Monthly Archives: February 2017

The Cernioge Inn: a forgotten spot on the Welsh tour

Kirsty McHugh, Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies

Many of the sites visited by travellers on tours of Wales in the eighteenth and nineteenth century like Snowdon, the vale of Llangollen, or Caernarfon Castle are familiar to us today as tourist attractions and sites of interest. It was common for tourists keeping journals to also note down the places they stopped or slept at and make notes of the quality of accommodation. These can give an insight into the challenges of travel in the Romantic period and the necessity of forward planning in order to make sure you had a bed for the night.

One inn that became particularly popular because of its location on the road to Holyhead, situated mid-way between the popular beauty spot of Betws-y-Coed and the town of Corwen was the Cernioge Inn. This is a place which has today almost disappeared off the map.

Map from Rev. Richard Warner’s, A Walk Through Wales, 1798.

Map from Rev. Richard Warner’s, A Walk Through Wales, 1798.

The main inn (it was known in 1795 as the Prince Llewellyn) survives beside what is today the A5. Its stable block on the opposite side of the road is more remarkable than the inn itself, and is what catches the modern traveller’s eye.

The stables of the Cernioge Inn near Glasfryn are today a barn on an isolated farm. Author’s photograph.

The stables of the Cernioge Inn near Glasfryn are today a barn on an isolated farm. Author’s photograph.

When the site was visited during research for the Council for British Archaeology report on the history of the A5 (2003) the interior of the inn building had been altered, but the stable block was largely unchanged. It still contained two stables with pitched stone floors, drains and hay mangers, and upstairs was divided into two plastered chambers with fireplaces (perhaps lodgings for the grooms).

Christopher Rawson and his brother stayed at the Cernioge Inn in 1817.

At this inn you meet with the best accommodation in N. Wales & the greatest civility. Kept by a Mr. Weaver, whose wife was lately a servant of Mr Abletts. It stands in high repute on this road & all the travellers from Ireland prefer sleeping here to any other. Excellent beds & the choicest fare. Miss W his daughter, an excellent performer on the harp & sings Welch airs.

Christopher’s brother William recommended the Cernioge Inn to their Halifax neighbours the Listers of Shibden Hall.

It seems that they took his advice and Anne Lister stayed there with her aunt on their Welsh tour in 1822. Anne records in her diary enjoying a good dinner of trout, mutton chops, and gooseberry tart and cream. She also mentions purchasing a copy of Nicholson’s Cambrian Traveller’s guide from Mr Weaver the landlord. With typical attention to detail Lister records that she purchased a copy of the second edition, published in London in 1813 in one octavo volume, and that it cost 18 shillings.

The surviving inn building is through to date from Weaver’s time, although the first recorded licence for an alehouse at Cernioge Mawr is 1772. The importance the inn once had as a staging post where one could change horses is attested to by the milestones, which can still be seen today.

Milestone near Glasfryn on Thomas Telford’s road through North Wales (now part of the A5). Copyright Keith Evans. Reused under Creative Commons Licence from Geograph.

Milestone near Glasfryn on Thomas Telford’s road through North Wales (now part of the A5). Copyright Keith Evans. Reused under Creative Commons Licence from Geograph.

It is said that Queen Victoria (then Princess Victoria) stopped at Cernioge for tea in 1832, but within a few years the inn would be closed. Probably Cernioge had gradually been losing business to other hostelries including The Saracen’s Head at Cerrigydrudion.

The building was a farmhouse when George Borrow visited the area in 1854.

I walked on briskly over a flat uninteresting country, and in about an hour’s time came in front of a large stone house. It stood near the road, on the left-hand side, with a pond and pleasant trees before it, and a number of corn-stacks behind. It had something the appearance of an inn, but displayed no sign. As I was standing looking at it, a man with the look of a labourer, and with a dog by his side, came out of the house and advanced towards me.

“What is the name of this place?” said I to him in English as he drew nigh.

“Sir,” said the man, “the name of the house is Ceiniog Mawr.”

