St Davids Bishop’s Palace: guidebooks

The Cathedral from the Bishop’s Palace, St Davids © David Gill

The Bishop’s Palace at St Davids was placed in State Guardianship in 1932. The official guidebook was prepared by C.A. Ralegh Radford. The first edition appeared in 1934, and the second edition in 1953. This starts with the history of the palace followed by a description of the remains. There is a foldout plan inside the back cover.

1953 (2nd ed.)

The blue guide continued into the 1970s as a DOE guide, published on behalf of the Welsh Office. On the title page (but not the cover) the Welsh title is provided: Llys  yr Esgob Tyddewi. It included a reconstruction by Alan Sorrell. A summary in Welsh is provided at the back of the guide.

1953 (2nd ed.; 11th impress. with amendments, 1971)

The Cadw guide changed the title with the emphasis on St Davids (and note the dropping of the apostrophe). The author was by J. Wyn Evans, Dean of the neighbouring cathedral. It starts with ‘A Palace for Prelates: Historical Background’, and is followed by ‘A Tour of the Bishop’s Palace’. At the back is a section on ‘Bishops as Builders: a Summary of the Building History’ by Rick Turner. There is a plan of the palace inside the card rear cover. One page summarises the guide in Welsh.

The guide includes a section on St Non’s Chapel.


A revised version of the Wyn Evans and Turner guide was reissued in the larger Cadw format.

1991 (rev. 1999)


Valle Crucis Abbey: guidebooks

1953 (rev. 1971)

The abbey at Valle Crucis was founded in 1201 from Strata Marcella. The site was placed in State Guardianship in 1951.

1953 (repr. 1954)

C.A. Ralegh Radford prepared the first guidebook in 1953 consisting of the standard history followed by a description. A plan was placed in the middle of the guide. The 1971 edition included the Welsh name on the tile page (Abaty Glyn y Groes) along with a short summary in Welsh (pp. 21–22). The guide included a study of some of the early grave slabs.


The Cadw guide contained two sections: Valle Crucis Abbey by D.H. Evans, and The Pillar of Eliseg by Jeremy K. Knight (1987). This consists of the main sections: Historical background; the development of the abbey buildings; a descriptive tour of Valle Crucis. A fold-out plan of the abbey is printed inside the card cover. A short summary in Welsh was provided (p. 46).

This guide was revised in 1995.

1987 (rev. 1995)

White Castle: guidebooks

1991 (2nd ed. rev. 2000)

White Castle lies between Abergavenny and Monmouth in the Welsh Marches. Its origins lie in the Norman Conquest of the region, but the earliest stone remains date to the 12th century. It was placed in State Guardianship in 1922.

C.A. Ralegh Radford prepared the guidebook for White Castle in 1934 (along with the other two castles of ‘The Three Castles’: Grosmont and Skenfrith). The DOE Blue Guide is partially bilingual.  The title page (but not the cover) gives the English and Welsh titles of the site: White Castle / Castell Gwyn, and it was prepared by the DOE on behalf of the Secretary of State for Wales. The guide is in two main parts: history and description. However it is introduced with a short summary in Welsh (pp. 5–7). There is a foldout plan inside the back cover.

The 1991 Cadw guide for the Three Castles was prepared by Jeremy K. Knight.

1962 (7th impress. 1976)

Caerleon: official guidebooks

1950 (1962)

(Sir) Mortimer Wheeler and Tessa Wheeler prepared the first official guide to the Roman amphitheatre outside the legionary fortress at Caerleon (Isca Silurum) in 1935. The couple had excavated on the site in 1926–27. This guide reappeared as the Ministry of Works paper guide in 1950. It contains the sections:

  1. Caerleon in Legend and History
  2. The Amphitheatre

A plan appears on one of the middle pages. There is a note about the legionary barrack-blocks in Prysg Field (also in State Guardianship).

1970 (1973)

This simple guide was expanded into the ‘blue’ guide with a contributions by Dr V.E. Nash Williams. This is divided into the following sections:

  1. Caerleon in legend and history
  2. The amphitheatre
  3. The Prysg Field barrack-buildings
  4. Caerllion [short summary in Welsh]

Two fold-out plans appear inside the back cover. The first two sections are essentially the same text as the 1950 guide by Wheeler; Williams contributed the discussion of the barrack-buildings.

