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Friday, 20 December 2013

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year





AP_2013_0094
Winter landscape near Llandrindod Wells captured by the Royal Commission in 2013.

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Friday, 13 December 2013

News from our Community Archaeologists: The CAER Heritage Project





Kimberly and I have been extremely busy over the past few weeks so we thought it was time to update you on some of our recent activities.

We have been working with the CAER Heritage Project (Caerau and Ely Rediscovering Heritage Project) in West Cardiff.  Archaeologists from Cardiff University are working with Ely and Caerau Communities First, local residents and schools to explore the history and archaeology of the area.  The project runs all kinds of activities, and we were fortunate enough to be involved with a guided walk around the magnificent Caerau Iron Age hillfort, which forms the focus of many of the activities.
Guided walk led by Oliver Davies of Cardiff University showing the community archaeologists and members of the local community around the hill fort.
Kimberly and I also helped with the CAER project exhibition and I helped out on the day with the stand at the Peace75 Festival held at the Temple of Peace in Cardiff to celebrate its 75th anniversary.  This was a great event, I spoke with lots of people about the project, asking them to consider the debate about whether hillforts were places where people came together to show their community identities or whether they were defensive structures, and I had a fun time designing Iron Age tribal symbols with children, and writing ‘postcards to the Iron Age’ asking what life was like back then.

Sarahjayne explaining about the CAER project.
Sarahjayne working with children to create Iron Age tribal symbols and ‘postcards to the past’
As part of our time with the project we also attended the Engage Conference  in Bristol, which was focussed on public engagement and partnerships.  Here we helped facilitate a workshop on the creation of funding bids.  Our placement with the Commission has provided us with many training opportunities and I have recently completed courses on project planning and ‘building effective relationships’.

Engage Conference
There are also lots more activities to report, including a session I set up for the Young Archaeologists Club in Swansea with Swansea Metal Detecting Club, who came to talk about responsible metal detecting and how this works within Archaeology.
 
Sarahjayne with Mike Davies and members of YAC looking at Mike’s collection and asking lots of questions!
The Young Archaeologists learning how to use metal detectors
Finally, we have been organising a workshop event for Pembrokeshire College Welsh Baccalaureate students as part of our joint shipwrecks project with CADW on the Charles Holmes and the Great Gale of 1859. This is due to take place in January, and we will let you know how it goes.

By S. Clements


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Friday, 6 December 2013

Royal Charter Voyage Journal of Reverend Charles Hodge – where is it now?





Diary
Searching the newspaper accounts relating to the loss of the Royal Charter during the storm of 25-26th October 1859, we’ve come across an article quoting from the journal of a Nottinghamshire parson who travelled home from Melbourne on board the ill-fated vessel.

Storm map
We created an item on The People’s Collection Wales for the Great Gale of 1859 collection featuring the journal and have received a comment asking if there is a full transcription. This has led us to try and find out where it might be now.

Rev Hodge’s diary was found washed up on shore and extracts from it were published in the Pontypool Free Press and Aberystwyth Observer to encourage his relatives to come forward. The newspaper article says that the diary is five inches in length by three in breadth; and contained many interesting facts relative to the ship, incidents on board and items of news from Melbourne. There was even a prayer for safe passage on his journey on the Royal Charter.  Inside the front cover, it was inscribed ‘Rev. C. Hodge, East Retford, Notts., England.’

Interestingly, the Hodge family featured on one of the BBC’s ‘Who do you think you are?’ programmes in 2010. TV gardening expert Monty Don found that Charles Hodge was his great-great -grandfather. Hodge was born at Stogumber, Somerset, in 1812 and had 11 children by his wife Anne.  After the death of one of their infants, Anne made a decision to travel alone to New Zealand to stay with distant relatives. It was an extraordinarily brave for a lone woman. Perhaps worn down by childbearing, Anne saw an opportunity to escape by acquiring vast tracks of land in Australia and New Zealand, and offering them to clergymen willing to emigrate. Anne may have viewed herself as the family’s pioneering settler. She returned for a period and appears to have been reconciled with her husband. Then, leaving 5 of their children behind and taking 4 of their sons with them, the couple emigrated in 1856. Charles was returning home as a result of an edict from his bishop after two years absence in 1859. His journal reveals that he was still torn between the relatively secure life of an English country parson and the prospect of having to carve out a new life down under.

