Thursday, July 07, 2011

Mere Welsh

Researchers sometimes fail to note that the boundaries of Wales in the Victorian census records are not the same as the borders we take for granted today. Parishes were assigned to the country where their local workhouse was situated. So in 1891, for example,Welsh language statistics were collected for Bedstone in Shropshire (part of the Knighton Union) but not for Glascwm in Radnorshire (part of the Kington Union).

This anomaly could have been useful if some of the Shropshire parishes where Welsh survived - Llanyblodwel, Sychtyn and Selattyn - had been in a Welsh Union. It would have provided evidence of the language's strength in those districts at the end of the 19C. The inhabitants of many English parishes were indeed asked about their ability to speak Welsh - from the Gloucester parish of Tidenham to Shocklach in Cheshire. Unfortunately none of these places were in areas where one or two old people born in the locality might still have spoken the language, Llanveynoe in Herefordshire for example. As a reader of the blog recently pointed out, there were certainly Welsh speakers native to the neighbouring Monmouthshire parish of Cwmyoy at this time.

Now as it happens there was, until it was transferred to Monmouthshire in 1893, a small detached part of Herefordshire within Cwmyoy parish called Fwthog. And here in 1891 there were still a handful of locally born Herefordians who spoke Welsh, this household for example, click to enlarge.


Anonymous said...

It would have been interesting if the 2011 Census question left blank in England had had the same question as in Wales, namely whether they speak Welsh, Then we would have discovered the extent of Welsh speakers in Britain, not just in Wales.

radnorian said...

Good point but then have the authorities ever wanted to know that.

alan said...

Interestingly,in 1891 (& 1881) the landlord of the Black Lion Public House, was James Thomas (aged 77), one of a handful of Cwmiou born Welsh speakers remaining in the parish. What an interesting chat one would have had at the bar with the ageing publican regarding the demise of the ancient language (and customs) in this beautiful valley.