation of farm goods, lime and animals continued for a number of years in West Wales.
1839: Chartist Riot. Llanidloes, in Montgomeryshire, was a leading centre of the Welsh woolen industry. The popular movement known as the Chartism wanted to bring about electoral reform. One of their meetings, held at Llanidloes, turned violent when the members ransacked some public buildings and threatened the local magistrate. After the local militia had restored order, many of the leaders of the protest were deported for life.
The Newport Rising. Newport, Monmouthshire, on the southern edge of the South Wales coal field, was the site chosen for a major Chartist rally. Over 5,000 miners and laborers entered Westgate Square in three columns, one led by John Frost. The military was waiting inside the Westgate Hotel, their weapons primed and ready. The marchers were soaked from the heavy downpour, tired from their long hike "from the hills," and armed only with "rude pieces of iron fixed upon shapeless hedge stakes." It is not known who fired the first shot, but a volley from the soldiers of "the gallant 29th" soon ended the demonstration (for surely, that is all that was intended), a score of workers being killed instantly and many more wounded. The 20-minute affair had repercussions lasting more than a century in the political and social history of South Wales.
Harsh sentences followed the arrest of the Chartist leaders. Frost was found guilty of high treason along with William Jones and Rees (Jack the Fifer). All three were sentenced to hanging and quartering, their bodies to be thrown on the town's rubbish dump, but the sentence was later commuted to one of life imprisonment.
The Great Reform Bill of 1867 finally ended the Chartist Movement, for in that year nearly 1,000,000 voters were added to the register, almost doubling the electorate. Forty-five new seats were created and the vote given to many working men. Frost (having returned to Wales to a hero's welcome after serving time in Australia) died in 1877 at the age of 93: his pioneering work, alongside that of the others, had not been in vain.
1841:Joseph Parry (1841-1903) born in Merthyr. Appointed Professor of Music at Aberystwyth University in 1874 and later at Cardiff. His popular opera "Blodwen", and his hymn tunes, especially "Aberystwyth" are known by most Welshmen.
1841: Severn Tunnel. This year saw the completion of the Severn Tunnel enabling Brunel's Great Western Railway to link Bristol and Cardiff, thus furthering the conditions for that Cardiffs phenomenal growth and importance (but also further severing its links with North and West Wales in favour of those with Bristol and London).
1842-47: Royal Commission Reports on the State of Education in Wales. The Royal Commission of 1842 found that in many parts of Wales, young people were learning to read English at Sunday School but could speak only Welsh. The ensuing report of the Commissioners of Inquiry in 1844 lamented the ignorance of the English language. This "intolerable" situation had to be remedied. The next detailed report was issued by the Royal Commission of 1847. It has become known in Wales as "Brad y Llyfrau Gleision" (The Treachery of the Blue Books). The commissioners knew no Welsh, and thus their questions in English to Welsh schoolchildren were not understood.
The prevalence of the Welsh language was stated as the main cause of what the Commission deplored as the sad state of education in Wales. The remedy, the imposition of English-only Board schools throughout Wales did much to hasten the decline of the Welsh language, for generation after generation of children would now be schooled in English only. The survival of Welsh at all can only be attributed to a miracle or to the rugged determination of those for whom the passing along of the ancient language became a sacred trust.1842: Report of the Commissioners of Enquiry into the Employment of Children in Mines.
1843:In his famous "Letter to the Welsh People", Hugh Owen calls for all Welsh to take action to further the cause of education. He see its as an essential pre-requisite to Welsh prosperity.
1844:Mining disaster, Jan 1st, Dinas, Rhondda,12 killed. 1845: Mining disaster Aug 2nd, Cwmbach, Aberdare, 28 killed 1846: Mining disaster Jan 14th, Risca, 35 killed. Report on the Mining Districts by Seymour Tremenheere. The Treason of the Blue Books. Verdict. "The Welsh language and nonconformity are a hindrance to education and morals in Wales." 1847: Report of the Commissioners of Enquiry into the operation of the Mines Act. Publication of the Report of the Commissioners of Enquiry into the State of Education in Wales. 1848: Mining disaster Jun 21st, Victoria, Mon, 11 killed.
1848: Trinity College, Carmarthen. A flurry of activity in the educational field led to the establishment of Trinity College by the Anglican Church. In addition, dissatisfaction led to the foundation of Normal College, Bangor in 1858 for the Nonconformists.1849: Mining disaster Aug 11th, Lletty Shenkin, Aberdare, 52 killed. Report of the Committee on Accidents in Mines.
1849: William Meirion Evans, of Llanfrothen, Merioneth, is believed to have been the first person to hold religious services in the Welsh language on the Australian continent when he preached at Burra in 1849. Evans is also remembered as the founder of the periodicals "Yr Awstrallydd" (the Australian) and "Yr Ymwelydd" (the Visitor) that acted as a link among the widely-scattered Austrialian Welsh communities during the second half of the 19th century.
1850: The Rhondda Valley, described in 1847 as "this solitudinous and happy valley . . . where a Sabbath stillness reigns," was only three years later described as "a vision of hell" where were found "poor creatures broiling or in sweat and dirt, amid their furnaces, pits, and rolling mills." What was said of the Rhondda could also be said of the other four major South Wales Valleys, in which the transformation was as equally rapid and the squalid conditions as equally pervasive, yet which produced a vibrant community life.
1850:Report on Merthyr to the General Board of Health. Mining disaster Dec 14th, New Duffryn, 13 killed. Rapid development of coal mining in the Rhondda valley. South Wales coal fields become one of the most important in the world. Cardiff's port is increasingly busy.
1852:Report of the Commissioners of Enquiry into the operation of the Truck Act in Mining Districts. Mining disaster May 10th, Duffryn, 64 killed.
1853:Mining disaster, Mar 17th, Risca Vale, 10 killed.
1854: "Y Gwyddoniadur Cymreig" (The Welsh Encyclopedia). The first of the ten volumes of "The Welsh Encyclopaedia" was edited by John Parry at the Thomas Gee Press, Denbigh. The book contains theological, geographical, scientific and literary material as well as Welsh and Celtic subjects and biographies.
1855:Rhondda's first deep (steam) coal pit is sunk. Mathew Arnold, Inspector of Schools, was quoted as saying "Sooner or later the difference in language between Wales and England will probably be accepted ... an event which is socially and politically desirable." 1856: Composition of "Hen Wlad fy Nhadau" by Evan and James James. Jul 13th, mining disaster Cymmer, Rhondda, 114 killed. 1858: First annual national Eisteddfod. Mining disaster Oct 13th, Duffryn, 20 killed. 1859: Mining disaster Apr 5th, Neath Chain Colliery, 26 killed.
