yr ysgwrn

ON THE BLOG: Europa Nostra Award-winner Yr Ysgwrn

Welsh heritage site and farmhouse Yr Ysgwrn in north Wales received a Conservation Award at the prestigious Creative Europe-supported European Heritage/ Europa Nostra Awards 2019. Yr Ysgwrn was once the home of Hedd Wyn, a Welsh-language poet who was killed on the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele during World War I. He was posthumously awarded the bard's chair, known as 'The Black Chair', at the 1917 National Eisteddfod. 

We heard from Naomi Jones, Head of Cultural Heritage at Snowdonia National Park, about why this story is still so important, and what the Europa Nostra award means to this significant site. This article has also been translated into Welsh below.

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Here in Wales, Hedd Wyn’s story and that of Yr Ysgwrn are well documented. We’re immersed in the events – we’ve heard the story as young children, we’ve studied the poems and we’ve enjoyed the film. To others, the story is lesser known and to me, that’s one of the great pleasures of working at Yr Ysgwrn, to have the privilege of revealing the history and stories to new audiences.

A month ago, my colleague, Jess John and I had the opportunity to visit Paris, to present the Ysgwrn project to the Europa Nostra conference and receive an award for the conservation of Yr Ysgwrn. A wonderful, entirely unexpected experience, as winning one of the Europa Nostra European Heritage Awards is the highest commendation available to European heritage projects. 

The Europa Nostra awards are described as “the Nobel Prize of the heritage world” and we, Yr Ysgwrn, Trawsfynydd were recognised among projects located at world famous heritage sites – the Chapel of the Holy Shroud, Turin, the Alhambra Palace, Granada and projects which approach challenging issues, such as a German-Turkish project which trains Syrian conservationists with skills to restore the built environments so that attempts can be made to re-build the city of Aleppo when the Syrian civil war one day, hopefully, comes to an end. These are projects which make a significant difference to people and to heritage. And Yr Ysgwrn is recognised among them! 

The experience of visiting Yr Ysgwrn is forever-memorable to many of our visitors. I first visited in autumn 2011 and walked into the pitch black of the cegin (kitchen) to meet Mr Gerald Williams, Hedd Wyn’s nephew, and was enchanted for the first time by this special place.

Gerald and Ellis, his late brother, had been custodians of Yr Ysgwrn over recent years, in honour of a pledge they made to their grandmother, Mary Evans, Hedd Wyn’s mother, “to keep the door open”. Gerald was concerned about the future of Yr Ysgwrn and decided to sell to the Snowdonia National Park Authority.

In the spirit of the pledge to Mary Evans, the aim of the development of Yr Ysgwrn was to keep the door open. The project was made possible with the support of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Welsh Government. The support throughout the project was incredible – from national organisations, the Ysgwrn family and residents of Trawsfynydd. 

I regret not keeping a personal diary of this project, to record those small incidents and great events that made this project quite an emotional rollercoaster at times. There were various challenging days – the week the Lottery application was submitted, the day the chattels were removed from the farmhouse – but on the whole, it’s the wonderful – occasionally surreal – experiences that I remember.  Dr Meredydd Evans singing Gwenfron a Mi by the fire, Catrin Finch performing Gerald’s requests on the harp in the cegin, the Irish ambassador to the UK reciting WB Yeats’ poetry at Beudy Llwyd and to crown it all, receiving the Europa Nostra award. 

This award will open the door of Yr Ysgwrn to an international stage, which is entirely appropriate given that Hedd Wyn’s story, the massive losses incurred during the First World War and his peaceful legacy belong to homes and communities throughout the world. Do visit us

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Yma yng Nghymru, mae hanes Hedd Wyn ac arwyddocad Yr Ysgwrn yn hen gyfarwydd. ‘Dan ni wedi’n trochi’n yr hanes ar hyd ein hoes - wedi clywed y stori’n blant bach, wedi astudio’r cerddi ac wedi mwynhau’r ffilm. I eraill, mae’r hanes yn llai cyfarwydd ac i mi’n bersonol, dyna un o bleserau mwyaf gweithio yma’n Yr Ysgwrn, sef dadlennu’r hanes a’r straeon i gynulleidfaoedd newydd. 

Mis yn ôl, cefais i a fy nghydweithwraig, Jess John y cyfle i ymweld â Pharis, i gyflwyno prosiect Yr Ysgwrn i gynhadledd Europa Nostra a derbyn gwobr am gadwraeth Yr Ysgwrn. Profiad anhygoel, hollol annisgwyl gan mai ennill un o wobrau Treftadaeth Ewropeaidd Europa Nostra ydi’r clod uchaf y mae modd i brosiectau treftadaeth yn Ewrop ei dderbyn. 

Caiff gwobrau Europa Nostra eu disgrifio fel “Gwobr Nobel y byd treftadaeth” a ninnau, Yr Ysgwrn, Trawsfynydd yn cael ein cydnabod ymhlith prosiectau ar safleoedd treftadaeth byd enwog – Capel yr Amdo Sanctaidd, Turin, Palas yr Alhambra, Granada a phrosiectau sy’n ymdrin â themâu tu hwnt i heriol, megis prosiect Almaenig-Twrcaidd sy’n hyfforddi cadwraethwyr Syriaidd mewn sgiliau adfer yr amgylchedd adeiledig er mwyn ceisio ail-adeiladu dinas Aleppo pan ddaw, rhyw ddydd gobeithio, rhyfel cartref Syria i ben. Prosiectau sy’n gwneud gwahaniaeth enfawr i bobl ac i dreftadaeth.  A’r Ysgwrn yn cael ei gydnabod yn eu plith!    

Mae’r profiad o ymweld â’r Ysgwrn yn un bythgofiadwy i lawer o’n hymwelwyr. Yn ystod hydref 2011 nes i ymweld am y tro cyntaf a cherdded i mewn i fagddu’r gegin i gyfarfod Mr Gerald Williams, nai Hedd Wyn, a chael fy swyno am y tro cyntaf gan y lle arbennig hwn. 

Gerald ac Elis, ei ddiweddar frawd, oedd wedi bod yn gofalu am Yr Ysgwrn dros y blynyddoedd diwethaf, er anrhydedd i addewid a wnaethant i’w nain, Mary Evans, mam Hedd Wyn, “i gadw’r drws yn agored”. Roedd Gerald yn bryderus am ddyfodol Yr Ysgwrn a phenderfynodd werthu i Awdurdod Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri. 

Yn ysbryd yr addewid i Mary Evans, cadw’r drws yn agored oedd nod datblygu’r Ysgwrn. Gwnaethpwyd y prosiect yn bosib gyda chefnogaeth gan Gronfa Goffa’r Dreftadaeth Genedlaethol, Cronfa Dreftadaeth y Loteri Genedlaethol a Llywodraeth Cymru. Roedd y gefnogaeth gydol y prosiect wirioneddol anhygoel – gan y cyrff cenedlaethol, gan deulu’r Ysgwrn a thrigolion Trawsfynydd. 

Dwi’n difaru peidio cadw dyddiadur personol o’r prosiect yma, i gofnodi’r holl ddigwyddiadau mawr a bach a wnaeth y prosiect yn dipyn o chwyrligwgan emosiynol ar brydiau. Bu nifer o ddiwrnodau heriol - wythnos cyflwyno’r cais i’r Loteri, diwrnod symud y creiriau o’r ffermdy - ond ar y cyfan y profiadau gwych – swreal weithiau – sy’n aros yn y cof. Dr Meredydd Evans yn canu Gwenfron a Mi wrth yr aelwyd, Catrin Finch yn canu ceisiadau i Gerald ar y delyn yn y gegin, llysgenad Iwerddon i’r DU yn adrodd cerddi WB Yeats yn y Beudy Llwyd ac yn goron ar y cyfan, derbyn y wobr Europa Nostra.

Bydd y wobr yn agor drws Yr Ysgwrn i’r llwyfan rhyngwladol a hynny, wrth gwrs, yn addas iawn gan fod hanes Hedd Wyn, colledion enbyd y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf a’i etifeddiaeth heddychlon yn perthyn i gartrefi a chymunedau led-led y byd. Brysiwch draw

Naomi Jones
Pennaeth Treftadaeth Ddiwylliannol
Awdurdod Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri

Images © Purcell UK