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There is no mention of an Eisteddfod as we know it today before the year 1176. At that time a meeting was held at Cardigan Castle under the patronage of The Lord Rhys, one of the princes of Deheubarth (Southern Region). There is then little mention of an Eisteddfod for some centuries.

The first time the Eisteddfod united with the Gorsedd was in Carmarthen in 1819. From then on Eisteddfodau were held regularly and it earned its place in the heart of Welsh people.

In 1860 it was decided to hold one large Eisteddfod every year, and the first National Eisteddfod was held at Aberdare in 1861. The National Eisteddfod has been held continuously since 1880 apart from the war years in 1914 and 1940 and the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

Posted: 03-11-2022

Questions to discuss

  • What type of festival is the Eisteddfod?
  • How is the Eisteddfod different to other festivals?
  • How would this years programme be different to the one in 1861?


  • Create a timeline of the major events in the Eisteddfod’s history.
  • Create a design for this year's Eisteddfod promgramme cover.

Learning experiences

(derived from the statements of what matters)

  • Understanding the past
  • Interpret sources and information
  • Social and cultural importance
  • Identity
  • Similarity and social differentiation
  • Changes over time
Languages, Literacy and Communication
  • Language and belonging
  • Listen and understand
  • Read words and text
  • Using imagination
Expressive Arts
  • Understand context in creative works
  • Convey ideas
  • Exploring purpose and meaning
  • Develop and refine designs

A brief history of the National Eisteddfod

  • The beginning: In 1176 Lord Rhys hosted the first known ‘eisteddfod’. He held two major competitions at Cardigan Castle; one in poetry, and the other in music.
  • A sudden decline: Similar tournaments were held in the 15th and 16th centuries. The phrase ‘eisteddfod’ was coined during this period. However, these gatherings declined during the reign of Henry VIII.
  • Revival: London based Welsh societies revived the eisteddfodic tradition at the end of the 18th century. Iolo Morganwg, inventor of the famous Gorsedd of the Bards ceremonies, played an important role in reviving the eisteddfod on a national scale by associating the Gorsedd with the institution.
  • Formalising the ‘National Eisteddfod’: At Denbigh in 1860 a Council and General Committee were elected to manage ‘Yr Eisteddfod’, a newborn national organization. The following year, at Aberdare, the first official ‘National Eisteddfod’ was held.

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Digital exhibition

Related resources

Gorsedd of the Bards

Gorsedd of the Bards

The Gorsedd, established in 1792 by Iolo Morgannwg, is an integral part of the Eisteddfod Festival.

In the Pavillion

In the Pavillion

The pavilion plays a central role in the National Eisteddfod as the main venue for competing.