Welcome to all.
2017 was the first year in recent times in which the Trust operated without Dr John Davies as Chairman or Sian Meredudd as Secretary. Fortunately they were both still very much with us throughout the year. We thanked them for their thirty years of determined and sacrificial service to the Trust earlier in the year and we thank them again today. (Clapping)
In some ways 2017 was very much like the old days in that we kept to the same programme as recent years with John Davies leading the Annual Outing and the Study Group Field Trip to Cwmhir Abbey and Sian being as busy as ever if not busier.
Albert Ward was the Treasurer again, John Hughes was Minutes Secretary for most of the year and Sheila Ward, José Jones, Aida Birch and Sybul Davies served on the Committee. Many thanks to them all.
Julian Lovell from Abbeycwmhir has recently joined the Committee to become Secretary – we welcome him very warmly.
Our paid up membership is 38 people – precious people we need to look after and get them to renew their subscriptions at the appropriate time. We also need to think very carefully about who we are appealing to. Who are in our constituency? One group who seem more involved this year are the village of Abbeycwmhir.
As to our programme, the Annual Pilgrimage and Christmas Cracker walks were held as usual and were successful. Thanks go to Sian for organising these and to everyone for helping with the all important stewarding. Unfortunately numbers were down a little this year despite Sian having found and organised a web payment scheme called Scientries which was used by fifteen walkers (of the total of 35) This was available through our web site too.
The main new initiative was the Abbey of Cwmhir Study Group which meets monthly at Celf O Gwmpas. At the first meeting we had thirteen people including six from Abbeycwmhir. Alas, numbers didn’t keep up to that level as most of the village people found the format a bit too rigorous. Indeed it is rigorous. Each month we read a peer reviewed academic paper, or more recently, a chapter from a book. At the next meeting one of the group takes a turn to summarises it and start the discussion and then someone else makes a summary of the discussion which, after editing, forms the History page on the web site. This is a large amount of work and inevitably this last stage is running behind. There has been a core group of five members which has recently increased to seven (excluding myself) with others popping in from time to time. This group includes Sian who has been a great boon to the group with her great knowledge of the abbey and her willingness to do the final summaries. Thank you Sian.
The Study Group afternoons always feel they have been successful although until recently some members hardly made a contribution at all. This did change at last week’s meeting where there was the most inter-action we have had. I suspect up until recently it has been Sian & I who have had the most fun. Now Julian has been able to come more regularly and another member, Rosemary, has agreed to come on to the committee. So The Study Group is bearing fruit beyond its stated aims.
During the year we have increased our presence at Abbeycwmhir. We have tidied and improved the Exhibition Room by adding another table for our leaflets and put up notices in Welsh & English guiding people to the Tympanum and Hall Stones. The stone returned from Australia is also on display. Six Abbey capital heads from The Hall could be reproduced by 3D scanning and printing and would be within our budget if we want to commit to it. But further research is needed to make sure we get a fine enough and truly suitable product. Our presence there will be increased further when the new notice board which Albert has had made is installed. CPAT have sent a new set of drawings of the ruins and permission to use them in the Exhibition Room These have been laminated and are now ready to install. John Davies’s Tour of the Abbey Powerpoint Presentation has been edited into a leaflet by Roger. He also met and obtained the agreement of the CADW Representative and Mel Hamer in connection with these activities. Thanks to them.
Sian Rees, the previous CADW Representative and now Chairman of the Trust of CPAT, has suggested that a Catalogue of the stones at The Hall be made and Nigel Jones, the Chief Archaeologist there, has put it down for a grant request for next year. It is likely to have to be a Community Project which means we and the village will have to do it - with help and guidance from Clywed Powys. Sounds good to me if we want to take it up?
In the Abbeycwmhir Parish Church we were instrumental in getting the light working which illuminates the beautiful Mabli tomb cover from the abbey – thanks to Julian. We hope to provide a display panel explaining the inscription before long.
At the All Wales level we had our usual display at St Ffagans this year but were not able to attend the National Eisteddfod.
Our web site is better organised and now has a History section with material from the Study Group, a short History of the Trust and a Talks Tab as well as a News tab. The number of visitors to the site has quintupled in 2017 from 179 last January to 943 this January. It peaked in November with 1033 visitors. The Hits also peaked then at 4289.
Since the 10th January we have a Facebook Page and an Administrator from the village of Abbeycwmhir, Ellen Wozencraft. A 27 year old young lady who said she would come on the committee if it held its meetings in the evenings. In its first week we reached 160 people although only 77 in the second week. But “likes” went up from 35 to 36. Please become a friend and like us!
I have placed a link to our web site on the Wikipaedia page for Abbeycwmhir but the Google search result is still dominated by The Hall.
Around the local towns we had new brighter posters and leaflets displayed. Thanks to Sian and Julian for distributing them. How we want to present ourselves to the public – our public image – does need to be given attention. Just as Romanesque architecture mutated into Gothic – and later Perpendicular so the 1980’s when the Trust was founded – mutated into the 1990’s and 2000’s. What is considered tasteful and contemporary seems to mysteriously mutate over the years and be difficult to catch.
We have increased our presence in the local community by having a stall at the Llandrindod Wells May Fair and through the Radnorshire Society, U3A, the local press and Church Magazines. The Radnorshire Society distributed 315 of our leaflets in its Annual Mailing. Thanks to them. Every month the Chairman of U3A announced the Study Group and any event we have coming up at their very well attended talks at the Metropole. Thanks to them.
Albert, Sian and Roger had their photographs in local newspapers advertising our activities and the Abbey. And there were other articles. The stone returned from Australia received a lot of coverage. We now have a Press Book. It is not difficult to get stories into the local press – we just have to write them, perhaps provide photos and send them in. Perhaps we should become a writing and photographing group?
We also did well in Church magazines starting with our local Abbeycwmhir Ithon Trumpet
where we’ve had a mention or an advert in every edition. By the summer adverts were appearing in the five bi-monthly church magazines of Builth, Llandrindod Wells, Rhayader, Llanidloes and Abbeywmhir.
In time for the September Founder Cadwallon Lecture by Dr Hilary Knight, besides the adverts there were also short articles in three church magazines. But we still only had an audience of fifteen people. John Davies thought that was good but considering the amount of work that went into it - was it really?
But are we looking for bums on seats? To some extent we are. But all those people who said they were coming but didn’t, all those people who saw a poster, all those people who heard an announcement at U3A, and all those people who saw a newspaper article or something in the Church Magazine were made aware of The Abbeycwmhir Heritage Trust and its aims, in the words of the Constitution: to improve protect and preserve for the benefit of the public the remains of the Old Cistercian Abbey and to advance the education of the public in it’s history.