James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants

Life in the border villages

Fortunately antiquarians such as James's son, Elias, recorded in books and journals information about life in that era. Here is an example from the Montgomeryshire Collections, iv, 138:

Probably almost every village and hamlet on the borders possessed a "green" (or Twmpath chwareu) ... Here the inhabitants assembled together for the purpose of enjoying themselves with sports and pastimes, but principally dancing. ... The scene as it was wont to appear on summer evenings, is described as a very striking one – the soft and sweet tones of the harp and the dancing of the country people in their holiday attire in one place; while in another tennis-playing, bowling, throwing the stone or beam, or wrestling, went on (under the supervision of some veteran as master of ceremonies), all observing strictly the rules of the green.

The green was generally situated at the top of a hill ... It was adapted for the purpose by levelling the surface of the ground and raising a small mound of earth in the centre where the harpist or fiddler sat. This was called the Twmpath. … Sometimes the mound was decked with branches of oak, and those who joined in the play danced in a circle around the musician, the mound, and the branch. ... These games seem to have been kept up throughout the summer, - farmers and others leaving their work generally at 4 p.m. for the purpose of attending.

Contributions were collected for the musicians and to fund a feast, the ceremonial end to the series of events at the end of the summer. Activities such as storytelling, harp playing, dancing, sporting contests, feasting, fairs, and traditional festivals often involved large sections of the community. Traditions, folklore and witchcraft all exerted a strong influence on the lives of the local people.

(Twmpaths - folk dances or barn dances - continue to be held in Wales.)