The Beginnings of the National Eisteddfod

Establishing a National Body, 1860

From the great Llangollen Eisteddfod of 1858 we move to the 1860 eisteddfod in Denbigh. It was here that the decision was made to establish a national body, to be called The Eisteddfod. This body would have an Executive Committee called the Council, whose members would be elected. It was this body which went on to create an official National Eisteddfod, to be held in the North and the South in alternate years. And that's exactly what happened.

The first official National Eisteddfod was held in Aberdare in 1861. From Aberdare it went to Caernarfon in '62, to Swansea in '63, to Llandudno in '64, to Aberystwyth in '65, out to Chester in 1866, back to Carmarthen in '67, ending its journey in Ruthin in 1868 for the simple reason that the National Eisteddfod was in debt. These were the first modern National Eisteddfodau, and they've left their mark on the National Eisteddfod to this day...

...But there's no doubt at all of the importance of the National Eisteddfodau of the 1860s. They were big eisteddfodau, raising a pavilion to seat between eight and ten thousand people every year, the trains bringing the crowds in their thousands to North and South, and the great choirs, of course, followed everywhere in those days, exactly as rugby and soccer teams would be in later years. These are large, exciting Eisteddfodau, full of controversy, full of hopes and fears, and they are particularly important to any understanding of Welsh-language culture in the modern period.