BBC Wales History

Blog posts in total 184

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  1. On Saturday 13 October 2012, Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Centre plays host to the Glamorgan Family History Society as they hold their Family and Local History Fair.

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  2. BBC Wales history article on Open Doors events - Taff's Well thermal spring and the Llangollen Railway

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  3. BBC Wales is asking for people to match modern-day locations in Wales to pictures on vintage postcards.

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  4. A small, late-medieval house from Haverfordwest is the latest building to be re-erected at St Fagans: National History Museum. The house will be officially opened to the public on Monday 2 July at 2pm. Visitors will be welcomed into the house, as re-enactors use traditional skills to co...

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  5. Pioneering translator, industrialist, linguist, collector, and mother of nine, Saturday 19 May marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Lady Charlotte Guest. Born on 19 May 1812, she was christened Lady Charlotte Elizabeth Bertie and grew up in Lincolnshire. Her father Albemarle Bertie, the ninth Earl of Lindsey, died when Charlotte was just six years old, and three years later her mother married a man whom Charlotte disliked. Although Charlotte had two brothers she had quite a lonely childhood. She was passionate about literature and language, and taught herself Arabic, Hebrew and Persian. From a very early age Charlotte was also fascinated by medieval history and legends. A lifelong diarist When Charlotte was 10 years old she began to keep a diary, a practice which she doggedly continued until she was 79, even though she was nearly blind by that time. Her journals were published after her death in two large, illustrated volumes by her third son, Montague Guest. Marriage and Merthyr Tydfil Charlotte left Lincolnshire for London when she was 21. Here she met widower and wealthy ironmaster John Josiah Guest (later Sir John Guest). The pair were married within three months of their first meeting and settled in Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil. John Guest was 48 years old, and they seemed to belong to two very different worlds. She was the daughter of an earl and he was a "man with a trade" - even though his enterprise would become one of the largest ironworks in the world. The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales captures the global importance of John Guest stating that: "His 5,000-strong workforce probably meant that he had more employees than any other individual on earth." Powerless women Charlotte lived in a time when women were expected solely to devote their life to the role of wife and mother. Women had no vote, and no right to own their possessions. Generally powerless, they were not expected to hold any aspirations outside of the home. Charlotte, however, immersed herself in the business of the iron works, as well as practically pursuing methods to improve the education and living standards of the workers and their families. Although London society remained dismayed that Charlotte would leave the cultured life of the capital for industrialised south Wales, Charlotte embraced living in Merthyr. She had a happy life with John Guest and the couple had nine children - not unusual for the time. In 1838 Charlotte became a baroness, and in 1846 the Guests bought the Canford estate in Dorset, where they built Canford Manor, a grand, gothic mansion. It was designed by the famous architect Sir Charles Barry, who is probably best known for his role in the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster. Cymreigyddion y Fenni Charlotte lived in a time of Romantic revival, when there was a renewed interest in medieval life and Celtic history, and the Guests were founder members of the Society of Welsh Scholars of Abergavenny (Cymreigyddion y Fenni). She naturally combined her life-long interest in medieval literature with her passion for Wales. Charlotte had learned Welsh, and combined her love of language with Celtic legends by translating the Mabinogion tales. The first volume was published in 1838, and by 1845 the tales had appeared in seven parts. She also wrote a Boys' Mabinogion which comprised the earliest Welsh tales of King Arthur, and translated (and often censored) a number of medieval songs and poems. Charlotte's translations of the Mabinogion tales remained the standard for nearly a century. They were influential enough for Tennyson to base his Geraint and Enid, in The Idylls of the King - the most popular poetic work of the era - on her writings. Sir John Guest died in 1852, and Charlotte took over the running of the business. She had a clear understanding of the operation of the iron works but it was deeply unconventional for a Victorian woman to hold such power. Ultimately it led to clashes with workers and other foundry owners. Collector and campaigner In 1855 Charlotte fell in love with and married her son Ivor's tutor, Cambridge academic and MP Charles Schreiber. She stopped running the iron works, and instead travelled widely and focused her efforts on amassing a world-class ceramics collection. When she died the collection was bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum. She also donated fans, board games and playing cards that she had collected to the British Museum. Charles Schreiber died in 1884, when Charlotte was 72 years old. She dedicated her remaining time to cataloguing her collections and putting them on public view. In 1891 the London Fan Makers awarded Charlotte the freedom of their company. She was, along with Baroness Coutts, one of only two freewomen of Victorian England. Charlotte remained active and campaigned for diverse causes including Turkish refugees and shelters for London hansom cab drivers. She died on 15 January 1895 aged 83. During the regeneration of Dowlais in the 1980s, a public house was named the Lady Charlotte in her honour. The Guest Scholarship fund started by Lady Charlotte Guest for the education of the steelworkers, and boosted by money saved by workers, at the Guest Keen Ironwork only closed in spring 2012. Find out more about the Mabinogion.