Our research has found out that there is a portrait and a memorial to Charles Hodge in Clarborough Church, Nottinghamshire, and two letters from Charles Hodge to his diocese in the University of Nottingham Archives (Doc refs: Wr C 355-6).

However, the Journal itself continues to elude us.

Are you a descendant of one of Charles and Anne’s nine children? Has the journal survived the years tucked away amongst family papers?

We would love to hear from you in Wales...

Follow this link to the ‘Great Storm of 1859’ collection on People’s Collection Wales to find out more about the ships, the people and coastal communities affected by the hurricane:
http://www.peoplescollectionwales.co.uk/Collection/1515-the-great-storm-of-1859
http://www.peoplescollectionwales.co.uk/Item/59543-shipping-losses-during-royal-charter-gale
http://www.peoplescollectionwales.co.uk/Item/60311-great-storm-1859-aberystwyth-harbour-inquiry
http://www.peoplescollectionwales.co.uk/Item/59818-west-wall-of-st-brynachs-church

By S. Clements and D. Groom


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Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Nurturing the Next Generation of Skilled Researchers






The Royal Commission will be one of the organisations benefitting from a major grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to support postgraduate training and research.

We were part of a bid by the South, West and Wales Consortium of eight universities (including Aberystwyth and Cardiff, and others with a strong record in archaeology and history research). The bid has been successful, and £14.2 million has been awarded. This will support around 200 doctoral studentships over five years starting from the next academic year, and will allow for innovative postgraduate support through the development of broader skills, and experience in working outside academia through industry and international placements.

Professor Rick Rylance, Chief Executive of the AHRC, states: “This is an important step forward in delivering the best possible training and support for postgraduate students in the arts and humanities, and in developing a collaborative approach which pools expertise and expands horizons for postgraduate researchers. We are delighted at how the sector, and partners beyond the sector, have responded, and we look forward to working closely with them to support the next generation.”

The Commission will be involved in offering work experience and training for postgraduate students in our areas of expertise. In the next year, we will be considering how we might develop important opportunities for collaborative research projects and how they might best fit with our work, and the National Monuments Record.

To find out more about this funding, visit the AHRC website.

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Friday, 29 November 2013

Royal Commission Welcomes New Secretary





The Royal Commission’s Secretary, Dr Peter Wakelin, is to leave after eight years to take up the position of Director of Collections and Research at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales.

Previously an Inspector of Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings with Cadw and then Head of the Regeneration Unit in the Welsh Government’s Communities Directorate, Peter has made a notable contribution to the work of the Royal Commission. Much of his time over the past two years has been taken up with discussions regarding possible merger with Cadw, on which we expect a decision from our sponsoring minister, John Griffiths AM, very early in the New Year. Peter has led a strategic review and restructuring of the organisation and ensured that it emerged through two major external reviews of its work with flying colours. He also enhanced considerably the public profile of the organisation through popular and successful publications and its participation in three English-language television series and one in Welsh.

Hilary Malaws
We are pleased to announce that Hilary Malaws, the Royal Commission’s Director of Services, has been appointed Acting Secretary for an initial six months, by which time there will be more clarity about the future.

Hilary is a long-standing member of staff with extensive experience in the library, archives and information management fields and is well-known to many of our partner organisations. She has led the Royal Commission’s involvement as one of the three partners in the People’s Collection Wales project as well as our innovative SWISH partnership with the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, which underpins the on-line delivery of our archival resources and knowledge through Coflein and other platforms.

Hilary will start in her new role as Acting Secretary on 1 December 2013. Speaking about her appointment, Hilary said:

“I am honoured to have been appointed as Acting Secretary and I am looking forward to working with our Commissioners, staff and partners to achieve a smooth transition at this very challenging time. The Royal Commission’s dedicated staff are our greatest asset and I am committed to ensuring that their expertise, combined with our core functions, continue to provide an excellent service to the sector and the public.”

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Thursday, 28 November 2013

Picturing Powys: Iain Wright’s Royal Commission Photography for the Pevsner Architectural Guide






The Chancel of Brecon Cathredral
DS2012_388_001
   NPRN: 96574

The Pevsner Architectural Guide to Powys is the last in a series of county guides to the architecture of Wales. It updates and extends its predecessor, published in 1979, as the first of the series. These Buildings of Wales volumes followed hard on the heels of a Buildings of England series, begun in the 1940s by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, and published between 1951 and 1974. Regarded as indispensable for the architectural traveller, the books set out to capture the architectural character of a county through a gazetteer of significant buildings accompanied by an introductory essay.

