In 2018 we had had translated the section of the Annales Cambriae (History of Wales) from the middle of the 13th Century that was scribed here at Cwmhir Abbey. We hardly noticed the Royal Commission flying by in their 4-seater Cessner aircraft during the drought taking photos which revealed parch marks of possible graves close to the Abbey. In August this year Clywed Powys Archaeological Trust did a week’s dig and showed that there were indeed about 100 graves near here just opposite the village green.
More down to earth we collected some stones that people kindly offered us. We are looking out for carved sandstone pieces that may have come from the abbey – get in touch if you have one for us to see or look after for you. The new residents of the Old Vicarage, Phil & Sue, gave us a piece of ribbing stone and we examined with great care some stones at Garden Cottage. Also, a farmer at Penybont had us look at a carved capital he found in his chimney – but unfortunately it was the wrong type of sandstone and wrong carving – but interesting to see.
We seem to have been looking high and low this year. Investigations into the type of stone used for carvings around windows, doors and capitals at the abbey have taken on a new energy thanks to Mel Walters, Tim Haines, John Davies and Jana Horrocks at the National Museum of Wales who have said they will produce and academic paper on the subject. The problem is that since Stephen Williams in 1890’s said so it has always been assumed that the facing stone or freestone (as it is called because it can be carved freely in all directions) came from Grinshill Quarry. But then Jana Horrocks did a petrology test on it and found that Grinshill Stone lacked Mica which Cwmhir stone sparkles with. The Geology team, to whom we are very grateful, have been searching the area, especially northern Shropshire, for other sources. This is real research.
We like research and were pleased when a member of the public sent us a copy of a document originating from Hereford County Archives. Committee member John Hughes has been working on it and found two new Abbots of Cwmhir who we haven’t heard of before. John in 1335 & Owen in 1494. If anyone has any old documents at home which they think might be relevant to the abbey do get in touch.
One of the disappointments of the ruins at Abbey Cwmhir is that there are few majestic carved stones still at the monument. We are going to put that right. We applied to Cadw for a grant - and we got it, nearly £5000 to enable us to do some 3D Scanning and then 3D printing or modelling of six carvings which will be displayed in the Exhibition Room next to the Abbey. One of them is the Tympanum from Home Farm that Maddy is going to talk to us about after this meeting. Thanks to Mel & Anita Hamer at Home Farm for allowing this to happen. The Scanning took place at the beginning of November and I am expecting any day the cleaned up images for us to check prior to modelling. We hope to have these in place early in the New Year.
The Abbey Cwmhir Trust produces ten publications – nine leaflets and a booklet. Not all are available today because we’ve sold out. Part of the Cadw Grant is to enable us to bring up to date and re-issue eight of our publications – in Welsh & English. Thanks to Sian for going into hospital and working on them whilst there and the Publications Committee for progressing this detailed and sometimes controversial work. When I said we have ‘sold out’ this was fake news as we actually give them away – but we have given nearly all of them away. Leaflets are a big part of what we do and they leave the exhibition room like hot cakes. All for free except to us who have to pay the printer.
Another place where leaflets get taken is at various Welsh National events such as the Eistedfodd and St Fagan’s May Fair where we are usually to be seen as well as at and the Llandrindod May Fair. This year there was a new venue the Medieval Market at Corwen, Gwyl y Ffam. We like to keep our profile high nationally.
But we keep on with our groundwork, the annual programme of lectures, field trips and walks. Our wonderful Secretary, Julian Lovell, led the Llywelyn Tour field trip and also did tours of the abbey during the ‘Drop In’ day. We are grateful to our President Dr John Davies for guiding us on a visit to one of our furthest Granges at Gwernygo and to Sian for organising the Pilgrimage as usual.
But I said we were flying high this year and we really have by commissioning Julian Ravest to fly his Drone over Abbey Cwmhir making a Photogrammetry Survey of the valley and the ruins in February. This was organised by our new committee member, the dynamite behind the ‘Explosion of 2019’, Mel Walters. (She’s been making me and Julian work so hard this year! )
The results showed many interesting features of the valley, medieval ploughing, through interpretation by Lidar which can see through trees, the boundary of the Abbey Precinct and, most importantly a building in the East End of the abbey. You will have seen for yourselves today that the Abbey seems to not have had an East End, normally the first area to be built, but the drone survey shows signs of buildings there. These results indicate a need for an archaeological dig or at least further investigation. Mel has cleverly arranged meetings and discussions and got together a Research Group which has now had two meetings and includes Prof David Austen from University of Wales Lampeter and Strata Florida and the Sacred Space Project, the Chief Archaeologist of Clywed Powys Archaeological Trust, Nigel Jones, and the Cadw Representative for our area Will Davies – and us.
But further investigation will cost money and we need to get a grant. All grants these days have to have Community involvement and so two weeks ago we held a ‘Drop In’ in this hall to attract people from the Community, including both this village and the wider community in Powys. Amazingly over one hundred people dropped in and 26 expressed an interest in being involved. We were guided by Diana Berriman, who is from Abbeycwmhir who brought her experience from working in PAVO and Mel Walters organised the whole thing. Julian also worked very hard to make it happen as did many from the village and community. Thanks to all.
