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Ceredigion: Interpreting an Ancient County

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Manylion a Disgrifiad y Llyfr | Book Details & Description

  • Author: J. Geraint Jenkins
  • Publication Date March 2005
  • Format: Paperback, 210x146 mm, 96 pages

An introduction to the history of Ceredigion from earliest times until today comprising information about the characteristics of the inhabitants, the rural and coastal towns and villages, and the crafts and small industries of the county. 71 black-and-white photographs.

Gwales Review

Formed in the 5th century AD, Ceredigion is a distinctive county, with ‘a continuation and a persistence of many aspects of life that can be traced back to the dawn of civilisation’. Influences from the distant past are still recognisable in its life. Invaders from beyond the sea – Roman and Viking, Anglo-Saxon and Norman – Irish settlers, itinerant Celtic missionaries bringing Christianity, the predatory industrial tycoons of the 19th century, the Anglicised aristocracy and squirearchy, even the tourists of the 20th century. All have combined to fashion the character of this unique western region.

Who better to unravel this skein than a native son, Dr J. Geraint Jenkins, author of over fifty books on the history, traditions and industries of Wales? He has headed the Welsh Industrial and Maritime Museum, and the Welsh Folk Museum at Sain Ffagan, now the Museum of Welsh Life. His erudition is impressive, his scholarship impeccable and accessible. He writes of Ceredigion with a light touch, bringing out its charm, its quirks, its quaintness, its joys, its sorrows.

Ten chapters discuss individual communities. Along the coast, from Aberteifi to Borth, memories persist of a proud, seafaring tradition, of sea fishing and of shipbuilding. Farming, droving, rural crafts, the wool industry, and lead mining dominated village life inland. Aberystwyth evolved in the 19th century from a genteel watering place to a ‘rather brash’ seaside resort for the industrial workers of southern Wales and the Midlands, and then to an administrative centre, Wales's first university town, and the home of the National Library of Wales. Aberaeron, ‘the nearest thing in Ceredigion to a planned town’, is known for the long-handled, triangular-bladed Aberaeron shovel and the Aberaeron billhook. Every village has its own distinction.

‘Chapter 12, Rural industries’ surveys Ceredigion's extractive, processing, and creative industries. ‘Chapter 13, Church and chapel’ focuses on the innumerable places of religious worship which once moulded the life of many generations of Cardis. Ceredigion was the powerhouse of the Methodist Revival of the 18th century. In the Teifi valley (‘Y Smotyn Du’ - The Black Spot), Unitarianism enthused the religious life of the 18th and 19th centuries.

In the epilogue, Dr Jenkins highlights today's flourishing tourist industry and the upsurge of hand-crafts mainly serving that industry. He believes that ‘the revival of forgotten skills could have some relevance in the future ... Then the skills of the past may, at least, provide a basis for survival.’

With its striking pictorial cover, generous layout, clear printing, useful map, and its many evocative, black-and-white historical photographs, this is an attractive, reliably informative and enjoyable companion for exploring and understanding Ceredigion.