Made in China: the 1933 Eisteddfod chair

Wrexham National Eisteddfod Chair, 1933; the gift of J.R.Jones, Shanghai. With the chair are the craftsmen who made the chair.

It took the craftsmen in the photo over a year to carve this Eisteddfod chair. The chair was carved at the T’ou-se-we Catholic orphanage, on the outskirts of Shanghai. This orphanage, founded by Catholic missionaries in 1852, had many workshops teaching skilled crafts such as woodcarving, painting, printing, tinplate and stained glass workshops, and photography.

The chair was given as a prize for the National Eisteddfod at Wrexham in 1933 by a successful Welshman living in Shanghai. Dr John Robert Jones(b. Llanuwchllyn 1887,d. Hong Kong 1976) was a barrister and an avid Eisteddfod-goer who also showed great interest in Chinese art and culture. He went to Shanghai in 1924, became General Secretary of International Council in 1928, and was a leading figure in the Shanghai branches of the Royal Asiatic Society and Cymdeithas Dewi Sant. It was his idea to commission the craftsmen of T'ou-se-we to make the chair.

The winner of this chair in 1933 was Trefin (Edgar Phillips) for his poem entitled Harlech. An almost identical chair, also made at T’ou-se-we, was won by the poet Gwenallt in the 1926 Swansea Eisteddfod.

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