Monthly Archives: November 2011

Made by Hand at Tredegar House

This weekend sees the second visit to Tredegar House by the Made By Hand craft fair. The House will play host to many stalls of exhibitors, while the majority will be in the huge marquee erected outside the Seventeenth Century entrance. Last year’s event seems to have proved to be very successful indeed. The dates are 2 – 4 December and full details of prices and events can be found here .

The Servants Hall will be hosting a number of events with free workshops and demonstrations. On Friday, for example, there will be a pottery Masterclass with Morgen Hall and later chances to learn how to make a felt purse and textile flower brooches. Saturday’s workshops involve embroidery and beadwork, while Sunday involves dying and painting bunting and flags.

Unfortunately, however, there won’t be many opportunities to see the House’s magnificent interiors. The stalls set up in the Side Hall, Dining Room, New Hall and Brown Room mean that much of the Seventeenth Century panelling will be hidden and for conservation and security reasons most of the paintings and objects d’art have been put in storage. The good news is that Christmas doesn’t end with Made by Hand. Come back to the House and see the best rooms decorated for the Season and staff and volunteers dressed in a variety of fancy dress costumes. I, for reasons best known to others, will be dressed as Sleeping Beauty’s father. Don’t ask.


Tŷ Tredegar, Plas Tredegar or Plas Tredegyr?

What is the  Welsh name for Tredegar House? A couple of years ago I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to devise and conduct the first public tour of Tredegar House in Welsh. Afterwards there was some informal discussion and some of the visitors asked about the origins of the name of the building.

The current Welsh name for Tredegar House is Ty Tredegar. However, I cannot help feeling that the Welsh (House) does not give the place the gravitas it deserves; it does not reflect the splendour of the building and its associated history. Tŷ Tredegar seems to have become the preferred choice in later years and has probably arisen as a translation of its English name back into Welsh.  There is also confusion as to whether the correct name of the Estate is Tredegar or Tredegyr.

Plas may be more suitable. Plas is not an unusual description for a mansion house of the proportions and grandeur of Tredegar. At nearby Lower Machen is another old ancestral home of the Morgan family; Plas Machen.  Plas is a well used term in other parts of Wales too. National Trust properties include Plas Dinefwr, Plas Newydd and Plas-yn-Rhiw. Others include Plas Llanmihangel, Plas Mawr, Plas Brondanw, Plas Dulas and so forth. Translated from Welsh into English Plas becomes a castle, manor, palace, mansion or house.

The on-line Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru (University of Wales Dictionary) gives the meaning of Plas as: “palace, mansion, country house, manor-house, hall, court …..

These terms would seem to be quite suitable descriptions for the multi-period building at Tredegar. However, the very name of the estate and building is also uncertain. Should it be Tredegar or Tredegyr?

Most of the secondary sources I have looked at (I have listed some below) agree that the original name of the Tredegar Estate was Tredegyr. Osborne & Hobbs, as well as Richard Morgan, accept the explanation by Richards that Tegyr was a personal name and that his Tre (estate / homestead / demesne) was on this site from at least the Thirteenth Century onwards. Tegyr was probably derived from a Sixth Century name, Tecorix. A copy of a Fifteenth Century poem by Gwilym Tew in the possession of Octavius Morgan praises “Sion ap Morgan o Dredegyr”.

However, the collection of poems composed by Dafydd Benwyn in the Sixteenth Century and transcribed by J. Kyrle Fletcher tends to use the form Tredegar. In the Nineteenth Century Eiddil Gwent (David Morris) used Tredegar for the Estate and for the new town to the north. However, he differentiated between the two with the addition of Fawr (Tredegar Fawr means Great Tredegar).

Interestingly, there have been recent examples of Tredegyr being used to differentiate the Estate from the town at the Heads of the Valleys. Professor Hywel Wyn Owen’s paper to the Association of Welsh Translators and Interpreters in 2002 said:

Tredegar or Tredegyr: The mansion is called Plas Tredegyr after the descendants of a man called Tegyr, but Tredegar is the colliery which was opened by the family and the surrounding village”.

While the Professor is not correct about the origins of the town, he is not the only one to use the two names to differentiate between Estate and town. Dr John Davies, in his opus magnus, Hanes Cymru: a history of Wales in Welsh, does so too, and continues with this in his later works such as his guide to a hundred places to see in Wales before you die.

Whilst much more likely to have been Plas Tredegyr originally, it would probably be much more convenient (and a bit cheaper on bilingual signs) these days to have the standardised Plas Tredegar for the House.

