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Grand Tour of North Wales, A

Manylion a Disgrifiad y Llyfr | Book Details & Description

  • Author: Meurig Owen
  • Publication September 2003
  • Format: Paperback, 183x123 mm, 116 pages

An interesting account of a two month journey undertaken by Samuel Johnson, and Henry and Hester Lynch Thrale around various country houses and estates in North Wales in 1774, comprising extracts from the journals of Samuel Johnson and Hester Thrale together with the author's comments on the past and present history of the locations visited. 35 black-and-white illustrations.

Gwales Review
Written by an eminent North Wales author and historian, this book has the most engaging quality and makes for riveting reading. The author is an expert at the craft of story telling. Using facts from two eighteenth-century travel logs/journals, he skillfully weaves, by his scholarly, detailed research, a captivating narrative for his readers. When dealing with old county families and their seats (e.g. Lleweni, Glynllifon, Chirk Castle), we are brought up to date with their current conditions and situations.

The 'Grand Tour' has been cleverly illustrated with the aid of maps, pictures etc. An eighteenth century journey by carriage is described in great detail. The jaunt takes place in the summer of 1774. The coach has four occupants, two of whom are very prominent throughout the engaging tale. Mrs Hester Lynch-Thrale, her husband Henry, her ten year old daughter Queeny and the famous Dr Samuel Johnson, the man of letters. Hester and Samuel keep a log of their sojourn throughout and this forms the skeletal structure of the narrative. It is what happens to these original facts at the hands of the author that transforms the material into a compelling story.

Hester Thrale had come into an inheritance at Bachegraig in the Vale of Clwyd, Denbighshire. She was the last in line of the famous and illustrious Salusburys of Lleweni; the family had been in occupancy since the days of William the Conqueror and had become pillars of the Welsh establishment. By marriage, they had become joined to the Tudors of Penymynydd in Anglesey - hence their connection with Elizabeth I. Hester herself was a direct descendant of Henry VIII, through an illegitimate son. In 1773, she had lost her mother, her daughter Lucy and her kind uncle and benefactor Thomas Salusbury. A jaunt to North Wales would therefore, according to her husband Henry, comfort her and relieve her sorrow. Henry and Queeny are barely mentioned in the ensuing narrative. Queeny's indisposition is mentioned twice - along with her reaction to Rhuddlan Castle, but there is little comment on Henry's responses.

What is of interest and of note is the way the author has enlarged upon the extant material: the cathedrals, the churches, the gentry houses, their occupants, some of their dining habits, their language and their customs. Criticisms and compliments follow in the wake of their visits to Tremeirchion church, the village of Abergele, Lady Catherine Wynn of Glynllifon, Bodfel Hall, the Salusburys', the Griffiths' and the Myddletons', among others, and their contribution to Welsh History.

Small of size but great of content, this book is an excellent read for anyone and a must for the student of Welsh history. Mr Owen is to be complimented for this little classic.

Rev. Glyndwr Walker