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Friday, 27 June 2014

28 June 1914 - The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

Saturday 28 June is a very significant date for the commemoration of the First World War. It will be 100 years to the day since the assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his Czech wife Sophie Chotek, Duchess of Hohenberg.

During that morning a young Serbian militant Nedeljko Cabrinovic, had thrown a small rudimentary explosive device at the royal motorcade. The bomb bounced off the intended target of the limousine carrying the Archduke, and exploded underneath the following car, inflicting only minor injuries to the occupants. Four other members of the gang lost their nerve, and melted into the crowd. They were all members of “Unity of Death”, a secret society that had connections at a high level within the government. Many knew the movement by the more colourful name of “The Black Hand”. The security team responsible for the protection of the Archduke were stranded at the railway station, but protocol demanded the tour should continue. At the next scheduled stop a very shaken Archduke commented “I come here as your guest and you people greet me with bombs”.

They were advised to cut short their schedule, but the couple insisted on a short detour to the hospital to visit those that had been injured during the earlier incident, but nobody told the driver of their limousine. When the car turned into Franz Joseph Street, one of the entourage, Oskar Potiorek instructed the driver to get back on to the intended route. The limousine, a Graf & Stift Double Phaeton, had no reverse gear, so the chauffeur got out and started to push the car backwards. By pure chance, standing only 5 feet away was another member of the Black Hand, Serbian revolutionary Gravilo Pricip. He seized the opportunity and tried to detonate a small bomb, without success. So he pulled out his FN Model 1910 semi-automatic pistol, stepped on to the running board of the Graf, and quickly fired two shots. The Archduke was hit in the neck, and his wife was hit in the stomach - she died almost instantly. The Archduke was heard to shout “Sophie, Sophie, don’t die – stay alive for our children”. Within a short while, he was also dead.

The following six weeks, known as the “July Crisis”, were probably the most complex sequence of political events ever experienced in European history, culminating in the outbreak of the First World War on 4 August 1914.

The Royal Commission is supporting various initiatives to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. Archive records relating to sites connected to the conflict can be searched on-line via our database Coflein, or through the National Monuments Record of Wales enquiry service.

By Medwyn Parry

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Friday, 20 June 2014

Community History Day at Hen Dŷ Cwrdd Chapel, Trecynon

On Wednesday 11 June the Royal Commission and Addoldai Cymru (Welsh Religious Buildings Trust) held a community history day at Hen Dŷ Cwrdd Unitarian Chapel (NPRN 8941) in Trecynon, Aberdare. The aim of the day was to gather memories, including photographs and documents, relating to the history of the chapel.

Hen Dŷ Cwrdd, established at Trecynon in 1751, is the oldest Nonconformist place of worship in the Aberdare district. Its origins extend back to the dissenting meeting houses at Cwmyglo and Blaencanaid Farm on the mountainside between Aberdare and Merthyr Tydfil. The chapel was built on land donated by nearby farm, Gadlys-uchaf. At this time the chapel would have been relatively isolated, with the settlement of Trecynon only established after the opening of Aberdare Ironworks in 1800. The original cottage-like meeting house was demolished and replaced by the present chapel in 1862. Its design, by Evan Griffiths of Aberdare, was intended to be ‘simple and strong, reflecting Unitarian beliefs in liberty, tolerance and forbearance’.

Hen Dŷ Cwrdd Chapel, constructed in 1862.

Although its congregation only ever numbered around 80 people, Hen Dŷ Cwrdd played a prominent role in the story of Unitarianism in Wales. From 1811–1833 its minister was the Rev. Thomas Evans (Tomos Glyn Cothi), renowned hymn writer and author of one of Wales’ first English-Welsh dictionaries. He was the first specifically Unitarian minister in Wales and pioneer of radical political, social and religious reform movements. He was reportedly invited to be minister whilst serving a sentence at Carmarthen Jail for composing a song in support of the French Revolution. Underneath the pulpit is a list of all the chapel’s ministers from 1756–1965.

Register of ministers at Hen Dŷ Cwrdd 1756–1962.