1859: "Baner ac Amserau Cymru" (The Banner and Times of Wales), also known as "Y Faner", came out of a joining of the weeklies "Yr Amserau" and "Baner Cymru". The paper has had a profound impact on the religious, political and literary life of Wales, especially during the latter half of the last century. In 1977, the format of the newspaper became that of a magazine and was one of the two national weekly journals in the Welsh language, the other being "Y Cymro".1860: Mining disaster Dec 1st, Risca, 146 killed.
1861: The First Truly National Eisteddfod. In less than 10 years, with the opening up of the four-foot coal seam, the population of Aberdare doubled by 1861, mainly from in-migration from the Welsh-speaking areas. The Aberdare Eisteddfod attracted a great deal of interest throughout Wales: qualifying as the first truly "National Eisteddfod," its success led to the institution remaining an integral and much-loved part of Welsh culture ever since.
1861: Gladstone's Repeal of Paper Duties. The Prime Minister's repeal of the duties on paper led to an explosion of the Welsh press, resulting in a veritable sea of newspapers, pamphlet literature, magazines and critical quarterlies. Towns such as Merthyr, Swansea, Caernarfon and Denbigh became provincial capitals with influential newspapers.1862: Mining disaster Feb 19th, Gethin, Merthyr 47 killed.
1862-65: John Ceiriog Hughes'. Some of the most popular poetry in Wales was written by Hughes (bardic title "Ceiriog") between the years 1862 and 1865 under the titles "Oriau'r Bore" (Morning Hours) "Cant o Ganeuon" (One Hundred Songs),and "Y Bardd a'r Cerddor" (The Poet and the Musician). They remain popular today, especially in recitative competitions at many Esteddfodau.1863: Mining disasters Oct 17th, Margam 39 killed. Dec 24th, Maesteg, 14 killed
1865:Mining disasters Jun 16th, Tredegar, 2 killed. Dec 20th, Upper Gethin, Merthyr 30 killed.
1865: The Welsh Colony of Patagonia Founded. The most "successful" overseas Welsh settlement, in so far as maintaining its cultural identity is concerned, even surpassing those in such "Welsh" towns at Utica, N.Y. and Scranton, Pa., was that founded by a group of hardy pioneers in the most unlikely place, the Chubut Valley in Patagonia, southern Argentina.
The Argentine government, anxious to control a vast unpopulated area in which it was in dispute with the government of Chile, was willing to grant 100 square miles for the establishment of a Welsh state Y Wladfa and to protect it by the military. A Welsh emigration committee, under the leadership of Michael Jones of Bala, meeting in Liverpool (where there was a large Welsh population), decided that here was a chance to fulfil a dream that could not be turned down. Consequently, a group of nearly 200 Welshmen and women sailed away from Liverpool in late May, 1865 to the promised land. Their ship was the Mimosa, a brig of 447 tons. The ship arrived safely at what is now Puerto Madryn on the 27th day of July, 1865, landing its passengers the next day.
After a period of considerable hardship, the settlement began to thrive; the first successful harvest followed the building of irrigation canals from the River Chubut. In the spring of 1868, the first sermon "Israel in the Wilderness" was given by Abram Mathews at Rawson in a roughly-built barn that served as a public hall and chapel. The first eisteddfod took place in 1876 at Beti Huws' farm; it became firmly established as a much-loved tradition at Trelew in 1900. In nearby Gaiman, Welsh tea-houses still cater to visitors to the lonely Argentinian province of Patagonia.1867: Report of the Royal Commission on Railways. Mining disaster Nov 8th, Ferndale, Rhondda 178 killed
1867: The Parliamentary Reform Act of this year gave the vote to every male householder in the boroughs and to every male householder in the counties with premises rated at 12 pounds or more. Overnight, almost 60,000 new voters were created in Wales, the majority voting Liberal in the next election and shattering the political power of the great Tory landlords and industrialists in Wales.
1868:Liberal political supremacy is established over the Tories and landowners. The Liberals hold 21 Welsh seats.
1869:Mining disaster May 23rd, Llanerch, 7 killed. Jun 10th, Ferndale, Rhondda. 60 killed.
1869: The "Western Mail" Founded. The paper was founded primarily to serve the commercial interests of the third Marques of Bute, but in 1877, bought by Henry Carr, it became established as the foremost daily newspaper in Wales. A mostly true-blue conservative paper from its beginning, and scathingly ridiculed by nationalist and songwriter Dafydd Iwan in the late 1960's for its pro-English, anti-Welsh opinions, the paper has undergone a surprising turn of face, even arguing in favour of a referendum on devolution in 1979 and 1997.
1870:Report to the Sanitary Department of the Privy Council, Parish of Ystradyfodwg.
1870:July 23rd, mining disaster Llansamlet,19 killed.
1870:The Education Act. The Board Schools, in which basic skills would be taught to children of the "lower classes" were set up throughout Wales. In them, all teaching was done through the medium of English and religious instruction was strictly that of the Church of England.
1871:Mining disaster Feb 24th, Pentre, Rhondda, 38 killed. Oct 4th, Gelli Pit, Aberdare, 4 killed. . Report of the Royal Commission of Mines. Report of the Royal Commission of Enquiry into the operation of the Truck Act. 1872: Three mining disasters, Jan 10th, Oakwood, Llynfi Valley, 11 killed. Mar 2nd, Victoria, 19 killed. Mar 8th, Wernfach, 18 killed.
1872: University at Aberystwyth. Sir Hugh Owen, a pioneer in education in Wales, had written an open letter to the Welsh people in 1843 urging the acceptance of the schools of the British and Foreign Schools Society. Over 300 schools were set up in Wales. Owen then began tireless efforts to secure a university (thus fulfilling a dream of Owain Glyndwr) that came to fruition in 1872 when Aberystwyth University opened, thanks to voluntary contributions from all parts of Wales, but more especially from a group led by Lewis Davis, Ferndale, ably assisted by David Davis, Llandinam. The Government had refused financial help.1873: Report of the Select Committee on Coal.
1873: The Coalowners' Association. The beginnings of trade unionism seemed to threaten the enormous power wielded by the coal owners who formed the Monmmouthshire and South Wales Coalowners' Association in 1873, to present a united front against their workers. Two years later, the Association was able to introduce the system of payment known as "the sliding scale," setting wages to the selling price of coal.1874: Mining disaters Apr 5th, Abertillery, 6 killed. Jul 24th, Charles Pit, Llansamlet, 19 killed. 1875: Mining disasters Dec 4th, New Tredegar, 22 killed Dec 5th, Llan Pit, Pentyrch, 12 killed. 1876: Mining disaster Dec 13th, Abertillery, 20 killed. Report of all trials of coal recently made by the Admiralty. 1877: Mining disaster Mar 8th, Worcester Pit, Swansea, 18 killed. Report of the Committee of Council on Education in Wales.
