« PreviousContinue »
of this continent. I would, therefore, upon this head, too, recommend that a sub-committee be formed, and that the members of it be requested to classify, and to compare, the labours and researches of individual members, if not to promote a comprehensive survey of Wales, with reference to this peculiar description of antiquarian remains.
IV.—The Roman Survey of Wales has been carried on with various success, but hitherto in a far more desultory manner than could be desired. It has long been my own special wish to combine the efforts of other members with my own in completing this highly interesting compartment of our archaeological knowledge; but with the exception of Mr. Dearden, Mr. Mealey, Mr. Lee, Mr. Foster, Mr. Hancock, and the authors of the History of St. David's, I have not found many Welsh antiquaries disposed to lend a helping hand. The progress that has been made in verifying and determining the lines of Roman roads and the sites of stations, is as follows:—
In the undernamed counties the survey may be considered as very nearly complete, viz.,—Anglesey, Flint, Caernarvon, Montgomery, Monmouth.
In the following, it is nearly approaching completion, —Merioneth, Cardigan.
A good deal is known about it in Pembrokeshire, but that county requires to be verified, and the same may be said of Brecknockshire and Glamorganshire.
There is hardly any department of archaeology more easy of study than this, on account of the peculiarly distinctive and easily determinable character of the remains about which it treats. I hope, myself, to aid in completing the survey for Denbighshire, Merioneth and Cardigan, but I should be truly glad to hear of a subcommittee of the Association being formed to co-operate and to superintend.
The formation of an accurate Roman map of Wales, based on the Ordnance survey, and the complete cataloguing and describing of the remains, are the two great desiderata in this particular branch. The museums at Caerleon and Caernarvon are peculiarly rich and valuable, from the undoubted genuineness of the objects they contain, and from their local histories being so well known. Future excavations in Wales, especially in the spots just mentioned, promise to add much to the stores she already possesses.
V.—Medieeval Remains have received more attention from the members of our Association than any other class of antiquities; and they are always likely to attract a greater share of antiquarian and popular notice than those which refer to times more completely removed from our own. In the two branches, however, which makeup this class, civil and ecclesiastical, the necessity of a systematic and comparative study is strongly felt; and it is to this desideratum that I would endeavour to attract the notice of the Association. Architects are now beginning to imbibe some of the principles upon which their predecessors of the middle ages worked, and produced the fine monuments they have handed down to us; but, for modern architects to make much further progress in their professional studies, the means of systematizing and of comparing the works of the middle ages are indispensably necessary. It appears to me, judging from their works, that architects are too much inclined to use the beautifully illustrated manuals and books of the present day in the same manner as their immediate predecessors used their •pattern books;—that they do not sufficiently study the ancient architecture of the district in which they may be operating, nor its peculiar physical characteristics,—its geology, its climatology, &c. Hence several most unsuitable buildings have been erected in various parts of Wales, and violence has been done, not only to historical aesthetics, but to the easily understood and generally felt picturesque effect of several localities. All this arises from the wane of systematic and comparative study; and it is peculiarly within the province of our Association to favour the existence of a better state of things.
I am aware that, in the case of provincial architects, many of them young and little known in their profession, the temptation to destroy and to build anew after designs of their own, rather than to restore and repair,—in other words, to exhibit and to advertize,—is almost irresistible. This temptation, too, is abundantly supplied to them by their employers; and the consequence is that, though many good buildings have been erected, the old architectural character of the country is disappearing rapidly. It may be said that it never was good enough to be worth preserving; but I do not altogether agree to this opinion. Much more might have been made out of it than has been hitherto attempted.
