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Welsh Ballads Digitisation Project

Partners in the Welsh Ballads Digitisation Project


Ballads were the 'daily newspapers' for the poor throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Sung at markets and fairs and on street corners throughout Wales, and sold as small, cheap pamphlets, they provided popular entertainment and communicated news on events far and wide.

About 10,000 of these ballad sheets have been preserved in Welsh libraries and archives. They cover a wide range of subject matter and are an invaluable source of information for anyone interested in the language, literature, history, religion and music of Wales. They are of particular value to those studying popular culture and local history.


Completing the British Ballads Network: A JISC Enriching Digital Resources Programme Project

October 2008–September 2009

In 2008 a partnership of institutions led by Cardiff University made a successful bid to JISC – the Government-funded Joint Information Systems Committee for the development of information services in Higher Education – for funds for a project to digitise approximately half of the ballad sheets in Welsh or printed in Wales that have survived in repositories and to make them available to the general public via the internet.

The project, which was successfully completed in the autumn of 2009, comprised of three parts:

1. Digitising approximately 5,000 ballads – around 20,000 pages of text – ranging from the 18th century to the early 20th century. These included all of the ballad sheets held in Cardiff University's Special Collections and Archives (SCOLAR), together with a good cross-section of the ballad sheets held at the National Library of Wales.

2. Creating an online, searchable catalogue to those digitised ballads, and access to the digitised versions, via the National Library of Wales's website.

3. Providing academic resources to contextualise Welsh ballads studies, and links to other digital ballads websites, via Cardiff University's Welsh Ballads Website.


Project partners

The lead institution was Cardiff University. Staff at Cardiff University and the National Library of Wales were responsible for digitisation, cataloguing and web site creation. Dr A. Cynfael Lake (Swansea University Department of Welsh), Prof. Peredur Lynch (Bangor University School of Welsh) and Prof. Andrew Prescott (University of Wales Lampeter Librarian) acted as academic advisers to the project, together with Dr E. Wyn James (Cardiff University School of Welsh), who is also Editor of the Welsh Ballads Website.


Project Coordinator: Peter Keelan, Head of Special Collections and Archives (SCOLAR)


Project Team - Cardiff University Information Services

Digital Photographer: Mark Barrett

Cataloguer: Helen Price-Saunders

Web Designer: Alison Harvey

Systems Team: Catrin Jones


Project Team - National Library of Wales

Project Coordinator: Lyn Lewis Dafis

Cataloguer: Wendy Morgan

Other Staff: Branwen Rhys



A Welsh Ballads Digitisation Seminar was held on Monday, 14 September 2009, at the Arts and Social Studies Library, Colum Drive, Cardiff University, featuring a range of speakers on issues relating to ballads and digitisation.


In addition to promoting the current project and exploring possible future developments, one aspect of the seminar was to place the Welsh ballads digitisation project in the context of similar projects, notably those carried out by the National Library of Scotland and the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. In that respect this Welsh digitisation project may be regarded as one which completes a network of British ballad digitisation projects.