1877: The Cambrian Miners'Association. Following years of constant defeats in their battles against the coal owners, the workers were persistent in their attempts to form unions. In 1877, the Cambrian Miners' Association, founded in the Rhondda Valley, began to organise strikes as their only resource against the Coalowners Association.1878: Mining disasters Sep 1st, Abercarn, 62 and Sep 11th, Abercarn, 268 killed. 1879: Mining disasters Jan 13th, Dinas, Rhondda, 3 killed. Sep 22nd, Waunllwyd, Ebbw Vale, 84 killed.
1879: Daniel Owen published his account of the sermons of Roger Edwards in "Offrymau Neillduaeth a Cymeriadau Methodistaidd" (Sacrificial Offerings and Methodist Characters) in 1879, he was persuaded to try his hand at writing Welsh novels. He went on to publish "Y Dreflan", "Rhys Lewis, Enoc Huws" and a collection of essays all of which showed his keen observation of character and society. Owen could be considered Wales's first novelist.1880: Mining disasters Jul 15th, Risca, 119 killed. Dec 10th, Naval Steam, Tonypandy, 96 killed.
1880: General Election. In a break with the old tradition of electing members from the landed gentry to Parliament, the General Election of 1880 returned members more representative of the general population. In addition, following the impetus of the General Election of 1867, a Welsh Liberal Party was created that had enormous influence on the direction of politics for the next 60 years.
1881: The Aberdare Commission. Unlike the 1847 Treachery of the Blue Books, the Aberdare Commission's report was not written by those hostile to or wholly ignorant of the Welsh language; nevertheless, they took it for granted that all intermediate and secondary education in Wales would be through the medium of English. The Commission did recommend that the Government fund two new university colleges, at Bangor in the North, and Cardiff in the South. Though funding was later granted to the already-established college at Aberystwyth, the other colleges had to wait a long while.
1881: The Welsh Rugby Union. Brought to Wales by students at St. David's College, Lampeter (Llanbedr Pont Steffan) now a part of the University of Wales, rugby quickly spread to the industrial valleys of the South, where it gained the reputation of replacing religion as the area's chief weekend activity. It is not too far-fetched to state that rugby is the religion of much of South Wales.
1881: The Sunday Closing Act. The passing of the Welsh Sunday Closing Act of 1881 showed that Parliament could pass legislation specifically engineered for the people of Wales, who thus gained a symbol of their separateness. That this symbol of Welsh legislation was, or soon came to be unacceptable to the majority of working people in Wales (whom it most affected) is not as important as the precedent it set in future Acts concerning Wales as a separate unit.1882: Mining disaster Jan 15th, Risca, 4 killed. 1883: Mining disasters Feb 1st, Coedcae, 5 killed. Feb 11th, Coedcae, 6 killed. Aug 21st, Gelli, Rhondda, 4 killed. 1884: Mining disasters Jan 16th, Cwmavon, 10 killed. Jan 28th, Penygraig, Rhondda, 11 killed. Nov 8th, Pochin Colliery, Tredegar, 14 killed.
1884: Act of Parliament for the Building of Barry Dock. Huge congestion at Cardiff, where 72 percent of Welsh coal exports were handled, along with the crippling cost of transport and port fees by the Taff Vale Railway (TVR) and Cardiff Dock Co. respectively, led to the coal owners' , led by Lewis Davis, who designed the scheme and again supported by his trusted friend David Davies, Llandinam, successful petition for a new dock at Barry and a rail link from the Rhondda (Trehafod) to Barry Dock. The new dock symbolised the frantic growth of Welsh industry and the important place that Welsh coal played in world trade and shipping.
1885:Mining disasters Naval Steam, Tonypandy, 14 killed. Dec 24th, Maerdy, Rhondda, 81 killed.
1885: The Society for the Utilisation of the Welsh Language. At the National Eisteddfod, Aberdare, Dan Isaac Davies helped found Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society) that envisioned a bilingual Wales. Davies aimed to have three million bilingual Welsh in the next 100 years. His report on elementary education to the Cross Commission led to some concessions to the teaching of Welsh that were later to prove vital in the survival of the language.
1886:The "Tithe War" starts. "Cymru Fydd" established as a movement for self-government. Dafydd ap Gwilym society established to promote the language and literature of Wales.
1886: Founding of "Cymru Fydd". From Bala, in Merionethshire, Tom Ellis worked hard to bring social equality, individual freedom and universal education to Wales. Greatly impressed by the determination of the Irish MP's, he helped found the Cymru Fydd movement (The Wales of the Future), inspired by the renewal of Gaelic in Ireland and by the revival of small nations elsewhere in Europe. Lloyd George took over leadership of the movement but other Welsh MP's did not support him. In a meeting at Newport in January 1896, he was howled down by those who did not wish to see "the domination of Welsh ideas." The sentiments expressed at this meeting, showing the bitter divide between North Wales and Southeast Wales, as well as Ellis' early death in 1899, led to the rapid decline of the movement.1887: Mining disaster Feb 18th, Ynyshir, Rhondda, 37 killed.
1887: The Tithe Martyrs of Llangwm. Violent protests against the established Church's imposition of tithes took place around Denbigh, Clwyd, where 31 men from the parish of Llangwm were summoned and where riots at nearby Mochdre led to many injuries. The secretary of the Caernarfon branch of the Anti-Tithe league was the up-and-coming solicitor David Lloyd George. In 1891 the troubles ceased when responsibility for the tithe was passed from the tenant to the landlord. In Parliament, however, the Welsh Issueshowed that some notice had been taken of Wales, and that Welsh MP's could show some cohesion in articulating Welsh matters.
1887: The Blackstone Eisteddfod. In Australia, the increasing number of immigrants led to the establishment of a vigorous Welsh community at Blackstone, in the Ipswich Coalfields, where the St. David's Society began a local eisteddfod that developed into the modern Australia-wide eisteddfod movement.1888: Mining disaster May 14th, Tynewyth, 5 killed.
1888: Mabon's Monday. William Abraham (Mabon) kept the peace between coal owners and miners for 20 years. Through his untiring efforts, he was able to win some concessions for his workers, including modifications to the sliding scale of 1875 and a holiday on the first Monday of each month, Mabon's Monday. Elected Lib-Lab MP for Rhondda in 1885, he firmly believed that the interests of capital and labour were identical man far ahead of his time.1889: Welsh Intermediate Education Act. The setting up of a large number of secondary schools and made provision for children to progress into more advanced study.