“Is it an inn?” said I.

“Not now, sir; but some years ago it was an inn, and a very large one, at which coaches used to stop; at present it is occupied by an amaethwr – that is a farmer, sir.”

Should you be passing along the A5 it is worth stopping to have a look at this remarkable remnant of coaching days.

View of the Snowdon range from Cernioge, engraving by Josiah Wood Whymper c1875. From the collections of National Library of Wales.

View of the Snowdon range from Cernioge, engraving by Josiah Wood Whymper c1875. From the collections of National Library of Wales.

References

  • Christopher Rawson’s travel journal 1817-1822, WYAS: Calderdale, WYC:1525/6/5/2.
  • Anne Lister’s diary, 1822, WYAS: Calderdale, SH: 7/ML/E/6.
  • WH Rawson’s advice on Welsh roads sent to A Lister, received 4 July 1822, WYAS: Calderdale, SH: 7/ML/117.
  • George Borrow, Wild Wales: Its people, language and scenery, first published 1862.
  • Jamie Quartermaine, Barrie Trinder & Rick Turner Thomas Telford’s Holyhead Road: The A5 in North Wales, Council for British Archaeology Research Report 135, 2003 (thanks to Peter Wakelin for bringing this book to my attention)
  • British Listed buildings.
  • For information on Welsh inns see here.

Curious Travellers in 2017

We are already over half way through the project, and behind the scenes work is progressing on transcribing, editing and tagging Letters and Tours with a great deal of help from our systems developer Luca Guariento, and our new project assistant Vivien Williams. We have now added a Research Blog to our website, which, like the Walkers’ Blog is open to anyone who wishes to contribute. Several events are planned for the next few months where members of the team will be talking about their work; and we’re delighted to say that the wonderful exhibition which ran at Oriel Sycharth last year will be moving to North Wales, and then to Aberystwyth this summer. A volume of essays on Pennant’s Tours of Scotland & Wales, edited by Mary-Ann Constantine and Nigel Leask, is due out from Anthem Press this spring.

Recent talks

January 26-27, London: Alex Deans gave a paper on Pennant & Banks: ‘With a facility of communication’: Pennant, Banks and collaborative knowledge-making’ at a National Portrait Gallery Workshop: ‘Science, Self-fashioning and Representation in Joseph Banks’s Circles’. [abstract]

February 17, Edinburgh: Nigel Leask and Alex Deans spoke about mapping the Pennant Tours at the National Library of Scotland.

Upcoming events

March 8, Glasgow: Nigel Leask will give a lecture on Thomas Pennant to the Royal Philosophical Society in Glasgow.

April 29 (Edge Hill University): Kirsty McHugh will speak on ‘Leeds, Loch Lomond & the Lakes: the Marshalls, the Wordsworths and home tourism’ at Romanticism takes to the hills.

April 29, Oriel Môn, Llangefni, Anglesey: a Welsh-language day-conference devoted to the Morris brothers. Ffion Jones will give a paper on mutual friends and acquaintances of William Morris and Thomas Pennant. [programme]

May 6 Penpont, Brecon (day-conference, all welcome!): Windows on the World: C18th & C19th Travellers to and from Breconshire. [Programme].

Mid-May – end June: Exhibition: Landscape, Movement, Art at Oriel Brondanw, Llanfrothen. Look out for associated talks and events. We are also hoping the exhibition will move to Old College, Aberystwyth for the month of July – details to follow.

May 12, Oxford (public lecture): Mary-Ann Constantine will give the 2017 O’ Donnell lecture: ‘Curious Traveller: Britons, Britain and Britishness in Thomas Pennant’s Tours’.

June 7-9, Dublin: Mary-Ann Constantine will give a keynote lecture to the annual Eighteenth Century Ireland Society Conference, on C18th Welsh Travellers to Ireland (including Thomas Pennant, who visited as a young man in 1754).

July 10-12, Aberystwyth. Borders and Crossings International Conference, Mary-Ann Constantine will be giving a key-note lecture on Romantic-era travel writing and Coasts, and Liz Edwards will be talking about Hester Piozzi’s Home Tours.

