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History of the Society

The Ceredigion Historical Society celebrates its centenary in 2009. Initially called the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society, it was founded in the summer of 1909 by a group of enthusiastic antiquaries and local patriots. Until then, little of the county's history had been scientifically explored or properly interpreted, and people were becoming alarmed by the destruction of works of antiquity, especially at iconic sites like the abbey at Ystrad-fflur. As early as April 1901 the Revd George Eyre Evans, a Unitarian minister at Aberystwyth, had discussed (during a stroll to the summit of Pen Dinas) with Llewellyn John Montford Bebb, Principal of St David's College, Lampeter, the desirability of establishing 'a Cardiganshire Historical Society'. On 20 May in the same year a 'thoroughly memorable' public meeting was held at Ystrad-fflur abbey â a site which Evans liked to call 'the Westminster of Wales' - and the occasion prompted him to redouble his efforts to set up a historical society in the county. Evans was a remarkably affable, well-informed and energetic man. He tramped the highways and by-ways of the county, taking rubbings of inscriptions, examining fonts and effigies, and closely interrogating local people. In his book, Cardiganshire: A Personal Survey of Some of its Antiquities, Chapels, Churches, Fonts, Plate, and Registers (1903), a work supported by 320 subscribers, Evans asked the rhetorical question: 'Why should not Cardigan be the first county to own its Historical Society?'

Even though he was a Unitarian, George Eyre Evans got on well with Anglican clergymen and other Nonconformist ministers. He established a close relationship with the Revd Professor E. Tyrrell-Green, Professor of Hebrew and Theology at Lampeter and a specialist in medieval architecture, and also with the Revd J Francis Lloyd, vicar of Llanilar. Letters were sent out to likely supporters of the county project and two highly successful open-air meetings were held at Ystrad-fflur in June and July 1909. At the second of these George Eyre Evans moved a resolution to establish the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society. Sir Edward Webley-Parry-Pryse of Gogerddan was elected President, Tyrrell-Green was elected Chairman of a twenty-strong Executive Committee, and also the first Editor of the Society's Transactions, and the Revd J Francis Lloyd was elected the first Honorary Secretary of the Society.

The main aim of the Society was to preserve, record and promote the study of the archaeology, antiquities and history of Ceredigion. That objective has remained the same, though the Society's name was changed to the Ceredigion Historical Society in 2002. Over the past century the Society has published fifteen volumes of its Transactions, two volumes of a proposed three-volume county history, and also held a regular annual programme of lectures and excursions to historical sites. It has worked closely with major institutions like the Ceredigion Museum, the National Library of Wales and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. As it celebrates the achievements of its founders, the Society looks forward to fulfilling its remit over the next hundred years.

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