Princes, plotting and power struggles in medieval Wales have been brought vividly to life for schoolchildren in mid Wales thanks to a National Library of Wales Outreach Education Project marking this year’s Montgomeryshire and the Marches National Eisteddfod.
Sponsored by the ScottishPower Foundation (SPF), the project has centred on Mathrafal, an ancient seat of the Princes of Powys. Mathrafal Castle, destroyed in 1212, was the ancestral home of Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn, Lord of Upper Powys, and the castle mound lies close to this year’s Eisteddfod site in Meifod.
Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn plotted with King Edward I of England to overthrow Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (Llywelyn ‘the Last’), who was killed in Cilmeri in December 1282.
The project, run by the National Library’s Education Service, also introduced schoolchildren to the Laws of Hywel Dda, the codification of traditional Welsh law undertaken by Hywel Dda (Hywel the Good) (c.880 – 950).
As part of the project, 270 pupils from eight primary schools and one secondary school in the Meifod area visited the National Library to view priceless manuscripts documenting Wales’ fascinating medieval history.
Both ‘Brut y Tywysogion’ (Chronicle of the Princes), the earliest account of Welsh history, and the Laws of Hywel Dda are held in the Library’s Peniarth Collection, which was added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2010.
Pupils had an opportunity to discuss the laws, to look at the work of the princes’ courts and learn how manuscripts were produced in the Middle Ages.
Artists Hilary and Graham Roberts also held art workshops in the schools, the results of which, eight banners, will be displayed at the National Library’s stand at the Eisteddfod.
The banners reflect aspects of Welsh medieval life and events mentioned in ‘Brut y Twysogion’ through collaged monoprints, handmade paper, calligraphy and illumination. In addition, the schools have composed poems reflecting each banner’s theme and imagery.
Hilary Roberts said: “The National Library provided a fantastic experience in bringing to life the history and personalities of the period as an artistic resource.”
Rhodri Morgan, Education Officer at the National Library of Wales, added: “The aim of the project was to raise pupils’ awareness of the National Library’s role and the remarkable collections it holds. It was also an opportunity to introduce pupils to a turbulent period in Welsh history and to the materials held at the National Library which are of particular relevance to their local area.”
Ann Loughrey, Trustee and Executive Officer, ScottishPower Foundation, said: "The ScottishPower Foundation is committed to supporting community programmes that inspire young people to get more out of education, arts, culture and science. We are very pleased to support the National Library of Wales’ Outreach Programme which enables the wider community to access the unique collections held by the Library in Aberystwyth.”
For more information please contact Hannah Thomas on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07810 794853 or Lydia Whitfield at Effective Communications on LWhitfield@effcom.co.uk or 07890 953402.