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Thursday, 31 October 2013

Violence, Murder & Ghosts – a colourful history of Old Plas






Recently the Royal Commission has undertaken a new interpretation of Old Plas, Llantwit Major, to record the building through a restoration project, part funded by Cadw, that will see the ruinous mansion become a home once again. Through the research to accompany the survey a number of interesting stories came to light about the Vann family that once lived here.

Old Plas in Llantwit Major has a long history, dating back some five hundred years; it holds a full history as the second seat of the Vann family of Marcross. The Vanns were not the most peaceful family Llantwit Major had seen, with tales of violence and corruption; they found themselves the suspects of murder, civil unrest and eventually they become a part of the ghosts of ‘Llantwit Castle’.



The first of which comes in the year 1527 when Thomas Vann is found guilty of the murder of a John Fleming underneath the Town Hall. After first pleading innocent, Thomas admits that it was him that held the knife that was driven into John Fleming, killing him in cold blood; but Thomas was spared prison and the executioners block, being tried and duly pardoned. The Vann had done it, he had gotten away with the ultimate crime, albeit with a fine and the knowledge that he would not be able to rise through the ranks of the gentry.

Later that century, the Vanns are at it again, in 1598 Edmund and his younger brother Edward are hauled in front of The Court of the Star Chamber for inciting violence. The incident unravelled in an interesting manner... On Sunday 9 October 1597, Edmund, Edward and a number of accomplices burst into St Illtyd’s Church during service to attack the Seys of Boverton. This started with the stabbing of one of the Seys, before continuing around Llantwit Major for several hours where they are reported to have caused ‘a ryott and other misdemeanours’, with the use of daggers and throwing of stones causing utmost damage to the town and people. Several hours passed before Sir Edward Stradling of St Donats, a Justice of the Peace, put an end to the violence, with the use of a small armed band of soldiers, and escorted the Seys home under armed guard. So, forward in time to 28 August 1598 and The Court of the Star Chamber; Edmund, Edward and their accomplices are being held in Fleet prison before both sides give evidence. Needless to say the brothers were found responsible for the incident and, by 9 February 1599, fines were handed out, Edmund was fined £1,000 (over £160,000 today!), with £100 to Roger Seys, whilst Edward was fined 500 marks. After this the family became more peaceful, until it died out in the early eighteenth century...or did it?

Over 100 years pass and we find ourselves in the early nineteenth century, the industrial revolution is gathering pace and the parents of Llantwit Major want to control their unruly children. Old Plas becomes the focus of a haunting, a floating spectre is said to be seen haunting the old mansion; a ‘Dutch’ ghost is in residence. The ghost is said to have been that of a sailor, but whether he met an unfortunate end in Old Plas or on the rocky shores nearby, it is not known. The idea of the Dutch ghost is intriguing, the story is said to have come about to help control the local children, who were causing mischief and mayhem in the town. It is likely that the name Vann had remained in local memory and, with increased mobility during the industrial period it was probably linked with the Dutch prefix of ‘Van’, hence the ghost becoming Dutch!



Link to Coflein: http://coflein.gov.uk/en/site/19521/details/OLD+PLAS%3BLLANTWIT+CASTLE%3BLLANTWIT+PLACE%3BOLD+PLACE%2C+THE/

By Ross Cook


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Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Top Three Tales from the Archive for Halloween





We’ve been having a look through our archives this week to bring you some of our spookiest records for Halloween. It was certainly spine-chilling in our stores but that’s probably because its temperature controlled!

Welcome to our first choice, Tubal Cain Foundry in Cardiff – can you spot something eerie in this photograph?
DI2011_0165 Crown Copyright.

This ghostly apparition is part of one of the last photographic records we have of Tubal Cain Foundry, which has now been demolished. It was located in Tyndall Street, Cardiff and was established between 1869 and 1871. Later in the twentieth century it was known as Penarth Industrial Services Ltd.

For our second choice we move to Flintshire and what claims to be the ‘Most Haunted House in Wales’. Welcome to Plas Teg. This property is surrounded with ghost stories. Would you like to live in this imposing building?

DI2007_0869 Crown Copyright.

Plas Teg was commissioned in 1610 by Sir John Trevor MP, surveyor of the Queen’s ships. The architect is thought to be Robert Smythson. Internally only the staircase, some doorways and a single fireplace remain following recent restoration, externally the house remains close to its original appearance.

Finally our last choice comes from a field in Chepstow. What could this interesting pattern mean?

AP_2011_1146 Crown Copyright.


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Monday, 28 October 2013

Local History Book Fair - Swansea Museum






On Saturday, 2 November 2013, staff from the Royal Commission will again attend The Royal Institution of South Wales’s annual Local History Book Fair at Swansea Museum between 10am and 4 pm. The day will offer the opportunity to buy new local history books, second-hand and antiquarian books, historical maps and paintings, postcards and much more. Authors, publishers and bookshops, representatives of local history societies, as well as staff from the Royal Commission, will be on-hand throughout the day to answer enquiries and chat to visitors. In particular, please come along to our stall where a full-range of publications including our three recently published titles : Fields of Play: The Sporting Heritage of Wales, Y Tu Mewn i Gartrefi Cymru / Inside Welsh Homes and Worktown: The Drawings of Falcon Hildred ― all on sale with a special 10% discount. The day promises to be a wonderful opportunity for all, so please come and join us!


