Abergavenny Eisteddfodau

‘Cylchwyliau Cymdeithas Cymreigyddion y Fenni’ [Music Festivals / Eisteddfodau of the Abergavenny Cymreigyddion Society]

Ten Eisteddfodau were held at Abergavenny between 1834 and 1853
1   1834
2   1835     25th and 26th November
3   1836     23rd & 24th November
4   1837     18th &19th October
5   1838     10th & 11th October
1839       (No exhibition of prizes, just a dinner with musical performances and competitions)
6   1840     Wednesday and Thursday 7th & 8th October
7   1842     Wednesday and Thursday 12th &13th October
8   1845     (12th anniversary)
9   1848     (15th anniversary) 11th & 12th of October 1848
10 1853    (19th anniversary) 12th &13th of October

See more for details of:

Letter, Lady Greenly to Mrs Hastings, 13.5.1834
At Llanover, had a long walk with Mr Price before breakfast.
The Cymdeithas Cymregyddion y Fenni had sent their large oak box … to be inspected by Mrs Hall [Lady Llanover] and myself, … Mrs Hall and myself at the same time received our tickets of admission as members.
NLW Maxwell Fraser bequest, CB5, includes a typed transcript of Lady Greenly’s diary and letters, 1805-1837

Letter, Lady Greenly to Mrs Hastings, 26.10.1835
The Grand Cymreigyddion Meeting at Abergavenny takes place on the 25th November when 14 medals will be given as prizes.
Letter from Mrs Hall to Lady Greenly, December 1835
Brief report of the Abergavenny Eisteddfod
NLW Maxwell Fraser bequest, CB5, includes a typed transcript of Lady Greenly’s diary and letters, 1805-1837, p. 49

Letter from Lady Greenly to Mrs Hastings, Llanover, 21.11.1836
saw 23 medals to be given at the Cymreigyddion
Letter from Lady Greenly to Mrs Hastings, Llanover, 28.11.1836
Wednesday morning, all the Llanover party (except Mrs Waddington), dressed in various Welsh stuffs, Mrs Scudamore included, with round block beaver hats, and mob caps beneath them, set out in 3 carriages for Abergavenny [for the Eisteddfod]… continued on Thursday … Ball at the Angel Inn, Abergavenny [no mention of costumes or prints] … Friday
Mr Price joined our party, and what a merry, pleasant evening we had! [at Llanover?]  so much Welsh and Nationality
NLW Maxwell Fraser bequest, CB5, includes a typed transcript of Lady Greenly’s diary and letters, 1805-1837, pp. 65-69

Letter from Lady Greenly to Mrs Hastings, 23.10.1837
Tuesday set out for Abergavenny, put on my Mob cap and my Leek. [The procession:] The Bards, a Leek of splendid growth, followed by a train of charity children all clothed in Welsh checks, and little black hats.
Mrs Harries of Rhyd y Llyfen Manufactory obtained a medal at this Cymreigyddion for 2 yards of beautiful fine Welsh check. … she was in true and complete Welsh costume – round black hat, Mob cap, and a brilliant handkerchief over her shoulders.
The Ball [at Llanover] – the refreshments served in the library by the Ladies maids dressed in complete Welsh costume … Most of the Company were in fancy dresses. Lady Charlotte Guest appeared first in Welsh costume, as did her husband. She then changed this garb for a superb Crimson Velvet with Diamonds. … Many of the young people were very correctly dressed from Mrs Hall’s Book of Welsh costumes, and looked extremely well, particularly Miss Devereux.
Mrs Hanbury Leigh was in Welsh manufacture, but she had had her gown made up by a London artist, and he had embroidered the edge with oak leaves and acorns, to which the wearer added her jewels …  My God-daughter Miss [Augusta Charlotte] Hall, [then thirteen years of age] looked very nicely in a checked Jacket and Petticoat of silk in imitation of Welsh colours, and an apron to match. Her mother was, in the same attire, with a superb diamond leek in her black silk hat.
NLW Maxwell Fraser bequest, CB5, includes a typed transcript of Lady Greenly’s diary and letters, 1805-1837, pp. 73-76