Since then the Research Group has met to refine the investigation plan. At this meeting we learned that Prof David Austen’s “Sacred Space” project will give us £5000 towards the investigation as well as access to the University of Wales’ Geographical Information System allowing different maps and data sources to be layered on top of each other in revealing ways. But our main source of income we hope will be from the Heritage Lottery Fund which Mel Walters, who is the project manager for these investigations, is already pursuing. It is expected that the project will last at least three years.
I have rightly mentioned Mel Walters a number of times but I do also need to mention Mel Hamer and his wife Anita from Home Farm on whose land the Abbey ruins stand and who are always so helpful to us. Mel Hamer, who as owner of the abbey ruin has the right to anything found during escavations has given us custody of the 13th & 14th Century pottery shards found during the Graves Dig. Our thanks also go to our very vital officers, Heather the Treasure and our Secretary Julian the Jewel who deserve a tremendous thanks for all they do. Our committee members are also vital for all the help they give and their wisdom in keeping me in check.
I particularly want to thank all the people from the village and community who provide cakes and help in the kitchen. We are very proud to have your support. I believe Heritage is the foundation of Community.
And so this weekend we celebrate the life of Llywelyn ap Gruffyd and his death close to this terroir. Next we hear about the Assumption of the Virgin Mary engraved in rock over a door. The spiritual and the earthly come together. How better to live life!
Roger Coward 07.12.19
(Chair: Abbey Cwmhir Heritage Trust)
Welcome to all.
2018, a year after that, as the Brut would confuse it, Dr John Davies withdrew as a Trustee but agreed to be elected President, which I hope you will do later in this meeting. As most of you know he has had a serious road accident and may not be able to drive in the future so we shall see less of him but hope to be able to transport him north for field trips and special occasions. Sian Meredudd has continued to be at the centre of things. She is so much a part of what we do: Publications, Publicity, Walks and a vital member of the Study Group and much else. Thank you Sian.
Two volumes of John Davies’s Archives have now been checked prior to sending to Powys Archive. There are ten more volumes to add to them waiting at his house.
Our new Honorary Secretary Julian Lovell, has been stalwart in looking after the membership, writing the minutes, making a major contribution to the Pilgrimage, the Publications sub-committee and applying for Grants for us as well as doing all those unnoticed jobs that secretaries do, including keeping the Chairman in order.
Our new find and Treasure is Heather Davies who has become our new Honorary Treasurer. What a fantastic job she has been doing for most of the year. Heather is also a whiz on the computer and has been helping with the Welsh Web Site and is a keen member of the Study Group.
We are very grateful to our committee especially Rosemary, who also helps with Publicity distribution and is an especially knowledgeable member of the Study Group. Sheila Ward, our Deputy Chair, has come when she has been able to and we always appreciate the wise words of Dr John Hughes; Josie Jones will come when she is free from medical appointments. We thank you all for helping the Abbey Trust project along and hope you will be willing to be re-elected.
Katherine Hutton has withdrawn because of other important commitments and Sybul Davies and Aida Birch from South Wales have also withdrawn for health and travel reasons. Thank you for all you did for us.
In 2018 we had much same programme as recent years with John Davies leading the Annual Outing and the Study Group Field Trip to Whitland Abbey and the Hywel Dda Centre. The Study Group had its eighteenth meeting in November (no mean achievement) and is scheduled to continue into next year when we shall be having a detailed look at the issue of Who Built Cwmhir Abbey? Although numbers have been small I feel the quality of discussion and contributions from all members has improved a great deal and is now really satisfactory. From January 2019 Roger will not be doing all the preliminary research which will need to be shared around the group, although he will remain as organising chairman.
An addition to the Trust programme was an excellent talk at the end of March to the Study Group by Dr David Stephenson on Making History: How Historians interpret the evidence aimed at helping the group to understand the many difficult processes the medieval historian has to work through. Again this year the Study Group has also had its own Field Trip – maybe in 2019 we will go to Grinshill Quarry? Next year The Trust will have an additional Spring talk by Philip Hume, Secretary of the Mortimer Society, on The 200 year struggle for control of Maelienydd; Later Professor David Austen will speak on The Strata Florida Project and observations on Abbey Cwmhir and in December Professor Maddy Grey will speak on The Cwmhir Tympanum and the cult of the Virgin Mary in Wales.
We are being more active.
