Canon David S. Yerburgh Collection

A collection of black and white and coloured prints of Welsh waterfalls from the end of the 18th and the 19th century donated to the Library by Canon David S. Yerburgh in 2010.

Canon David S. Yerburgh

Born in 1934, in Steeple Ashton Vicarage, Wiltshire, Revd Canon David Savile Yerburgh was the youngest son of Canon Oswald and Joan Yerburgh. After leaving Marlborough College, he spent 2 years doing his National Service, where he passed out as a Second Lieutenant. During this time he decided to train as a Church of England Priest at Magdalene College Cambridge, and Wells Theological College. He was then appointed assistant curate in Cirencester Parish, and then four years later, senior curate at Bitterne Park in Southampton. After seven years as a curate, he was offered the Parish of St John's, Churchdown, near Gloucester, before moving seven years later to the Parish of St Mary's, Charlton Kings, near Cheltenham. It was here that he first developed an interest in waterfalls when a friend introduced him to the Vale of Neath, and he bought his first print of the Cilhepste Waterfall for £15 whilst on holiday in the area, and before the end of the holiday he had bought two more!

After eleven years in Charlton Kings he moved to Minchinhampton near Stroud. In 1982, he made his first visit to the National Library of Wales to look at the collection of books containing images of Welsh waterfalls. This encouraged him to catalogue his own prints of waterfalls, and gradually to catalogue his findings of the various engravings of Welsh waterfalls, together with artist and engraver names’ and the dates and styles of the engraving in the prints at the NLW. It was during this time that talks began about a possible exhibition at the NLW. He became increasingly aware of the fact that the majority of engravings had been printed in order to illustrate various books of views, and this led to his research on antiquarian books of views, which illustrated Welsh waterfalls. During his research he collected a number of books of Welsh views, over 500 engravings and some original drawings, giving a complete visual record of all the prints depicting Welsh waterfalls. Canon David Yerburgh bequeathed his collection of Welsh prints, engravings, books and original drawings to the National Library 'in the hope that many may find the same pleasure in looking at them as I have had when they were in my possession'.

He retired from full time ministry in 1995 and moved to live with his brother in Salisbury, where he still offers his services to the city centre church of St. Thomas. After his retirement he helped arrange two exhibitions at the NLW – 'The Waterfalls of Wales' in 1997, and 'The Abbeys, Priories and Cathedrals of Wales' in 1999. Consequently he has published eleven books on various aspects of Welsh topography.

The Collection

David Yerburgh's collection of Welsh waterfalls contains approximately 340 black and white and coloured prints of Welsh waterfalls from the end of the 18th and the 19th century. It includes the works of many famous artists and engravers such as Paul Sandby, Henry Gastineau, JC Ibbetson, David Cox and JP Neale, whose works can be seen in other collections in the Library, most notably in the Welsh Landscape collection.

The collection includes waterfalls from all over Wales. There are pictures of the most famous waterfalls like Pistyll Rhaeadr, the highest waterfall in Wales, Sgwd-yr-Eira near Ystradfellte in the Brecon Beacons, Rhaeadr Ewynnol (Swallow Falls) in Betws-y-Coed, and Devil's Bridge in Ceredigion. There are also pictures of lesser-known waterfalls such as Caradog Falls near Tynygraig in Ceredigion, Pont-y-Glyn-Dyffis near Corwen, and Rhaeadr Ddu near Maentwrog. The names of some of the waterfalls are thought provoking, such as the 'Water break its neck', the 'Grey Mare's Tail', Sgwd Ddwli, Rhaeadr Ceunant uffern and Rhaiadr y Benglog. And who were Gwladis, Einion Gam and Huw Llwyd who have been immortalized in the names of some waterfalls?

The collection has been split into 11 volumes, mostly based on the title of the publication in which the original image appeared, with some grouped by publisher, artist or engraver. A sketchbook dated 1868, in which 43 sketches of scenes mainly in north Wales have been affixed is also a part of the collection. These sketches all appear to be by a single, unnamed artist. The spine of the sketchbook is inscribed 'Sketches in Wales 1819'.

Bibliography:

  • David Yerburgh, A tour of the waterfalls of Wales: an itinerant's exhibition: a pictorial journey around the major waterfalls of Wales, illustrated by engravings in the collections of the National Library of Wales and Canon David Yerburgh, Salisbury, 1997
  • David Yerburgh, A revised tour of the waterfalls of Wales in the ancient counties of Wales : an itinerant's exhibition : a pictorial journey around the major waterfalls of Wales, illustrated by various 18th & 19th century artists and engravers in the collections of the National Library of Wales and of Canon David Yerburgh, Salisbury, 2010
  • David Yerburgh, The Waterfalls of Wales depicted in engravings: An appreciation, 2010
  • Blog on NLW website by Bethan Ifan on Canon D.S. Yerburgh's collection (viewed 4 April 2016)

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