1889: The Welsh Intermediate Education Act. For the first time, public money was authorized to be spent on schools higher than the elementary level; the so-called County Schools came into being. In 1896, the Central Welsh Board was established. Welsh people from all backgrounds were to receive a sound education, albeit in English and albeit in the arts at the expense of sorely-needed technical and commercial subjects.
1889: The Miners' Federation of Great Britain. It was at Newport, South Wales, that the Miner's Federation of Great Britain was founded in 1889. It argued for the creation of a Board of Arbitration to replace the sliding scale and the restriction of the working day to eight hours. The sliding scale was finally abolished in 1903.
1890: Lloyd George Elected to Parliament. David Lloyd George, the Manchester-born, Welsh-speaking solicitor, was elected to Parliament from the Caernarfon constituency. His rise through the ranks was rapid; he became President of the Board of Trade in 1915, where he recognised the role of trade unions in collective bargaining; and Chancellor by 1908, in which capacity he introduced a scheme of social security (old age pensions). In 1909, in his "People's Budget," he introduced a scheme to raise revenue by taxing wealthy landowners. Rejection of the Bill by the landlord-filled House of Lords led to the 191l Parliament Act drastically reducing that senile body's powers. In the same year, Lloyd George established National Insurance to safeguard workers against sickness and unemployment. Many of his radical reforms led him to be reviled in England as "the curse from Wales" but adored in Wales as "the son of the cottage."1890: Mining disasters Jan 20th, Glyn Pit, Pontypool, 5 killed. Feb 6th, Llanerch, 176 killed. Mar 8th, Morfa, 87 killed.
1891:Welsh speakers 54.4% (898,914). Start of "Cymru", cylchgrawn I ieuenctid/a magazine for youth. O.M. Edwards. The "Tithe War" leads to the Tithe Act which transfers payments of tithes to the Anglican Church from resentful non-conformist tenants to the landlords.
1891: A monthly magazine, "Cymru" contained articles on the history, literature and culture of Wales. First edited by Owen M. Edwards, and later by his son Ifan ab Owen Edwards, it had a great influence upon a generation of writers and poets. The motto of the magazine was Codi'r hen wlad yn ei hol (To raise the old land to what it once was) Edwards also edited a most influential children's magazine "Cymry'r Plant" (the Children's Wales) and founded Urdd y Delyn (Order of the Harp) a predecessor to the later hugely successful Urdd Gobaith Cymru (Welsh Youth League).
1892:Mining disasters Aug 12th, Great Western Colliery, 58 killed. Aug 26th, Park Slip Colliery, 110 killed. 1893: Report on Ystradyfodwg Urban Sanitary District to Local Government Board.
1893: The University of Wales Charter. By the Charter, a federation of the three Welsh university colleges was set up that could grant its own degrees. Previous Welsh candidates had to apply to the University of London for examination.1894: Mining disaster Jun 25th, Cilfynydd, Pontypridd, 276 killed. 1896: Mining disaster Jan 28th, Tylorstown, Rhondda, 57 killed. Report on the Royal Commission on Land in Wales and Monmouthshire.
1896: "Cartrefi Cymru" Published. Owen M. Edwards's most important work,"Cartrefi Cymru" (Welsh Homes), describes his visits to the homes of major figures in Welsh history, thus stirring interest in the all-too-often-neglected history and geography of Wales.
1898: The South Wales Miners' Federation. The first president of the SWMF, set up in October 1898 after the major strike of that year caused by the owners' refusal to accept a minimum wage, was Mabon, who had abandoned his support of the sliding scale. A few months after its founding, the "Fed", the nick-name given to the Federation, joined the Miners' Federation of Great Britain.1899: Mining disaster Aug 18th, Llest Colliery, Garw, 19 killed.
1900: The Scotsman Keir Hardie was elected to Parliament as the representative of the newly formed Labour Representative Committee. in the Merthyr Tydfil constituency. (In 1906, the Party became known as the Labour Party.) Hardie had adopted the slogan The Red Dragon and the Red Flag. He was the only socialist elected to Parliament, where his cloth deerstalker hat stood out among the shiny top hats of the other Members, much to their chagrin.
1900: Taff Vale Railway Case. This case involved the Taff Vale Railway Company against the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants (ASRS). The courts held that a union could be sued for damages caused by the actions of its officials in industrial disputes. The verdict practically eliminated the strike as a weapon of organised labour. Opposition to the decision helped foster the growth of the British Labour Party. The Liberal Government of 1906 nullified the effects of the 1900 decision, and thus opened the door for trade unionism's long record of industrial action.
1900: The great strike at the huge Penrhyn Slate Quarry in Gwynedd began on 22 November, 1900. It was to become the longest-lasting dispute in British history. The arrogant Lord Penrhyn, from his magnificent Baronial pile on the shores of the Menai, demanded absolute obedience and submissiveness from his quarrymen. The strike, which was eventually broken by Penrhyn, totally divided the Welsh-speaking community; thousands left the area, never to return. In South Wales, because of the far greater numbers of men employed, intolerable working conditions and low wages led to radical action that was more successful through its adoption of socialism. The 191l meeting of the Unofficial Reform Committee at Tonypandy adopted the strike as a means to settling affairs: the whole South Wales coalfield was affected.
1900: The publication of "The Welsh People" in 1900 by John Rhys and Brynmor Jones signalled the beginnings of a literary revival in Wales. In 1901 came "Wales", by Owen Edwards, followed by the monumental "A History of Wales from the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest", by J. E. Lloyd in 1911. Two years later appeared John Morris-Jones' "A Welsh Grammar, Historical and Comparative."1901: Mining disasters, Senghenydd, 82 killed. Sep 10th, Llanbradach, 12 killed. Census - (Welsh speakers 49.9% (929,824; monoglot 15.1%).
1902: Publication of "Ymadawiad Arthur". The Chair at the 1902 Eisteddfod was won by T. Gwynn Jones, the son of a North Wales crofter and a master at the art of cynganedd. His theme was "Ymadawiad Arthur" (The Departure of Arthur), the first in a series of major poems that deal with Celtic legends and considered a landmark in the history of 20th century Welsh poetry.1903: Cathays Park, Cardiff, was acquired from the Bute estate and between that year and 1910, the Law Courts, City Hall, the National Museum, University College, Glamorgan County Hall and the Technical College were all built.
1904: Religious Revival. Starting in Cardiganshire, and quickly spreading throughout Wales, the Revival, led by Evan Roberts, like the Great Industrial Unrest, also had international repercussions: from it sprang the Apostolic Church and the Elim movement, and boosted by it was the Temperance Movement and the campaign for disestablishment of the Church in Wales. The emphasis on hymn singing at the expense of some of the old, traditional folk songs had effects that are still being felt today in Welsh music.
1905: Cardiff City. The majestic civic buildings that dominates the centre of the city are an impressive testimonial to the wealth derived from the export of coal and the growth of Cardiff's importance at the turn of the 19th century. Experiencing a seven-fold population increase in less than 50 years, the people of Cardiff petitioned for City status, duly granted in 1905 (even though the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon was created in 1921, Swansea had to wait until the 1960's to gain the title of City).1905: Mining disasters March 10th, Clydach Vale, Rhondda, 31 killed. July 5th, Wattstown, Rhondda, 119 killed.
1906: John Ambrose Jones Dies. John Ambrose Jones (Emrys ap Iwan), scathing in his attacks on those who catered to English immigrants in Wales by adopting their language, was one of the fathers of the modern nationalistic movement in Wales. Though he published only two books, through his essays and sermons, he convinced many that language is an essential part of a people's view of their nationhood.
1907: The National Library of Wales. The movement for a National Library of Wales had begun with the founding of Aberystwyth University in 1872, but it was not until the Royal Charter of 1907 that the Library was established. The building of the present library began in 191l and a year later, under the Copyright Act, it became one of the six British libraries entitled to claim a copy of all books, pamphlets, maps etc published in the British Isles.
1907:The National Museum of Wales. The year 1907 also saw a Charter of Incorporation establishing the National Museum of Wales, soon to become one of the finest and largest museums in the British Isles. The First World War interrupted progress, and it was not until 1922 that the main hall and galleries in Cardiff's magnificent Civic Center were opened to the public (formally opened by King George V in 1927). Subsequent branch museums include the Welsh Industrial and Maritime Museum, Cardiff; the Welsh Folk Museum at St. Fagan's, Cardiff (one of the finest in the world); Turner House at Penarth; the Roman Legionary Museum, Caerleon; the Museum of the Welsh Woollen Industry at Dre-Fach, Felindre; the Welsh Slate Museum and the Museum of the North, both at Llanberis in Gwynedd.
1907:Welsh department of the Education Board opened.
1908:Lloyd George is made Chancellor of the Exchequer.
1910:All the children of Cwmclydach school were saved from the coal slurry river which engulfed the building in the afternoon of March 11th.
1910: The Tonypandy Riots. Much of the turmoil in the coalfields was symbolised by the Tonypandy Riots, in which the presence of armed soldiers to keep order, sent by Home Secretary Winston Churchill, did much to make that great man's name anathema in the Valleys (that most of the troops openly fraternised with the locals did nothing to lessen Churchill's infamy in the area). The very act of sending the troops also led to a great distrust of the English Government and hastened the rapid rise of socialism and the Labour Party in South Wales.
1910: "Yr Haf" (The Summer) is the Prize-winning Poem at the 1910 National Eisteddfod. R. Williams Parry's poem signalled his arrival on the literary scene. Known as "Y Bardd yr Haf" (the poet of summer), Williams Parry, from the bleak North Wales quarry region, wrote of the horrors of war and the love of nature. In 1924 he published his influential "Yr Haf a Cherddi Eraill" (Summer and other poems).
1911: Unofficial Reform Committee. At the newly-formed Central Labour College in London, Welshmen James Griffiths, Aneurin Bevan, Ness Edwards and others learned the necessity of industrial action in order to achieve ownership of the mines and control the system of production. Thus, with their leadership, the Unofficial Reform Committee was formed, first meeting at Tonypandy, Rhondda in 191l. It led to a series of strikes in the coalfields and the demand of the miners for legislation to ensure their rights.1911: Welsh speakers 43.5% (977,366; monoglot 8.5%)
1913: Publication of "A Welsh Grammar, Historical and Comparative". John Morris-Jones was determined to set studies of the Welsh language and literature on a firm foundation, and his "Grammar" gives him a solid place as one of the great grammarians of the Welsh language. It was Morris-Jones who concluded that the elaborate ceremonies of the Gorsedd had been invented in London by Iolo Morgannwg and others (the discovery did nothing to lessen their popularity).
1913: (14 October) The Explosion at Senghenydd. At the Lancaster Pit, owned by the Universal Colliery in Senghenydd, near Caerphilly, an explosion killed 436 men. The Welsh-speaking community was totally devastated by the tragedy; laid bare and stripped of a generation of its workers, many of whom were young boys. A contemporary poem reads: "The collier's wife had four tall sons, Brought from the pit's mouth dead, And crushed from foot to head; When others brought her husband home, Had five dead bodies in her room." The coal owners had ignored warnings of the dangers in the mine only a short time before.
1914: A Welsh Home Rule Bill. The introduction of the Welsh Home Rule Bill at Parliament was more or less a one man affair, and its presenter, E.T. John (born at Pontypridd but MP for East Denbigh) was practically ignored by the House of Commons. Yet his arguments in favour of the economic benefits of a separate Wales were to resurface many years later.
1914: The First World War. In, and following, the Great War of 1914 to 1918, Wales was once again to undergo a metamorphosis. Like the Irish volunteers, the young men of Wales responded to give their lives in the service of another country. It certainly helped the cause that Lloyd George, their favourite son, had a meteoric career during the course of the conflict, becoming Minister of Munitions, Secretary for War, and Prime Minister. Propaganda from the Government and the pulpit ensured that war hysteria and patriotic fervour were well-fuelled. Germany was portrayed as a great evil that no Christian could tolerate, and Socialists and Nonconformists in Wales marched happily to the colours, and to their deaths, singing their stirring hymns.
Welsh regiments were proud of their part in this great Crusade. Over 280,000 Welshmen shared experiences with soldiers from all parts of Britain and the Empire; it was inevitable that much of their provincial outlook would be broken down. It was hard to think of independence for Wales when its soldiers were sharing trenches with Irish, Scots, English soldiers all united in a common cause. The continuance of that Anglo-Welsh identity begun in the Valleys, that came to dominate Welsh life in the twentieth century, certainly found an ideal breeding ground in the mud of Flanders and the slaughter on the Somme.1914: Many arrested for refusing to register for war, on the basis of pacifism or nationalism.
1915: One of the survivors of the Lusitania disaster was the 1st Viscount Rhondda who introduced food rationing to Britain during the war and who directed the supply of munitions from the United States to Britain.
1916: Lloyd George becomes Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The former lawyer was born in Manchester, of Welsh parents and raised in the little village of Llanystumdwy, Gwynedd. He was the first Welshman in British history to achieve the position of Prime Minister.
