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Maindiff Court and Bailey Park hosted two sensational events. Helen Morgan of Abergavenny Local History Society reports


It had been a long, dry summer when the National Eisteddfod came to town amid more than the usual fanfare. The opening Gorsedd ceremony took place at Plas Derwen but the main pavilion with seating for 14,000 was in Bailey Park.  Choirs turned up to compete from as far afield as Middlesbrough, Nottingham and Portsmouth and from practically every district in South Wales. The Arts competitions attracted entries from as far away as Australia and the Americas. In all more than 2,000 people competed for the music and literary prizes.

Credit-all-Abergavenny-MuseumWith scores of the rich and famous, including Lloyd George,  expected to attend extra police and stewards were on guard  against suffragettes who had been parading along the Hereford Road threatening to disrupt events. And just to be sure, the 4th Brigade of the London Territorials turned up at the end of July for a fortnight’s tour of duty.

As it turned out, however, the week passed off without trouble. Lloyd George failed to turn up. The suffragettes set fire to the cricket pavilion instead.

Press reports at the time said that the Eisteddfod in 1913 had “unquestionably eclipsed its predecessors” and praised Abergavenny for its “beauty” and said “the town’s services to Welsh literature that had been notable”. Sadly, for its promoters, the event lost money due to poor attendances at the evening concerts of Elijah and the Messiah.

Instead, more than 12,000 people turned out for the first performance of the Pageant of Gwent on August 4th. This was a Bank Holiday being the first Monday of August (as was customary until 1965). The pageant took place at Maindiff Court, home to the Curre family, and was an elaborate costume drama in 12 episodes depicting our history from the coming of the Cymry in about 1100BC to Charles I. It involved people from across the county. Many characters were played by their direct descendants, including those of Richard Neville (Warwick the King maker) who married Anne Beauchamp in Abergavenny  in March 1436.

Ambulance and timbering competitions added to the merriment as did the band of The South Wales Borderers and Ebbw Vale choir.  It was so popular that it was repeated twice at the end of November in the Town Hall.


Abergavenny Local History Society’s lecture programme resumes on September 26 when Dr Ray Howell will talk about How the Romans shaped Medieval Caerleon.

Article by Helen Morgan:All images copyright Abergavenny Musuem

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