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 Tŷ (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.
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