July 29-31, York. British Association for Romantic Studies. Curious Travellers will be offering a panel of three papers by Alex Deans, Kirsty McHugh and Mary-Ann Constantine; Liz Edwards will speak on the tours of Hester Piozzi, and Nigel Leask is giving a key-note lecture on radical pedestrian tours.

October 18 (public lecture): Nigel Leask will be giving the 26th Annual Thomas Pennant Society Lecture at Holywell.

Please do contact us if you have any queries, would like one of our team to talk to your group or society, or if you’d like to write something for either of our blogs.

Travel and Identity: A Highland Woman at ‘Home’

By Georgia Vullinghs, MSc Graduate, University of Edinburgh

The Doune, Rothiemurchus, 'Highland Home' of Elizabeth Grant, with all the comforts and luxuries a Highland Gentleman and his family required (Wikimedia Commons).

The Doune, Rothiemurchus, ‘Highland Home’ of Elizabeth Grant, with all the comforts and luxuries a Highland Gentleman and his family required (Wikimedia Commons).

Increasingly, research about travel and tourism has been concerned with identity. Many diasporic Scots use visits ‘home’ to Scotland as a way to cultivate, perform, and maintain their Scottish identity. My research has focussed on elite Highland women from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It questions how, despite their absence from Scotland for the majority of their lives, they identified as Scottish and more particularly, Highland. Visits to Scotland had the potential to play an important role for these women in displaying their varied Scottish identities. The activities and culture the women engaged in while visiting help to reveal the nature of that identity. While often the women felt they were engaging with Highland life and acting out their identity, these experiences were very much shaped by the broader factors of their lives as ‘British’ elite women, and thus at times appear rather romanticised.

Four women from varying backgrounds were chosen as case studies for this research. Lady Louisa Stuart (1757-1851) was the youngest daughter of the infamous 3rd Earl of Bute. She grew up in England and it was not until she had independence as an adult that she began to visit Scotland on a regular basis. Even then, Lady Louisa never returned to the family seat. Next, Georgina, Duchess of Bedford (1781-1853), daughter of the 5th Duke of Gordon. Georgina was born and raised in the Highlands but, as a result of her aristocratic status, socialised in London from a young age. Her marriage to the Duke of Bedford consolidated her life in England, yet she continued almost annual visits to the Badenoch region until her death. The famed Elizabeth Grant (1797-1886), notable for her writings as a nineteenth century Highland woman, including ‘Memoirs of a Highland Lady’, came from the same region. Born in Edinburgh, Grant lived in London, continuing to visit Rothiemurchus for seasonal visits, before returning to Rothiemurchus and Edinburgh to live in 1812. She left Scotland permanently, to return only as a visitor, in 1827, when her family relocated to India where she met her Irish husband. Finally, Lady Aberdeen, daughter of Baron Tweedmouth also grew up in London. Annual trips to Glen Affric as a child helped to cement a powerful relationship with the Highlands, which she continued as an adult. While the experiences of these women do collectively provide an insight into how Scottish identity could be cultivated and performed by the increasingly absent Highland elite women through visits, overall, the extent to which this was done very much depended on their individual status.

Lady Louisa Stuart at her writing desk (Wikimedia Commons).

Lady Louisa Stuart at her writing desk (Wikimedia Commons).

Like other visitors to Scotland, for these women, appreciation and exploration of the landscape was a key theme of visits. The romanticisation of Highland landscape in particular was an important factor in the growth of popularity of Scotland as a destination for travellers and tourists. The ability to appreciate this landscape was a particularly elite trait, found in the experiences of all four women but most obviously in Lady Louisa’s. To an extent, this made them outsiders, able to step back from the often harsh realities of survival in the Highlands. However, it also had the potential to help these women feel more Scottish. In the ways they engaged with the landscape – navigated the hills and rivers, and endured the outdoors better than others – Grant, Georgina, and Lady Aberdeen could cultivate a sense of belonging.