For over 100 years, Hen Dŷ Cwrdd was the only Unitarian place of worship in the Cynon Valley, until a chapel was opened at Cwmbach in 1859. Members of Hen Dŷ Cwrdd’s congregation included: Rees Hopkin Rhys (known locally as ‘Blind Rhys’, having lost his sight in an explosion at Dowlais Works), who was largely responsible for the development of Aberdare Park and the improvement of water and sewage schemes and other public amenities in the town; William Williams (known locally as Carw Coch), leading figure in the development of the eisteddfod movement and landlord of the Stag Inn, where he held the Carw Coch eisteddfod from 1841; Thomas Dafydd Llywelyn, famous harpist, who brought the newly written song ‘Mae Hen Gwlad Fy Nhadau’ to public notice at the National Eisteddfod in 1858 (before it went on to become the national anthem); Griffith Rhys Jones (known as Caradog), conductor of the South Wales Choral Union, who led them to victory in the 1882 and 1883 Crystal Palace Challenge Cup; and Evan Thomas, who patented important improvements to the Miner’s Safety Lamp in 1887.

Hen Dŷ Cwrdd closed its doors to worshippers in 1995 and has since stood empty. The chapel is now in the care of Addoldai Cymru, which aims to restore the building and bring it back into community use.

The interior of Hen Dŷ Cwrdd today.

Working with local communities, The Royal Commission and Addoldai Cymru are developing an interactive virtual museum, which will tell the story of Nonconformity in Wales. Resources are to include the creation of virtual access to chapels in the care of Addoldai Cymru through laser scanning, gigapixel photography and computer visualisation. This will add to Addoldai Cymru’s wider project to create a Faith Trail linking Hen Dŷ Cwrdd and other Unitarian chapels across Wales, including Capel Pen-rhiw (from Dre-fach Felindre, Carmarthenshire, now in St Fagans National History Museum ) and Yr Hen Gapel, Llwynrhydowen (Ceredigion).

The Hen Dŷ Cwrdd community history day was held at the adjacent Mount Pleasant Hotel. We received a steady stream of visitors throughout the afternoon, including Hen Dŷ Cwrdd’s last minister, the Rev. Eric Jones, who brought numerous items to be scanned, including some of the chapel’s historic minute books.

The Royal Commission’s Helen Rowe chats to a local resident about his memories of the chapel.

We were also visited by Addoldai Cymru volunteer, Chris King, who has produced hand-drawn measured survey drawings of Hen Dŷ Cwrdd and other chapels in the area, a number of which he brought along to be copied.

The Royal Commission’s Susan Fielding discussing architectural drawings of the chapel with volunteer, Chris King.

Royal Commission and Aberystwyth University staff members were on hand to demonstrate survey techniques in the chapel grounds.

The Royal Commission’s Ross Cook, demonstrating how to survey a building using a total station.

Marek Ososinski of Aberystwyth University, explaining the process of laser scanning to the Rev. Eric Jones.

As part of the project, more community history days are to be held at other chapels during June and July, at:
  • Hen Gapel, Llwynrhydowen: 25 June, 2─7pm at Capel Llwynrhydowen, Pontsian, Llandysul, Ceredigion, SA44 4UB.
  • Peniel, Tremadog: 10 July, 2─7pm at Capel Peniel, Tremadog, Porthmadog, Gwynedd, LL49 9PS.
  • Bethania, Maesteg: 23 July, 2─7pm at Capel Bethania, Bethania Street, Maesteg CF34 9EX.

By: Nikki Vousden

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Thursday, 19 June 2014

Britain from Above is back in Trimsaran Leisure Centre

Britain from Above is back in Trimsaran Leisure Centre

Community Day Saturday 28 June 10-4pm

Bring your photographs, stories and memories of the village and show off your craft skills!

One eager house-builder shows off her construction.
An example of one of the historic pictures of village brought along by participants.
Britain from Above is back to finish the 3D model of Trimsaran village, which we started in February half- term to showcase at the National Eisteddfod in Llanelli this August. The Britain from Above project is a free online collection of historical aerial photographs from 1919─53
( for everyone to access however, Aerofilms Ltd, the company who took these incredible images, managed to miss Trimsaran! This project is working to add Trimsaran to the website with our own aerial view of the village in the form of the model. We want to share the village’s story with the rest of the users of Britain from Above and with visitors to the National Eisteddfod.