This is a big ambition for Powys, which covers a quarter of Wales and comprises three historical counties each with a distinctive identity of its own. The book makes a generous selection of buildings in a narrative sweep that  not only assigns a place to the architectural set-pieces and fine buildings, but also to the regional architectural traditions that perhaps more than anything else capture the character of the county. Together with the introductory essay, the photographs must convey this narrative, binding together architectural themes that might otherwise be lost in the detail of gazetteer.

The photographs in the book therefore form a single sequence arranged chronologically rather than geographically. They are intended to draw attention to buildings that have their own place in the story of architecture in the county, but which are also representative of broader themes.  They trace the development of building traditions from the earliest times, and highlight the work not only of architects, but also of the many un-named craftsmen whose skill enriches all our landscapes and townscapes.


Romanesque Tympanum at St Padarn’s Church,Llanbadarn Fawr, Radnorshire
DS2012_389_004
   NPRN: 236


In the selection for this exhibition, for example, we see the inventiveness of twelfth-century stone carvers and sixteenth-century carpenters, of late seventeenth-century plasterers and twentieth-century stained-glass makers.  We see religious faith manifest in the tiny rural churches of Rhulen and Capel-y-ffin that seem to belong only to their immediate community, and in the simple interior of Maesyronnen chapel. By contrast, in Brecon’s soaring thirteenth-century priory church, in the gothick of Trefecca College, and the gothic revival church at Llangasty Tal-y-llyn, architecture reflects connections to much wider communities. The unique theatre of Craig-y-nos also reaches out to a world beyond the county: in plan it is a miniature Bayreuth.  We see architectural experimenters – from the unknown builder of Glanclydach cottages, to Henry Hanbury-Tracy trying out concrete at Gregynog, to rammed earth used stylishly in the WISE building at the Centre for Alternative Technology.

All this is a considerable challenge for the photographer. Iain had to translate the chronological list of sites into something that made logistical sense on the ground, creating vast maps plotting sites from north to south, west to east. He trawled maps and aerial photographs for additional information that would help him plan ahead – on orientation and sight-lines, for example. He had to track down contact details for every property, or cold-call and hope for a welcome. Iain has worked out some short-cuts – undertakers, for example, usually know who to talk to in churches and chapels. He was given this assignment in one of the wettest summers of recent years – he saved the interiors for rainy days. Not just the weather, but also the time of day is critical for exterior work. Iain always arrives on site early to give maximum time to catch the best light, or simply to set up the shots, but inevitably there are compromises – where conditions limit the choice of viewpoint for example.

Most of the interiors needed to be lit, and it can take up to five hours for a single shot such as a complicated (and dark) church interior.  Even a font takes an hour and a half, and Iain spent two days in Brecon cathedral for just eight shots. Power is not always available for lighting – the ornate interior at Llangasty Tal-y-llyn had to be done from a single socket on the pulpit. Cables and lighting units have to be positioned so that they can easily be removed from the shot in the post-production process if necessary – forward planning is essential.
 
All the work is tripod mounted, which makes it possible to produce composite images by layering in Photoshop: windows and interiors were usually done as separate frames. Using software to balance interior and exterior lighting can take several hours of patient work.  All told, Iain covered 120 sites in 20 days, by which time he had driven about 3,000 miles. This was followed by three weeks of post-production work. He uses a Canon IDS Mk III, with 12,000 watts of lighting, including two mains operated units and five transportable units. The tripod has 4-inch metal spikes for grass, with rubber feet to protect carpets and floors.

This work was done on behalf of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. The images here, all those in the book, and others taken during the course of this exercise are all in the National Monuments Record, and available to view through coflein www.coflein.gov.uk

Iain has worked for RCAHMW for 35 years. He is a fellow of the British Institute for Professional Photography.

“Picturing Powys”: an exhibition of Iain Wright’s Royal Commission photography for the Pevsner Architectural Guide will be on display from 30 November until mid-February 2014, in the Pen’rallt Gallery Bookshop, Heol Pen’ralt, Machynlleth.


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Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Digital Past 2014





The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales invites you to attend:

Digital Past 2014
New technologies in heritage, interpretation and outreach.