The following prizes were awarded (14 competitions): …
Prize offered by Mr Watkin, draper, Abergavenny for the best account of the Rise and Fall of the once celebrated Welsh Flannel Manufacture, in the town and neighbourhood of Abergavenny with a view to its Restoration. Prize of medal worth £1.1.0 and premium worth £1.1.0, not awarded.
Gentleman’s magazine, 1837, p. 632; Monmouthshire Merlin, 21.10.1837

NLW MS 13962E, 98b, bilingual poster; Cambrian (newspaper), 17.10.1840, 31.10.1840; The Welshman, 9.10.1840.

NLW MS 13962E, 98b, bilingual poster; Cambrian (newspaper), 6.8.1840 (announcement); 8.10.1842 (Ball), 22.10.1842 (prizes)

Attended by the illustrious and honoured Dwarkanauth Tagore.
[Detailed report of procession and entrance to the hall of the gentry]
Several ladies, the loveliest, perhaps, that ever charmed a meeting by their radiant beauty, attired in Welsh costume, beamed upon the assemblage … On the left side of the gallery from the front entrance, a row of harpers – male and female –  attired in the Welsh costume , had seated themselves ….
[Speech by Rev T Price (??) ]… as well as publishing books, we patronise the loom of the weaver, and we endeavour to cultivate a taste for music [and sculpture]
[Speech by Mr Vaughan of Courtfield, near Monmouth] … I consider the objects of this society sufficiently important to justify its existence, and its results are certainly useful. I believe it is intended to promote works of utility in our neighbourhood – that it is intended to promote improvement in the manufacture of Welsh woollens, and to encourage the manufacture of Welsh flannels principally at home. {which is much better for the men than working in large factories}
List of competitions numbers 1-20 (performances, englynion, essays)
Account of the speeches at the Dinner
Account of Second Day
Cambrian (newspaper), 19.9.1845 (announcement); 26.9.1845 (re hall); 3.10.1845 (re statue); 24.10.1845 (prizes);; Monmouthshire Merlin (newspaper), 18.10.1845; Hereford Times, 25 October 1845

1848 ABERGAVENNY EISTEDDFOD (15th anniversary)
The 11th & 12th of October 1848
The procession on the first day included a Welsh woollen loom in active operation. ‘The leek (formed of satin, pearls and silver,) was conspicuously placed in the dress of all ladies and gentlemen ; the former attired in the Welsh hat and costume. The postillions also wore leeks, and were dressed in Welsh jackets, etc. The Princess Calimaki … also paid the complement of wearing the Welsh hat and cap.
A very beautiful and ornamental arch … [a] representation of a Welsh girl was shown in the act of knitting stockings.
[speech of Col Keymes Tynte, MP: … [Sit Benjamin Hall unable to attend] But we have one consolation left to us ; we have present amongst us in this Hall, Gwenynen Gwent. (The name of this lady was received with the most marked enthusiasm.) And she is (I need not tell you) more than a host in herself. (Renewed cheering.)
We have … Chevalier Bunsen (the gallant Col. Was stopped by a burst of applause which did not cease for some time.) …
This institution also encourages the native manufactures of Wales, which we all know have, under its care, increased beyond belief. …
… allow me to express my gratification at seeing so numerous an assemblage before me – in meeting here the men of Gwent and Morganwg, as well as many of our countrymen of North Wales ; … Many of the ladies, both English and foreign, who have honoured us with their presence, have adopted the native costume of Wales ; and here I would remark that, if all others knew how extremely becoming that costume is, and how enchanting they would appear in it, I believe that the dowdy and unbecoming bonnet would be discarded for ever and the Welsh hat be henceforth adopted in its place. (Great applause and laughter). …. [At the dinner on the first day] The Chairman rose and proposed “The better health of Benjamin Hall” … To this toast he would add the ever to be honoured name of Gwenynen Gwent, who had been most indefatigable as well as on all former occasions as upon this, in her exertions for the success of the Eisteddfod. … His Excellency Chevalier Bunsen : Gwenynen Gwent wants no representation here. (Hear Hear.) She is known to all and enthroned in the hearts of all here present. (Great Cheering.) Her untiring love of her country has ever been proved by here deeds. (Renewed cheering.)