So far we’ve had houses, roads, trees and the leisure centre created but we need your help to finish it!

In February people brought along old photographs and maps of the area that we’ve added to the Britain from Above website, so that more people will be able to find out about the Village and its history.

Come along and share your  knowledge of the village and the local area and showcase your craft skills! We need knitters, crocheteers, colourers-in, cutters-out and stickers-down!

Everyone welcome, drop by and join in!

Residents of Lys-y-Godian discuss their memories of the village.
The model village as it currently stands.
A busy group of crafters working hard to add their touch to the village.
By Natasha Scullion, Britain from Above Activity Officer, Wales.

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Monday, 16 June 2014

National Monuments Record of Wales Archives and Library Bulletin - May 2014

Welcome to the latest edition of the National Monuments Record of Wales (NMRW) Archives and Library Bulletin The archival items, library books and journal articles are all available to view in our public reading room. The archival material is also available to view on Coflein

We are open to the public at the following times:
Monday – Friday 09.30 – 16.00, Wednesday 10.30 – 16.30.
An appointment is advisable.

If you have any comments or enquiries, please feel free to contact us:

NMRW Library and Enquiry Service
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales
Crown Building, Plas Crug
Ceredigion, SY23 1NJ

Telephone:  +44 (0)1970 621200
Fax: +44 (0)1970 627701

By Lynne Moore

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Thursday, 12 June 2014

Job Vacancy - Secretary (Chief Executive)

Closing Date: Friday 25th July 2014
Pay: £57,550 - £68,150 (Welsh Government Executive band 1)
Location: Aberystwyth
Contract: 37 hours per week – permanent appointment

Sponsored by the Welsh Government and based in Aberystwyth, the Royal Commission is the investigation body and national archive for the historic environment of Wales. It has the lead role in ensuring that Wales’s archaeological, built and maritime heritage is authoritatively recorded, and promotes the understanding and appreciation of this heritage nationally and internationally.

We are looking for someone to provide strong leadership for the Royal Commission. Acting as Curator of the National Monuments Record for Wales, the appointee will take overall responsibility for its ongoing development as a major national resource and one of the three Welsh national collections. Reporting to the Commission’s Chairman and Commissioners and accountable to the Welsh Government, the Secretary will be responsible for delivering against the Commission’s Royal Warrant and the Welsh Government’s remit. Working across and beyond the historic environment sector to promote collaboration and partnership the Secretary will be expected to drive the Commission in meeting its responsibilities for the historic environment, the Programme for Government, and ultimately the people of Wales.

Candidates must have proven or demonstrable experience at a senior level in an organisation concerned with the understanding and/or management of the historic environment. They must be able to demonstrate success in programme management and the delivery of projects to time and to budget. The successful candidate must be able to evidence excellent business management skills and commercial awareness together with experience in building exemplary relationships with a range of partners. Evidence of developing and delivering initiatives funded by external partners is also required. The ability to communicate through the medium of Welsh would be an advantage.

An application form and further details are available from:-

Stephen Bailey John     
Royal Commission
Plas Crug, Aberystwyth
SY23 1NJ

Tel : 01970 621230
Fax: 01970 621246

Closing date for applications is Friday 25 July 2014.

The Royal Commission is an equal opportunities employer.

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Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Knit for Britain from Above Campaign

A member of the Woolly Squadron visiting Conwy Castle
The Woolly Squadron is landing at the National Wool Museum on 14 June!
Like history? Love knitting? Need an excuse to explore your local area?
Britain from Above has a challenge for you!

An Aerofilms image from 1923.  This image may be found on the website Britain from Above

Britain from Above is an online collection of historical oblique aerial photographs of Wales, England and Scotland taken by the company Aerofilms Ltd between 1919─53, which is free for everyone to access ( ). As some of the pictures are over 90 years old it gives us a unique opportunity to see how much things have changed over time, the Knit for Britain campaign is a chance to photograph the modern day and put it beside the past!

