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Please link to the site in Welsh here  - apologies, there are some technical problems with this site with a blank strip under the heading, Spanglefish are trying to sort this out. 

Please note this update is only in English at present.

Update January 2020

First of all Happy New Year and Thank You!

Last year over 50 Community Research Volunteers contributed hours to explore the local knowledge about the production of homespun and woven woollen cloth (brethyn) in their area, as well as finding out more about the use of the cloth in the Slave trade. We also had the support of a wide range of academic researchers, historical societies, libraries and archives. Thank you to you all!

We realise there is a lot more to explore about how Welsh Plains contributed to the economy of the Slave Trade and how the cloth and provisions for plantations actually worked. The project has attracted international interest and a number of people are considering additional research into the ways that enslaved Africans made use of the limited amount of fabric they were given. 

So the project will continue during the next year - in Wales we are calling this next phase "Brethyn" with a focus on the cottage industry and the trade in cloth out of Wales, as well to find out more about the little understood impact this had on the development of the small industrial communities that developed in the valleys across Wales and impact this had on life in Wales in the 1700's. 

In England, the Learning Links International team are planning to explore the production of Kendal Cloth and the other cloth called Penistone, which collective became known as "Negr Cloth", and we will be exploring ways to fund support these activities. We also want to explore more about the role of the ports of Liverpool and Bristol in the use of Welsh Plains purchased to supply the Slave Trade, as well as to find out more about the significant role of Shrewsbury and London in trade to the Low Countries in the 1500's when this cloth was probably used for the earlier international trade to South America where the Spanish and Portuguese forced enslaved Africans to mine, as well as to produce crops to harvest. 

We are undertaking various consultations in January and would welcome feedback and ideas via "Feedback or email lizmillman@yahoo.co.uk. 

But now we have to wrap up the National Lottery Heritage Fund requirements, so we are preparing the research findings to present in the following ways:

as a rolling powerpoint that introduces the project using the beautiful illustrations produced by one of our volunteers

with information presented on the People's Collection website 

with bilingual websites that will provide information about the production of Welsh Plains and the trade 

and with the final NHLF report......

.... so a busy few months!



Update October 2019

Many thanks to all the Community Research Volunteers and Advisors who have been so helpful, put in so much time  and brought so much new information to the project. 

We have a series of meetings and updates planned starting on

Wed 30th Oct: 5 - 7 University of South Wales, Artium Building, 86088 Adam Street Cardiff in Rooom CA A118 whe our Jamaican Advisor, Yasus Afari, will be presenting a lecture performance related to this project.

Tues 12th Nov 6.30 for 7 - 9 at Llandegai Church Hall near Bangor

Wed 13th Nov 2pm meeting at Machynllech Library TBC

Wed 13th Nov 6 - 8 at Ty Siamas, Dolgellau when Merfyn Wyn Tomos will make a presentation

Friday 15th Nov 2 - 4 at the Unitarian Church, High Street, Shrewsbury with a focus on th erole of the Shrewsbut=ry Drapers. 

Tues 19th Nov a final session from 6.30 for 7 - 9 at Llandegai Church Hall near Bangor

Wed 20th Nov - possible meeting in Glyn Ceriog Institute TBC

Update August 2019

The Research Review planned with Prof Chris Evans enabled him to meet Community Research Volunteers in Shrewsbury, Dolgellau, Barmouth and Aberwystwyth, where we were hosted by the Royal Communission for a workshop session. The big picture is now coming together and we will start to share our findings here

Update July 2019

The 3 day Conference held at the Museum of Wales, organised by Prof Chris Evans on: "Clothing the Enslaved in the Eighteenth Century Atlantic World" was excellent and 10 of this project's Community Research Volunteers attended and we were able to make a presentation to the academic delegates and speakers from the US and Europe to "pass on the baton" of our current understanding the use of Welsh Plains in this story. The main outcome was the understanding of the scale and complexity of cloth trading at this time.  Unfortunately Conference papers are not available at this time. 

Check out this BBC link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-48624937

Slavery: Welsh weavers 'implicated in US slave trade'‚Äč - this is a good article which explains the new research by the University of South Wales are contributing to which has shown the extent of the links between rural mid Wales and the slave trade.

Prof Chris Evans has investigated the overlooked role Montgomeryshire and Merionethshire weavers played in producing clothes for slaves in the Caribbean and British North America.

At the height of the industry, Welsh cottage weavers were exporting almost eight-million yards of woollen cloth a year.

Introducing our hidden history project         

We are delighted to say that the National Lottery Heritage Fund has given us the go ahead to make a start on the ‘Sheep to Sugar – Welsh Wool and Slavery’ project which aims to bring together community research volunteers from Mid and North Wales who are interested in the history of spinning and weaving, with families from farming communities interested in local history and heritage, to explore and tell the history of the production of a woollen fabric called ‘Welsh Plains’ between 1650 and 1850 and its markets, using archival records and exploring Welsh place names.

This is a poorly understood history of little-known cottage industry that supplied local needs, before developing dramatically to meet the demands generated by the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. The project will also explore the little understood lives of the impoverished peasant households who sought a way of boosting their incomes by weaving woollen fabric for the ‘Plantation Trade’.

The project will produce on-line training materials for Community Research Volunteers and local families to enable them to research and share their findings. Working groups will be set up in consultation with existing local history groups; relevant guilds and other groups based across the areas of focus. The project will also include establishing ‘Hidden History Reading and Research Groups’ to increase understanding of the history of Wales and the wider world at this time.

Professor Chris Evans explains from his letter of support for the project application: 

"That Welsh Plains, woollens produced in mid-Wales in the eighteenth century, played a vital role in clothing enslaved peoples in the Caribbean is not widely known. Yet making ‘Negro Cloth’, as this historic Welsh product was also known, was a vital money-earner for impoverished rural households in Montgomeryshire and Merionethshire. As an academic at the University of South Wales, I outlined the story in Slave Wales: The Welsh and Atlantic Slavery 1660-1850 (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2010), but the account offered there remains an outline. Remarkably little is known about the communities that wove Welsh Plains/’Negro Cloth’, hence the value of ‘Exploring the Story of Welsh Plains’.

The community research programme that is proposed will do much to reveal the history of the textile industry at parish level; it will enable volunteers will develop new skills; and it will widen engagement with the industrial heritage of Wales, especially among under-represented BAME communities." 

At present project materials are being prepared and uploaded in English, ready to translate.

Please fill in your contact details and interest in "Feedback" and one of the team will get back to you as soon as we can.

Diolch! Thanks!

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