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New book details extraordinary story of how Pontypridd beat Chicago to host the National Eisteddfod

28 Mar 2023 3 minute read
‘No One Remembers Pontypridd: The forgotten story of the 1893 National Eisteddfod of Wales’ by Sheldon Phillips

A new book has detailed the extraordinary story of how Pontypridd once beat Chicago in a bid to host the National Eisteddfod.

‘No One Remembers Pontypridd: The forgotten story of the 1893 National Eisteddfod of Wales’ was written by Sheldon Phillips and tells how the people of Pontypridd built a temporary pavilion capable of seating 20,000 people following the small town’s defeat of Chicago.

Author Sheldon Phillips’ keen interest in his family’s history led him to discover that three of his great uncles, including General Secretary David E. Phillips, were involved in the 1893 National Eisteddfod.

There was never an official report for the National Eisteddfod that took place in Pontypridd so the new publication aims to finally put the record straight.

Pontypridd has only once hosted the National Eisteddfod and that was in 1893, 130 years ago.

But with Rhondda Cynon Taf holding the National Eisteddfod in 2024, this a timely reminder of probably the greatest Eisteddfod of the 19th century.

Pontypridd had previously lost out to Swansea for the 1891 Eisteddfod but when Swansea were accused of vote rigging, Pontypridd thought they had been given the 1893 festival instead.

This time, however, they had to compete against Neath, Llanelli and bizarrely, Chicago.

Migrants

Chicago’s bid was prompted by the large number of Welsh migrants who had settled across the pond in Chicago and Illinois.

Chicago was also hosting the World’s Fair, celebrating the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in America.

Pontypridd won their bid and went on to build a temporary 20,000-seater, not of canvas and ropes but of iron and glass.

Sheldon Phillips said: “In 1893, Wales beat England 11-10 at Cardiff Arms Park in front of 15,00 spectators but in Pontypridd there was an audience of 20,000 to see the best choirs of the day.”

The book was launched at an emotional event at Pontypridd Museum where Côr Meibion Pontypridd, who had originally been formed just after the 1893 National Eisteddfod, sang some traditional Welsh songs.

The evening was hosted by Helen Prosser, chair of the 2024 Rhondda Cynon Taf National Eisteddfod who said: “We very much hope that the outcome of the 2024 National Eisteddfod will be very different to the festival held back in 1893, and that our Eisteddfod will long be remembered as one of the best festivals, bringing people of all ages and backgrounds together to celebrate our language and culture in a vibrant, welcoming and inclusive way.

“We’re delighted to be part of this launch, as we celebrate that there’s only 500 days to go before the Eisteddfod opens here in Rhondda Cynon Taf.”

‘No One Remembers Pontypridd: The forgotten story of the 1893 National Eisteddfod of Wales’ is available from Storyville Books, Pontypridd and on-line via carreg-gwalch.cymru


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Gareth Westacott
Gareth Westacott
10 months ago

A 20,000 seater pavillon! Wow! Absolutely incredible!

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