Davies, Walter

Walter Davies was commissioned to produce reports on the state of Agriculture in Wales at the beginning of the 19th century. His note books record the tours he took around Wales, 1797 to 1813, to gather information for his two published reports:

General View of the Agriculture and Domestic Economy of North Wales, (1810)

General View of the Agriculture and Domestic Economy of South Wales, (1815)

For extensive transcription of Walter Davies’ and Edward Williams’ (Iolo Morganwg’s) notebooks, diaries and letters, and an explanation of the context in which they were written see Jones, David Ceri, Report of a research project on ‘The rural economy and society of Wales between 1790-1815 with special reference to the manuscripts of Walter Davies (‘Gwallter Mechain’)’, undertaken by Dr David Ceri Jones, on behalf of Professor David W. Howell and Professor Prys Morgan, Directors of the Project, for the History and Law Committee, Board of Celtic Studies, University of Wales, 2000-2001. NLW ex 2251.

This includes:

Appendix 1 selective extracts from Walter Davies’ note books, pp. 126-711

Appendix 2 (Iolo Morganwg’s notebooks on Glamorgan) pp. 712- 735;

Appendix 3 (Walter Davies’ correspondence), pp. 736 –836;

Correspondence with Iolo Morganwg; Sir John Sinclair and Lord Carrington and William Cragg all of the Board of Agriculture; Charles Hassell, Narberth; Thomas Johnes, Hafod; D Bird Allen, St Brides, Haverfordwest and others.

Appendix 4 Iolo Morganwg’s letters pp. 837-913 (for background to Iolo’s notebooks see DCJ pp. 99-103)

Iolo asked to work with Walter Davies on his tour(s) of south Wales (see letters to Walter Davies). Davies agreed and it appears that they met or even followed part of the tour together. In 1802, Iolo visited Davies at Meifod and visited Cardiganshire, north Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire on his way home and wrote notes on this which he sent to Davies in a letter in which he described how he had to stay at Pentre Breunant inn [Cwmystwyth] for 2 weeks to recover from an illness after touring part of Wales together. The note book appears to include a transcription of this letter:

{part with Mr W Davies and becomes ill and has to stay there for 2 weeks with support from Thomas Johnes} NLW 1760A notebook 4. Itinerary no VI, 1802, Pembroke to Cardigan, pp. 18-21 and NLW 1808Eii 1525, letter from Iolo to Walter Davies, 29.8.1802 which describes his illness in more detail. How much more of this was written by Iolo? How long was Iolo with him?]] This is also referred to in a letter from Walter Davies to Iolo dated 1.5.1803 (NLW 21280E, 79 ‘… At Pentre Breunant, when we parted, …

Also, the description of Carmarthen cottages as looking like mother hens appears in both Walter Davies’ notes and in an almost identical form in one Iolo’s notebooks, but it is not clear who was responsible for this. Iolo wrote much for Davies on Carmarthenshire, but his note is entitled ‘Miscellaneous enquiries, 1802 from WD [Walter Davies, (Gwalter Mechain)]’

Walter Davies’ notebooks contains extensive information on agricultural practices, innovations, farm buildings and equipment (sometimes illustrated), stock and crops and descriptions of some estates and how landlords influenced local farming practices for good or bad. During at least some of his tours, he appears to have stayed at farms overnight, giving him plenty of time to examine the practices and discuss them with the owners or tenants. Much of this was published in his two volumes on the state of Agriculture in Wales (1810 and 1815), but some was not.

His notebooks also include descriptions and diagrams of agricultural equipment; notes on geology (including sketches of strata), quarries and building stones (several references to freestone); lime kilns; antiquities; friendly societies; prices of food, lime and other commodities; weights and measures; effects of inclosure; costs of the poor (poor rates for many parishes are recorded); food and its preparation; comments on local industries, including extractive industries, metal processing and wool production and manufacture of flannels, webs and stockings and how the various manufactories could be improved, what income they might produce and what competition they had to face. The state of roads, and comments on new ones and the cost of tolls; railroads and canals. There are a few comments on sources of dyes; changes in practices, prices life styles (his tours of Wales cover the period 1797 to 1813, so he records the effects of the war with France); population numbers (pre census returns); immigration and emigration. There is also a little on folk lore and customs (especially when servants began their year which varied from place to place). He records some of the sayings and proverbs in Welsh that he came across and comments on pronunciation and other aspects of the Welsh language. There are also extensive records of the weather. His descriptions of places tend to be brief. Many of the notes made during tours include references to other places and subjects which he presumably noted down when he thought of them.

Also useful are the comments he recorded on trips to north Wales after his volume on that area was published.

David Ceri Jones transcribed some of Davies’ short comments in Welsh, but often just mentioned that they existed.

Other works by Walter Davies (not exhaustive):

A Statistical Account of the Llanymyneich, 1793, NLW MS 1732C, published in the Cambrian Register 1796, 265-283;

Publications on Walter Davies’ works (not exhaustive):

Robert Richards, ‘The Rev. Walter Davies, MA, (Gwallter Mechain), 1762-1849′; Montgomery Collections,

Jones, David Ceri, ‘The Board of Agriculture, Walter Davies (Gwalter Mechain) and Cardiganshire, c 1794-1815’, Ceredigion, xiv, 2001, pp 79-100

Howell, David W., The Rural Poor in Eighteenth Century Wales, p. 20-26 for discussion on Davies’ surveys of Llanfechain and Meifod.

D Silvan Evans, Gwaith y Parch Walter Davies, Archaeologia Cambrensis, (1868)



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