The material culture these women engage with also reveals much about their experiences of Scotland and their sense of identity. Some of the women were able to find pleasure in their interpretation of a simple Highland lifestyle. They abandoned the materiality of their everyday lives, possible due to concepts of the ‘noble savage’. In the most extreme case, Georgina visited small huts in the glen, some with turf rooves! However, it should be noted that although simple, these weren’t without comforts such as servants and a roaring fire to keep warm by, as well as plenty of food and entertainment. In contrast, Lady Louisa was not able to romanticise this lifestyle, and still viewed such homes as part of the poverty rife in Scotland during her lifetime. From Lady Louisa and Grant’s experiences we find that in reality, late eighteenth-century Scottish elite were making considerable effort to ‘improve’ their houses practically and aesthetically, to make them more luxurious and comfortable, according to wider British elite standards. House surroundings also changed considerably. Farm buildings and estate offices were moved out of sight, revealing how the ‘traditional’ role of the Highland laird’s house did not fit with new elite aesthetic principles. This shows how, by the end of the eighteenth century, many elite Highland women lived a life detached from their estates, as the experience of all four women reveal.

This is also reflected in their relationship with Highland clothing. While Georgina abandoned fashionable dress while staying in Badenoch, dressing in the local peasant fashion as a way to display her Highland identity, she was only able to do so because of her elevated social status. This was also a practice reserved for the Highlands. In contrast, Lady Louisa and Grant’s experiences reveal that the elite Highland woman’s aspirations to the fashionable continued while she was living in the Highlands, as well as the difficulties they faced in doing so. Grant’s adult wardrobe was made up of items sent from Glasgow and London. She wore the same dresses in Rothiemurchus as she did in Edinburgh in order to maintain the appearance of an elite woman. This attire, unsuitable for participating in household tasks, reveals how the Highland lady no longer engaged with industry on the estate. However, we do find change by the end of the nineteenth century. The kilt was an important way for Lady Aberdeen’s son to express his Scottish identity, an attire which was acceptable in wider British elite circles by this time, reflecting Scotland and the Highland’s changed place within Britain. Furthermore, as a child, Lady Aberdeen enjoyed weaving shawls while she was in the Highlands. This childhood hobby formed the basis of a real interest for Lady Aberdeen in Scottish craft industries. She was heavily involved in the promotion of such industries, and displayed products at exhibitions across the world. However, while to some extent this stemmed from and reflected her sense of Highland identity, it was also a factor of her role as an elite British woman of her time, influenced by Liberal politics, the Arts and Crafts Movement, and the Celtic Revival.

Lady Aberdeen, dressed in one of her famous 'Celtic', craft-inspired dresses. This was her way of engaging with 'Highland' material culture. (Wikimedia Commons)

Lady Aberdeen, dressed in one of her famous ‘Celtic’, craft-inspired dresses. This was her way of engaging with ‘Highland’ material culture. (Wikimedia Commons)

Finally, music and dance had the potential to be particularly nationalistic for these women. It formed an important part of the entertainment for all four women during visits and could be used to perform their Highland identities. For all four women, music – Gaelic song in particular – and dance were closely associated with the Highland character. However, the extent to which they really understood the songs is debatable. Once again, we find a rather romanticised take on Highland life and culture which allowed Scots songs to be incorporated into the cult of sensibility. Furthermore, while these women enjoyed Scottish culture, they were limited as to when they could do so. For example, as a young girl at a party in London, Grant was reprimanded for dancing some Highland steps. These were not considered suitable for the occasion, obviously an activity reserved for when she was “at home in the Highlands”.

Overall, it may be argued that visits to Scotland and the Highlands did have the potential to play an important role in the performance of Scottish identity for these elite women once their lives pulled them away from their ‘native lands’. However, their experiences depended very much on their personal circumstances. Visits were overall a temporary manifestation of Scottish identities shaped by their outlook as members of the British elite.

Have a look at this interactive map for some more details on these women’s travels.