Wales History Timeline

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1834-1848 AD

1834: GRAND NATIONAL CONSOLIDATED TRADE UNION
Robert Owen's visions of improving factory conditions, shortening the long, back-breaking hours of labor and educating factory children had led him to set up "villages of co-operation," first in New Lanark, Scotland and then in New Harmony, Indiana. But his most enduring legacy was the creation of the GNCTU in 1834. The Union, despite its current anonymity, became a major influence on the future development of trade unionism in both Britain (and its Commonwealth) and in the United States.



1837: DAVID THOMAS USES ANTHRACITE COAL TO SMELT IRON
At the Yniscedwyn Works, Ystradgynlais, in the Swansea Valley, on February 5, 1837 David Thomas of Neath utilized a hot blast to smelt iron ore with anthracite coal. His success not only opened up the Swansea Valley to industry, but also led to the Lehigh Valley's becoming the chief centre of the world's iron industry shortly after Thomas's arrival at atasauqua, Pennsylvania in 1839 where he tapped his first furnace on July 4, 1840. Thomas is rightly honoured as "the father of the American anthracite iron industry" (An account of his work is given in my book "David Thomas: Iron Man from Wales" published by Red Dragon Press, 21l Murray Rd, Newark, DE 19711).



1838-1849: "THE MABINOGION" PUBLISHED IN ENGLISH
Lady Charlotte Guest (Lady Llanover), intrigued by the Welsh language spoken by the workers at her husband's iron works at Dowlais, was responsible for publishing an English translation of the 12 folk tales that she called "The Mabinogion." She was aided by John Jones ("Tegid") and Thomas Price ("Carnhuanawc"). Thus this great body of late medieval Welsh literature was brought to the attention of the literary world.



1839: BUTE DOCK BUILT AT CARDIFF
Vast amounts of coal were now being produced in the Southeast Wales Valleys; it was an ideal fuel for the world's navies, now changing over from sail to steam. The huge new Bute dock at Cardiff led to that city's rapid expansion into the largest and most important in Wales.



1839: THE REBECCA RIOTS
In May 1839 toll gates at Efailwen, near Carmarthen, were destroyed by a large crowd of farmers led by Thomas Rees (Twm Carnabwth) dressed in the clothes of a local woman named Rebecca. The riots, to protest the high fees charged at the toll gates for the transportation of farm goods, lime and animals continued for a number of years in West Wales.



1839: CHARTIST RIOT AT LLANIDLOES
Llandidloes, Montgomeryshire, was a leading center of the Welsh woolen industry. The popular movement known as the Chartism wanted to bring about electoral reform. One of their meetings, held at Llandidloes, turned violent when the members ransacked some public buildings and threatened the local magistrate. After the local militia had restored order, many of the leaders of the protest were deported for life.



1839: THE NEWPORT RISING
Newport, Monmouthshire, on the southern edge of the South Wales coal field, was the site chosen for a major Chartist rally. Over 5,000 miners and laborers entered Westgate Square in three columns, one led by John Frost. The military was waiting inside the Westgate Hotel, their weapons primed and ready. The marchers were soaked from the heavy downpour, tired from their long hike "from the hills," and armed only with "rude pieces of iron fixed upon shapeless hedge stakes." It is not known who fired the first shot, but a volley from the soldiers of "the gallant 29th" soon ended the demonstration (for surely, that is all that was intended), a score of workers being killed instantly and many more wounded. The 20-minute affair had repercussions lasting more than a century in the political and social history of South Wales (a full account is found in my book "David Thomas: Man of Iron").

Harsh sentences followed the arrest of the Chartist leaders. Frost was found guilty of high treason along with William Jones and Rees (Jack the Fifer). All three were sentenced to hanging and quartering, their bodies to be thrown on the town's rubbish dump, but the sentence was later commuted to one of life imprisonment.

The Great Reform Bill of 1867 finally ended the Chartist Movement, for in that year nearly 1,000,000 voters were added to the register, almost doubling the electorate. Forty-five new seats were created and the vote given to many working men. Frost (having returned to Wales to a hero's welcome after serving time in Australia) died in 1877 at the age of 93: his pioneering work, alongside that of the others, had not been in vain.



1841: RAILWAY LINKS CARDIFF TO BRISTOL
This year saw the completion of the Severn Tunnel enabling Brunel's Great Western Railway to reach Cardiff, thus furthering the conditions for that city's phenomenal growth and importance (but also further severing its links with North and West Wales in favor of those with Bristol and London).



1842-47: ROYAL COMMISSION REPORTS ON THE STATE OF EDUCATION IN WALES
The Royal Commission of 1842 found that in many parts of Wales, young people were learning to read English at Sunday School but could speak only Welsh. The ensuing report of the Commissioners of Inquiry in 1844 lamented the ignorance of the English language. This "intolerable" situation had to be remedied. The next detailed report was issued by the Royal Commission of 1847. It has become known in Wales as "Brad y Llyfrau Gleision" (The Treachery of the Blue Books). The commissioners knew no Welsh, and thus their questions in English to Welsh schoolchildren were not understood.

The prevalence of the Welsh language was stated as the main cause of what the Commission deplored as the sad state of education in Wales. The remedy, the imposition of English-only Board schools throughout Wales did much to hasten the decline of the Welsh language, for generation after generation of children would now be schooled in English only. The survival of Welsh at all can only be attributed to a miracle or to the rugged determination of those for whom the passing along of the ancient language became a sacred trust.



1848: TRINITY COLLEGE, CARMARTHEN FOUNDED
A flurry of activity in the educational field led to the establishment of Trinity College by the Anglican Church. In addition, dissatisfaction led to the foundation of Normal College, Bangor in 1858 for the Nonconformists.

  

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