Presteigne 2011

(For a proper write-up see the George Borrow Bulletin for Autumn 2011.)

Members of the Society descended on the sleepy Welsh/English border town of Presteigne on Friday 16th September 2011, for our annual ‘Borrovian’ weekend.  Despite what the Presteigne Web site, Tourist Information Office and general literature proclaims: George Borrow didn’t mention Presteigne in his book Wild Wales—but he did visit it three years after the Wild Wales tour (in 1857).

Many members were staying at the Radnorshire Arms hotel, a very old timber-framed building, where we held our meetings during the weekend.

Radnorshire Arms hotel, Presteigne

On the Friday evening we met and had a very pleasant time, with a talk from Denis which explained Borrow’s connection with Presteigne (and a very interesting explanation of how the good folk of Presteigne might have become so very mixed-up about it).  Then there’s was a very informative and funny talk on the Welsh gold mine that George Borrow went near.  The evening finished with Mike giving a slide show of his photographs (with anecdotes), where he went to the places mentioned in Wild Wales.

Nothing to do with Borrow, but overnight some members discovered the delights of a broken fire-alarm at the hotel.

On Saturday there was the biennial general meeting of the Society and then Martin Murphy gave the seventh Fraser memorial lecture, looking at David Jones’ introduction to Wild Wales, in the Everyman edition.  This talk will be reproduced in the Bulletin.

After a coffee break Clive Wilkin-Jones gave a talk about the 1913 Borrow Centenary Celebrations at Norwich — which most Borrovians realise was 10 years too late!  Again, this will be reproduced in the Bulletin.

Ending the morning Ann Ridler gave a talk on the first part of Borrow’s second journey to Wales in 1857.  Additionally Ann had spent a lot of time transcribing Borrow’s notebook of the 1857 journey and a copy was given to all present.  See the Bulletin for more information.

After lunch members were free and many strolled around Presteigne, admiring its many unique buildings.  At 3 p.m. everyone who wanted to gathered at the “Judge’s Lodging” and went around this very large and wonderful building.

One of the many rooms in the Judge’s Lodging, Presteigne

The interior is as it was when the judge lived there, and it’s still gas-lit.  The tour also includes the court room where a very stern judge was about to jail hapless Borrvians:

Judge in Judge’s Lodgings, Presteigne

but fortunately the judge and his wife decided to go in search of a cream tea instead.  Many other Borrvians had the same idea...

Cream tea at Presteigne

And then, in the evening, our Society dinner in the Radnorshire Arms and lots of socialising.

On Sunday the fine weather gave out and the rain set in.  Fortunately a coach trip had been planned and members were able to enjoy the beautiful Welsh countryside without getting wet.  A short stop was made at Brecon (which was part of Borrow’s 1857 journey), and members photographed the statue of Wellington he mentions:

Statue of Wellington, Brecon

We would have walked around Brecon but with the rain coming on it was decided to make for Llandovery in the hope of dry weather—little did we know!  On the way we stopped at Trecastle, where Borrow had stayed.  Borrovians were everywhere taking pictures, and many headed straight to the pubs. to discover which would have been around when Borrow visited.  Most seemed to think the multi-coloured Castle Coaching inn the most likely:

Castle Coaching Inn, Trecastle

At Llandovery the rain was making a day of it, but there was an excellent tourist information centre open, where we saw the press on which “The Welshman’s Candle” was printed.  Hugh was able to give some background on Llandovery (he covered it in his wonderful book, “On Borrow’s Trail”).  Here’s a photo of St. Dingat’s Church (i.e. Vicar Prichard’s church) for those who didn’t want to get drowned:

St. Dingat’s Church, Llandovery

We then had lunch in Castle hotel in Llandovery...

Lunch at the Castle Hotel, Llandovery

and then back on the coach for a drive towards Builth (with a short stop for sightseeing) and then back to Presteigne where we said our goodbyes.