Knight errant?

by the Curious Scribbler

The long dark January has given me plenty of time to peruse one of last year’s purchases, that hefty doorstep of a book ” The Families of Gogerddan in Cardiganshire and Aberglasney in Carmarthenshire“.  It was launched last March at the National Library of Wales by its author, Sir David T R Lewis,and I handed over my £30 with enthusiasm for it is a subject of which I was eager to learn more.

Sir David Lewis is of Carmarthenshire farming stock whose elevation to the knightage in 2009 follows a glittering career in the law and a stint as Lord Mayor of the City of London in 2007.  Taken together in this book he has assembled a large body of information and a lot of pictures about an interesting family and their homes.

The book, however,  proved to be packed with surprises, the first of which was to find material from one of my blogs extensively reproduced without attribution on p217.  In my Letter from Aberystwyth of 7 October 2015 I wrote about Florrie Hamer, whose grandmother had acted as wet nurse to Sir Pryse Pryse’ wife in 1869.  It is funny how one can suddenly recognize one’s own words amongst those of another author. When I got out the highlighter pen I found a remarkable similarity!

His book – my text!

In 2013 I devoted a blog to the interpretation of the Anno Mundi dates upon the gate posts of Bwlchbychan and and the stables at Alltyrodin.  Perhaps we were working in parallel, but the account on p201 strongly suggests my blog was his (unacknowledged) source.

I am not the only historian to have noticed an uncanny resemblance to their own work.  It is ironic that the author’s copyright statement at the beginning of his book reads ‘permission is granted to quote inextensively and without photographs from the contents of this book provided attribution is made to the author with an appropriate footnote or source note’.

Soon I happened upon  a splendid howler: a panel about Nanteos on p 267 revealed that the eccentric George EJ Powell was ” Etonian, scholar and friend of Byron, Swinburne, Longfellow, Rossetti and Wagner“.  Powell, who lived from 1842-1882 certainly hung out with Swinburne, and  he corresponded with Longfellow in seeking approval for his early poetry, but Byron!  Byron died eighteen years before George was born, so this is clearly impossible.  I can only think that Sir David has been influenced by the recently-placed creative name plates on the doors of Nanteos mansion in its present  incarnation as a hotel.  They do have a Byron room, and a Marquis de Sade room, but this is not a good historical source for nineteenth century history.

The I came across a map in which the Dovey is labelled as reaching the sea at Aberystwyth and the Ystwyth at Aberdovey.

Lewis has assembled a large amount of information, some of it his own, and illustrated it lavishly with contemporary and historic photographs.  Many I recognize from the collections of the National Library of Wales, while others are new to me, and sourced from private individuals who have shared their property and are properly identified below the picture.  What is surprising is that the photos held in the National Library are rarely identified as such, and in many cases the quality of reproduction suggest they have been photocopied and reproduced from earlier publications, in which the source was properly acknowledged.   Such a shortcut presumably avoids the NLW reproduction fees.

Such failings of scholarly etiquette would not be surprising in a school project, but seem very cavalier on the part of an Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford, and a Member of Council of at least three Universities.  His publisher might be feeling rather embarrassed  .. but then, he is his own publisher.




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6 thoughts on “Knight errant?

  1. As my late wife’s great great grandfather was gamekeeper to Sir Pryse Pryse I had contemplated purchasing it, but now will not bother. This really is shoddy stuff from Sir David Lewis. It does not take much work to either acknowledge another person’s work or to extract the ideas and present them in your own words.

    The map is so poor that I wonder what other errors might be less easy ro see.

  2. Sadly Caroline Scribbler Palmer (whose blog I had previously never heard of before a friend forwarded the link to me) is way off the mark with her untrue allegations.

    All the Nanteos info came from my visits to that hotel under new management where I was given permission to use their archive without attribution.
    The Hamer family info was sourced from letters in NLW and Aber county archives and several prior articles and papers there NOT from the Scribbler’s blog which I had never seen before. I assume the Scribbler must have used the same source when producing her blog article which I still have not seen.
    The masonic dates on gates etc have been well known for decades by the Pryse family, by locals including my family and alluded to in other articles over the years. If the Scribbler thinks she discovered this info she is deluded.
    The map of the Gogerddan Hunt area is obviously wrong as regards the rivers Ystwyth and Dovey (wrong way round). The map is not mine but comes from the a Pryse family member’s hunting archives and is a century old. The point of the map is to show the area of the Hunt not the rivers!
    All the photos from NLW are attributed. The Chief Librarian waived all fees and paid for my book launch at NLW.
    There are some 1500 sources in my book. Why would I knowingly leave any out?

    If the Scribbler can produce a better history of the Pryses let her do so rather than invent untrue stories. All the gross proceeds of all my books go to charity.

    David Lewis, the Errant Knight!

    • Should you wish to see the blog with the identical wording to that in your book it is online at

      I also notice a close similarly to my work in Historic Parks and Gardens in Ceredigion (first published 2004)
      For example Me:(page 47) A mill leat ran parallel with the natural streambed, serving a mill pond and mill, before rejoining the main stream west of the mansion.
      You:(page 308) A mill leat ran parallel to the stream serving a millpond and mill before rejoining the main stream west of the mansion.

      Me:(page 48) By the time of the 1887 OS survey the kennels had gone and the kitchen garden had been extended south east to almost double its capacity. It contained eleven glassed greenhouses or frames. A walled orchard adjoined the gardens.

      You: (page 309) By the 1887 survey the kennels had been removed, and the walled kitchen garden much enlarged to double its size and containing 11 frames and greenhouses and a walled orchard adjoining the gardens.

      Funnily enough, although you say you’ve never heard of it, you did acknowledge ‘Letter from Aberystwyth Blog 14 May 2013’ in the footnote number 584 on your page 321, when writing about Lodge Park! On that footnote you also acknowledged Historic Parks and Gardens in Ceredigion, but failed to include me as principal author.

  3. Thanks for all your scribblings,which are read with interest,have no fear I would imagine few of us readers are likely to purchas the book in question,sorry you’ve been taken advantage of by the well connected.

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