1917: The Birkenhead Eisteddfod. During Word War I, the large Welsh community on Merseyside staged the National Eisteddfod at Birkenhead, England, where there was a large Welsh population. The winner of the Chair was Ellis Humphrey Evans, (Hedd Wynn) who had been killed on 31 July in France fighting with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Thus the winning chair was draped in black. A collection of the dead poet's work, "Cerddi'r Bugail" (Poems of the Shepherd) was published in 1918.
1920: University College Swansea. The new college at Singleton Park, Swansea joined the others at Bangor, Aberystwyth and Cardiff as part of the University of Wales.
1920: Disestablishment of the Church in Wales by a Parliamentary Bill that would deprive the Anglican Church of its status in Wales as the State Church was passed in 1914, but its implementation was delayed because of World War One. A Society for Liberating the Church from the State had begun in Britain in 1853, following an earlier Anti-State-Church Association and much bitter debate over Church Establishment. The Church in Ireland was disestablished in 1869 by Gladstone, but it was not until 1920 when a disestablished province of the Anglican Communion was finally created in Wales.
1921: Saunders Lewis' "The Eve of St. John" was published. This play was the first of 19 published by Lewis (the last was "Excelsior", 1980). His influence as dramatist, poet, literary historian and critic is unparalleled in Welsh literary history. For over a decade he was president of Plaid Cymru, which he helped found. His writings show his concern that Wales was losing its sense of vision and moral integrity.
1922: Urdd Gobaith Cymru. Though almost a million people spoke the Welsh language in 1921, signs about its disappearance in many areas were already becoming increasingly ominous. It was his concern that the young children of Wales were increasingly turning to English that led Ifan ab Owen Edwards to found Urdd Gobaith Cymru (The Welsh League of Youth) in 1922. The movement took over many of the activities of Urdd y Delyn (Order of the Harp) which had been founded in 1896 for Welsh children by Owen M. Edwards, Ifan's father. The Movement attracted thousands of children to its ranks, where they spoke and sang Welsh at summer camps, weekly and monthly meetings, and at school activities. The Urdd has retained its popularity.
1925: Plaid Cymru. After World War I, with its massive loss of life that affected whole Welsh-speaking communities, the language began a precipitous decline, and with it, a distinct way of life. In an attempt to halt the trend, Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru (The National Party of Wales) came into being. The creation of a handful, who saw that political action was necessary to preserve what was left of the unique culture and to further the aims of self-government for Wales. Saunders Lewis became president of the party in 1926, but it took another 40 years for the party to gain its first seat in Parliament.
1927: Coleg Harlech. Thanks to Tom Jones and the Workers' Education Association, Coleg Harlech "the college of the second chance" opened in 1927 with the aims and philosophy much like those of todays Polytechnics.
1931: The Welsh School of Medicine at Cardiff.
1931: Publication of the poetry of T.H. Parry-Williams. Another influential literary figure from the area around Snowdon, Parry-Williams won both the Chair and the Crown at two National Eisteddfodau. His poetry took Welsh literature towards a new realism best expressed in the self-deprecating irony of such poems as "Hon" (This Spot) that expresses both a hatred and love for the enigma that is Wales.
1932: Founding of "Y Cymro" (the Welshman). The weekly Welsh-language newspaper was founded to "unite Wales and create a Welsh view and opinion on all things pertaining to Wales and the Welsh." It has remained an important source of information on Welsh life in general.
1934: The Gresford Disaster. On 22 September, 1934, the bells of Gresford Parish Church joined in with the sirens at the local colliery to announce that one of the greatest tragedies in the history of Welsh coal mining had taken place that morning when an explosion and fire ripped through the Dennis section of the mine. Apart from the lucky six men who escaped the blast, along with a few men at the pit bottom, all the men working that day were killed, a total of 266 miners. Such was the force of the explosion and the immensity of the following fire, that the pit was sealed off and the dead miners entombed forever where they lay. Over 160 widows were left in the surrounding villages to provide for over 200 children.
In 1982 a memorial to the dead miners was erected in the form of the wheel from the old pit head winding gear. On the 6Oth anniversary of the disaster, a memorial painting in Gresford Church was unveiled by the Archbishop of Wales that shows various scenes and people at the colliery on the day of the explosion.
1935: First Radio Broadcasts in Welsh. A reluctant BBC finally agreed, after much pressure, to broadcast Welsh language programs from their studio at Bangor, Gwynedd. Radio Cymru had to wait until 1977, however, much too late to attract the majority of Welsh listeners, who now habitually spoke English.
1936: The Fire at Penyberth (8th September). To protest the governments decision to build a bombing school at Penyberth in the Llyn Peninsular, three well-known Welsh literary figures started a small fire in an outbuilding and then reported their nefarious deed to the local police. After a no-verdict was reached by a sympathetic Welsh jury at Caernarfon, confessing their guilt, Saunders Lewis, D.J. Williams, and Lewis Valentine were sent to trial at the Old Bailey in London. Here they were not allowed to testify in their own language. The case became a cause for the efforts of Plaid Cymru to establish its credentials as a party to be taken seriously and for the Welsh language to be given legal status.
The outbreak of World War II, three years later, did much to undo the enthusiasm engendered by the symbolic act at Penyberth, but it stirred the conscience of R. Williams Parry to write against official smugness and small-mindedness, leading to his "Cerddi'r Gaeaf" (Poems of Winter) published in 1952.
1939-1945: World War II. The people of Britain focused on their shared identity in the face of a foe that threatened their survival as a nation. Plaid Cymru conceded that the defeat of Germany and its allies overrode any other concern. The pacifism of Saunders Lewis was viewed by many as traitorous, though his willingness to suffer on behalf of Wales became significant after the war when feelings of nationalism again began to surface. As in 1914-18, Welshmen and women were enthusiastic in marching off to defeat the enemy and to save Britain and its Empire.
1945: A Labour Government. In 1945 the Labour government, headed by Clement Attlee, determined that there should never be a repeat of the unemployment levels that were so common a feature of the pre-war years. The Distribution of Industry Act sanctioned the use of existing factory space in Wales and new industrial estates were established, mainly in the heavily populated south, aided by grants and low-interest loans. A flood of new, light industries came to replace the old reliance on coal.
1946: National Insurance Act. It was Lloyd George who had introduced much of the revolutionary welfare legislation during the years 1908-11, and it was two other Welshmen who completed the far-reaching reforms of the Labour Party's policies after WWII. James Griffiths and Aneurin Bevan both worked hard to produce the National Insurance Act of 1946 that compelled all workers to insure themselves against ill-health or unemployment. Two years later, local welfare schemes long practised in the South Wales coalfield also helped to bring about the National Industrial Injuries Act.