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  6. On 6 May 1959, when civil aviation in Britain was still in the early stages of development, a small De Havilland Dove aircraft crashed on North Road, one of the main routes into and out of the city of Cardiff. Four men died in the aircraft crash but there could have been many more fataliti...

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  7. A historic Cardiff pub, the Vulcan Hotel, has served its last pint and is set to be dismantled and moved, brick by brick, to St Fagans National History Museum. The Vulcan Hotel opened in 1853 Brewers SA Brain said it was no longer commercially viable for either Brains or licensees Gwy...

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  8. The National Roman Legion Museum in Caerleon is offering the chance to sample some Roman-style food this bank holiday (Monday 7 May). Just a few of the dished to be enjoyed at the Roman feast The museum will be hosting a 'Come Dine With Me' competition, where four hosts will set out ...

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  9. Wales has a wealth of May Day customs, superstitions and traditions that go back to the time of the Druids. Known as Calan Mai or Calan Haf, the first day of May was an important time for celebration and festivities in Wales as it was considered to be the start of summer. Marking neither an e...

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  10. Sunday 22 April, marks the 100th anniversary of the first manned flight across the Irish Sea from Wales to Ireland. In April 1912, three intrepid aviation pioneers - Vivien Hewitt, Denys Corbett Wilson and Damer Leslie Allen - each aimed to be the first man to fly across the Irish Sea in an aeroplane. The race to cross the sea would eventually leave one man missing presumed dead, another successful in the endeavour, and the third man, who landed four days after the record had been completed, hailed as a triumphant hero. The challenge had previously been attempted by actor-aviator Robert Loraine. On 11 September 1910 he had narrowly failed to cross the Irish Sea. Leaving from Holyhead, he was tantalisingly close to the Irish coast when his plane suffered engine trouble and he was forced to land in the sea and swim ashore. Two years later, Hewitt, Corbett Wilson and Allen all chose to attempt the challenge using single seater Bleriot XI monoplanes. The Bleriot XI was constructed with wood and fabric and had a compass but few other navigational aids. It had a maximum speed of around 65 miles per hour but was vulnerable in strong winds. Two of the aviators, Denys Corbett Wilson and Damer Leslie Allen, who had both relatively recently attained their Aviator's Certificate, met at Hendon in north London and had become friends. On Wednesday 17 April 1912, both men arrived early in the morning at Hendon to begin their journey. There were very strong winds that morning, which showed no signs of easing. Eventually taking off, Allen reached Chester, but Corbett Wilson, having lost his compass in the strong winds, was forced to land at Hereford. He bought castor oil locally but it was the wrong grade and engine trouble meant to had to land again, this time at Colva. There he chose to wait for his mechanic to arrive. Meanwhile, Damer Leslie Allen set off to Holyhead to attempt the record flight. The next day he left for Ireland but tragically was never seen again. He was later reported missing but his body was never found. In the meantime, Corbett Wilson had decided to cross the Irish Sea from Fishguard. His original plan, to fly north to Chester and Holyhead, was abandoned. Corbett Wilson chose to begin his journey from Harbour Village in Goodwick, Pembrokeshire. Weather conditions were reasonably good on the morning of Monday 22 April, and at 5.47am Corbett Wilson took off from Goodwick and headed west towards Ireland. In spite of deteriorating weather conditions, he reached Crane in Enniscorthy in county Wexford in a flight time of 100 minutes. He sent a telegram saying: "I have flown successfully St. George's Channel, starting from Fishguard at six o'clock and landing near Enniscorthy, Wexford County, in pouring rain and fog." Newspaper reports suggested the that tragic race between Allen and Corbett Wilson was the result of a wager, but this was later denied. In the meantime Captain Vivian Hewitt was too preparing to cross the Irish Sea. His attempt began in Rhyl, north Wales, on 26 April 1912. Hewitt flew through a foggy Irish Sea before with few navigational aids and landed, some 75 minutes later, dramatically at Phoenix Park in Dublin. When he attempted to land, turbulence nearly flipped his plane upside down. He landed and was greeted as a hero by a jubilant crowd. A modest man, Hewitt later wrote in his logbook: "Passage very rough and the wind strong and the machine took some handling". Although Corbett Wilson had completed the first flight from Wales to Ireland a few days earlier, contemporary reports judged Hewitt's longer journey from north Wales to the Irish capital to be the more difficult and dangerous feat, and he was heralded accordingly. The daring aviation attempts took place just a week or so after the sinking of the Titanic. The naval tragedy consumed the British press in April 2012 meaning that the achievements of Denys Corbett Wilson and Vivien Hewitt neither of the men were to achieve the level of fame that they truly merited.

