"Thanks be to the Lord for protect me that Dangerous day I was in the 18th June’ wrote Morris Williams to his parents from ‘a Camp near Paris’. The date is that of the Battle of Waterloo and Williams was the son of a Cardiganshire farmer. His progress from the militia to the Welch Regiment resulted in his presence in one of the most famous battles in British history.
Ceredigion Archives holds two books of letters from brothers Morris and Daniel Williams, their father John, and their Uncle Owen. The four correspondents weave a narrative of life at the time of the Napoleonic wars. The language is idiosyncratic but the meaning perfectly clear. Daniel is the greater gossip, more aware of current events and their significance. If Morris’ letters are ultimately a tragedy, then Daniel’s are a comedy, ending in marriage and children. These letters are of national significance in their provision of contemporaneous, subjective and highly entertaining narratives from four different but complementary perspectives.
Following detailed evaluation, the letters were unbound, cleaned and repaired at the National Library of Wales, and were digitised at Ceredigion Archives; the letters were then re-bound at the National Library to reflect the original narrative.
The digitised images have been made accessible via The Llantood Letters website. The original letters were exhibited during the Waterloo bi-centenary year and are acting as a catalyst for further research into Wales’ contribution to this period of British, and world, history.
County Archivist, Helen Palmer, hailed the project 'a fantastic success', the conservation of the letters provoked enormous press and public interest.
The volumes were conserved thanks to a grant from NMCT in partnership with MALD Wales. NMCT's ongoing partnership with the Welsh Government through MALD has resulted in grants of nearly £170,000 being awarded for manuscript conservation projects in Wales.
You can see a gallery of images of the conservation in progress below, click on the first and then scroll through (images courtesy of Ceredigion Archives and the National Library of Wales). You can find out more about the letters on Ceredigion Archives' Blog.