1947: Wales Gas Board. The nationalisation of industry began in 1947, the central boards taking over administration of all industry in Wales, yet only the Wales Gas Board was recognised as a national identity. The old encyclopaedia entry "Wales: see England," still applied as far as the government was concerned.
1947: Welsh School Established at Llanelli. To counter the threat to the continuance of the Welsh language caused by massive immigration from England, a private Welsh-medium school was established at Aberystwyth during World War II by Ifan ab Owen Edwards. It wasn't until the Llanelli Welsh School opened in 1947, however, that the startlingly radical idea that Welsh-speaking children could be taught through the medium of their own language began to take hold and even then, only begrudgingly in many areas.
1948: The Council of Wales. Despite the objections of Aneurin Bevan, ever anxious to keep Wales closely involved in the mainstream of British politics, intensive lobbying efforts of more-nationalistic-minded James Griffiths helped bring about the Council of Wales in 1948 as a purely advisory body. In 1951, the office of Minster for Welsh Affairs was created to make occasional, ever-so-slight gestures toward the forces that favoured devolution. Yet It was a beginning: at long last it was begrudgingly recognised in Parliament that there were such things as Welsh Affairs.
1953:Dylan Thomas Dies. (November). He was known by many as one of the greatest of this century's lyric poets. He died in New York City, alone, penniless, and very drunk. The Welsh poet, whose reputation as one of the most important and challenging writers of modern literature in English is assured, is buried in the little sea-side town of Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, where the little shed in which he crafted his art is now a place of pilgrimage.
1955:The Nation's Capital City. A grudging nod towards Welsh aspirations came from Westminster when Cardiff was chosen as a capital city for Wales (beating other more historic and "more Welsh" candidates such as Aberystwyth, Caernarfon, and Machynlleth). Wales could now think of herself as a real nation with its own capital city, on equal footing with other small nations throughout Europe.
1956:In heavily anglicised Flintshire, Dr Hadyn Williams was mainly responsible for setting up Ysgol Glan Clwyd, Wales's first secondary school that would teach through the medium of the Welsh language. First located in Rhyl, a seaside resort, and then moved inland to St. Asaph (Llanwelwy), Ysgol Glan Clwyd was followed by similar schools in Flintshire, (Ysgol Maes Garmon in Mold) in 1961, and in Glamorganshire (Ysgol Rhydyfelen) in 1962.
1957:The Drowning of Trywerin. In the 1950's with the increased wealth and leisure time of the British population and the improved roads leading into Wales, ancient language strongholds were crumbling fast under the invasions of the hordes from Merseyside and the English Midlands (it didn't really matter in much of South Wales, where the predominant language had long been English). To add insult to injury, the Liverpool Corporation got the go-ahead from Parliament (despite the objections of all the Welsh M P's) to drown the Trywerin Valley to satisfy its thirsty multitudes (many of whom were immigrants from Ireland).
Although Trywerin housed a strong and vibrant community, the plan went ahead. The whole village had to be re-housed elsewhere. The powerlessness of Wales, its people, and even its representatives in Parliament was startlingly demonstrated by the drowning of the valley. It was apparent that something had to be done and be done soon, or the nation of Wales would be under threat once more.
1958:The Defection of Huw T. Edwards, from the Labour party to Plaid Cymru in 1958, was a direct result of the Trywerin incident. He was secretary of the all-powerful Transport and General Workers Union in the North and the shock caused by his defection was felt throughout the Government. Edwards also resigned his chairmanship of the Council of Wales claiming its ineptitude and lack of clout.
1962:A New Cymdeithas Yr Iaith Gymraeg" Founded. Saunders Lewis, perhaps the most respected literary figure in Wales, certainly its finest dramatist, had been one of "the Penyberth Three" that stirred the conscience of the Welsh people in their general apathy towards the continuing loss of their language and culture. In 1962, following Trywern, Lewis's concern that the Wales he knew would soon disappear unless drastic action was taken, was expressed in his radio lecture of 13 February, Tynged yr Iaith. Its effect was revolutionary, starting a chain of events that transformed the attitudes of so many in Wales and leading to the formation of a new Cymdeithias Yr Iaith Gymraeg. (the Welsh Language Society).
1964:A Secretary of State for Wales. The Labour Government under pressure, reluctantly created a Secretary of State for Wales, with James Griffiths the first to occupy the position. The subsequent filling of the position by seemingly non-interested members from both Conservative and Labour parties, merely using the post as a rung on the ladder to advancement, has not diminished the acknowledgement that Wales needed its own Secretary of State to address its own particular concerns.
1966:First Plaid Cymru MP. (14 July) Election of Gwynfor Evans. At Carmarthen, in the byelection, caused by the death of Lady Megan Lloyd George, Gwynfor Evans of Plaid gained a majority over the Labour candidate that put him in Parliament.
1966:The Aberfan Disaster (21 October). At Aberfan, near Merthry Tydfil, 144 children and their teachers at the Pant-Glas Junior School were buried under a river of slurry (piled-up colliery waste) that, liquified due to heavy rain and flowed down the mountain slope. The tragedy, shocking the whole of Britain and helped to accelerate the previously slow clean up of the industrial scars in the South Wales valleys after the departure of the old industries.
1967:The Welsh Language Act. The Hughes-Parry Report of 1965, on the Legal Status of the Welsh Language recommended that "anything done in Welsh should have the same legal force as it would in English." This principle, somewhat diluted, was incorporated into the Welsh Language Act. Though the Act granted the right to testify in Welsh in Court, and the right to have official, government forms translated from English, in effect, it was not accepted as going far enough. Its claimed shortfalls, however, stirred up the activities of Cymdeithas Yr Iaith Gymraeg.
1969:Investiture of Charles, Prince of Wales. The 1969 investiture of Charles was televised to the world. Ever since Edward I made his son Prince of Wales and Count of Chester at Caernarfon Castle in 1300, the title Prince of Wales has been automatically confirmed upon the first-born son of the sovereign. In 191l, the spectacle came to the attention of the world when movie newsreels and radio broadcasts showed the ceremonies that invested the future Edward VIII at Caernarfon under the shrewd orchestration of Lloyd George.
1974:Reorganisation of Local Government. The old thirteen counties now became eight new ones; in addition, the old boroughs and urban and rural districts were replaced by district councils. In the sweeping changes, for which no referendum had been held, Flint and Denbigh lost their individual identities, becoming part of the larger administrative unit to be known as Clwyd; Monmouthshire now became Gwent; Pembroke, Cardigan and Carmarthen joined to form Dyfed; Merionydd, Caernarfon and Anglesey became Gwynedd; Radnor joined Brecon as Powys; and the heavily populated county of Glamorgan split into three parts: East, Central and South.