The DOE guide has a different bilingual title inside:
Caerleon Roman Amphitheatre and Barrack Buildings
Theatre Gron Rufeinig Caerllion a Llety’r Milwyr

1970 (4th impress. 1980)

The Welsh Office / Y Swyddfa Gymreig produced the Official Handbook / Llawlyfr Swyddogol (blue guide) in 1980. Welsh was used on the cover, and inside the guide uses the bilingual titles that were used in the original blue guide.

The main difference is that there is an extended guide in Welsh with sections mirroring the English section: Hanes; Theatr Gron; Disgrifiad.


Jeremy K. Knight prepared the new Cadw guide (1988). There was a move away from it being a guide to the amphitheatre to the legionary fortress. The guide was organised in the following sections:

  • In search of Isca
  • The legion and its fortress
  • The foundation of Isca
  • The layout of the fortress
  • The Second Legion and the occupation of Caerleon


This was followed by a tour guide, starting with the fortress baths, followed by the amphitheatre, defences and barracks.

A fold-out plan is printed inside the rear card cover.

There is a single page summary in Welsh (Hanes; Disgrifaid).

2003 (3rd ed.)

Knight prepared the 3rd edition (2003) in the new large format of Cadw guides. A fold-out bird’s eye view was printed inside the front card cover, and a plan inside the back cover. It is divided into two main sections: a history of Roman Isca; a tour of Roman Isca. It contained a feature on ‘Outside the walls: the civilian settlements’.


A Tour of Criccieth Castle


Tucked inside my DOE Official Handbook to Criccieth Castle is a card tour guide to the castle ‘Prepared by the Department of the Enviornment for the Secretary of Statue for Wales. The cost is 2.5 p. Inside is a short tour of the castle (with plan) showing 12 key spots from the curtain wall (1) to the Great Tower (11) with its external staircase (12). There are two simple views: from the south-west and and from the south-east.  The back cover has a simple history of the castle down to the 1933 when it was placed in State Guardianship.

1970 (2nd impr. 1975)

The original guide for the castle was prepared by Bryan H. St John O’Neil (1934). This was replaced by the ‘blue guide’ prepared by C.N. Johns (who had earlier worked on the Ashmolean Museum’s excavation of the Greek settlement of Euesperides in Cyrenaica). this first appeared in 1970 with a second impression in 1975. The title page provides the Welsh name of the site: Castell Cricieth, and there is a two page summary in Welsh at the end of the guide (pp. 38-39). A fold out paper plan is placed inside the back cover. A reconstruction by Alan Sorrell is provided.

A.J. Taylor and Conway Castle

1957 [1972]
1957 [1972]
Arnold J. Taylor prepared a number of guidebooks for sites in Wales. He prepared the guidebook for Caernarfon Castle and Town Walls and this was followed in 1957 by Conway Castle and Town Walls. This is a standard blue guide with a foldout map of the castle inside the back cover. A plan of the medieval town plan and walls appears inside. The guide is divided into three main sections: History; Description (The Castle; The Town Walls), and Note on Building Materials. There is a one page summary in Welsh (Castell Aberconwy). The castle was placed in the care of the Ministry of Works in 1953 ‘for a period of 99 years’.

I was struck by the relaxed tone for the guide that appears in the preface: ‘Every year visitors in their thousands walk through the empty ruins of Conway Castle. As they climb to its battlements and look down through the floorless towers and roofless roms, all of them, young and old alike, ponder on its meaning and its story.’ Taylor then poses a series of questions. So here is a guide that is written to respond to the visitor experience.


And this same opening preface appears in Taylor’s Cadw guide (rev. 1986). Note that the cover uses the Welsh form, Conwy Castle, although inside the cover the title of the guide is given as ‘Conway Castle and Town Walls’.

Exhibiting the Celts


I received my exhibition listing from the British Museum yesterday with details about ‘Celts: art and identity‘. The text informed me that ‘this is the first major exhibition to examine the full history of Celtic art and identity’. The exhibition opens on 24 September 2015.

