Fonds GB 0210 WINCOOANT - Winifred Coombe Tennant Papers

Identity area

Reference code



Winifred Coombe Tennant Papers


  • 1897-1957, 1973 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

0.3105 cubic metres (16 boxes).

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

Winifred Coombe Tennant ('Mam o Nedd', 1874-1956), art patron and political activist, was born in Gloucestershire, the daughter of George Pierce-Serocold and Mary Richardson. Her upbringing was very cosmopolitan, as the family moved home regularly, living at numerous locations in England, Wales, France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. By the time she married Charles Coombe Tennant in 1895, settling at Cadoxton Lodge, Neath, Winifred had acquired an international outlook and a strong interest in history, art and politics. Her marriage brought her a network of relatives in influential intellectual, political and cultural circles, and she met many prominent contemporary writers and artists. In time, she became an influential patron of art and craft in Wales.

  • Winifred’s attitude towards cultural life, politics and society was informed by a deep sense of the spiritual and its close connection with the physical, and she was fascinated by the idea of genius. In particular, she saw artists as special, standing apart from the rest of humanity, their art a transcendent medium through which the everyday concerns of ordinary people could be communicated. To this was added a love of the power of religious symbolism (especially Roman Catholic), an affinity for her adopted homeland, and a profound regard for tradition and historical continuity.

  • Winifred took a deep interested in Welsh culture and identified herself strongly with it, particularly in the field of arts and crafts. From 1911 onwards, her patronage was directed towards Welsh artists, and it became her goal to educate the people of Wales in artistic sensibility and the Welsh arts and crafts tradition. To this end, she worked towards acquiring a body of fine modern art that she initially hoped to make publicly accessible, and in 1931 she became an official buyer for the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea. She also involved herself in organising events at the National Eisteddfod, becoming initiated as an Honorary Member of the Gorsedd in 1918, taking the bardic name ‘Mam o Nedd’ and gaining full membership in 1923, and holding the office of Mistress of the Robes from 1928.

  • In politics, Winifred Coombe Tennant was a radical. She campaigned for female suffrage, Welsh Home Rule and international peace, and stood unsuccessfully for Parliament as the Liberal candidate for the Forest of Dean in 1922. Through her links with David Lloyd George, she was appointed as a British delegate to the League of Nations, and she also organised war work during the Great War, strove to improve conditions for prisoners in Swansea Gaol, and became one of the first women magistrates in the country.

  • Winifred also became interested in spiritualism as a young woman, and gained a reputation as a pre-emininent psychic medium, working under the pseudonym ‘Mrs Willett’. This aspect of her life was particularly important to her after the deaths of her baby daughter, Daphne, in 1908 and her son, Christopher, at Ypres in 1917.

  • Winifred Coombe Tennant left Cadoxton for London in 1931, retaining an interest in Welsh cultural affairs but becoming less active in the public arena. She died in Kensington in 1956.

Archival history

Many of the letters and documents accumulated by Winifred Coombe Tennant while living at Cadoxton were destroyed by her in 1931. The greater part of the surviving archive was transferred to the Library soon after her death. The rest was kept at the family home under the care of her son, Alexander Coombe-Tennant, who in turn bequeathed it to his own son, Mark, on his death in 2003. Further donations were made to the Library by Jenifer, the widow of Alexander Coombe-Tennant.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Winifred Coombe Tennant; Kensington; Bequest; 1958

Mrs Jenifer Coombe-Tennant; Godalming; Donation; September 2007

Mrs Jenifer Coombe-Tennant; Godalming; Donation; November 2008

Mark Coombe-Tennant; Toorak, Melbourne; Donation; December 2014

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Papers of Winifred Coombe Tennant, 1897-1957, relating to her activities with Gorsedd y Beirdd and the National Eisteddfod of Wales, and also including correspondence with artists, patrons and art administrators and related material concerning her patronage of the arts in Wales; together with her diaries, 1897-1955.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

Action: All records have been retained..


Accruals are not expected.

System of arrangement

Arranged at NLW into three groups: Gorsedd y Beirdd and the National Eisteddfod; Art patronage; and 2014 Donation: Diaries.

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 set out in information provided when applying for their Readers’ Tickets, whereby the reader shall become responsible for compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998 in relation to any processing by them of personal data obtained from modern records held at the Library.

Conditions governing reproduction

Usual copyright regulations apply.

Language of material

  • English
  • Welsh
  • French

Script of material

Language and script notes

English, Welsh and French.

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

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Related descriptions

Notes area


Title supplied from contents of fonds. One printed item post-dates the creator's death.

Alternative identifier(s)

Virtua system control number


Project identifier


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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

March 2011 and August 2015.


  • English



Archivist's note

Compiled by David Moore and Ann Francis Evans. The following sources were used for the compilation of this description: The Dictionary of Welsh Biography 1941-1970 (Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion : London, 2001); Peter Lord, Winifred Coombe Tennant: a life through art (NLW : Aberystwyth, 2007); documents within the archive;

Accession area

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Physical storage

  • Text: Winifred Coombe Tennant Papers.