1974: For the first time in the long history of Parliament, Welsh MP's were allowed to take their oaths of allegiance to the British Crown in the Welsh language as well as in English. That there were Members available to do this four hundred years after the Acts of Union is a stirring testimonial to the continued survival of the language against all possible odds.
1977: Radio Cymru and Radio Wales. The first of these broadcasts in Welsh; the second in English. Both came very late on the scene; both represent the increasing demands of Welsh people to be treated as equal partners with other Britons in a modern age.
1979: The Referendum. When James Griffiths was succeeded as Secretary of State for Wales by Cledwyn Hughes, the new man was in favour of an elected assembly for his country. In the face of hostility, most of it from members of his own party, Hughes tried hard to achieve some measures in that direction. His successor, however, was of a far different mind. George Thomas, a die-hard socialist of the old school, coming from a background in the pits, somehow saw the Welsh language as a threat to his own livelihood. His stubbornness and pride in his Anglo-Welsh heritage remained a stumbling block for years to any aspirations of the Welsh nationalists to gain any concessions from Parliament.
In Parliament, however, Elystan Morgan, M.P. of Cardigan, aided by a select few, did not abandon his hopes for a more equitable administrative system for his country and kept up the effort. His efforts, and those of a few colleagues, led to a Royal Commission in 1968 to investigate the topic of devolution for Wales (and Scotland). When Britain became a member of the European Economic Community in 1972, new hopes arose for an elected assembly for Wales, one of Europe's oldest and smallest language communities. The Royal Commission recommended sweeping administrative changes. It presented the Scotland and Wales Bill of 1976. The government plans for a Welsh assembly, however, gave it no legislative powers (unlike that for Scotland).
Many Labour MP's remained solidly opposed to any kind of assembly for Wales, with or without legislative powers; they recommended a referendum, which they felt sure would be defeated. The Welsh Act of 1978 was introduced with the provision that the creation of an assembly would require 40 percent of the electorate to vote in favour.
The voting took place on St. David's Day 1979 at a time when Britain was suffering some of the worst industrial unrest in its long history. Conditions meant that there was very little enthusiasm expressed by any Cabinet members; the Bill was roundly attacked from all sides, but especially from Labour members such as Welshman Neil Kinnock, the future leader of the party.
The hopes for a Welsh Assembly went down to a resounding defeat, only one in four voting in favour. The list of reasons for the failure to seize their one big chance at some sense of political independence is endless. In retrospect, however, it is fair to say that it wasn't the idea of an assembly that was defeated as much as the way in which that assembly was to govern. After all, it would have been virtually powerless, unable to legislate, without any revenue-raising capability. In addition, the newly-formed counties were just finding their feet and were reluctant to go through the trauma of any more reorganisation. All the negative campaigning, too, had created a climate of unnecessary fear. As at so many times in their history, the people of Wales had allowed themselves to be divided against each other.
1982: Sianel Pedwar Cymru (S4C). BBC Wales was producing a meagre six hours a week of Welsh language programs in 1962. It was not enough. Hadyn Williams, the dymanic Director of Education in Flintshire, established a company to broadcast to many areas out of reach of the English transmitters into the Welsh-speaking communities in North Wales. Its activities were taken over by TWW and then by Harlech Television. Demands quickly followed for all-Welsh programs, but the Government (which owned BBC) refused to honour a commitment to the proposed new channel. A vigorous protest movement ensued, but it wasn't until Gwynfor Evans, the then leader of Plaid Cymru, vowed to fast to death should the people of Wales once more be denied a basic right, that the Government capitulated. The new Channel S4C (Sianel Pedwar C) began broadcasting on 2 November, 1982.
1984: The Miners' Strike. When the Conservative government decided to strengthen private capitalism and restrict the role of the state, one of its first moves was to announce the closing of many of Britain's coal mines. In Wales, the coal industry was practically dead, but many Welsh miners backed National Union of Mine Workers' president Arthur Scargill's call to strike against the closing of the pits. The bitter strike lasted almost one year and despite great solidarity among the workers of Wales, including remarkable support from their womenfolk, the effort was doomed to fail. Indeed, it can be viewed that it only served to hasten the inevitable closures.
1997: The Second Referendum. Maybe it was too late. Whatever the reasons, the result of the referendum was a bitter blow to the aspirations of Plaid Cymru and to all the others who had been in favour. In 1997, it was apparent that things hadn't changed all that much during the last twenty years.
There was still tension between North and South Wales, between the thousands of English immigrants to Wales and the hard-line, mostly Welsh speaking Welsh nationalists, between the Labour Heartlands and those who feared the imposition of a costly, Labour-dominated "talking shop." Other fears included that of domination by Cardiff, or the loss of Whitehall funds. Many Welsh stated that they'd had enough of English MP's and ministers telling them what was best for them; in addition, of the 2.25 million eligible to vote, over half a million had been born outside Wales, a huge majority being English. They showed not a flicker of interest in devolution. Most people had not made up their minds, except to express the opinion that the proposed Assembly would simply mean "jobs for the boys," or another way for the "Labour Taffia" to fill their pockets.
Thus many of the factors that led to the defeat of the 1979 referendum were still present, after all, it may take many generations to erase what can only be considered anti-Welsh prejudice so prevalent in the anglicised areas, yet subtle changes had been taking place that helped swing the vote ever-so slightly in favour of an elected Assembly. Many of these changes had been brought about by the arrogance of the Conservative Party in its dealings with the people of Wales, an arrogance that led to the complete defeat of all its candidates in Wales (and Scotland) in the General Election held earlier in the year (in which the issue of Devolution had figured heavily in the campaigns).
It was heartening that two of the most influential newspapers read in Wales, the Liverpool"Daily Post" and the Cardiff "Western Mail" advocated a Yes vote. Disgust with the way things were handled in Westminster surely meant that there would be hearty support for the proposed changes expressed by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott that Wales must be in the vanguard of a constitutional reform package that would include Lords reform, electoral reform, and a referendum for a London-wide elected body. Another change from 1979 was that in the later referendum only a simple majority was needed to pass the Referendum Bill, whereas in the former a majority of the electorate itself was required.
It was a close call and lots of nail biting took place on the night of the 19th of September until the final result was announced in the small hours of the morning. For the people of Wales, the decision to approve the Labour Government's plans for a Welsh Assembly may prove to be one of the most important decisions in its long history.
Ron Davies, Welsh Secretary of State at the time of the referendum said, "The Welsh Assembly will be established 12 months before the Scottish Parliament and before regional development agencies in the English regions. It will give Wales a clearer political identity and really put us on the map."