As part of the World Wide Knit in Public Day event, we at the Britain from Above project are running an online campaign to recruit as many knitters and crocheteers to show off their crafting skills, by creating aeroplanes that can be photographed and uploaded on to the Britain from Above website here;

So prime your needles and wind your wool and get ready to take off with Knit for Britain from Above at the National Wool Museum!

National Wool Museum in Dre-Fach Felindre, near Newcastle Emlyn, Carmarthenshire, SA44 5UP

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Monday, 9 June 2014

The Borth and Ynyslas Coastal Heritage Project meets Aberdyfi WI, YAC and Borth Scouts!

Photograph of the crew of the HMS Camroux moored at Aberdyfi wharf during the Second World War. This image was donated by Len Dennett (Cook on the HMS Camroux). Known crew members are: George Barnes, Captain; William Howell Selby Davies, Chief engineer, Reg Jenkins.

We have had a busy couple of weeks with the Borth and Ynyslas project, starting off on Wednesday 30 April with a talk to the Aberdyfi WI. During the Second World War, Aberdyfi wharf housed the HMS Camroux, a military coaster, used as a naval aid for the rocket range and military camp. The ship had an important role in many of the estuary rocket firing tests, from testing innovative landing rockets to collecting and positioning used shells. The introduction of the Camroux to the range made a significant impact on the lives of the local community, with stories of broken windows, hearty breakfasts from the local Bwlch farm, charity events and gifts of toys for the local children.  It seemed perfect therefore, to talk with this small community to further our shared understanding of their area.

RAF reconnaisance photograph of the Ynyslas Rocket Range from 1946.

The Aberdyfi WI were keen to find out about our project and happy to help, providing vital information from their own, and their relatives’ memories of area, the ship and the range at that time. Many of the occupants of Aberdyfi still retain vivid memories and personal connections to those who served on the range during WW2, their knowledge provides a great resource to add to our understanding of Ynyslas.
Borth Beavers and Cubs taking part in the Ynyslas activities.
Running for the rocket! Borth Beavers and Cubs chasing after a water─propelled rocket.
On Friday 2 May we were able to engage with a much younger audience. I took the Beavers and Cubs to the Ynyslas dunes so that they could understand the archaeology and history of the rocket range.  Enthusiastically asking and answering questions, the Beavers and Cubs were really interested in the site, keen to understand the exciting operations performed at Ynyslas, and join in with the games we prepared. We finished the activities, of course, by firing a large water-propelled rocket and exploring  the dunes.

The remains  of a camera oberservation post, originally used for measuring and recording rockets fired from the range into the Dyfi estuary.

To learn how to better engage with younger audiences of a variety of ages, I participated in a two-day training course with Ynyslas Dune Education Team from Natural Resources Wales, learning different methods of communicating and capturing the interests of school groups. Really important activities, such as role playing activities from the pupils’ perspective and a simulation of difficult dune health and safety scenarios , really helped to hone personal teaching styles and methods

Finally, on Saturday 10 May, despite the howling wind and rain, we were undeterred and conducted Ynyslas activities this time from the comfort and shelter of Ceredigion Museum!  YAC (Young Archaeologist Club) members were guided, with the aid of Kimberly Briscoe and using PowerPoint and activities, through the remains of the rocket range establishment, understanding the roles of the servicemen and women on the camp and the operations they conducted. In the 1940s, Ynyslas was chosen as an ideal location to develop and test innovative types of rocket fuel, its remote location provided a perfect arena for rocket experimentation with liquid fuels.

Young archaeologists exploring the aerial photographs of the Ynyslas Rocket Range.
This innovative site, still visible from aerial photographs, has a great story to tell by using archaeological remains and through archive materials and local oral histories. By the end of the session the YAC children were visibly identifying intricate changes to the landscape, recalling some of the main characters and their roles within the range, and putting into context the contribution of the range towards the war effort in the Second World War.

Young Archaeologists making their own bicarbonate of soda and vinegar minature rockets!

Finally, on the theme of testing  new types of fuel, the YAC experimented with their very own white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda fuelled miniature rockets!

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