Tour Throughout Wales and Monmouthshire (1803)
J.T. Barber was born in Marylebone, Middlesex. He devoted his early career to painting and was appointed miniature painter to Prince Edward and the dukes of Kent and York.
In 1802, he toured south Wales on horse-
As might be expected, north Cardiganshire was a little bit of an enigma for Barber; and judging from his diary, he found nothing here to please him. He visited Hafod (not as a guest but, rather surprisingly, as an ordinary tourist) and was very unhappy with what he was charged to see the house and garden :
. . . the demand of five shillings for the gardener’s attendance was willingly paid, yet the same sum . . . required by the housekeeper, appeared to us more than the show of any Welch house was worth . . . there always appears to me something very unworthy in great men allowing their servants to extract the sums that they do from the spectators of their grandeur.
Refusing to pay to view the inside of the mansion, he and his companions set out for Tregaron with the intent of taking a short detour to see Strata Florida. Somehow, they managed to get lost – how, is a mystery, but they obviously did and got into an awful mess. On leaving Hafod he and his companions :
. . . quickly turned off the road, over moorlands on our left, in search of the remains of STARFLOWER or STRATA FLORIDA ABBEY. We had no track to guide us ; nor did a human creature appear for many miles ; after a fruitless wandering, therefore, we gave up the object.
A drawing of Hafod by J.P Neale
At Lampeter :
. . . after a fatiguing day’s journey we gladly reposed at a better inn than might be expected in so poor a town as Lampeter.
In a way, I’m rather glad he got lost and was unable to spend time in, and around, Pontrhydfendigaid ; it was not in his nature to be complimentary, and I suspect that whatever he would have written about the place would have been an insult and a wrong. He was certainly ‘not one of us’.
References and Notes
1. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
2. D.C. Rees, Tregaron : Historical and Antiquarian, Llandyssul, 1936
JOHN THOMAS BARBER (1774-
Why he says that there was no track to guide them is a bit baffling. The main north-
Clearly, he had a miserable journey from Hafod to Lampeter, but much of it was of his own making. He must have been a very difficult man to please. Even after a good night’s rest at Lampeter he continued to complain, this time about the journey to Llandeilo :
Nothing can be imagined more dreary than the first half of this ride.
Our inn here afforded us a capacious dish of eggs and bacon for dinner ; but, though it was not more than ordinarily strong and greasy for the wilds of Wales, we grew delicate, and, left leaving our meals untasted, pursued our journey on the turnpike road to Lampeter.
Mr. Barber could not have been in good humour when he arrived at Tregaron – he referred to a sloppy ride and described the town as poor, straggling, and ill-
Tregaron : Church and Stocks in 1819 (see note 2)
Tregaron square some 16 years after John Thomas Barber and his friends passed through the town
To see other reports by 18th & 19th century travel-