It’s nothing new: Welsh people living in Welsh-speaking communities have long complained that some landlords are changing the name of their original Welsh house to an English one. Many say this, in the same way that Welsh villages, towns and landmarks are given bilingual names, discounts the history of a place – and a people. Angry that this is still happening even after support from Welsh Language Minister Eluned Morgan, Welsh speakers are calling on the Welsh Government to act now before the problem escalates.
In June 2018, Welsh comedian Tudur Owen presented a short program on the disappearance of Welsh place names, saying that “history is lost when Welsh place names are changed”.
The clip, shown on BBC Wales Live, sparked a debate on social media, with many other famous figures, as well as members of the public, having weighed in on the issue since.
In January 2020, BBC news presenter Huw Edwards wrote on Twitter: “This has been going on for years. Thus Porth Trecastell became ‘Cable Bay’ and the historic church at Nantcwnlle – now a private home – became ‘Dunroamin’. I propose to replace London with its old Welsh name ‘Caerludd’. Nope? Ah. I did not think.”
The former Welsh Prime Minister added to the discussion a few months later, tweeting: “The Tremor Arms was opened at Brynaman in 1865, and there in 1891 the first branch of the Miners’ Union was established. The building has changed a lot over the years but in recent days an English name has replaced the Welsh name. Owners need to rethink.
In January 2021 a petition was launched calling on the Welsh Government to create legislation to stop people changing the names of Welsh houses.
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The petition reached over 18,000 signatures and was discussed in the Senedd. But nothing seems to have been done about it, according to many Welsh people.
Just last week, BBC Radio Cymru presenter Aled Hughes brought a home called “Hedgehogs” to the attention of the Welsh Twittersphere. The four-bedroom detached house in Llannerchymedd, a rural part of Anglesey in North Wales, has been listed on Right Move for £895,000.
Twitter user @Taff5351 claimed: “Changing an existing native name to an English name should incur at least a £25,000 tax. This is first-rate cultural vandalism. What are Labor doing about it at Senedd level? »
User @MeicalW added: “Ashamed”.
Gruff, 26, a secondary school teacher living in Anglesey, agreed the change in Welsh house names was ‘unacceptable’. He told Express.co.uk: “Often there’s a story associated with the names of the house, and so by changing the name you’re essentially erasing that story.
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“It’s strange that people think that’s an acceptable thing to do.”
Caelan, 27, is from Cardiff but shares the same opinion as Gruff: “I think it’s really important that these names are preserved for cultural and historical reasons.
“We have seen in places like Cornwall how cultural erosion is used as a tool to delegitimize the human rights of people born in culturally distinct areas.
“The fact that people are coming to these areas and changing the names shows that they don’t understand the area they are moving to, they don’t want to be part of the community and they are not buying the property to improve the area.
“These are big systemic issues which I believe cannot be resolved until Wales is independent and can take full control of these issues.”
Anglesey’s Eeth Owen also had the unpleasant experience of someone changing the name of her late grandparents’ house. She said: “My grandparents’ farm was called Cae Eithin Tew (Thick Gorse Field). The new owner has changed the name to Black Lake View.”
Bethan Williams from Gwynedd noted that it’s not just the house names that are being changed, but also the host locations. “The Glanaber (Riverbed) restaurant in Morfa Bychan, Porthmadog has been changed to Black Rock Beach Club,” she explained.
“It’s very sad.”
But can something be done – or is something being done – to prevent people from changing these Welsh names?
After launching the aforementioned petition in the Senedd in January last year, Welsh Language Minister Eluned Morgan told members of the Senedd she had “a lot of sympathy” for those who thought landlords should be prevented by law from changing the name of their house.
However, no legislation has been introduced so far.
Mabon ap Gwynfor, Senedd member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, told Express.co.uk: “The Welsh language is part of our common global culture. We all own the language and we all have a responsibility towards it.
“Place names, whether of houses or landmarks, must be respected and protected. These place names are steeped in history and tell the story of this part of the world.
“But what we see far too often is a complete disregard for place and community. Our homes are purchased for small fortunes as second homes or investment opportunities – far more than anyone in the local community can afford.
“This drives up the price of local housing stock, making it even more difficult for local people to buy, forcing them out of their communities and network of friends and family. We see some communities with about half the houses empty for much of the year, ripping the soul out of our communities.
He added: “When some owners then change the names of these houses or monuments to something that has no relevance, it rubs salt in the wound even more and shows a complete disregard for the history of the place and the community.
“Here in Wales, the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru have signed an agreement to tackle some of these issues. Among them is tackling the housing crisis, including tackling the excessive proliferation of second homes – and we will be drafting legislation to ensure that Welsh-language place names in built and natural environments are safeguarded and promoted for future generations.