This site contains classified extracts from over 1,500 published and manuscript accounts of tours of and guide books to Wales, 1700-1900.
Author: Michael Freeman, curator of Ceredigion Museum, Aberystwyth, 1991-2012
It was originally designed to create very detailed evidence for my article ‘Perceptions of Welshness: tourists’ impressions of the material and traditional culture of Wales, 1750 – 1850’ published in ‘Folk Life’ Vol. 53, No. 1, (May 2015), pp. 57–71 but will contain much more than that article covers.
This site includes many fully referenced quotations on over 200 different subjects about which the tourists wrote and illustrated.
Some of the data on this site was first uploaded in May, 2015. The site will be constantly under review.
The author – Michael David Freeman – has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.
Any comments, corrections, additions or questions, will be very welcome. Please contact me.
‘I digress too much, but it is my wicked way and I cannot help it. I wish to arrest floating ideas as they come in my way.’
Edward Williams, (Iolo Morganwg), Agricultural observations, Made in a Journey thro some Parts of Glamorganshire and Carmarthenshire In June 1796, NLW MS 13115B, f. 51
‘I have explored every old account I could lay hold upon … find amusement and recreation as well as utility and instruction in this seemingly barren and dry pursuit far above anything I ever anticipated.’
Ebenezer Thomas, (Eben Fardd, 1802 – 1863) diary, 7th August 1843
‘I have been so busy about my garden and orchard this fine weather … that I could not spare an hour … to mope over antiquities or to write letters.
Lewis Morris, Penbryn, April, 1760
I shall now set out upon my journey, and take with me the principal ingredients of an ordinary Antiquary, tradition, conjecture, and credulity. And before I return home again, you will think they have been necessary Pioneers to clear the difficulties of the Way in this walk if Knowledge.
Anon, Tour in North Wales, 1776, NLW MS 16351C, p. 5 [probably William Warrington, (1735-1824), author of The History of Wales (1786)]
ment for M
[and, I hope, women too]
Sign on a public house 6 miles from Beddgelert on the Dolgellau road, 1825
Jadis, Henry Fenton, Journal of a pedestrian tour in North Wales: through the counties of Montgomery, Merioneth, Caernarvon, and part of Denbigh, (London, 1826), p. 87
I warn the reader not complain of a disappointment if he does not trace me in every part of the kingdom; and if I request to content himself in many cases with the researches of others, though I will not offer such an insult to his discernment, as to intrude on him the rude observations of every rambler, now the rage of travelling about Britain is become so contagious, that every man that can write or read makes a pocket Britannia.
Camden’s Britannia, Gough Edition, (1789), vol. 1, preface, p. vi
It would be endless to point out the absurd conjectures and misrepresentations of those, who have of late years undertaken to describe this country. Some give manifestly wrong interpretations of the names of places, and others, either ignorantly or maliciously, have, as it were, caricatured its inhabitants. Travellers from England, often from want of candour, and always from defect of necessary knowledge, impose upon the world unfavourable, as well as false accounts of their fellow-subjects in Wales …
Williams, William, (1738-1817), Observations on the Snowdon Mountains with some account of the customs and manners of the inhabitants, (1802)
‘It is now high time for me to apologise, for having troubled you with so unmerciful a scrawl – and after all I suspect that you will think me very fanciful – It is true, I have galloped my Hobby, at a pretty sound rate – but am not too proud to acknowledge, that he may possibly stumble, and often times carry me astray – neither am I ashamed to submit him to the correction of so able a master – The: Jones [Theophilus Jones, 1759-1812, the author of The History of Brecknock (1805)] thinks us all Roman Road Mad – but we may very fairly retort upon his druids – He was here yesterday, and tells me that he is now nearly ready for the Press. …’
Letter from Henry Payne of Llanbedr, Breconshire, 1759-1832, to Sir Richard Colt Hoare of Stourhead, Wilts. 14th September, 1804. They had recently met at Hereford and Payne was corresponding about Roman sites and roads. NLW ms 15257D, f. 25v
Every tourist into Cardiganshire has mentioned Lêch yr Ast, Lêch y gawres, Meini hirion, and Meini cyvirol, as still existing, though they have been destroyed many years ago. These and innumerable falsities and inattentions, constitute tours in Wales, and show how little they are to be depended on.
Meyrick, S., The History and Antiquities of the County of Cardigan, (1808), p. 298, Meyrick, S., The History and Antiquities of the County of Cardigan, (1907), p. 265, note.
[All these prehistoric standing stones were mentioned in the 1722 edition of Camden’s Britannia, pp. 772-773]
“Well, what have we got here?” says the snarling critic, “more tours, more trash, more plagiarism. If a man walks a few miles, he now publishes his observations and cannot keep it a secret that he has moved out of the place where he was born: thus are the public inundated with what are called descriptions and remarks,” “Softly, splenetic Sir, suspend your ire, description is not necessary and our remarks I hope will not displease you.”
Webb, Daniel Carless, Observations and Remarks During Four Excursions Made to the Various Parts of Great Britain in the Years 1810 and 1811, performed by land, by sea, by various modes of conveyance and partly in the pedestrian style. (London, 1812), p. 1
Whereas it is presumed, that many inquisitive and curious mortals will be anxious to be made acquainted with the particulars of the about-to-be-described tour, this, with considerable trouble and loss of time to the author, has been written for their satisfaction – and it is to be hoped that many may profit by the valuable information which is contained in it. If however any should have the depraved taste not to turn their steps directly to the enchanting country which is depicted in these leaves, let them never again to dare to peruse any such pages as it is certain that it was mere idle curiosity that tempted them to open these leaves, and not a laudable desire of acquiring useful knowledge.
D., A., A Journal of a tour in South Wales and the adjoining counties of Hereford and Monmouthshire in the months of September and October . NLW GLYNNE OF HAWARDEN 57, preface.