“a gentle eminence”

November 30, 2011

I think I have found the title for my project, taken from the travel writings of  G.W. Manby Esquire of Hotwells, Clifton (1802).  He describes LLanwern as, “an elegant mansion, seated on an eminence, decorated with all the appendages to denote a residence of distinction, and to render it an interesting and pleasing object to the traveller...” How fabulous is that?

Mr Manby’s book was just one of the treasures I discovered during my two days at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth…  What a joy, spending hours away from Facebook, mobile phones and general noise.  All I could hear around was the occasional beep of a laptop being switched on and the pages of 17th century tomes turning.  Yes – 17th century!

I found images of Lord Rhondda with his prize bulls and discovered that early owners had to lease the house to pay off debts.  At times I allowed myself to drift off and imagine a path for myself that included years of detailed detective work: I am currently trying out the sound of Dr Fotheringham, PhD…

Sadly, and for some unfathomable reason I can’t post any pics…

In the last week, I’ve also been to the National Trust Archives in Swindon and had some fantastic contact with Country Life magazine…  The research is growing and growing…




G.I.P. (Grid in progress)

November 14, 2011

It’s been a busy couple of weeks… I haven’t been slacking – honest! My Llanwern project is shaping up nicely, thank you: although, I still don’t have a single usable image… Since my last post, I have become the proud owner of a Wista 5 x 4 camera (thank you, Ray) and have been wandering the countryside with the camera on my back and a tripod on my shoulder. Actually, ‘wandering’ is too light a verb: the weight of the kit fairly grounds you to the earth; who needs boot camp when you have a Wista? I am LOVING working with the Wista and I hope that some of that love will come through the images that I make. We shall see.

One careful owner: the fabulous Ray.
First date with the Wista.
Interesting position…
Wista position II…
There’s a lot of waiting around to be done.
Here’s lookin’ at ya.
And finally: a well deserved cup of tea.

Big thanks to Lyn Caswell for helping me to carry my kit and for using my G11 to get pics of me bending over…

I somehow don’t think it is sustainable for me to write about the project daily, so my few followers, don’t worry – I am not going to continually bombard you…  But I did think that you might like to hear a little about Lord Rhondda’s daughter…

Isn’t she cute?

I don’t suppose anyone would have been able to imagine that this little girl would grow up to have such an extraordinary set of life experiences.  She become a Suffragette, invite the Pankhursts to speak in Newport and was imprisoned for setting fire to the contents of a post box on Risca Road!  In one particularly dramatic incident, she was on board the Luisitania when it was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine in May 1915.  Of the 1924 people aboard, 1119 died.  Luckily, our plucky little heroine was fished from the freezing waters and survived.

But why destroy the ‘greyhound of the sea’?  Apart from the fact that the ship was incredibly famous and therefore a perfect target, the British Admiralty had secretly been involved in her design and she was prepared for ‘war service’.  This meant the installation of guns on her decks... Not quite Cunard Cruising then!

It have to admit that I am loving where this search is leading me!  Hurrah for Llanwern.  Hurrah for Lord R’s remarkable daughter.

Green light from Paul…

November 2, 2011

Phew!  The seminar yesterday seemed to go well.  I think Paul Reas ‘liked’ the idea for the project, but he did advise caution – the obvious danger is that I get sucked into the archive angle and end up either having too much stuff and no clear way through it, or not getting what I want…  I need to make sure that the contemporary landscape images stand on their own, without relying on the archive material to make sense of them…

I’ve emailed all sorts of folk to find out more about the house and its history, including the Imperial War Museum, The Australian Army Archives and The National Trust (seemingly Lady Rhondda offered it to the Trust in the 1940s, but they turned her down.  I am hoping and praying that there might still be correspondence from this period in their archives, but who knows!) Although I have to work on my patience levels as far as waiting for answers goes, I can still carry on my research in the local library and that will be my job for this morning.

My glamorous assistant back in Old Basing, aka Lyn Caswell sent me a fabulous link to an on-line historical maps source (maps provided by The British Library) – so if you want to check out the historical topography of an area, check out:


The maps go back to 1805!

Detail from 1830 map, courtesy of The British Library

The local library also holds historical maps and I shall be looking for interesting details later!

The more I think about working on this project, the more excited I get.  I wonder if working on the Daniel Meadows’ archive gave me a taste for hunting down details…  Whatever the psychology behind this fascination and desire to explore the landscape, I embrace it.

The only downside is that Clive is insisting that I buy a Large Format camera.  It’s obviously a while since he purchased one as his estimate of costings was way under.  I am now in the process of trying to sell bits of MF kit and my digital bits and pieces in order to raise some funds.  I’m not selling everything though: I’m hanging on to my Hass and the precious little baby Sid gave me, so all is not lost…  Anyone want an RB67 with two lenses?



Top tip for all you folk out there: use the local library service BEFORE the government cuts all of their funding!  I can thoroughly recommend the ladies in the ‘Local Studies’ section at Newport City Library for their willingness to run up and down stairs to collect material from their archives for me…

The first little dash of excitement came with this:

'North West View of Llanwern. Drawn by the Rev I Gardner.

Drawn by Rev Gardner and engraved by J. Hill the image was published in 1793.  There are two ladies inside the coach and a couple of chaps on the road who are either giving directions, or demanding their jewels…  My initial thought is that the illustration might have been made for some sort of 18th travel journal, but I will need to do more research in order to find out!   My next photo job will be to go back to the village and photograph the hill from the same angle – to highlight the change…  It’s crazy to think that what stands there now is a bungalow…

Aspect now.

What else did I find out today?  That in 1836, a new law came in which meant that each parish in the land had to map all of the fields within them and catalogue who owned what…   ‘Prior to 1836, tithes (payments made by parishioners for the support of their parish church and clergy) were payable in kind in the majority of parishes in England and Wales. The Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 provided for monetary payments, called tithe rentcharges, to replace the payments in kind’ (quote lifted from The National Archives website.)

The tithe map and ‘Apportionment Book’ told me that in 1836, the owner of the whole of Llanwern (except for 2 fields) was Rev Sir Charles John Salusbury, Baronet…  He was responsible for the tithes on 17 fields, but for the other 56, his tenants had to pay up…  The map also showed me the shape of the estate!  Very interesting!  There were very few occupied dwellings – for much of the parish’s history, it only had three houses on the land…  In 1871, there were only 7 people registered as belonging to the parish.

1/3rd of tithe map: the section shows the imprint of the house.

Sneaky photo of Tithe entry for Llanwern