The Cynefin Project

The ARCW project ‘Cynefin: Mapping Wales’ Sense of Place’ ran from 2014 to 2017. The project repaired and digitised more than 1,100 Welsh tithe maps held at the National Library of Wales and volunteers working online helped to transcribe around 27,000 entries in the accompanying tithe apportionment documents, linking them to the relevant field numbers on the maps.

Funding came from Heritage Lottery Fund Wales with additional financial support from the Welsh Government and contributions in kind from the National Library of Wales and Archives and Records Council Wales.

As part of the overall Cynefin project, six smaller projects overseen by local archive offices took place across Wales, each project taking an aspect of the tithe maps which appealed to and engaged their local community. The projects were designed to involve participants from a variety of backgrounds and with a wide range of ages from eight to eighty.

Here are short summaries of the six Cynefin local projects.

The present town of Penmaenmawr post- dates the coming of the railway and this local project used the Dwygyfylchi tithe map and apportionment and other primary and secondary sources to produce an economic and landscape history of the parish before the railway came in 1849.

The project took place with members of the Penmaenmawr History and Museum Group who, between them, have a great knowledge of and enthusiasm for the history of the parish. The project was carried out mainly through the medium of English in order not to exclude enthusiastic newcomers to the area.

The project resulted in a booklet, a ‘walk with history’ leaflet, group sessions and workshops, including visits to the Conwy and Denbighshire Archives, school visits and activities with local primary schools Ysgol Pencae and Ysgol Capelulo conducted jointly by the group and the Project Officer, a guided walk and a closing event which launched the new Places of Wales website.

The Hiraethog area in Conwy is very rural and characterised by small settlements in moorland, agricultural and forest settings. It is a primarily Welsh-speaking area and the project was conducted mainly through the medium of Welsh.

The project was led by the Bro Hiraethog Historical Society and the Bro Aled Archive Group. Participants used the digitised tithe maps to discover more about their village, their houses and their ancestors. Fields of 1840 were compared with those of today and interviews were carried out with local people to record their memories. Some of these were later used in the text of the booklet.

The project’s outputs were a bilingual booklet and walk leaflet, group sessions with the Project Officer, a guided walk and a well-attended closing event.

Ceredigion, history and beer

‘A Pint of History Please!’ is a project about tithe maps and pubs led by the Ceredigion Local History Forum which, due to the boundless enthusiasm of its participants, has continued beyond the end of the Cynefin project.

The project has recorded information about pubs in Ceredigion. Old pubs, new pubs, beer houses, ale houses, taverns, inns, hotels, railway waiting rooms and breweries. And, for a bit of balance, the odd Temperance hotel and cocoa house. The project website and online database has details of nearly 1,000 pubs and other premises that have existed in the county over the years.

‘Exploring Gower’s Ancient Woodland’ took the tithe maps as a starting point for a series of ancient woodland surveys on the Gower peninsula. Volunteers from a range of environmental organisations undertook surveys of ancient woodland indicator species in areas of woodland that were marked on the tithe map, thus confirming through their recording of the flora the ancient woodland status of the woods and measuring their comparative biodiversity.

As well as the survey data, the project also resulted in a leaflet describing six walks in Gower’s ancient woods and what to look out for, and a teacher’s pack with related online resources to help primary school teachers to organise woodland-based activities. The leaflet and teacher’s pack were launched at the forest classroom in Bishop’s Wood nature reserve on a very wet and muddy spring day together with children from Bishopston Primary School, Swansea.

‘Up and Over’ was a project based in two Valleys north of Bridgend (the Garw and the Llynfi) and run by Valley and Vale Community Arts. The aim of the project was to recreate the beauty and history of archives, personal and collective memories through the medium of textiles, using the tithe and other historic maps as an inspiration in two embroideries created by local groups.

The textiles included, among other things, photographs with colour and stitch lines added by participating volunteers, creating individual pieces encapsulating significant moments in their lives such as family occasions and sporting events, mundane everyday journeys to school and work, or inspiring walks with favourite views. Historical landmarks and people from the communities that the groups feel need to be mentioned were also included.

This project created new community partnerships through these artworks by linking the two pieces, and the Garw and Llynfi Valleys, as they have always historically been linked, via routes up and over the mountains since before the tithes maps were created.

The period when the tithe maps were being drawn was a very exciting period in Welsh history, including the Chartist Protest, 1839. The trials of the leaders and protestors which followed produced a large number of documents which were already digitised before the start of the project. These images were placed online in order for volunteers to work on them.

‘Trails to Trials’ volunteers transcribed the trial documents and then geo-tagged them to the contemporary tithe maps. This means it is now possible to recognise the geographic location within the documents and to use them in modern geographic search interfaces in the future.