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  11. In the foyer of the Lawn Tennis Association there is a statue to Welshman Major Walter Clopton Wingfield with the simple statement: "Inventor of Lawn Tennis". It is a title that still provokes debate among sports historians. The invention of the game is credited to Major Wingfield Today, Wednesday 18 April, is the 100th anniversary of the death Major Wingfield, who died in Belgravia, London in 1912. Born at Rhysnant Hall, Montgomeryshire on 16 October 1833, he was the eldest son of Clopton Lewis Wingfield. He had a successful military career before returning to his mid Wales estate where he was also a Justice of the Peace and a major in the yeomanry cavalry. He subsequently married Alice Cleveland, with whom he had three sons and a daughter. During the latter half of the 19th century there was a growing demand to develop gentle outdoor activities and games for the middle-classes, and, with this in mind, the entrepreneurial Wingfield set about devising games that met this need. He created Sphairistiké, taking the name from the Greek world 'sphairos' meaning ball. However, his friends were none too keen on the game's original name. Arthur Balfour, who would later become prime minister, suggested "lawn tennis". Wingfield later added "or lawn tennis" to the title of his eight-page instruction booklet. It is often said that Wingfield first demonstrated the game at a Christmas party held in 1873 at Nantclwyd, a Denbighshire country house, but this version of the game would be pretty near the final form. In 1869 Wingfield had shown the game to his friend Lord Landsdowne, although it was not until 1874 that he actually applied for a patent for the the game that he devised. Originally Wingfield's lawn tennis court was an hour-glass shape which may have been adopted for patent reasons as it set it apart from the more familiar rectangular courts. Sets of equipment to play Sphairistiké were manufactured and the game became quite popular. Within the first year over 1,000 sets were sold at a price of five guineas. However, other versions of lawn tennis were played before Wingfield began demonstrating his take on the game. Another major, called Harry Gem, and his Spanish friend JB Perera, were developing the game that they had had named 'pelota', which they later changed to 'lawn rackets'. In 1872, they set up the Leamington Lawn Tennis Club, later publishing the Rules Of Tennis. Wingfield may not have been the first to create a game called lawn tennis but it is generally felt that he was the man who first popularised the sport.

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  12. The seven national museums in Wales received 1.69 million visits in 2011-12, the most since free entry was introduced in April 2001. The Welsh Government and Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales introduced the policy of free entry eight months earlier than in England. The move nearly doubl...

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  13. This Easter weekend (Friday 6 - Monday 9 April 2012), the National Roman Legion Museum in Caerleon have planned their own Ancient Games to celebrate the opening of their new exhibition 'The Games of Zeus'. 'The Games of Zues' opens on Friday 6 April A number of athletic challenges, in...

