The life and achievements of Augusta Waddington – Lady Llanofer
by Eiry Hunter
LADY LLANOVER was born in 1802 as Augusta Waddington a member of the English aristocracy and heiress of the Llanover estate in Gwent. In 1823 she married Benjamin Hall, (later Sir Benjamin Hall and Lord Llanover) and united the vast Llanover and Abercarn estates. Benjamin Hall was a prominent MP and public figure. He was Chief Commissioner of Works when Big Ben (named after him) was commissioned. The family had close contact with the Royal Family.
She was greatly influenced by the poet Thomas Price (Camhuanawc) andLady Coffin Greenly of Herefordshire. (one of the patrons of Iolo Morgannawg).
By 1834 Augusta had learnt Welsh well enough to win a prize in the Cardiff Eisteddfod for an essay on the Welsh Language under the nom de plume of ‘Gwenynen Gwent’ (the Bee of Gwent) a name she proudly used for the rest of her life.
Her servants were all given Welsh names and Welsh job titles and were required to wear traditional Welsh costume to work and to speak Welsh at all times..
Llanover Court was renowned for its patronage of harpists and bards. The Halls reinstated ancient Welsh customs such as the Mari Lwyd, the Plygain, folk dancing and folk songs, and opened a Welsh Woollen Mill. Lady Llanover gave annual prizes of Welsh Costumes to pupils in the Llanover School for knowledge of Welsh customs.
The Llanover Court Welsh Christmas and New Year celebrations were lavish traditional affairs.
An avid teetotaller Lady Llanover bought every pub in the area, gave them Welsh names and turned them into tea houses.
Benjamin Hall petitioned Parliament to implement the use of Welsh in the Church of England in Wales. When he was outvoted he built his own Welsh Church in Abercarn, and when the Bishop refused to preach there in Welsh Sir Benjamin donated the church to the Welsh Methodists. It remains Methodist to this day.
The Halls were zealous members and instigators of the Welsh society Cymreigyddion y Fenni. They held 10 eisteddfodau between 1834 and 1853, each one more magnificent than its predecessor. The prizes were enormous and competitors came from all corners of the globe. Lady Lianover’s sponsorship knew no bounds – a Welsh Dictionary, a Welsh magazine for women. She helped Lady Charlotte Guest translate the Mabinogion, and collected Welsh folk tunes with Maria Jane Williams. She published recipe books and a comprehensive illustrated volume on the Welsh costume. Her energy, enthusiasm and zeal was phenomenal.
She died in 1896 aged 92 years old. A bulldozer of a woman, years ahead of her time, who fearlessly and fiercely promoted the Welsh language at the time of the ‘Welsh Not’. A brilliant exception to the Anglicised outlook of her class.