For hundreds of years Welsh culture has been celebrated at Eisteddfodau.

While the first inception is widely believed to have taken place in Aberteifi in 1176, it is also known that similar traditional gatherings and celebrations had long taken place in Newtown - Y Drenewydd.

Dafydd Llwyd had been the host at his home at Newtown Hall and made the town one of the cultural centres of 15th century Wales in a glorious period in Welsh literacy.

However the first recorded Eisteddfod in the town came more than four centuries later and even then only a ‘miniature Eisteddfod’ took place at Newtown Public Rooms in 1866.

The Newtown Eisteddfod was first held in 1877 and became an annual festive event - held each New Year.

Newtown Baptist Chapel. Picture: Jeremy Bolwill.

The event had several venues over the years, including the Wesleyan Chapel and Baptist Chapel, before settling at the 500 capacity Victoria Hall on Park Street in 1885.

It became one of the most popular in Newtown’s social calendar.

Newtown in the 1890s. Picture: Percy Abery.

Newtown hosted its first Powys Eisteddfod in 1914, complete with the erection of the traditional Gorsedd stones which had been a ritual ever since Edward Williams, a Welsh poet, had first set out stones near an inn in Carmarthen in 1819.

The stones were set out in the grounds of Newtown Town Hall where Dafydd Llwyd had welcomed bards and poets to his home in the earliest Eisteddfodau in the 15th century.

Newtown Town Hall. Picture: Geograph.

By then, the estate had been in the hands of Major RWC Arbuthnot-Brisco, a descendent of Dafydd Llwyd.

Newtown hosted the Powys Eisteddfod again in 1926 but two years later the town Eisteddfod was held for the last time.

The town hall grounds were purchased by the Newtown Urban District Council in 1947 which had refused to erect permanent stones on their grounds yet the town had still hosted the Powys Eisteddfod in 1952.


Yet the prize of hosting the National Eisteddfod had continued to elude the town.

As early as 1835 a bid was made by Newtown cultural leaders to host the national event but this and subsequent bids in 1866, 1923, 1925, 1931, 1957 and 1963 were rejected.

Announcing the 1965 National Eisteddfod to be held in Newtown. Picture: Geoff Charles Collection.

Finally in 1965 the National Eisteddfod came to Newtown and was held at land west of the town hall which had been planned to be developed by the Montgomeryshire Education Authority after the event.

However as part of hosting the event a site had to be found for permanent Gorsedd stones which had seen 13 granite basalt stones weighing a combined 21 tons and mined at Bala’s Arenig Quarry, erected on a field near Back Lane Car Park.

The gorsedd stones in Newtown. Picture: Geograph.

The Eisteddfod had been a success and the gorsedd stones were back in use when the town hosted the Powys event in 1971.

However just a year later the stones were moved across the Severn river to the eastern end of Dolerw Park.

The Powys Eisteddfod in Newtown in 1984.

This would prove problematic with the area so prone to flooding and the 1999 Powys competition took place indoors at Newtown’s Hafren Theatre.

The Powys Eisteddfod in Newtown in 1984.

By the start of the 21st century the tradition of permanent Gorsedd stones had been replaced by fibreglass - 13 of which had been temporarily erected in Newtown Town Hall in 2014 to mark its hosting of the National Eisteddfod once again the following year.

The permanent stones in Dolerw Park had not been used with the area being deemed unsuitable due to the many trees and shrubs which had come to envelope the ritual stones.

The eisteddfod in Meifod.

The event had not taken place in Newtown and, in fact, was held in Meifod, the ancestral home of the Powys royal family.

With thanks to Newtown History Group.