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  14. The Falklands - Healing the Wounds is one of two documentaries on BBC Cymru Wales to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the start of the Falklands War on 2 April 1982. They capture the personal and emotional impact of the conflict on the lives of Welsh soldiers who fought in the war. Thirty years ago Argentine troops invaded the Falkland Islands, a remote UK colony in the South Atlantic. It was an action that led to a brief but bitter war. Argentina had claimed sovereignty over the islands for many years, and the ruling military junta did not think that Britain would attempt to regain the islands that lay 8,000 miles away. Margaret Thatcher, the prime minister at the time, considered the 1,800 Falklanders living on the faraway islands to be "of British tradition and stock", and ordered the sending of warships and hastily refitted merchant ships to the Falkland Islands. A task force of of 28,000 British troops were deployed. It reached the Falklands in early May. The war lasted 74 days, during which time 255 British servicemen lost their lives. 649 Argentinians also died, as well as three Falkland Islanders. The Welsh Guards sustained heavy losses in the conflict, and it was one single incident heavily involved the Regiment that accounted for nearly one fifth of all British Army fatalities during the war. On 8 June at Fitzroy, to the southwest of Port Stanley, an Argentinian jet bombed the Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram. The troop ships were moored and carrying equipment and the Welsh Guards, who were ready to go ashore and join the land war. The attack left 48 men dead, 32 of whom were Welsh Guards. Eleven other Army personnel and five crewmen from Sir Galahad herself also died. The bombing of the two ships happened just six days before the Argentine surrender. In Britain, people who had seen men from the Welsh Guards departing on the luxury cruise liner the QE2, which had been requisitioned for service to carry troops to the South Atlantic, now saw pictures of two stricken ships, and desperate attempts to rescue troops from the burning vessels by helicopter and by boat. From the shore Brian Hanrahan, the BBC Falklands War correspondent, described the "constant crackle of ammunition and bigger explosions throughout Sir Galahad and Sir Tristram". The bombing also left dozens of men horrifically burnt and maimed, included in the casualties was Welsh Guard, Simon Weston who suffered 46% burns. He was the subject of several documentaries and his struggle to overcome his injuries, including over 70 major operations or surgical procedures, is well documented. He is now a well-known personality and commentator on the radio and television, as well as the patron of patron of a number of charities that support people living with disfigurement. Simon Weston recalled the experiences that changed his life, including the attack on the Sir Galahad which left him fighting for life on BBC Radio Wales documentary broadcast yesterday. If you missed the programme you can listen again here on the BBC iPlayer. The war has left a lasting impact on the lives of the soldiers who fought in the Falklands. In this clip from Timewatch: Remember The Galahad (2007), Andy Jones, secretary of the South Atlantic Medal Association in Wales, was just a 19-year-old Welsh Guardsman when he fought in the Falklands. He explains his sense of indebtedness that he and others felt for their fallen comrades. Falklands: Healing The Wounds can be seen on Tuesday 3 April at 10.35pm on BBC One Wales. BBC News has a timeline of the key dates of the Falklands War. Click here to view the video timeline.

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  15. A national television advertisement for the National Lottery's Good Causes holds special significance for Cardiff war veteran Leslie Godwin. Leslie Godwin Leslie is one of over 50,000 people who have made commemorative trips through the BIG Lottery Fund's Heroes Return scheme. ...

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  16. The City and County of Swansea together with the Friends of Oystermouth Castle are looking to produce a 2013 calendar for Oystermouth Castle, that features photographs of the castle taken by the public. Oystermouth Castle They are looking for recent, as well as past photographs of the Oystermouth Castle to create a calendar that will be sold at the castle when it reopens in June, and a few outlets in the Mumbles area through the summer. Andrea Clenton, project manager for Oystermouth Castle said: "We've seen lots of stunning photos of the castle, and we're sure that visitors over the last few years will have their own memories and photographs of this magnificent structure. If you have any that you'd like to submit for possible inclusion, then we'd love to see them." Photos sent in will be added to a slideshow of images on the Oystermouth Castle website, with the very best being appearing in the calendar. If you would like your photograph of Oystermouth Castle to be considered for the calendar, email the picture to marketing@swansea.gov.uk. If your photo is chosen for inclusion in the calendar, you will receive a credit your photograph and as well as a printed version of the calendar. The competition closes at the end of April 2012. Oystermouth Castle was founded by William de Londres of Ogmore Castle early in the 12th century. The well-preserved castle stands on a small hill with a magnificent view over Swansea Bay in the resort town of Mumbles. Work began on Oystermouth Castle in the autumn of 2010 to undertake essential works to conserve the castle structure. The castle interior has a 30-foot high glass viewing platform The castle temporarily re-opened last summer complete with new visitor facilities, an educational space and a 30 foot high glass viewing platform and bridge that leads to Alina's Chapel. The completion of ongoing conservation works at the attraction will soon allow people to explore parts of the castle that have been inaccessible for generations. The majority of work was originally scheduled to be complete in 2014 but funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Visit Wales mean contractors are aiming for an end of May finish. The castle is due to re-open on the Saturday 16 June 2012 with a medieval tournament. Find our more about the competiton and events taking place at Oystermouth Castle on the City and County of Swansea website.

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  17. Aberystwyth professor Aled Gruffydd Jones looks at the history of journalism in Wales as part of the Histories of Wales series. You can listen to him present the next episode in the series on Sunday, 4.30pm on BBC Radio Wales. Journalism has been very much in the spotlight this past year. T...

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