Sunday, August 28, 2005

Llewelyn ap Ifor and Angharad (2)

On the death of her father, Sir Morgan ap Maredudd in c1332, Angharad, his only daughter, inherited Tredegar and his other estates. An account of Angharad's great beauty has been passed down through history (she was celebrated as being the mother of Ifor Hael). As a great heiress, a marriage with her should have been seen as very desirable, it is therefore slightly surprising that, aged around 32, she was still unmarried on her father's death. It is very tempting to ponder the reasons for this. After all, as Thomas Wakeman, the Victorian antiquarian pointed out "at a time of day when young ladies of any expectations were married when about 13 or 14 it may excite our curiosity". Was her father, Morgan the Rebel, an obstacle in her path to marriage? There is no evidence either way, but speculation is always fun.

When she DID marry (c1333), it was a very advantageous match. Her husband was Llewelyn ap Ifor, lord of Sancler (St Clears) and Gwynfe, in Carmarthenshire. He was a descendant of Cadifor Fawr, lord of Cilsant, who lived in Dyfed, and died in 1089. Cadifor Fawr's third son, Bledri, received land from the Normans in Gwent. Thus, two ancient Welsh families, with links back to Hywel Dda, and the Welsh princes, were joined. It is likely that Llewelyn moved to Tredegar and it was from this marriage that the main line of the Morgans of Tredegar stemmed; a family that were to become dominant in south-east Wales.

The children from this marriage included:

Morgan ap Llewelyn - born c1334, the heir to Tredegar.

Ifor Hael - born c1336, a name that lives on thanks to the bardic tradition. He lived at Gwern-y-Cleppa (near what is now Cleppa Park).

Philip - born c1338, who lived at St Pierre. It was from his line that the Lewis family of St Pierre descended.

It must have been shortly after the birth of their third son (Philip of St Pierre) that Llewelyn ap Ifor died. Angharad, who obviously had overcome her reluctance to matrimony, re-married as soon as decency allowed, and, according to some accounts, may even have married a third time. Tredegar passed to the eldest son, Morgan ap Llewelyn, but it was the events at Gwern-y-Cleppa, home of the second son, Ifor Hael, that capture the imagination....

Newport Civic Society

Newport Civic Society have recently launched a web-site (the link for which can be found on the right of this page). To quote from their homepage:

"The Newport Civic Society exists to promote and preserve and the environment, buildings, and architecture of the City of Newport and it environs, as well as to represent the Community's voice in planning our Civic future.
We are inspired by the past, present and future of Newport, in its natural history, its buildings, its people, culture, geography - its success as well as its failings. Only by being involved can we make a difference."

The site is well worth a visit for all Newportonians. Forums have just been set up to generate debate on Newport. An interesting poll has been set up there: Should Newport City Council Sell Tredegar House? Gad sir! A little startling perhaps; of course, I have added my not-so-humble opinions, and have written a bit about the history of the National Trust's advances towards Tredegar.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Edney Gates To Be Gilded

The wonderful 18th century 'Edney Gates' at Tredegar House are currently in the process of being gilded. They were made between 1714-1718 for John Morgan of Tredegar (whose monogram can be found at the top of the gates entwined with that of his wife, Martha's) by the brothers William and Simon Edney, who were the finest gatesmiths operating out of the west country in the early 18th century. (William Edney's work also survives in the church of St Mary Redcliffe, in Bristol).

Photographs of the newly-gilded gates will appear here on completion of the project.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Sir Morgan ap Maredudd (1)

To begin at the very beginning is perhaps impossible. It is not really known when the antecedents of the Morgan family began living at Tredegar. Their family tree is colourful and spectacular in places, but as to how accurate it is we can only speculate. A popular claim in the Victorian era was that the Morgans were descended from leaders of the Silures tribe who fought against the Romans in south-east Wales. This, you would think, would be impressive enough, but not so; some imaginative scribes were content to point to Caractacus as a Morgan ancestor, others preferred to squabble over whether the Morgans were descended from the second or the third son of Noah! (My money is on Ham, the second son, personally...)

Let's begin with somebody who was undeniably 'lord of Tredegar'. Morgan ap Maredudd, sometimes referred to as Morgan the Rebel, who, according to Dr John Gwynfor Jones, "lived at Tredegar in the early decades of the fourteenth century".

Morgan was a descendant of Rhys ap Tewdwr (Tudor), King of Deheubarth, who died in 1093 in Breconshire, and of the old lords of Caerleon (it was with this connection in mind, and playing on the Caerleon as Camelot legend, that the occultist Aleister Crowley made the claim that the last Viscount Tredegar had the right to "bear Excalibur"!).

