John Gwin lived at Llangwm near Usk in the middle years of the seventeenth century. One of the county’s lesser gentry, he worked for the high-profile Catholic Marquess of Worcester: but he had friends and relatives among the county’s leading Puritans. He was insatiably curious, a keen fruit farmer, interested in scientific and medical developments, a devoted family man, an energetic churchwarden. All this is reflected in his commonplace book, the notebook in which he jotted down things he wanted to remember.
The book has now been edited by three local academics and is being published by the South Wales Record Society. An introduction describes Gwin’s life and background and provides more information on some of his interests. The commonplace book is a treasure trove of medical remedies, snippets of local and family history, notes on the management of the Worcester estates, poetry by the leading Puritan William Wroth, advice on the choice of marriage partners, records of his experiments in grafting fruit trees, tips on good husbandry, and details on the ownership of church pews and the repair of the churchyard wall. It offers us an unparalleled insight into the cultural and intellectual world of south-east Wales in a period of civil war and continuing religious and political upheaval.
The South Wales Record Society will be launching its edition of the book in the Llangwm Village Hall from 2.30 on Saturday 10 December. There will be introductory talks by two of the editors and a chance to buy copies of the book at a special reduced price of £12 for the paperback (cash or cheques only). Members of the Society can also pick their own copies up. The Village Hall is on the B4235 Usk-Chepstow road and there is a car park a little further along the road to Chepstow, at postcode NP15 1HQ.
Hardback copies are all now spoken for but the book is available in paperback, xii + 212 pages, illustrated. Copies can also be ordered through the Society’s web site at http://www.southwalesrecordsociety.co.uk/ or by post: £18 for the paperback, for addresses in the UK.
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