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Augusta Hall, Lady Llanover ( 'Lady Llanover') (1802-1896),

The patron of Welsh culture and inventor of the Welsh national costume.


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Augusta Hall (Lady Llanover) (1802-96)

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Benjamin Hall (Lord Llanover) (1802-67)

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Lady Llanover's Monmouthshire costumes (No...

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Llanover House, Llanover, 19th century

Augusta Waddington was born on March 21, 1802, the youngest of the six daughters of Benjamin Waddington (1749-1828) and his wife Georgina Port, (1771-1850), Tŷ Uchaf, Llanover, Monmouthshire. Augusta and her sisters received a broad education, and the family travelled extensively in Britain and Europe.

'Big Ben'

She married the politician and reformer Benjamin Hall of Abercarn and Hensol in 1823. Benjamin Hall was an MP for 22 years before being elevated to the peerage in 1859. During his tenure as Commissioner for Work of the Government, he oversaw  the casting and erection of great clock of Westminster, and the bell and the tower itself was called ‘Big Ben’ in recognition of his work.

Welsh literature and culture

Lady Llanover is best known as one of the main sponsors of Welsh folk culture. Her home in Llanover House was an important meeting-place for Welsh poets, authors and musicians, and special emphasis was placed on the Welsh language and traditional ways of life. She favored employing Welsh speakers as servants, insisted on Welsh services at Llanover church, and ensured that the Welsh language was taught at the two schools in Llanover. She sponsored the Welsh Collegiate Institution at Llandovery, assisted Ieuan Gwynedd in starting the Welsh language women's magazine Y Gymraes, and gave financial support to Daniel Silvan Evans when he was preparing his multi-volume dictionary. She endowed two Calvinistic churches, Rhyd-y- meirch and Abercarn chapel, where the services were held in Welsh, but based on the Book of Common Prayer liturgy, and turned the area’s pubs into temperance hotels.

Lady Llanover’s main contributions are connected with the eisteddfodau of Cymdeithas Cymreigyddion y Fenni (the Abergavenny Cymreigyddion Society). Shee joined the Cymreigyddion in 1834, and co-organized and sponsored ten colorful eisteddfod, funding competitions, especially playing the Welsh triple harp and Welsh textiles. Lady Llanover was one of the main promoters of the triple harp as the  national instrument of Wales in the nineteenth century. She resurrected the tradition of keeping a family harpist, gave scholarships to pupils to learn to play the harp at Llanover, and commissioned instruments to give to deserving harpists. She made the triple harp, or Welsh harp, the official instrument of the Society’s Eisteddfod.

Lady Llanover kept the traditions of the Mari Lwyd and the Plygain at Llanover, and her choir, Cantorion Llanofer competed at eisteddfodau, and performed folk songs at home and in London. She organized dances at Llanover in order to continue the tradition of Welsh folk dance, and 'Rîl Llanofer ' is performed to this day. She aslo helped, sponsored and guided the work of the folksong collector Maria Jane Williams, Aberpergwm.

Welsh costume

She won the best essay on 'The Advantages resulting from the Preservation of the Welsh Language and National Costumes of Wales' at the Royal Eisteddfod and Music Festival of Dyfed and Monmouth at Cardiff in 1834 under her bardic name ' Gwenynen Gwent '. The essay, and the album National Costumes of Wales attributable to her, formed the foundations of the Welsh national dress for women now seen in national celebrations. Lady Llanover wore the Welsh costume every Sunday and on public occasions, and insisted that her servants also wore it, and tried to promote it among the nobility in her circle. Her sponsorship of competitions for the best cloth or flannel samples, knitted or dyed in the national check or strips, introduced the craft element to the eisteddfod.

 

After the shock of losing her husband Benjamin Hall in 1867, and disheartened with the increasing Englishness of the Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales, she gradually retreated from public life. Lady Llanover died at her home on January 17, 1896 and was buried in the family vault in the cemetery of St. Bartholomew, Llanover, six days later.

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