[Anon] A few observations on the manufacture of Welsh Woollens may not here be out of place. The woollens for which prizes are given are of a peculiar sort – made in the Principality alone ; and as there are many spurious imitations in the same patterns – but of very inferior quality – the object is to encourage the genuine material made of the wool of the native sheep (which is particularly soft and fine) as well as to preserve the ancient patterns (or rather checks and stripes) of the Principality, of which there are a great variety; but which, from very few of the principal families having kept up their use for their tenants and retainers (as in Scotland), are in danger of becoming lost, or merged in the numberless new fancy patterns constantly invented. It has been remarked by travellers that the ancient checks and stripes of the Cymru (still preserved and used by the natives) are so completely Oriental in their character, and in the arrangement and distribution of colours, that they might have been supposed to have been brought from the east at this day [sic] but there is another reason for the encouragement of the real Welsh woollens, of far more importance than that of the traveller or the antiquarian. This manufacture is carried on by the native rural population – generally in secluded situations – and does not involve many drawbacks generally attached to the word “manufacture.” A stream of water, with a waterwheel to turn some simple machinery, and a hand-loom, is all that is required ; and consequently, instead of a dense population crowded into a mass of buildings, without air or exercise, the Welsh weaver’s domicile might be taken for a large farm house with ten or twelve healthy children from neighbouring cottages, who are employed in picking wool and spinning during the day, and are generally fed by the master weaver who with his wife cooks for them, dines with them, and generally has not only a good garden, but often a small farm, attached to his dwelling. The material thus produced is, of course, not intended to rival the productions of the complicated and expensive manufactories of England or Scotland : nor is it desirable that any change should be attempted – but merely that the present healthy and useful method of preparing an excellent material for clothing should be encouraged, and prizes given to those who most excel in this craft. The material is most valuable for the poor, as it washes and improves in texture after being washed, and is exceedingly warm and substantial- while it can be made fine enough to be both useful and ornamental for any purposes of ladies’ dress, and also for waistcoats, shooting jackets etc. In former times, the Welsh farmers cultivated flax sufficient for the supply of their own families, and flaxen thread was used in some of the lighter fabrics for clothing mixed with the wool. The cultivation of flax has been discontinued almost entirely during the last 50 years, and where wool alone is not used, cotton thread has been substituted for flax, but is not nearly as durable. It is a question which has of late occupied much attention- whether the great diminution in the cultivation of flax has not been a serious evil to Great Britain generally, and the result of an ill founded prejudice on the part of landlords that it exhausts the ground : however this may be, it is certain that the flaxen thread mixed with wool in Welsh woollens produces a much stronger material than cotton with wool.

Fifteenth eisteddfod of the Abergavenny Cymreigyddion by Cymreigyddion y Fenni, 1848, Extracted from the Hereford Times of Saturday October 21, 1848. (Printed at the [Hereford] Times Office, Hereford.) [16 A4 pages of small type reporting the speeches and adjudication of prizes in detail. This was not the 15th eisteddfod, but the 9th, held on the 15th anniversary of the first.]

The Eisteddfod and twentieth anniversary of the Abergavenny Cymreigyddion was held on Wednesday and Thursday last week, 12th and 13th October.
Cambrian Journal, 1854, pp 55-60; The Musical World, 1853, pp. 677-678