Unveiling the Third Monumental Welsh Woman: ‘Cranogwen’ (Sarah Jane Rees 1839 – 1916)
Saturday, 10 June 2023, saw the unveiling of the much-anticipated statue of skilled mariner, teacher, poet, lecturer, temperance campaigner, editor, preacher, and social advocate, Sarah Jane Rees, better known by her bardic name ‘Cranogwen’. The event at Llangrannog, south Ceredigion, began with a ceremony celebrating this inspirational Welsh woman at the Gwersyll yr Urdd (the Urdd centre) and then a colourful public procession led from the Centre to the newly renovated community garden in the centre of Llangrannog village. Cranogwen was born at Llangrannog, established her navigational school in the village in 1859, and is buried in the church yard at St Crannog’s Church. The statue is the triumphant result of a successful fund-raising campaign by Cerflun Cymunedol Cranogwen Community Monument, a subgroup of the Llangrannog Welfare Committee, in partnership with Monumental Welsh Women. This is the third statue commissioned by Monumental Welsh Women of a named, non-fictionalised woman to be erected in an outdoor public space in Wales, and follows the unveiling of the Betty Campbell Monument in Cardiff on 29 September 2021, and of the statue of writer Elaine Morgan in Mountain Ash on 18 March 2022.
This statue created by Sebastian Boyesen celebrates Cranogwen’s extraordinary life and features her reading her winning poem ( Y Fodrwy Briodasol, ‘The Wedding Ring’) from the Song category of the Aberystwyth National Eisteddfod in 1865. The detail of the sculpture is extraordinary and lines from her poem are intricately threaded through her clothes. Her faithful dog, ‘Fan’, who apparently accompanied her to many engagements, also appears in the statue to the delight of adults as well as children.
Cranogwen was buried in Llangrannog in 1916 and her memorial in the churchyard was adorned with flowers to mark the day. Those venturing into the church would also have seen the memorial in the chancel commemorating her work for the South Wales Women’s Temperance Union (UDMD) which she helped found in 1901. There were 140 branches of the union by the time of her death in 1916. A practical memorial was Lletty Cranogwen, a shelter for homeless women and girls, established in the Rhondda valley in 1922 by the South Wales Women’s Temperance Union, a lasting tribute to Cranogwen’s work to improve Welsh women’s lives.
Like the other statues of monumental Welsh women, this statue stands in a public place and can be viewed at any time.
Nicola Roberts, Communications Manager