National Library of Wales

Winifred Coombe Tennant papers

Reference code(s): GB 0210 WINCOOANT

Held at: National Library of Wales

Title: Winifred Coombe Tennant papers

Short title: Tennant, Winifred Coombe, papers

Dates of creation: 1897-1957, 1973

Level of description: Fonds

Extent and medium: 0.3105 cubic metres (16 boxes).

Name of creator(s): Winifred Coombe Tennant


Administrative and biographical history: Winifred Coombe Tennant ('Mam o Nedd', 1874-1956), art patron and political activist, was born in Gloucestershire, the daughter of George Pierce-Serocold and Mary Richardson. Her upbringing was very cosmopolitan, as the family moved home regularly, living at numerous locations in England, Wales, France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. By the time she married Charles Coombe Tennant in 1895, settling at Cadoxton Lodge, Neath, Winifred had acquired an international outlook and a strong interest in history, art and politics. Her marriage brought her a network of relatives in influential intellectual, political and cultural circles, and she met many prominent contemporary writers and artists. In time, she became an influential patron of art and craft in Wales. --- Winifred's attitude towards cultural life, politics and society was informed by a deep sense of the spiritual and its close connection with the physical, and she was fascinated by the idea of genius. In particular, she saw artists as special, standing apart from the rest of humanity, their art a transcendent medium through which the everyday concerns of ordinary people could be communicated. To this was added a love of the power of religious symbolism (especially Roman Catholic), an affinity for her adopted homeland, and a profound regard for tradition and historical continuity. --- Winifred took a deep interested in Welsh culture and identified herself strongly with it, particularly in the field of arts and crafts. From 1911 onwards, her patronage was directed towards Welsh artists, and it became her goal to educate the people of Wales in artistic sensibility and the Welsh arts and crafts tradition. To this end, she worked towards acquiring a body of fine modern art that she initially hoped to make publicly accessible, and in 1931 she became an official buyer for the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea. She also involved herself in organising events at the National Eisteddfod, becoming initiated as an Honorary Member of the Gorsedd in 1918, taking the bardic name 'Mam o Nedd' and gaining full membership in 1923, and holding the office of Mistress of the Robes from 1928. --- In politics, Winifred Coombe Tennant was a radical. She campaigned for female suffrage, Welsh Home Rule and international peace, and stood unsuccessfully for Parliament as the Liberal candidate for the Forest of Dean in 1922. Through her links with David Lloyd George, she was appointed as a British delegate to the League of Nations, and she also organised war work during the Great War, strove to improve conditions for prisoners in Swansea Gaol, and became one of the first women magistrates in the country. --- Winifred also became interested in spiritualism as a young woman, and gained a reputation as a pre-emininent psychic medium, working under the pseudonym 'Mrs Willett'. This aspect of her life was particularly important to her after the deaths of her baby daughter, Daphne, in 1908 and her son, Christopher, at Ypres in 1917. --- Winifred Coombe Tennant left Cadoxton for London in 1931, retaining an interest in Welsh cultural affairs but becoming less active in the public arena. She died in Kensington in 1956.


Scope and content: Papers of Winifred Coombe Tennant, relating to her activities with Gorsedd y Beirdd and the National Eisteddfod of Wales, and also including correspondence with artists, patrons and art administrators, and related material concerning her patronage of the arts in Wales; together with her diaries, 1897-1955.


Language/script: English, Welsh and French.

System of arrangement: Arranged at NLW into three groups: Gorsedd y Beirdd and the National Eisteddfod; Art patronage; and 2014 Donation: Diaries.

Conditions governing access: Readers consulting modern papers in the National Library of Wales are required to abide by the conditions set out in information provided when applying for their Readers' Tickets, whereby the reader shall become responsible for compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998 in relation to any processing by them of personal data obtained from modern records held at the Library.

Conditions governing reproduction: Usual copyright regulations apply.


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information: All records have been retained

Accruals: Accruals are not expected

Archival history: Many of the letters and documents accumulated by Winifred Coombe Tennant while living at Cadoxton were destroyed by her in 1931. The greater part of the surviving archive was transferred to the Library soon after her death. The rest was kept at the family home under the care of her son, Alexander Coombe-Tennant, who in turn bequeathed it to his own son, Mark, on his death in 2003. Further donations were made to the Library by Jenifer, the widow of Alexander Coombe-Tennant.

Immediate source of acquisition: Bequest by Winifred Coombe Tennant, 1958, donations by Mrs Jenifer Coombe-Tennant, September 2007 and November 2008 and donation by Mark Coombe-Tennant, December 2014.



Note: Title supplied from contents of fonds. One item post-dates the creator's death.

Archivist's note: Compiled by David Moore and Ann Francis Evans. The following sources were used for the compilation of this description: The Dictionary of Welsh Biography 1941-1970 (Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion : London, 2001); Peter Lord, Winifred Coombe Tennant: a life through art (NLW : Aberystwyth, 2007); documents within the archive.

Rules or conventions: This description follows ANW guidelines based on ISAD(G) second edition, AACR2 and LCSH

Date(s) of description: March 2011 and August 2015



Art patronage | Wales | 20th century

Art | Wales | 20th century

Bards and bardism | Wales

Coombe Tennant, Winifred, | 1874-1956 | Archives

Eisteddfodau | Wales

Personal names

Coombe Tennant, Winifred, 1874-1956

Corporate names

Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru

Gorsedd y Beirdd


Neath Port Talbot