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The National Library of Wales saves manuscripts from Glyn Cywarch Sale


In a historic auction in London on 29 March, when the Contents of Glyn Cywarch – The Property of Lord Harlech Sale was sold at Bonhams, London, The National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth purchased a number of valuable manuscripts and pictures for the Nation.

Highlights include: Ormbsby Gore’s Journal for 1854, three Game Books, two Catalogues of the contents of the historic Library at Brogyntyn (Porkington) and three watercolours by Moses Griffith.

There was much interest beforehand in a Lot containing 3 volumes of Lord Harlech’s Game Books (1882-1925) and the Library are grateful to a group of interested ornithologists for their support in funding the purchase of these historical items. The game books record shoots at Brogyntyn, and other estates in Wales and Scotland, noting those present such as Lord Harlech, Lord Kenyon, Sir W. Wynn and Mr Gore. They note the game kills at Brogyntyn, ranging from a bumper year in 1911 (2787 pheasants, 303 partridges, 36 hares) to 1918 (354 pheasants, 46 partridges, 4 hares).

The manuscript catalogue of the library at Porkington Library 1709 lists 2000 books with a fine illuminated frontispiece incorporating the arms of Margaret Owen, wife of Owen Ormsby for whom it was made. It appears to be the earliest surviving complete catalogue of the Library. Each page lists up to twenty-five titles, the introduction advising that "The library is easily regulated and as new books are purchased they should be inserted in their proper alphabet according to the author's name and under the subject".

Manuscript catalogue of Plays in the collection at Brogyntyn in 1815, the first compiled by William Ormsby Gore (dated February 24, 1815), which have "a double arrangement - the first part has the Plays alphabetically arranged. The second part has the list of authors with the productions of each...".

The Journal kept by W.R. Ormsby Gore, 2ND LORD HARLECH of the 13th Light Dragoons, 10th May to 1st September 1854, is a detailed daily record of his voyage to the Dardanelles describing places visited on the way and life in camp on arrival. Concluding just weeks before his regiment’s disastrous involvement in the Charge of the Light Brigade, Gore’ journal paints a less than faltering portrait of Lord Raglan and Lord Cardigan.

3 pictures of Harlech, Beddgelert and Llanelltyd by the artist Moses Griffith (1747-1819) were purchase from the sale.  

Lona Mason Head of Graphic and Audio Visual material at The National Library of Wales said:

“Although the pictures were in a bad condition we are pleased that they have come to the Library where we will be able to start restoration work on them, and add them to our collection of Welsh landscapes”

Nia Mai Daniel Head of the Archives and Manuscript Section added:

 “We are delighted to have acquired these manuscripts which will be of great interest to researchers in many fields such as social history, sport history, the Crimean war, literature, drama and genealogy. There will be an opportunity to see some of these new purchases in an exhibition of New Accessions at the Library from September”

The manuscripts will be added to an already rich collection of Brogyntyn Estate and Family Records which are at the National Library. The records of the Brogyntyn estate, home of the Ormsby-Gore family, Barons Harlech, 1296-1951, include estate papers and deeds, legal papers, financial papers, family papers and county administration papers of the Ormsby-Gore family, their ancestors, the Maurices and the Owens of Clenennau, the Wynns of Glyn and others, such as Anwyl of Park, Clayton of Lea Hall, Godolphin of Abertanat, Lyster of Penrhos, Mostyn of Nant, and Vaughan of Corsygedol. The three main estates represented in the collection are Brogyntyn, Clenennau and Glyn.

Further Information

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Further information about the collections

Notes to Editors

The Contents of Glyn Cywarch – The Property of Lord Harlech Sale at Bonhams on 29 March earned the rare accolade of 'white glove' status – i.e. every one of the 531 lots was sold. At the end of a marathon 10-hour auction, the sale total was £2,599,038 – more than two and a half times the pre-sale estimate.

Highlights included

  • An important, newly discovered portrait by Marcus Gheeraerts, court painter to Elizabeth I,that achieved £269,000 against an estimate of £60,000-80,000. The portrait, painted in 1597, portrays Ellen Maurice, a prominent Welsh heiress and Harlech ancestor, whose pearls and jewelry are worth the equivalent of one million pounds in today's market.
  • The Kennedy-Harlech Papers – the heartfelt personal letters between Jackie Kennedy and David Ormsby Gore, Lord Harlech, sold in the room to a private buyer for £100,000.
  • Two remarkable Elizabeth I joined oak three-tier buffets, circa 1580-1600, that made £140,500 against an estimate of £35,000-45,000.
  • Irish artist Daniel Quigley's portrait of The Godolphin Arabian, one of three Eastern stallions from which all modern racehorses descend, which made over five times its estimate, selling for £100,000.
  • A 1936 Rapier 10Hp Tourer, a rare British sports car, one of only 300 built that sold for £31,500, having been estimated at £20,000-25,000.

The sale featured 531 items ranging from important furniture, Old Master paintings, a historic library, antique jewellery, silver and works of art and even a vintage motor car and motorcycle.
The sale was held to raise funds for the restoration of Glyn Cywarch (known as Glyn) which Jasset, 7th Lord Harlech inherited on the death of his father in February 2016.

Bonhams UK Deputy Chairman, Harvey Cammell said:

"A white glove 100% sold auction is an extremely rare event, and we are delighted with the result. The Harlech sale had everything one could wish for in a Country House sale. Bonhams made two hugely important discoveries which have generated international interest: the historic Kennedy-Harlech letters which provided new insights into the life of one of the most famous figures of the second half of the 20th century, and the rare Elizabethan portrait by Marcus Gheeraerts, court painter to Elizabeth I. With Elizabethan oak furniture of the highest quality, an important library of antiquarian books, and even a barn-find classic Lagonda motor car, the auction's success demonstrates the global appeal of British Country House single owner collection." 

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