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Oriel Pendeitch

GWYDION 2000: An Exhibition of Ten Millennia of the History of Caernarfon

Caernarfon Bay’s spectacular setting and ancient traditions provided a rich lode of cultural and archaeological information in Gwydion’s 2000 Exhibition.  

This Exhibition was housed in Oriel Pendeitch and was dubbed a ‘People’s History of Caernarfon’.  The birth of the new Millennium in 2000 offered a momentous occasion of renewal, celebration and ambition for the group.  The exhibition offered a fun and free opportunity to discover Caernarfon’s past and legacy rather than the history of the castle.  Gwydion 2000, we hoped, would be an exhibition and experience to inspire reflection in the community of Caernarfon, the legacy of where we live and where we hoped the future would lead to.

Aspects of Caernarfon’s past that were addressed

  • Marine science meets maritime mythology – changing landscape of the area as a result of the sea
  • Lost lands of Caernarfon Bay – Caer Arianrhod and the Mabinogi
  • Roman Henwaliau – enclosure and port area of Segontium, for defence and trade
  • Roman Road linking Caernarfon and Anglesey? – hypothetical evidence of a road route linking the western-most part of the Roman Empire with Mon Mam Cymru
  • Ancient fisheries of Caernarfon – newly found fisheries by Gwydion
  • Age of the Saints and Pilgrimage e.g. Twrog, Gwyndaf of Peblig
  • Prince Llywelyn’s court’s – recently excavated princely court in Newborough and the seat of the House of Gwynedd at Aberffraw and Rhosyr
  • Growth of urban Caernarfon in the Middle Ages – fairs, markets, shops, trade
  • Old Priory and the Pilgrims – lasting legacy of the Age of the Saints on the town
  • People of Caernarfon, 1485-1700 – unsung heroes and sources of wealth
  • Caernarfon and the Sea, 1500-1700 – how the ocean provided the town with riches
  • Town of Caernarfon, 1485-1700 – times of significant changes and fortunes and the benefits that came from the Anglicisation of the ‘Acts of Union’
  • Charles I and Cromwell – hands of history touching Caernarfon
  • Gaol and executions – last execution in the town
  • Transportation and the gallows – exiled to Australia and America
  • Changing nature of employment, labour and population migration by sea in the modern era
  • Slate industry – significance, decline and rebirth?

Features of the Gwydion 2000 Exhibition

The jewel in Gwydion’s Exhibition was the first and free opportunity to see the recently re-discovered National Eisteddfod Crown of Llew Llwyfo (1895) from Caernarfon as was reported in contemporary local newspapers.  Other features included a large town history mural, 10 banners depicting important people associated with the town, new models and depiction’s of Roman Caernarfon (not just Segontium), medieval Caernarfon as well as the native Prince of Wales’s court at Rhosyr and artefacts and mannequins of various stages in Caernarfon’s life story.  There were new and exclusive video documentaries charting the decline of the centuries old fishing industry in the town as well as a visually impressive documentary retelling the history of the town using aerial footage (both bilingual) as well as some items and historic artefacts that were available for visitors to touch.  One very special artefact we had was the clapper from the last execution - an instrumental piece of history in what was the town’s last public execution.  In terms of exclusive aspect’s of the town’s history, Gwydion revealed possible evidence of a Roman crossing point or causeway to Anglesey as well as illuminating the newly-found and rediscovered early medieval fish-trap, Cored Gwyrfai.



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