Please link to the site in Welsh here
Please note this update is only in English at present.
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' - 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.
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