Morgan and his ancestors were caught up in the continual struggle between the native Welsh rulers and the Norman lords whose intrusions caused continual tension. In an unstable and potentially combustable atmosphere, a fine line needed to be walked. Morgan's father, Maredudd, was the last native lord of Caerleon; he had been deprived of his lands by Gilbert de Clare (who built Caerphilly Castle) in 1270, and this wound was not forgotten by Maredudd's son. (Some have claimed that it was Morgan himself who was dispossessed by de Clare, but Octavius Morgan, the antiquarian brother of the 1st Lord Tredegar believed it to be Morgan's father Maredudd)

In 1294 the Welsh, led by Madog ap Llywelyn, broke into revolt against the English. In Glamorgan and Gwent the uprising was led by Morgan. The English forces, led by the Earl of Gloucester, had very little success against Morgan's rebels; in the uprising half the town of Caerphilly was destroyed and Morlais Castle (in Merthyr) was taken by the rebels. This triumph did not last, however, and in June 1295 with defeat looming, Morgan made it clear that his rebellion was not against Edward I, but against the de Clares, the lords of Glamorgan; giving himself up to the king he obtained the royal clemency.

This is the first indication of the Morgans thinking locally rather than nationally. Their grievance was not against Edward I, as such, but against forces that threatened their interests at home.

Morgan later served the king as a squire of the household in Flanders, thus, presumably, his redemption was complete.

Just the Facts:
Name: Morgan ap Maredudd (Meredith)
Died: c1331
Children: Only one child, a daughter, Angharad
On Throne when owning Tredegar: Edward I, Edward II, Edward III

Monday, August 08, 2005

History of the Morgans of Tredegar

On Thursday (August 11) I will be starting a 'History of the Morgans of Tredegar'. It is rather ambitious, but I intend to rattle through the centuries by featuring each Morgan known to have owned Tredegar, or lived there. The way this blog works is that every post gets registered as a single web page in search engines. So, therefore, by the end of the series, every Morgan who owned Tredegar, will have their own web-page, where comments can be left, and questions asked about their life.

The first Morgan featured will be Morgan ap Meredudd (Meredith) who owned Tredegar in the early decades of the 14th century. Hopefully, the series will end with John Morgan, 6th Baron Tredegar, who died childless in 1962.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Life of a Tour Guide

Tour guiding can be stressful. What will await you when you open that front door? Will there be one person gazing up at you, or a horde of thirty or forty? As a grizzled old veteran of a guide, I sometimes smile patiently when newer guides tell me of their woes. For I still carry the scars of tours past. At night I sometimes awake in a cold sweat, terrified by images of monocles, and swearing blind, that I can hear, like a haunting melody, the strains of Noel Coward singing 'Poor Little Rich Girl'.

Surely a guide that has had to dress up in spats, bow-tie and blazer, with a boater perched precariously on the side of his head, and was forced (some like to use the word 'employed', I prefer 'forced') to conduct tours of costumes from the BBC series 'The House of Eliot' and of original 1920s dresses, without having the first idea about dresses, deserves to have the respect, nay, affection, of his peers. That was the waif-like me in 1998, when the 'Sparkling Twenties' came to Tredegar House. The tours were quite popular. Personally I became convinced that most attended the House simply to laugh at me in spats, but, I suppose, a few were interested in the remarkable dresses on display.

A year later, the costumes from the BBC series 'The Aristocrats' were put on display at the House. I was greatly relieved that the guides did not have to dress in costume for these tours. I think that kitted out in whale-bone stays and corsets (that as far as I could make out, were designed to torture the wearer), guides would have lost consciousness by the end of the day. We were very unlucky with these tours. Due to a mix-up, when the costumes were at Tredegar House, the BBC hadn't shown the programme on TV; it had been delayed. So, aside from the fans of Stella Tillyard's book, most people had never heard of 'The Aristocrats', and the tours, consequently, were quite quiet. By the end of them, though, I had learnt far more about 18th century dresses than I ever thought possible.

On the subject of tours, and the travails of guides, Alan, who has been guiding at Tredegar House since 1999 (and before that, at Haddon Hall in Derbyshire) swears blind that a couple of weeks ago, a visitor to the House asked him, in all sincerity, why the Morgans built their ancestral home so close to the motorway!

Tredegar House is open for tours, Wednesday-Sunday, until the end of September

Tours are at the following times:
11.30 am, 12.30 noon, 1.30 pm, 2.30 pm, 3.30 pm & 4 pm

Adult £5.40
Concession £3.95
Resident Rate Adult £2.65
Resident Rate Concession £2.10
Children go FREE!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Next Event: St. Mellons Show (10 August)

The 132nd St. Mellons Agricultural Show will take place in the grounds of Tredegar House on Wednesday August 10, from 8:30am till 6:00pm.

The show will include: Cattle and Sheep, Pigs and Goats, Horses and Ponies, Showjumping, Farriery, Dogs and Rabbits, Caged Birds, Vintage Tractors, Trade Stands, Craft Tent, Rural Crafts and Past Times, Children's Competitions, Children's Amusements, and Main Ring Attractions. Prices: Adults £6 Children £4 OAP £4. Car Parking is free.

The setting is very fitting, as for many centuries Tredegar was primarily an agricultural estate. Perhaps the figure who was best known to the local farming community was Sir Charles Morgan (1760-1846) who was called 'The Farmer's Friend'. He had a passion for agriculture, paid for Newport's Cattle Market in 1844, and was instrumental in the introduction of short-horned cattle into Monmouthshire. There is a painting at Tredegar House (in the Morning Room) showing Sir Charles presenting a short-horn bull to King William IV in front of Windsor Castle.