The restoration of Llandaff Cathedral shows what may be done by science and good taste going hand in hand,—an example that ought not to be lost on the Chapters of the other three Welsh Cathedrals, buildings in which Chinese Gothic is still painfully obtrusive. Among civil buildings, the restoration of Caernarvon Castle reflects immense credit on the scientific architect to whom the work was most fortunately entrusted; while in most other castles, either total neglect is still the rule on the part of their owners, or else the repairs are done in a hurried, cheap and slovenly manner. Cheering exceptions may, however, be quoted, in the cases of the Duke of Beaufort's castles, and those of the Earl of Cawdor, both of which noblemen are doing much to preserve the buildings of this kind which they possess, and are setting excellent examples to their country.
The proper superintending of new ecclesiastical buildings, and the restoration or repair of old ones, ought to lie with the superior ecclesiastical officers, the Prelates, Archdeacons, and Rural Deans. But our clergy, as a body, have retrograded in respect of the study of architecture since the Reformation, and have thrown themselves into the hands of architects, and more commonly of builders. Hence the difficulties and the disappointments so generally complained of; for the promoters of the building are capable of exercising very little solidly-founded discrimination in the selection of plans and elevations, nor are they generally able to superintend the operations of *
construction carried on, too often upon most erroneous principles, and in a dishonest manner, under their immediate observation and inspection. Architects, too, are greatly to blame for not superintending and controlling the builders they employ more effectually, until at length the erection of a wall capable of resisting the penetration of rain and damp, is asserted, in some parts of Wales, to be an impossibility,—as it certainly is for those who do not understand, or who try to evade, the terms of their contracts.
Many plans might be suggested for diffusing a more correct and a more general knowledge of architecture throughout the middle and upper classes; but until science is made a portion of the early education these classes receive, I do not know that they would end in anything very satisfactory. If local museums were generally formed throughout the twelve counties, works of reference upon such subjects might be found within them, drawings might be exhibited periodically or permanently, and lectures might from time to time be delivered, educating the popular eye, forming the popular taste, and offering to society an occasional welcome escape from the wearisome trash too often obtruded on them in public addresses, or by professionally itinerant declaimers.
I do not know that this Association can do much towards the preservation of the ecclesiastical antiquities of Wales; but one instance of good effected by means of our body may be quoted in that of Clynnog Collegiate Church in Caernarvonshire. The subscription for its restoration, originally proposed by the Lord Viscount Dungannon, at our first meeting at Aberystwyth, has been well advocated by the present incumbent of that parish, and it has now reached the amount of £1500, while the works themselves have been carried on successfully. On the other hand, a similar subscription for the restoration of the church of Lanbadarn fawr, near Aberystwyth, started on the same occasion, under equally promising auspices, has been allowed to lie dormant, and no restoration has been effected.1
With regard to castles and civil buildings, however, I think that this Association might do much, because its action on their owners would be more immediate, and because it could appeal to taste and knowledge, which would certainly produce some fruit or other. The instances of the crown itself at Caernarvon, of the Duke of Beaufort at Oystermouth, of the Earl of Cawdor at Kidwelly, could hardly be pointed out without being imitated, more especially when the comparatively small cost of the needful reparations and restorations, under judicious management, should be proved and quoted.
A sub-committee might very well be formed to watch over this branch of Welsh antiquities, in order to promote the study and preservation of these noble historic edifices; and, should it ever be formed, then I would venture to lay before its notice the two following desiderata, viz.:—
(1.) The drawing up and the publishing, in our Journal, of a complete classified catalogue of all the Welsh castles, arranged either according to localities, or, still better, according to chronological dates of erection, &c, with the historical events briefly indicated.
(2.) The searching after, and the publishing of, a list of the records and documents concerning the erection, &c, of the castles.
This latter division might very properly comprise a subject earnestly advocated by myself some time ago in the pages of our Journal, and of the importance of which I am becoming more and more convinced, viz., an inquiry into the conditions of tenure of the castles held of the crown, because it goes to the bottom of the question of the right and obligation of repair, and therefore directly concerns the maintenance of these buildings.
1 The subscription for the restoration of the chancel of Hodgeston Church, Pembrokeshire, which originated at the Association's meeting at Tenby, has made such progress as to warrant the commencement of the work.—Ed.