Augusta Hall, Baroness Llanover
Hall (1802–1867, after whom "Big Ben" is said to have been named, as he was Commissioner of Works in 1855 when it was built), was for some years Member of Parliament for Monmouth, but transferred to a London seat just prior to the Newport Rising which brought with it a turbulent time in Monmouthshire. He was created a baronet in 1838, and entered the House of Lords in 1859 under Prime Minister Palmerston as Baron Llanover. However, his wife overshadowed him in life and subsequent reputation.
In 1828, the couple commissioned Thomas Hopper to build Llanover Hall for them. It was designed as a kind of arts centre as well as a family home.
Lady Llanover had always been interested in Celtic Studies. Her sister, Frances, had previously married a German ambassador to Great Britain, Baron Bunsen, whose social circle was also interested in Celtic subjects and culture.
Lady Llanover was greatly influenced by the local bard, Thomas Price, whom she met at a local Eisteddfod in 1826. Carnhuanawc taught her the Welsh language; she took the bardic name "Gwenynen Gwent", ('the bee of Gwent'). She became an early member of Cymreigyddion y Fenni. Her Welsh was never considered fluent but she was an extremely enthusiastic proponent of all things Welsh. She structured her household at Llanover Hall on what she considered to be Welsh traditions and gave all her staff Welsh titles and Welsh costume to wear.
Her husband shared her concern for the preservation of the heritage of Wales, and campaigned for the Welsh to be able to hear church services conducted in the Welsh language.
At the Cardiff Eisteddfod of 1834, she won first prize for her essay on The Advantages resulting from the Preservation of the Welsh language and National Costume of Wales and she probably commissioned a series of watercolours of Welsh costumes, 13 of which were reproduced as hand-coloured prints soon after 1834. These were little more than fashion prints for herself and friends to create dresses for themselves and their servants to be worn on special occasions, especially fancy dress balls. Her attempts to create a traditional Welsh costume are accepted as important to the adoption of the dress as the national costume of Wales.
In 1850, she helped found Y Gymraes ("The Welshwoman"), the first Welsh-language periodical for women. Her other interests included cookery (on which she published a book) and folk music; she encouraged the production and use of the traditional Welsh triple harp, employing a resident harpist at Llanover Hall.
She was a patron of the Welsh Manuscripts Society, of the Welsh Collegiate Institution at Llandovery, funded the compilation of a Welsh dictionary by Daniel Silvan Evans. She bought Welsh manuscripts of Taliesin Williams, Taliesin ab Iolo and the collection of Iolo Morgannwg, Edward Williams (now held in the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff).
She collaborated with Welsh musicians such as Maria Jane Williams, a noted harpist, vocalist and guitar player and Henry Brinley Richards, a noted composer best known for writing "God Bless the Prince of Wales", and herself produced a Collection of Welsh Airs.
Another main interest of hers was the temperance movement to which end she closed all the public houses on her estate, sometimes opening a modest temperance inn in their place, such as Y Seren Gobaith ('the Star of Hope') temperance inn, which replaced the Red Lion at Llanellen. She was an outspoken and lifelong critic of the evils of alcohol. Closely associated with her temperance work was religion in the form of militant Protestantism and she endowed two Calvinistic Methodist churches in the Abercarn area, with services conducted in the Welsh language, but a liturgy based on the Book of Common Prayer.
She outlived her husband by nearly thirty years, living well into her nineties. Only one of their daughters survived to adulthood: Augusta, who in 1846 married an Arthur Jones of Llanarth, of an old Roman Catholic family. Their son, Ivor Herbert, 1st Baron Treowen, became a Major-General during the First World War.
- Lady Llanover Society, formed in 2003
- "Archival material relating to Augusta Hall, Baroness Llanover". UK National Archives.
- Lady Llanover memorabilia[permanent dead link]
- BBC news item on Lady Llanover
- Profile of Lady Llanover online and photos of 'Welsh Ladies' from the very late Victorian period.