The President of the Cambrians this year is Richard
Keen who will be well-known of members from his series of programmes
on Welsh industrial history for television a few years ago. Richard
has worked for the National Museum and for the National Trust and
his ability to make industrial history lively and inspiring was
made clear to members during our Summer Meeting in the industrial
valleys of south-east Wales. Next year’s President will be
the Right Revd J. Wyn Evans the Bishop of St David’s who will
be leading us, most appropriately, to Canterbury in July.
At the AGM last year a new Trustee, Sian Rees,
was elected. We are delighted to have her with us, sharing her knowledge
of monuments and conservation gained during her career with Cadw.
We hope she will enjoy blending voluntary with official work for
Members who were at the Krakow meeting will be
saddened to know that Dermot Keogh died during the year. North Wales
has lost a notable campaigner for history and archaeology in the
person of Mrs Gwenno Caffell, the daughter of Sir Ifor Williams
the great scholar of Welsh literature, who died in March. She founded
the award-winning Llandygai Archaeological Society (always known
as ‘Gwenno’s army’) and was a formidable and frequently
successful campaigner for historical conservation. She was the driving
force behind the first campaign to save Bangor Museum and a very
inspiring celebration of her life was held there after her funeral.
She has left her cremated bones, in an uncrushed condition, to benefit
archaeological research and training.
The Cambrians are looking for a new Treasurer!
Our long-standing and very successful Treasurer,
Brian Newman, has told the Trustees that he wishes to relinquish
this responsibility at the AGM this coming year and the Association
is hoping that another member will offer to take on this role. The
job involves controlling the various bank accounts (general fund,
additional meetings, research, education, Blodwen Jarman prize etc)
and paying out cheques from them. The gathering of subscriptions
and recording incomings to the Subscription Account is dealt with
by the Membership Secretary but moving money between accounts and
the year-end accounts are done by the Treasurer. The Treasurer is
also responsible for the investments of the Association, but Brian
has said that he would be willing to continue to advise on this
matter and, if need be, the job could be split in two.
If you are interested in the job and would like
to discuss it with Brian Newman his telephone number is 01874 611859
and his address is 34 Beacons Park, Pendre, Brecon LD3 9BR; or get
in touch with the Chairman, Prof Muriel Chamberlain, 22 Wimmerfield
Drive, Killay, Swansea SA2 7BR (01792 205120).
Meetings held in 2009
Two meetings were held this year, in the south-east
Wales valleys and in Bristol. Both were particularly fascinating
and for both the weather of this notorious summer was relatively
kind. We were also lucky to redeem the impact of the credit crunch
which closed our first choice of hotel with the discovery of the
comfortable Premier Inn at Ebbw Vale, the epicentre of our summer
programme looking at industrial history. We are particularly grateful
to David Young who organised the week for dealing with that alarming
crisis so efficiently.
We were especially blessed with our guides to
the sites visited during our Summer Meeting: our new President Richard
Keen and Frank Olding the archaeological officer of Bleanau Gwent.
Both of them were not only expert in the history and significance
of the industrial sites we visited, but were passionate communicators.
The first afternoon was spent in Pontypool and
introduced us to Japanned Ware and the importance of communications
to the prosperity of industry. Tuesday was spent in Merthyr Tydfil
with ironworks and railways where nature was reclaiming some of
the formative sites and some members even managed to fit in a medieval
castle as well the Crawshays’ new one. The following day was
devoted to Blaenavon, the morning underground at Big Pit and the
afternoon, in welcome sunshine, at the ironworks among the casting
houses where so many crucial developments occurred and the workers
cottages, ending up at the relict quarries and tramways above. Thursday
was in Gelligaer and Pontypridd where some prehistory and 17th century
architecture entered the week, with a memorable visit to Llancaiach
Fawr in the morning; Dr William Price’s strange monument on
Pontypridd Common and the glistening engine at Hopkinstown springing
to life for our benefit were the highlights of the afternoon. Friday
began with the industry of the Clydach Gorge and ended in the late
medieval calm of Abergavenny church where the famous funerary monuments
have been recently cleaned and the impressive tithe barn restored.
On our final morning we visited the evocative Cholera Cemetery at
Tredegar in a fitting mist and then went to the puzzling defended
farmstead at Nantyglo and had a privileged tour of the interior.
Finally we set off in the cloud for a long mystery tour to Llanhilleth
church, less than a mile above the Llanhilleth Miners’ Institute
where we had had our lectures, but inaccessible by bus by that steep
route. Mais ça vaux le detour, as Michelin would say.
The Autumn Meeting in Bristol, led by the Chairman,
Professor Muriel Chamberlain, assisted by Nansi Mascetti, was attended
by 29 members. Lectures & some meals were at Burwalls, the University
of Bristol’s Centre for Continuing Studies – an opulent
Edwardian building located at the southern end of the Clifton Suspension
Bridge. Others stayed at The Avon Gorge Hotel, at the north end.
We had a truly excellent series of lectures, beginning with a masterly
overview of Bristol’s history, especially in the medieval
period by Dr Peter Fleming of the University of the West of England
who was in many ways the mainstay of the conference. Others spoke
on Roman Bristol and links to south Wales, Bristol Channel trade
under the Tudors and an intriguing lecture on scholarly detective
work, ‘The Cabot Mystery’. Dr Madge Dresser led a tour
of Clifton culminating in a surprise visit to the Palladian splendours
of Clifton Hill House – now a Hall of Residence of Bristol
University. Peter Fleming’s tour of the medieval city and
harbour was accompanied by Stephen Jones’s ‘on the platform’
visit to Templemeads Station. This and our proximity to the Suspension
Bridge, let alone an excellent visit to the SS Great Britain and,
finally, Stephen Jones’ lecture, meant that Isambard Kingdom
Brunel was a constant presence during the weekend. Medieval Bristol
held its own though, with visits to St Mary Redcliffe, the Lord
Mayor’s Chapel and a cruise aboard the Mathew, an exact replica
of Cabot’s ship. Some of the crew on board on our trip had
made the Atlantic Crossing in the Mathew in 1997 to celebrate the
500th Anniversary of the discovery of Newfoundland.