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A PORTRAIT OF MACHYNLLETH AND ITS SURROUNDINGS.

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Press release:

Originally published in the Welsh language in 1855, Darlundraeth o Fachynlleth a’i Hamgylchoedd contained specific sections on more than sixty villages, farms, valleys and hills, capturing a culture and landscape on the brink of change.

More than 150 years on Coch-y-Bonddu Books has published the first ever English language translation of the book. A Portrait of Machynlleth and its Surroundings brings to life a world that was changed beyond all recognition by the coming of the railway.

Mike Parker, TV broadcaster and co-author of the bestselling Rough Guide to Wales, describes the book as “A fascinating and beautifully illustrated account - a work that will prove massively valuable to anyone wishing to learn more about Wales’ ancient seat of government and its surroundings. The author catalogues the various layers of life in both the town and its surroundings, as far as the coast of both Meirionnydd and Ceredigion, and inland to Llanbrynmair, the ‘lost’ fortress of Tafolwern and the upland lead mines of Dylife.”

Written as an entry for a competition run by the Machynlleth Literary Society, Darlundraeth represented the most comprehensive collection of writing, poetry and folklore ever to be published in relation to this unique area of mid Wales, and so impressed the judges that they recommended it should be published.

Nicholas Fenwick, the book’s translator, says: “Evan Jones, who would later become a prominent Methodist minister, publisher, and journalist, was just seventeen when he wrote Darlundraeth, yet he managed to collate a vast amount of information, much of which would otherwise have been lost, recording it in a way that even the most experienced Victorian travel writer would have been proud of. His work stands as an early testament to a talent that would later have a great influence on his country.”

A Portrait of Machynlleth and its Surroundings is available from Coch-y-Bonddu Books at www.anglebooks.com, contact orders@anglebooks.com, 01654 702837. A PORTRAIT OF MACHYNLLETH AND ITS SURROUNDINGS By Evan Jones, “Caradawc o Lancarfan”. Translated by Nicholas Fenwick. Paperbound. 192 pages. £9.95

A PORTRAIT OF MACHYNLLETH AND ITS SURROUNDINGS REVIEW BY TV BROADCASTER, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR MIKE PARKER

In 1854, the Machynlleth Literary Society ran a competition for written essays on the town, its history and its place in the world. The winner – in fact, the only entry – came from a seventeen year old lad, Evan Jones, who wrote, in the best eisteddfodic tradition, under the pen name of Caradwc o Lancarfan.

It is a fascinating account of the town at a totemic time in its history: the Victorian age is in full swing, the mercantile status of the town is booming, workers (industrial and agricultural) are firmly in their place, while the gentry organise all manner of events and societies to improve their lot. The railway is shortly to arrive, however, bringing with it immeasurable change. Jones catalogues the various layers of life in both the town and its surroundings, as far as the coast of both Meirionydd and Ceredigion, and inland to Llanbrynmair, the ‘lost’ fortress of Tafolwern and the upland lead mines of Dylife.

It is tempting sometimes to think that in an area as rural and apparently remote as mid Wales, little has changed over the centuries. This fascinating, and beautifully illustrated, account puts paid to that idea. Even history itself is presented in a different manner to the accepted truths of today: Jones’ take on Owain Glyndwr’s time in Machynlleth adds considerably to our understanding of that turbulent age. As you’d expect from the perspective of a seventeen year old, this is a bright, personable and hugely enthusiastic portrait. Nick Fenwick’s translation is excellent, keeping the ebullient tone, while also explaining the context where it is needed. This is a work that will prove massively valuable to anyone wishing to learn more about Wales’ ancient (if brief) seat of government and its surroundings.

Mike Parker

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