Short Bibliography:

Davies, J. (2009)    Cymru: Y 100 lle i’w gweld cyn marw.  Y Lolfa: Talybont

Morgan, R.  (2005)    The Place-names of Gwent. Llanrwst: Carreg Gwalch

Richards, M. (1998)    Enwau Tir a Gwlad.  Caernarfon: Gwasg Gwynedd

Osborne, G.        The Place-Names of Western Gwent.  Newport: Starling
& Hobbs, G. (1992)

Davies, J.  (1990)    Hanes Cymru.  London: Penguin

D. R. T. (1884)    Sir John Morgan of Tredegar, Kt. Archaeologia Cambrensis
V. 1. 1 pp. 35 – 45

Morris, D (1868)    Hanes Tredegar.  Tredegar: Cymdeithas y Cymrodorion

An Anniversary Passes Unnoticed

Not my own anniversary. Yesterday my wife and I marked our nineteenth wedding anniversary with a very enjoyable lunch. It reminded me, though, that at Tredegar Park we had forgotten to mark a rather important anniversary concerning  the history of the House.

Three hundred and fifty years ago on the 4th of November 1661, William Morgan of Tredegar Park married his first cousin, Blanche Morgan of Y Dderw in Breconshire. The house at Tredegar Park then was not the one we see today. Only one wing remains of the house that became the home of Blanche Morgan.  Blanche’s father, yet another William Morgan, had been the King’s Attorney for South Wales and owned considerable lands in Breconshire. After the deaths of her brother and father, Blanche  inherited the Breconshire estates which, following the marriage, became the property of her husband. I can’t help thinking that this fortune helped to pay for a new house at Tredegar – the building we see today. Perhaps Blanche had insisted on having a grand new house.

Sadly, Blanche didn’t get to enjoy her new home. She died in 1673. Tredegar House seems to have been completed in around the same time.  There is epigraphic evidence to support this in the form of a painted glass sun-dial bearing the date 1672 and a door on which is carved “Roger Lewis, Butler 1674”.

Out of Season at Tredegar House

The ‘Season’ at Tredegar House came to an end on the thirtieth of September. Officially. However, we continued with weekend tours (five per day) throughout October, then there were several private group tours, weddings took place in the New Hall, schools came in for Victorian workshops and the month was rounded off with three and a half thousand visitors crossing the threshold (Victorian) for the Halloween event.

The House isn’t opened every day now. It is darker indoors and, as the days get shorter and the weather wetter, gloomier. In a way, that makes it more of an event when we do open up the House for various visitors. November is having its moments too. The BBC came and dressed the Gilt Room to look a little 1930s, they built a mock trench in the stable courtyard and under-dressed a servants’ attic room (remnants of original paper show they would have been bright and cheery) before disappearing with it all just before a wedding ceremony was due to take place.

Last week we had several visits from the National Trust hierarchy. Things seem to have picked up steam again concerning the transfer of Tredegar House to the National Trust. We even had the new Director of National Trust Wales, Justin Albert, down for a brief look around.

Chatting informally to a couple of us in the Office, Justin Albert said that he hoped to increase community involvement in the place and that the more popular events that we hold would continue. Hopefully, that will include the Spooky Tales tours. Most of them have sold out for November and last night (the eleventh) the thirty visitors escorted around by Paul Busby were treated to a selection of stories wild, weird and a little bit worrying.

In other words, the ‘Season’ never really ends at Tredegar House, it just gets a bit different.

An Unofficial Tredegar House Blog.

Welcome to this Tredegar House blog.  Although I work at Tredegar House – this  blog is completely unofficial. All the views expressed here are my own and don’t necessarily reflect those of the National Trust who manage the property. Although I like to think we share many views and values.

The National Trust’s involvement is really what has made me start this blog as there will be some big changes on the way before long. The next few months should prove to be very interesting for the staff and visitors at the House, the local community and Newport as a whole.

If you haven’t heard about Tredegar House before, that could soon change. It is a multi-period historic house on the western periphery of Newport in South Wales. There is one wing of a Tudor period house still standing. This was the home of Sion ap Morgan, also known as John Morgan. In 1485 he accompanied Henry Tudor to Bosworth Field and after defeating Richard III, the Morgans of Tredegar started to become part of the Establishment. In the Seventeenth Century, the House was changed quite substantially. Parts of the old House were demolished to make way for a brand new Tredegar House. The two new wings on the North east and Northwest sides of the House represent one of the grandest and most elaborate mansions of the Restoration Period.

In the Nineteenth Century, the family were finally elevated to the peerage, although there were only ever six Lords Tredegar. In 1962, the last Lord Tredegar died childless. The Estate had withered away due to family recklessness, mismanagement and death duties. The House had been sold in 1951 to the Sisters of St Joseph. They used it as a secondary school; a private  convent school to begin with, but latterly part of the Comprehensive system. St Joseph’s High School outgrew Tredegar House and they moved to a purpose built establishment on the site of the kitchen gardens. In 1974 the Sisters sold the House to Newport Council.

Some Newport councillors failed to see the significance of Tredegar House, but luckily their calls to bulldoze the place or turn it into a conference / leisure centre were ignored and work began on restoring this great house.

The people of Newport have invested heavily in this building and the ninety acres of parkland that came with it. There were mistakes made and some stories of renovation would make a conservator’s toes curl. On the whole, however, the work done at the House over the past four decades has been very positive. I am sure the National Trust will continue the good work.