Fonds GB 0210 CWRTMSS - Cwrtmawr manuscripts

Barddoniaeth a rhyddiaith,

Identity area

Reference code



Cwrtmawr manuscripts


  • 1543-1923 (accumulated [1871]-[1926]) (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

3.181 cubic metres (1,549 volumes, 56 boxes)

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

John Humphreys Davies (1871-1926) of Cwrt Mawr, Llangeitho, county Cardiganshire, was a distinguished academic, author and bibliographer who became Registrar of the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, in 1905 and thereafter served as its Principal from 1919 until his death.
He was born at Llangeitho on 15 April 1871, the third son of Robert Joseph Davies, and was educated at the local village school, Lewis School, Pengam and University College School, London. Thereafter he studied at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and Lincoln College, Oxford, where he graduated BA in 1893. He was then called to the Bar at Lincoln's Inn.
At a very early age he entered the public life of Wales and his native county, becoming JP for Cardiganshire and treasurer of the General Assembly of the Calvinistic Methodist connexion. His interest in Welsh history, antiquities and literature was heightened by his close association while at Oxford with figures like O. M. Edwards and Thomas Edward Ellis, who married Davies's sister Annie.
Following his appointment as Registrar at Aberystwyth, Davies was well placed to collaborate with Sir John Williams in securing the town as the location of the National Library of Wales. The institution was to become the home of the magnificent Cwrt Mawr collection of books and manuscripts. He also became a member of the highly contentious Welsh Church Commission in 1908, was chosen high sheriff of Cardiganshire in 1911 and chairman of the Cardiganshire County Council in 1917.
J. H. Davies was extremely prominent in Welsh public life throughout the first quarter of the twentieth century. He was one of the founders of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Society and contributed regularly to its Journal, and he served as the editor of the Journal of the Welsh Bibliographical Society from 1910 until 1920. In 1916 he was appointed editor of Cylchgrawn Cymdeithas Hanes y Methodistiaid Calfinaidd. As Principal of the university college he made a major contribution towards strengthening the bonds between his college and the federal University of Wales and also between the college and the Welsh nation.
He devoted much of his leisure time to the collection of Welsh books and manuscripts, and soon became a highly regarded authority in these fields. Among Davies's many important publications are The Letters of Lewis, Richard, William and John Morris of Anglesey (1907-1909), Gweithiau Morgan Llwyd, Vol. II (1908), A Bibliography of Welsh Ballads (1909-1911), and Letters of Goronwy Owen (1924). He also published a large number of articles in an array of periodicals and journals.
J. H. Davies died at Cwm Cynfelin, Aberystwyth, on 10 August 1926, and was buried at Llangeitho.

Archival history

The largest group within his collection was acquired by J. H. Davies from John Jones (Myrddin Fardd, 1836-1921), of Chwilog, Caernarfonshire, who had assembled a large collection of historical and antiquary material copied from parish registers and libraries such as Peniarth. Davies also acquired substantial material derived from the collections of the following: Daniel Silvan Evans (1818-1903), cleric, editor and lexicographer, whose major work was his unfinished Geiriadur Cymraeg (5 vols, 1887-1896, 1906); the Richards family of Darowen, Montgomeryshire, a Welsh clerical family active in the Welsh church and in cultural movements, which included the Rev. Thomas Richards (1754-1837), his five sons (all ordained), and three daughters, the eldest of whom, Mary (1787-1877), compiled over 20 volumes of transcripts and memoranda; William John Roberts (Gwilym Cowlyd, 1827-1904), poet and printer and nephew of Ieuan Glan Geirionydd (1795-1855), cleric and poet; Peter Bailey Williams (1763-1836), cleric and writer and son of Peter Williams (1723-1796), Methodist and Biblical commentator. J. H. Davies also collected several important smaller groups of material.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

John Humphreys Davies; Cwrtmawr, Llangeitho; Donation; 1925 & 1926.
John Humphreys Davies (per T. I. Ellis, Rhyl); Bequest; 1933.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Manuscript collections containing original and transcribed poetry and prose, 1543-[20th century]; religious works, 1611-1914; biographies, chronicles, archaeological and historical notes, works on travel, folklore, recipes, grammars, vocabularies and philological notes, 1673-1900; rent-rolls, parish registers, tithe account books, bidding books, minute books and registers of various societies, 1608-1863; pedigrees and genealogical notes, [17th century]-1871, commonplace books, [18th century]-1904, volumes of press-cuttings; manuscripts in the hand of J. H. Davies, including transcripts of and indexes to Welsh poetry, bibliographical notes, literary and legal extracts, pedigrees, biographical data and notes on place-names, 1891-1923; autograph letters from prominent Welsh literary figures, 1674-1921; autograph manuscripts of John Jones, Gellilyfdy, Dafydd Ellis of Criccieth, Eben Fardd (including diaries, 1836-1859), Peter Williams, D. Silvan Evans, Thomas Richards and Myrddin Fardd.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

All records donated to the National Library of Wales have been retained.


Accruals are not expected.

System of arrangement

Arranged at NLW as Cwrtmawr MSS 1-1492.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Readers consulting modern papers in the National Library of Wales are required to abide by the conditions noted on the 'Modern papers - data protection' form issued with their readers' tickets.

Conditions governing reproduction

Usual copyright laws apply.

Language of material

  • English
  • Welsh

Script of material

Language and script notes

Welsh, English.

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Hard copies of the catalogues are available at the National Library of Wales.

Generated finding aid

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

J. H. Davies's personal papers and correspondence are also held at NLW; these are currently uncatalogued. A number of manuscripts, once part of J. H. Davies' collection, are now in NLW, J. Lloyd Williams Collection and Papers. Deeds collected by Davies are NLW, Cwrtmawr Deeds.

Related descriptions

Notes area


Title derived from domicile of collector and donor, J. H. Davies.

Alternative identifier(s)

Virtua system control number


Project identifier


Access points

Place access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru = The National Library of Wales

Rules and/or conventions used

Description follows ANW guidelines based on ISAD(G) 2nd ed.; AACR2; and LCSH


Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

September 2003.


  • English



The following sources were used to compile this description: NLW, Catalogue of the Cwrtmawr Manuscripts; Dictionary of Welsh Biography down to 1940 (London, 1959).

Archivist's note

Compiled by Rhys Jones for the ANW project.

Accession area