We’ve begun the (huge) work of transcribing and uploading the material pertaining to place names from Edward Lhuyd’s Parochialia. Whilst he was keeper of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, Lhuyd sent questionnaires to every parish in Wales asking for all sorts of different types of interesting information, including the names of houses, rivers, mountains, woods and so on. He didn’t recieve an anwer from everybody, and we know that he received some responses which haven’t survived, but those which remain are a treasure house of historical and lost forms.
So far, data from four parishes has been uploaded, Llanelltud, Tal y Bont, Ysbyty Ifan and Llanrwst. Although this only represents four comparatively small areas, such is the richness of the data that over two hundred and fifty names have been collected already. Some correspondents wrote to Lhuyd including information about the owners of the houses, or about artifacts found in the fields, and as a result the data is useful to historians and genealogists, as well as to place name enthusiasts. We hope to be able to upload more parishes soon, so watch this space!
The next of our historical sources is now live on the website! Over the course of last week, we completed the work of preparing the data which was collected from MS Peniarth 147 in order to include them in the list. Almost a thousand historical forms of Welsh parish names have been uploaded from this important manuscript, dated c.1570, which was collected by William Dafydd Llywelyn of Llangynidr.
The list includes forms which show the influence of the Welsh dialect of Breconshire, and fascinating Welsh language forms of parish and village names from South Pembrokeshire and Gower. The above map shows the distribution of these names across Wales.
On Thursday evening, 21st of September, James addressed the Llandinam History Society on the topic of ‘Collecting Welsh Place Names’. He spoke about the Place Names List, including the linguistic, historical and political background which gave rise to it. He also explained the various sources used for the list, and the different types of data that using these gives us. As well as this, he spoke about our plans for the near future: which other sources we will be adding to the List, and how the public can help us realise our vision.
James ended by appealing to the members of the Society to share their place names with us, be they farm names, house names, stream names or anything else. The hope is that this will ensure that the people of Wales themselves play a foremost role in the creation of the List. We had a very lively discussion after the presentation, with many very good questions and would like to thank the Llandinam Historical Society for inviting us to address them. This was the first in a series of talks James will be giving all across Wales to raise awareness of the List and its relevance and importance to contemporary Wales. If you are a member of a similar society and would like James to give a talk to you, please don’t hesitate to contact us!
A new Place Names Officer was appointed at the Royal Commission at the start of July, who will be responsible for compiling the List and promoting it to the public in Wales and beyond. Our new colleague is Dr James January-McCann, who came to us from the Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies at Aberystwyth University, where he spent two years as a lecturer in Celtic Languages after gaining his doctorate in Sixteenth Century Welsh Catholic literature.
James said ‘I am excited to come and work for the Commission, and about all of the possibilities for the List of Historic Place Names. It will be an incomparable aid in safeguarding our history and national heritage.'
Our next immediate plans for the List are to finish uploading the Cynefin data, approximately 100,000 other names, and then move on to including other sources, such as the List of Welsh Parishes, c.1566, and Edward Lhuwyd’s Parochialia questionnaires. As well as this, we will be speaking at a number of public events, such as the Royal Welsh Show and the National Eisteddfod, and at various academic conferences, in order to give the project as much publicity as possible.
On Tuesday the second of July, a team of us, along with Bill Zajac of Cadw went down to Llandrindod Wells to address a conference of Street Naming and Numbering officers from thirteen of Wales’ councils. The purpose of our presentation was to show them how useful the List of Historic Place Names could be in their work, and to persuade them to make use of it. We received a very favourable response, and so far, six unitary authorities from across Wales have asked to use our data. Our hope is to increase that number, and to be able to give the same presentation to those councils not present on the day, so that the List becomes a useful and practical tool for defending our historic place names.