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Friday, 25 October 2013

The Nash Restoration at St David’s Cathedral





St David’s Cathedral, Pembrokeshire.

Event Date: 1 November 2013, 19:30
Location: Haverfordwest

Architectural historian, Richard Suggett will be giving a illustrated talk on “John Nash and the restoration of St David’s Cathedral” at 7.30pm Friday, 1 November 2013 to Pembrokeshire Historical Society at the Picton Centre, Haverfordwest. The lecture will look at the somewhat rackety world of Georgian building and the career of John Nash, the prince regent’s architect, in particular. John Nash tried to rebuild his career in Carmarthen after bankruptcy and a strange divorce in London. The lecture will explore some of Nash’s little-known houses and public buildings built in west Wales in 1790s. The challenge of stabilising the west front of St David’s Cathedral was a turning point in Nash’s career. Success helped turn Nash into an architect of national reputation.

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Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Castell Grogwynion … Fort of the white … Ceramics?





The Early Mines Research Group supported by Sarahjayne Clements, CBA bursary holder, RCAHMW, and Keith Haylock, PHD Researcher, Geography Department, University of Aberystwyth, excavating Castell Grogwynion Hillfort.
A small excavation was undertaken at the Iron Age hillfort Castell Grogwynion last week in an attempt to identify a potential Iron Age metal working site located on the northern terrace of the fort. Early mines are fairly elusive archaeologically and searching for them has been the focus of over twenty years’ research by the Early Mines Research Group. Evidence of Iron Age metal working is particularly rare in Ceredigion, despite the importance raw materials evidently held for Iron Age material culture.

Aerial Photograph of the Iron Age hillfort, Castell Grogwynion.

The excavation at Castell Grogwynion was the conclusion of a series of surveys conducted on three north Ceredigion hillforts, Castell Grogwynion, Darren Camp and Pen Dinas, for a research project by Keith Haylock at the Institute for Geography and Earth Sciences (IGES), Aberystwth University, in collaboration with The Royal Commission, and with permission from Cadw.

Using a special portable X-ray Fluorescence (pXRF) ‘gun’ Keith can find out what metals are present in the soils of the hillfort, with the aim of finding high concentrations of prehistoric metal working evidence. This equipment has revolutionised non-destructive archaeological identification of early mine areas, through the detection of metal slag and smelting activities.
Keith Haylock, operating pXRF survey.
The results of the Geophysical Survey taken in 2012. Areas of interest are highlighted with red, 1 = the area excavated.
Out of the three hillforts surveyed only Castell Grogwynion, in English “The fort of the white pebbles”, demonstrated high lead readings, which were focused on the terrace. Geophysical survey in 2012 by ArchaeoPhysica LTD further confirmed this concentration.

To test the nature and date of the lead concentration, Dr Simon Timberlake and the Early Mines Research Group, carried out a limited excavation on the terrace at Castell Grogwynion in early October.

The Early Mines Research Group excavating.
Some of the seventeenth or eighteenth-century pottery recovered at Castell Grogwynion.

Rather than an Iron Age smelting site, far more recent evidence of seventeenth or eighteenth-century lazy-bed cultivation was discovered with lead-glazed pottery and other domestic rubbish tipped into the soil. These findings confirmed that a nearby platform and cultivation terraces within the hillfort, first identified by Louise Barker during the new Royal Commission survey, were indeed the remains of a post-medieval upland cottage settlement.

Post Excavation Analysis.
Post medieval cottage settlements are fairly common in the Welsh landscape, however the structural evidence is rarely accompanied by any artifactual remains. Although Iron Age finds were limited to a single sling shot, it was exciting to discover the sheer quantity of pottery uncovered through the excavation, surprising in such a remote location. Further scanning the pottery with the XRF gun revealed the cause of the initial high metallic reading: the glazing of the pottery contained an unusually high lead content.  The leaching of the lead glaze into the soil was hypothesised to have been the most likely cause of the high metallic readings. The discovery of this pottery demonstrated the importance of XRF for archaeological survey ― it can detect vital and less structural remains including spoil heaps and rubbish dumps, where the most significant artifactual data is often recovered.

All in all it was great to be part of this excavation and watch the story of the Iron Age hillfort unfold and exciting to be part of such important research into the varied uses of new and powerful forms of archaeological remote sensing.
 
Kimberly Briscoe and Sarahjayne CBA Community Bursary Holders, RCAHMW, Castell Grogwynion.
By Kimberly Briscoe, Community Archaeology Placement Holder.


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Tuesday, 22 October 2013

What’s in a name? Historians and Linguists need your help!