With this level of speaker we seriously need to honour them with a large audience! One reflection I would like us all to have is why we get such small audiences and so few attending the Study Group? In this past year our advertising has been immaculate: an announcement at every U3A general meeting; up to date notices in every edition of all Church Magazines; occasional newspaper articles of relevance; posters and leaflets around the whole area; a web site and a Facebook page but still we are getting low numbers at talks? Penybont History Society has an audience of about 30 I am told and the U3A and Radnorshire Society can reach one hundred. We are lucky if we get fifteen. Let’s discuss this? One reason might be that we are serious about history, try to get it right and like professors! One of the Study Group thinks I choose too difficult papers. But I don’t choose them because they are difficult but because they are the most relevant, up to date, or most interesting. Please think about this issue of attendance and constituency and speak (or email me) your conclusions? Perhaps we are for the very few?! An elite group? I have been invited to speak to two of these groups in the near future so I shall investigate.
Recognising a possible need for us to use every advertising means possible the Trustees agreed to pay the modest fee for me to attend a PAVO (Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations) course on Social Media. It was very interesting and potentially useful to find out about the algorythmically calculated world and how to avoid becoming click bait. However to do Facebook properly requires a great deal of time which I don’t have. So we are looking for a Social Media Practitioner in case you know anyone who might be interested? It could be a physically disabled person who might welcome some social contact. I have put out various feelers and a PAVO consultant is helping us. But please try to think of someone you know.
Several of us attended two free PAVO events which were stimulating – one was their AGM at which we had a display table. In May we also had a display at the Llandrindod May Fair and at St Fagans near Cardiff. At the time of the Cardiff National Eisteddfod John Davies was in hospital and so it is thanks to Sian that we had a lively display there too.
Our paid-up membership is 46 people – precious people we have been looking after with two Membership mailings a year as well as emailings ahead of every event. There is also a friends email list.
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. Numbers were not at peak levels but were nevertheless good. The walks are where we earn the most to pay for things like publications. As walking is very popular at the moment it has been suggested we run a third walk, perhaps in the Spring, with fund raising very much in mind.
This year the number of visitors going to the Abbey ruins has increased - even in October two couples a day were the average visitors. I think our publicity work can claim some of the credit for this. Every time I went to the Exhibition Room during the summer the file of CPAT drawings of the standing stonework has been removed from its holder and left on the table suggesting people are looking at it. Our initiative of arranging the file has been worthwhile.
The Exhibition Room at the Abbey has had a coat of paint thanks to the Hamer family and CADW. This nicely sets off our new oak notice Board and our new leaflet displays containing this year’s Publications Sub-Committee work: a new edit and design for the History of the Abbey at Abbey Cwmhir including a Welsh version, a new Abbey Heritage Trust Membership Leaflet in English & Welsh - and a new one: A Quick Guide to the Abbey of Cwmhir. This has been very popular and the display stand has had to be re-filled frequently. That is five fresh publications in the past year. Our presence beside the Abbey is strong and happy.
But there are another five publications we would like to re-print: The Stones Tour and The Llywelyn Tour in both English & Welsh and Accident or Assassination – documents relating to the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffyd. That’s another five – but we haven’t got the money. In order to pay for the first five we had to dip into our Deposit Account. Having done so we ruled that we wouldn’t do it again except for a major project.
We set up a Finance Sub Committee who reduced the cost of Publicity a little bit and set about applying for grants. Julian undertook the massive task of applying to the County Times Gannet Foundation and the Laura Ashley Foundation. We await answers. There are a number of small local Trusts we could apply to as well including The Lions. This blip in our finances has brought to an end the growth curve we had embarked upon – hopefully for the time being.
But it hasn’t actually stopped us even though another project has had to be postponed. Clywed Powys Archaeological Trust were prepared to provide a small Community Grant for us to photograph and catalogue the Abbey stones stored at The Hall. Unfortunately negotiations with the Humpherstons didn’t get off the ground so the project has been put on hold until we find a way through – or The Hall changes hands.
The other project to create 3D prints of these stones has also been postponed but could be diverted to re-create the Tympanum from Home farm, various other stones in the district and perhaps some capitals from Llanidloes Church. The grants that we applied for were designed to include the cost of this project.
But we are still taking to the skies! A new member of the Study Group, Mel Walters from the outskirts of Abbeycwmhir, also attended the Radnorshire Society lecture on Archaeology by Drone and spoke to the speaker Julian Ravest afterwards asking him to do a project at Abbeycwmhir - to which he agreed. We have asked him to search the Long Valley from Cwmhir Cottages to Cuckoo Bridge for signs of a previous 12thC Abbey and also to focus on the area where there might have been a choir at the East end as well as the Claustral Buildings area in general. This will happen this winter. He works in conjunction with CPAT (Clywed Powys Archaeological Trust). Thanks to Mel Walters for arranging this.
Our involvement with PAVO (who we have joined) means we also picked up some terminology. One such is the recommendation that organisations like ours should become outcome focused. This means caring most about the what, not the how. Outcome-focused teams value results over everything else. But then we have to be clear about what we are trying to achieve! The education of the people of Radnorshire in the History of the Abbey of Cwmhir is a difficult outcome to check!
I was also thinking of copying PAVO’s Annual Report title for the title of this report. This was The Impact Report but I think we have some improvements to make before we can claim that title!
(Chair: Abbey Cwmhir Heritage Trust).
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.