History of the Welsh Eisteddfodau

The Provincial Eisteddfodau 1819-1834

The eisteddfodau sponsored by the Gwyneddigion began in Bala in September 1789. The influence of the Gwyneddigion would most likely have been an important one - it's probable that they would have established an important eisteddfod movement. But of course the Napoleonic wars disrupted the old patterns, and very soon the eisteddfodau of the Gwyneddigion had come to an end.

When the war ended, people took up their eisteddfodic interests once again. Prominent among them was a circle of clergymen who used to meet around Christmas time and the New Year, up in Kerry near Newtown, in the rectory there. Their leader was the incumbent, Ifor Ceri, the Reverend John Jenkins. He took a great interest in the old traditional culture, both poetic and musical, and was at the centre of a group of enthusiastic clergymen. It was in fact at Kerry in 1818 that people began to think seriously about reviving the eisteddfod movement and creating real, proper eisteddfodau.

The first of these eisteddfodau - the first provincial eisteddfod - was held the following year (1819) in Carmarthen, under the auspices of a society which had been set up in Dyfed. This was the first of ten provincial eisteddfodau: the movement continued until the year 1843, when it all came to an end in Cardiff. It was the provincial eisteddfodau, without a doubt, which transformed the whole story of the eisteddfod. Eisteddfodau were held the likes of which had never before been seen on Welsh soil.

Listen to a video narrative in Welsh by Hywel Teifi Edwards: