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Hetty Edwards - Part One

Mel Taylor, 22 June 2017

Elizabeth Harriet Edwards, known to family and friends as Hetty, was Librarian at the National Museum of Wales from 1931 until her retirement in 1970. She is our longest serving Librarian, racking up a whopping 39 years’ service.

The National Museum’s Annual Report for 1969/70 records the Museum Council thanking her for her work;

‘Miss E H Edwards has served as Librarian for 39 years. During this period the Library has become one of the most important special libraries in Wales, now containing more than 80,000 books.  She has served as Chairman of the Welsh Branch of the Library Association, and is President-elect of the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society.’

We knew very little about her. There are just occasional remarks as above in the Museum’s Annual Reports and small pieces of information about lectures she’d given and broadcasts she’d made. I was tasked with discovering more about Hetty; from where did she hail, what sort of person was she and when did she die?

Rummaging through the Museum’s records and other sources of information I discovered that Hetty had lived in 22 Plas y Delyn, Lisvane and was made a Fellow of the Library Association in 1930. She must have had a keen interest in Natural History as she was a member of the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society for many years, including standing as vice president during 1973/4.

My search then took me to a donation record at the National Library of Wales. According to the NLW catalogue, The Gwenfron Moss Papers had been donated by Gwenfron Moss and Hettie Edwards, Cardiff, in July 1984. Although the spelling was different, surely this was our Hetty Edwards? Further examination of the records brought me to an entry in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography for Gwenfron Moss;

‘She [Gwenfron Moss] decided to leave Coed-poeth and to live with her adopted sister, Miss Hetty Edwards.’

This was my ‘Eureka!’ moment. Hetty and Gwenfron were sisters! Now I had information about where Gwenfron came from and possibly Hetty, the date when Gwenfron died and the fact that Hetty died a fortnight later. The entry also mentioned that Gwenfron had been a deacon at the Welsh Congregational Church in Minnie Street in Cardiff. This snippet of information gave me an idea of where to look next. Would they be able to help me in my search for Hetty?

Comments (5)

Jennifer Evans Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales Staff
20 September 2018, 13:43
Dear Emyr Evans,
Thank you very much for commenting on this post.
The author had to work very hard finding information on Hetty and now, with your memories we have built a vibrant and lively picture of someone very dear to this Library.
Mel no longer volunteers here but I will ensure she gets to read your comment.
Be assured that your information will be archived into our Hetty files :)
Best wishes,

Emyr Evans
19 September 2018, 14:41
Dear Mr.Taylor,
I knew Hetty's family in Coedpoeth very well. Her brother David John Edwards and family were neighbours of ours for years.. David John was an active member and deacon at Salem Congregational Chapel. He worked for the Co operative Society locally prior to taking over his own newsagents business c.1960. Hetty's sister Alice Selina Edwards was a member of Rehoboth Methodist Chapel and worked on the counter at Coedpoeth Post Office. I remember her being very efficient and very quick. Probably David John's son Dewi who lives in Hanmer, Wrexham could provide more information about Hetty.
Sadly the family lost both parents at a young age and Hetty was brought up by Mr.& Mrs. Samuel Moss. Samuel Moss was a successful building contractor in the village and had built two local chapels . He was a faithful member and secretary of Salem chapel. Gwenfron Moss was a qualified pharmacist. In 1928 a meeting was held in Salem in order to ordain her for missionary work in China, She worked in China until 1952 and subsequently in India and Sambia. I have in my possession photocopies of the Order of Service of a meeting to welcome her home in 1934 and another meeting in 1935 to bid her farewell on her return to China. Following her retirement Gwenfron settled in Cardiff with Hetty.
Our Welsh literary society Y Felin in Coedpoeth were pleased to welcome Gwenfron to one of our meetings in 1966 when she gave a talk entitled Crwydro yn yr Affrig.
Following Hetty and Gwenfron's passing a memorial service was held in Minny Street Cardiff and simultaneously in Salem Coedpoeth.

Mel Taylor
25 July 2017, 11:40
Dear Dr Davies
I am so pleased that you have commented on my post. I have very much enjoyed researching Hetty and to hear from someone who actually knew her is wonderful. Your story definitely brings her to life.
I have almost completed writing part two and hope it will evoke more memories.
Best wishes,

Mel Taylor
Library Volunteer
Jennifer Evans Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales Staff
20 July 2017, 16:39

Dear Dr Davies,
Thank you so much for commenting on this post.
The author is a volunteer, and not in very often so hasn't seen it yet, but we'll make sure she does when she's next in.
We've all enjoyed reading the results of Mel's research and are looking forward to part two!
The memory of Hetty Edwards is very dear to us here in the Library and your story brings her to life that bit more :)
Best wishes,

Jennifer Evans
Assistant Librarian

Dr Susan J Davies (nee Howells)
22 June 2017, 15:21

Hetty Edwards was a lifelong friend of my father’s sister, Margaret J Howells, who was born and brought up in Llandaff North and was a primary teacher for many years at Birchgrove school. There were in fact three friends who were close in age, the third being Beatrice M Davies who was brought up in Llanddewi Brefi and became Secretary to the Librarian at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth and was significantly involved in arrangements for removing national treasures of books and manuscripts from London to NLW during WW2 and in preparation and publication of the Dictionary of Welsh Biography. Like Gwenfron Moss, Hetty was born and brought up in Coedpoeth/Wrexham and were sisters by adoption. Together with Beatrice Davies – who is now commemorated in a named room at NLW - Hetty and Gwenfron were ‘honorary’ aunts to me and my late brother and are fondly remembered. It was Hetty who enabled my parents and me to watch the procession that preceded the 1958 Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff from the roof of the National Museum, when my brother was carrying the flag for Carmarthenshire as the procession passed in front of the Museum.

The connection between the friends was interesting, because they were all deeply involved in chapel activities but also in professional roles which brought about their meeting in Cardiff. Training for professional roles was still uncommon among women at that time.

As time passed, I visited Hetty when visiting family in Cardiff, Beatrice was very kind to me when I studied in Aberystwyth (and I remained in regular contact), and I was updated on Gwenfron’s overseas activities by members of the family. I have also inherited a significant quantity of embroidered household linen as a result of Gwenfron’s work with women who produced this beautiful embroidery in India and the way in which it was able it to arrive in Wales via the chapel networks.

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