This claim rather overlooks the stunning major international exhibition ‘Die Kelten in Mitteleuropa’ at the Keltenmuseum in Hallein, Austria in 1980. Some 67 museums from 10 different countries were represented. The catalogue has a substantial section on ‘Kultur der Kelten’ with a chapter on ‘Die keltische Kunst’ by Otto-Herman Frey. The catalogue has the Vorwort in four languages: German, English, French and Welsh (‘Mae’r Celtiaid yn dod!’).

The highlights in London will include the Holzgerlingen double-horned statue (Kelten no. 17), the Gundestrup cauldron (Kelten no. 188), and a gold torc from Snettisham.

I sometimes wonder if these major ‘blockbuster’ exhibitions fail to acknowledge earlier explorations. But then would ‘this is a further major exhibition to examine …’ bring in the visitors?


Incidentally I paid 15 Austrian Schillings to see the exhibition (at a student rate). The British Museum will be charging £16.50 (but free to Friends). Notice the Hallein ticket is in four languages.

Guides to Anglesey


O.E. Craster published a Ministry of Works guide to the Ancient Monuments of Anglesey in 1953. My 1972 copy is a 9th impression (with amendments). Price 17 1/2 p. Although the cover is in English the title page has a parallel title, Cyfarwyddyd I Henebion Mon. There is also a three page summary in Welsh at the end (pp. 42-44). The guide has is “Prepared by the Department of the Environment on behalf of the Welsh Office”.

The guide is organised by period:

  • Neolithic Age
  • Bronze Age
  • The Early Iron Age and Roman Occupation
  • The Early Christian Period
  • The Middle Ages and Later Period

In all, 23 sites are listed. Many have sites plans.


The 10th impression (1977; cost, 60 p) is very similar although the summary in Welsh is appropriately entitled Crynodeb (pp. 44-46). There is also a short list of further reading including three DOE pamphlets for Beaumaris Castle, Barclodiad y Gawres, and Bryn Celli Ddu. Notice the sublte change of title to Ancient Monuments in anglesey.A


The ‘blue guide’ was replaced by a yellow CADW guide (small format) in 1989 (revised edition 1994; cost £2.25) by Lesley Macinnes. This has an introductory section on the historical and archaeological background, and then groups the monuments on three ‘tours’: Eastern Anglesey, Western Anglesey, and Holyhead. There is further reading, as well as a fold out map of Anglesey. The sub-title of the volume is A Guide to Ancient and Historic Sites on the Isle of Anglesey.

The replacement CADW guide is by M.J. Yates and David Longley (3rd ed. 2001). It has the sub-title A Guide to Ancient Monuments on the Isle of Anglesey.


An Illustrated Guide to the Ancient Monuments of Wales

Wales (1973)
Wales (1973)

I have commented before on the Illustrated Regional Guides to Ancient Monuments that appeared in the late 1930s. This volume was published in 1973 as An Illustrated Guide to the Ancient Monuments Maintained by the Department of the Environment on Behalf of the Secretary of State for Wales (London: HMSO, 1973; 2nd impression with amendments, 1976). The price is clearly £1.65.

There are five main sections:

  • H.N. Savory, Prehistory (7-29)
  • G.C. Boon, The Roman Occupation (30-46)
  • C.A. Ralegh Radford, Early Christianity and the Emergence of Wales (47-57)
  • Glanmor Williams, The Middle Ages (58-99)
  • D. Morgan Rees, The Industrial Revolution (100-105)

There is a short bibliography for each of the sections.

The catalogue of sites appears on ‘pink’ pages at the end arranged by county. There is a foldout map at the end locating the sites.

The Preface informs us:

The guide differs from its predecessors (the previous guides to North Wales and South Wales) as the result of recent changes in the arrangements for the custody of Ancient Monuments in Britain. The Department of the Environment has absorbed the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works and the Secretary of State for Wales is now responsible for Welsh Ancient Monuments in the place of the Minister. Industrial Monuments have ben included for the first time, since they now fall within the scope of the Ancient Monuments Act.

This is part of a new series announced as:

  1. Northern England. 75p
  2. Southern England. 60p
  3. [Blank – for East Anglia]
  4. Wales. £1.65
  5. Cymru. £1.65 [Welsh language version of 4]
  6. Castles. 35 p
  7. Abbeys. £1.25


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