12th and 13th February 2014
St George’s Hotel, Llandudno


Digital Past is a two-day conference showcasing innovative digital technologies for data capture, interpretation and dissemination of heritage sites and artefacts. Running for the sixth year, Digital Past 2014 will be set in the seaside town of Llandudno, and offers a combination of papers, seminars and handson workshops and demonstrations to investigate the latest technical survey and interpretation techniques and their practical application in heritage interpretation, education and conservation.

The conference will be of value to anyone working in or studying the archaeological, heritage, education and museums sectors, and is designed to allow informal networking and exchange of ideas within a friendly and diverse audience made up of individuals from commercial, public and third-sector organisations. Open House sessions will also give the opportunity for display and demonstration of projects or products, and the chance to talk to heritage organisations, product developers and retailers.

The themes for this year are ‘Technical Survey’ and ‘Deliverables’.

For ongoing information on speakers and the programme please go to http://digitalpast14.blogspot.co.uk and follow #digitalpast2014

Registration cost for the two days is £69, including lunch and refreshments on both days. To register please go to https://www.eventbrite.co.uk

Limited places are available and early registration is advised.


We look forward to welcoming you to Digital Past in 2014.
The Digital Past Team

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Thursday, 21 November 2013

Amlwch Age Well Society, Pembrokeshire Shipwrecks and Ynyslas Rocket Range





Helen Rowe, Royal Commission People’s Collection Officer, conducting a talk to the Age Well Society, Amlwch.

Last week we were pleased to be invited to join Amlwch Age Well History Society as part of our People’s Collection Wales outreach. The society has taken part in many interesting projects in the past and has made a valuable contribution to recording the town’s heritage. Samantha Jones, Community Archaeologist for the Royal Commission, has been helping the Age Well group with the project in Amlwch (a town with a rich mining heritage and vast copper-works) through the umbrella project Metal Links. Helen Rowe, Peoples Collection Wales Officer, travelled to Amlwch to give a talk on the various ways the People’s Collection Wales website can be used to publicise, share and disseminate the fantastic research collated by thriving local history groups such as Amlwch.  Sarahjayne and I were able to shadow this talk, and it was really good to watch the members engaging with the website. It was a success all round, with the members showing a genuine interest and enthusiasm towards the site and uploading their material.

Kimberly Briscoe and Sarahjayne Clements checking phone signal at Granston Church, Pembrokeshire.
Boats at Porthgain, Pembrokeshire.

The rest of the week was just as busy: on Monday we furthered our work with the Royal Commission/Cadw Shipwrecks Project by attending a promising meeting with Pembrokeshire Archives, who seem keen to be involved in researching shipwrecks on the Pembrokeshire coast and are keen to be able to offer their facilities to the local Welsh Baccalaureate students. After such a successful meeting we then undertook a recce of the areas of significance to the Charles Holmes shipwreck along the Aberbach and Abermawr coast. This was in the hope of locating a strong-enough phone signal for the use of a potential augmented reality app, intended for interpretation for coastal walkers. Despite our efforts, phone signals seem limited in this area for such internet- based applications; however it was still good to spend the afternoon investigating the coastline and there are certainly a variety of ways that technology can be used to make interpretation accessible to the public, and we are keen to explore them!
Wartime Observation Post, Ynyslas Dunes, Ceredigion.
The infamous Rocket  Range Test Track Base, Ynyslas, Ceredigion.
On Thursday I took a trip to Ynyslas National Nature Reserve with Medwyn Parry, the Royal Commission’s military specialist, to learn more about the military use of the Rocket Range, in preparation for my forthcoming project there. It was great to see the varied uses and understand the complexity of military strategy at Ynyslas. In the afternoon Sarahjayne and I visited Ysbyty Cynfyn Church (a site linked closely with the Metal Links project) to improve our skills in graveyard recording.

Kimberly Briscoe and Sarahjayne Clements, Community Archaeologists, recording gravestones at the churchyard at Ysbyty Cynfyn.
Finally, to end a week of travelling the length and breadth of Wales, I was able to attend two conferences. On Friday we attended the IFA Community Archaeology Day School in Machynlleth. It was a positive experience to see the variety and scale of community archaeology projects across Wales, and I heard some ‘amateur’ community archaeologists presenting their work and some of their fantastic achievements. It certainly provided some great ideas and interesting viewpoints to consider for our forthcoming projects!

On Saturday I was then able to accompany Toby Driver and Keith Haylock as they disseminated their new research on Grogwynion Hillfort (along with the use of the pXRF gun in archaeological investigations) to the Hillfort Study Group at Oxford University.

By:  Kimberly Briscoe

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