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How we got started and exploring ways to tell the 'From Sheep to Sugar' story

We plan to tell the Sheep to Sugar story in various ways:

- with dissemination events in local communities

- through the project website

- on the People's Collection

- with a film 

- with a rolling PowerPoint

- by sharing the story with local historians and speakers, to tell on 

- using our Epic Poem idea - "Shearing, Shearing - 

- using other epic poem examples - perform "The Fleece"?

Other ideas for the future

Write a book for young adults - Angharad Tomos

Write a children's book

Write and easy read book for the general market

Produce a tapestry 

Produce an on site play - ??

Get organisations eg NT to hold "Bittersweet Tea Parties"

I’m delighted to say that Learning Links International has been given some HLF funding to undertake research into the story of Welsh Plains woollen cloth and the role it played over the centuries of the Plantation Slave Trade.  


I am now linking up with everyone who showed an interest in this project and this email is for our overseas contacts, as although we cannot fund any overseas research, we do need to follow through the story of the uses the cloth was required for. So I started to make links with individuals and organisations who could have an interest and be able to contribute to understanding more about this trade, alongside other trade goods required for barter and plantation use.  Thank you all for the information you sent and links received. I’ll be setting up initial websites soon to be able to share this information.


Our UK letters of support came from a great group of people:


Bettina Harden MBE  MA - who set up and researched the brilliant HLF funded “Bitterweet” project carried out by the Gateway Trust


Dr Chris Evans, Professor of History, from the University of South Wales and author of "Slave Wales: The Welsh and Atlantic Slavery 1660- 1850” who worked with Bettina Harden and first began to explore the story of “Welsh Plains”


Uzo Iwobi, CEO of Race Council Cymru and Dr Marian Gwyn, Head of Heritage, Race Council Cymru 


Gwenlli Haf, Owner of Amnis Translation, the project will be presented bilingually in Welsh and English


Rheinallt Ffoster Jones, Programme Manager of the on line People’s Collection of the Museum of Wales, who offered training and also will be where the main archive will be posted


Janet Lewis, Chair, MCRA Newtown Textile Museum Committee, which picks up at the end of our research ie when the cottage industry moved to specially built premises in communities focused on wool production

Ann Whittall, Museum Manager, National Wool Museum which also picks up at the end of our research ie when the familiar Welsh woollen mills were built. 

Elen Simpson, Senior Archivist, University of Bangor, where the Penrhyn Plantation Archives are kept which detail the ordering of plantation requirements including orders for Welsh Plains


It seems a long time ago when we started to explore this theme, but we eventually submitted the application in November, as there were several logistical reasons that delayed the submission, but all’s well that ends well!  At the end of last week I received confirmation from HLF that the submission had been successful in a round that had many good applications, so we will be able to start the project from March 2019 and it will last for 12 months. 


Dr Chris Evans is our main advisor and he has been able to gain some support from the Pasold Trust, which along with support from the University of South Wales will enable him to hold a conference 8/10 July 2019 in Shrewsbury, to bring academics and the community research volunteers to extend our understanding of the production, trading and use of the cloth. I’ll let Chris share his thoughts about this with you and hopefully some of you may be able to be involved.


This quote is the Project Outline we submitted: 


"This project brings together community research volunteers from Mid and North Wales who are interested in the history of spinning and weaving, with families from local farming communities interested in their history and heritage, to explore and tell the history of the production of a woollen fabric called ‘Welsh Plains’ between 1650 and 1850 and its markets, using archival records and exploring Welsh place names.

This is a poorly understood history of little known cottage industry that supplied local needs, before developing dramatically to meet the demands generated by the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. The project will also explore the little understood lives of the impoverished peasant households who sought a way of boosting their incomes by weaving woollen fabric for the “Plantation Trade”.

The project will produce on-line training materials for Community Research Volunteers and local families to enable them to research and share their findings. Working groups will be set up in consultation with existing local history groups; relevant guilds and other groups based across the areas of focus. The project will also include establishing “Hidden History Reading and Research Groups” to increase understanding of the history of Wales and the wider world at this time.”

But first of all I will be working with our advisory and technical team to get the initial materials prepared, website and training materials ready. 

We will also be working with others to prepare the telling of the story of “Welsh Plains / Brethyn Cymreig” as we know it so far, to give the Community Research Volunteers and others the background. Then we will add in the new understanding and insights gained into a final presentation as a display and audio visual resource. 


Can I ask you to respond to a few points initially?


1) Can you let me know how undertaking this project and telling the story of “Welsh Plains / Brethyn Cymreig” may fit in with your programmes / research? 


2) Can you help with any suggestions related to progressing and sharing information and possibilities to link with your work or interests? 


If it doesn’t link at all, that’s fine, as you may have links or contacts that you can pass on. 


The final dissemination of the findings to update our understanding of the production, processing, transport and use of Welsh Plains will be during Black History Month in October 2019, when it will be set in the context of the roles Welsh people played in the supply chain needed to ensure there were goods to barter in West Africa and the goods needed to supply British plantations in the Caribbean and the Southern States. 


Then the display materials, presentations and information will be showcased on the People’s Collection Wales, in Museum displays, at community events and Spinners, Weavers and Dyer’s Guild sessions. 


So exciting times and good to take our minds off other worries!


Thanks again for your interest and I look forward to hearing from you.




Liz Millman


CEO Learning Links International

Project Manager: “Welsh Plains / Brethyn Cymreig”

Clothing the Enslaved in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World


Shrewsbury, UK, 8-10 July 2019



Organizers: Chris Evans and Naomi Preston (University of South Wales)


Plantation societies were dedicated agro-industrial production zones that sucked in inputs from around the Atlantic world: captive labourers, foodstuffs (beef from Cork, cod from Newfoundland), packaging materials (North American lumber), and specialised equipment (sugar boilers manufactured in London and Hamburg). They also imported huge quantities of fabric: linens and coarse woollens from which workwear for enslaved workers was fashioned.


Clothing the Enslaved in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World will provide a forum in which to discuss the fabrics used to dress enslaved workers in the Caribbean and British North America between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. It is to be held in Shrewsbury, the organizational hub of the mid-Wales woollen industry, which was one of the principal sources of ‘Negro Cloth’. The venue will be the newly restored Flaxmill Maltings, a pioneering iron-framed textile mill of the 1790s. The event is generously sponsored by the Pasold Fund (http://www.pasold.co.uk/index) and the University of South Wales.


Keynote addresses will be given by Professor Colleen E. Kriger (University of North Carolina at Greenboro) and Professor Seth Rockman (Brown University).


This call for papers invites proposals that deal with (but are not restricted to) the following themes:


The production of textiles for or in slave societies 

The use of textiles in the procurement of enslaved workers around the Atlantic world 

The relationship between textiles and other elements of material culture in slave societies 

The use of textiles to assert selfhood, embody memory, express gender, or announce ethnic identity  

Variations in the costume of enslaved peoples in ‘slave societies’ and/or ‘societies with slaves’


Creating a film to tell the story

This is the draft of the film produced and scripted by Dr Marian Gwyn to tell the story of the project"

Click HERE

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