Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales

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The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW; Welsh: Comisiwn Brenhinol Henebion Cymru) is a Welsh Government sponsored body concerned with the archaeological, architectural and historic environment of Wales, based in Aberystwyth. It was established in August 1908, shortly after the equivalent Royal Commission for Scotland (February 1908), and before that for England (October 1908).


The RCAHMW maintains and curates the National Monuments Record of Wales (NMRW) holding the national collection of information about the archaeological, architectural and historical heritage of Wales and provides a public information service, drawing on both archival and published sources and benefiting from specialist advice from RCAHMW staff. The National Monuments Record includes drawings, photographs, maps, plans and descriptions for a total of over 80,000 sites, buildings and maritime remains. With 1.5 million photographs, it is the largest photographic archive in Wales.

Coflein is the online database for the National Monuments Record of Wales (NMRW). The name is derived from the Welsh cof (memory) and lein (line). Coflein contains details of many thousands of archaeological sites, monuments, buildings and maritime sites in Wales, together with an index to the drawings, manuscripts and photographs held in the NMRW archive collections.

The Commission has published over a hundred books developing and promoting understanding of aspects of the historic environment, including its centenary volume in 2008, Hidden Histories: Discovering the Heritage of Wales, which includes a brief account of the organisation's development and discussions of the history of Wales seen in the light of its first century of discoveries.

RCAHMW Mission Statement[edit]

The Royal Commission has a national role in the management of the archaeological, built and maritime heritage of Wales as the originator, curator and supplier of authoritative information for individual, corporate and governmental decision-makers, researchers and the general public. To this end it;

  • Surveys, Interprets and Records the man-made environment of Wales;
  • Compiles, Maintains and Curates the National Monuments Record of Wales;
  • Promotes an understanding of this information by all appropriate means.


In common with the commissions for England and Scotland, the RCAHMW published a series of county inventories describing ancient monuments on a county-by-county basis. These initially covered constructions predating 1700 but this was later extended to the nineteenth century. Later volumes (from the 1960s onwards) also covered their areas in much greater detail than before. The project was discontinued in 2000 with Glamorgan and Breconshire incomplete and no inventories issued for Ceredigion and Monmouthshire. However more of Wales was covered by this method than any other part of Great Britain.

  • Montgomeryshire (1911)
  • Flintshire (1912)
  • Radnorshire (1913)
  • Denbighshire (1914)
  • Carmarthenshire (1917)
  • Merionethshire (1921)
  • Pembrokeshire (1925)
  • Anglesey (1937)
  • Caernarvonshire I: East (1956)
  • Caernarvonshire II: Central (1960)
  • Caernarvonshire III: West (1964)
  • Glamorgan I (3 vols) (1976)
    • 1: The Stone and Bronze Ages
    • 2: The Iron Age and Roman Occupation
    • 3: The Early Christian Period
  • Glamorgan IV: The Greater Houses (1981)
  • Glamorgan III: Medieval Secular Monuments, Non-defensive (1982)
  • Brecknock II: Hill-forts and Roman Remains (1986)
  • Glamorgan IV: Farmhouses and Cottages (1988)
  • Glamorgan: Early Castles (1991)
  • Brecknock: Later Prehistoric Monuments and Unenclosed Settlements To 1000 A.D. (1997)
  • Glamorgan: Later Castles (2000)

Proposed merger[edit]

In May 2012, the Welsh Government announced that it wished "to create a process whereby the core functions of the Royal Commission could be merged with other organizations, including Cadw".[1][2] The merger would have been similar to that undertaken in England in 1999, when the English Royal Commission was absorbed into English Heritage. Following a consultation exercise, the Minister for Culture and Sport announced in January 2014 that the two organisations would remain separate for the time being.[3]

Hidden Histories[edit]

A five-episode BBC television series following the field investigations of the Commission, Hidden Histories, was broadcast in 2008 on BBC2 Wales and in 2009 on BBC4. A second series was in production in summer 2009. Both series were made by Element Productions Ltd and presented by Huw Edwards.


  1. ^ "Written Statement - Planning for the future of historic environment services in Wales". 3 May 2012. Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  2. ^ Saunders, Matthew (Autumn 2012). "Secretary's Report". Ancient Monuments Society Newsletter (03/2012): 4. 
  3. ^ "Minister announces new strategic approach for Welsh heritage". Welsh Government. 14 January 2014. Retrieved 19 January 2014. 

External links[edit]