October 22nd  2013 sees the launch of a new website which hopes to harness the power of volunteers to record all the place-names of Wales as they appeared on Ordnance Survey maps at the end of the Victorian period.

Cymru1900Wales.org is a ground-breaking collaborative project, developed jointly by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, The National Library of Wales, University of Wales and the People’s Collection Wales.
 
Visitors to cymru1900wales.org are being asked to study historic mapping of Wales, published by the Ordnance Survey between 1899 and 1908, and to record the location of all text shown on the maps; the names of towns, villages, woods, farms, rivers, springs, mansions - everything! There is even a competitive element to this mildly addictive process; the more place-names recorded by a volunteer, the higher their position in the Contributors’ Chart.

Dr. David Parsons, Senior Fellow on the Place-Names of Wales Project at the University of Wales said “We hope to use the power of online volunteers to capture historic forms of place-names, and also to tell us about modern variations or alternatives that are used locally. There is no software that can collect this information automatically, so we really need people to go online, register and help us out.”

Tom Pert, On-line Development Manager at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales added: “This is a fantastic opportunity for us to gather a massive amount of information very rapidly. Through this process the location of every mill, milestone, smithy and dock will be captured and used to enhance the National Monuments Record of Wales. Every volunteer will be helping us to create a complete record of the cultural landscape of Wales at the end of the Victorian period”.





Prof. Lorna Hughes, Chair in Digital Collections, The National Library of Wales said “This is a groundbreaking website, with Wales leading the way for the rest of the United Kingdom. Crowd-sourcing projects of this sort have proven very successful when used to gather information for astronomers or biologists. We are sure this project will prove to be equally successful, and will pave the way for further collaborative research and online volunteering projects in the future”.

Further Information:
Elin Hâf post@llgc.org.uk or (01970) 632471
Website: www.cymru1900wales.org


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Monday, 21 October 2013

The Royal Commission at Glamorgan Family History Fair 2013





On Saturday 12 October the Royal Commission was delighted to once again have the opportunity to promote Coflein and People’s Collection at the annual Glamorgan Family History Society Fair, at Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Centre. The Royal Commission’s online database, Coflein, is the gateway to the National Monuments Record of Wales. It contains details of many thousands of Welsh sites, monuments and buildings, including a wide selection of images. The People’s Collection Wales website brings together some of the material from Coflein, the National Library of Wales and National Museum of Wales, as well as material uploaded by a large number of other organisations and individuals. With over 650 people attending Saturday’s event, Royal Commission staff members, Nikki Vousden and Jon Dollery were kept very busy demonstrating the two websites!

Coflein is the perfect tool for finding places relating to family history research.  The Coflein search facility displays a selection of information, including the name, location and type of site, monument or building. A site description is also provided, together with catalogue information for items relating to the site in the National Monuments Record of Wales archive. A search of our records using Coflein’s newly improved mapping function was able to provide one gentleman with information about the chapel where his relatives are thought to be buried.

There was much interest in our examples of the many diverse and fascinating items uploaded by the people of Wales to the People’s Collection Wales website. They include letters, videos, school and family photographs, street scenes and countless other items portraying the lives of ordinary people in Wales- many of which will relate to individual family history research.

We also demonstrated how People’s Collection historic Ordnance Survey mapping layers and modern aerial photographic layer can be used to track changes in the landscape over time. We were able to help one lady find the place her relatives lived, named in historic documents but no longer existing on the ground!

Locating a place that no longer exists using People’s Collection Wales’s historic Ordnance Survey mapping.

People were encouraged to upload the pictures and documents generated by their own family research onto the People’s Collection website. If you have similar material, we hope that you will do the same. This way, important family memories will not only be preserved, but your story will add to the rich and ever-growing story of the people of Wales. People’s Collection Wales is funded by Welsh Government, who is committed to maintaining it as an archive, meaning that everything uploaded to the site will remain accessible to family researchers of the future. With the whole website, including its historic mapping layers, due for a complete refresh in January, it will be more user-friendly and easy to use than ever before!

The Royal Commission’s Jon Dollery explains how to use the People’s Collection website as a tool to find people and places related to family history research.


By Nikki Vousden, Data and Technology Team.


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Friday, 18 October 2013

Big Draw Anglesey






Take part in the Big Draw at Oriel Ynys Mon on 30 October 2013, 10.00 –12.00 and 13.00 – 15.00.

Come along and discover the unique aerial photographs of Anglesey taken nearly 100 years ago by the dare-devil pilots of Aerofilms Ltd. Explore the museum and art gallery and find your favourite object in their collections. You can then help to create a huge banner based on all the pictures and objects you have seen. This will then be displayed in the museum and art gallery.

Each session will last two hours and is free.

Booking is essential.
Call (01248) 724444 or email oriel@ynysmon.gov.uk
Rhosmeirch, Llangefni, Isle of Anglesey LL77 7TQ
Morning 10.00 –12.00
Afternoon   13.00 – 15.00

Joint project between Britain From Above and Anglesey County Council.


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