Fonds GB 0210 HARWEBB - Harri Webb Papers (2004 donation),

Identity area

Reference code



Harri Webb Papers (2004 donation),


  • [c. 1919]-1995 / (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

0.126 cubic metres (11 boxes, 1 volume)

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

Harri Webb (1920-1994), poet, from Swansea, Glamorgan, went to Magdalen College Oxford. He worked as a bookseller and librarian in Cardiff, Dowlais and Mountain Ash, Glamorgan, retiring in 1974; in the 1970s he wrote several television scripts. He was strongly influenced by the Scottish poet Hugh Mac Diarmid, writer and nationalist politician. He was a member of the Welsh Republican Movement, as well as Plaid Cymru; he was a prolific journalist, and editor of Welsh Nation magazine. He was an active member of the New Nation/Cilmeri group in the 1960s, aiming to replace the leadership of Plaid Cymru. He stood as Plaid Cymru candidate in the general election of 1970 at Pontypool, but in the mid 1970s became disillusioned with the party. His poetry was published in the collections 'The Green Desert' (1969) and 'A Crown for Branwen' (1974). He mainly wrote in English, although he also used Welsh. He contributed regularly to the magazine Poetry Wales, which he had helped to establish; he also acted as a reader for the Welsh Arts Council, and published two collections of songs and ballads. Since his death in 1994, a Collected Poems and selections from his political and literary journalism have been published.

Name of creator

Biographical history

Harri Webb (1920-1994) was a prominent poet and Welsh nationalist.

Harry Webb was born at Ty-coch Road in Sketty, Swansea, on 7 September 1920, the only child of William John Webb and Lucy Irene Gibbs. He began using the Welsh spelling of his forename from the 1950s onwards. After leaving Grammar School he went on to Magdalen College at Oxford where he read medieval and modern Romance languages. Following his graduation in 1941 he enlisted in the Royal Navy, eventually becoming a Petty Officer and serving for a time as an interpreter on a mission to the Free French Government. In August 1946 he left the Navy and spent some time in Scotland, where he discovered the work of Hugh MacDiarmid (1892-1978), the Scottish poet and patriot, whose writing had a profound effect upon him. He returned to Wales, and over the next few years worked at various places across South Wales before taking a job as an assistant librarian in Cheltenham in 1952. In 1954, he was appointed librarian at the Dowlais branch library in Merthyr Tydfil. Ten years later he became librarian at Mountain Ash Library where he remained until his early retirement in 1974.

Harri Webb's political career began in 1948 when he joined Plaid Cymru, but he soon became unhappy with the Party's pacifist stance and a year later helped to found the Welsh Republican Movement, editing their newspaper the Welsh Republican from 1949 until 1951. The Welsh Republicans were a small left-wing nationalist group, mainly ex-servicemen, who became well known in South Wales during the 1950s. With the decline of the Movement, and after his move to Cheltenham, Harri Webb joined the Labour Party in 1953. Over the next few years however he became increasingly dissatisfied with their views on self-government for Wales and re-joined Plaid Cymru in 1958, becoming editor of the Party's English language newspaper the Welsh Nation, 1961-1964, and eventually standing as a candidate for Pontypool in the General Election of 1970.

Harri Webb came to prominence as a poet during the late 1960s and early 1970s, even though he had begun writing poetry whilst in the Navy. He became a regular contributor to the magazine Poetry Wales, and published The Green Desert, perhaps the most celebrated collection of his work, in 1969. He also made some valuable contributions to the world of prose, including his lecture Dic Penderyn and the Merthyr Rising of 1831 (Swansea, 1956), and wrote a number of television and radio scripts, the most notable being 'How Green Was My Father' (1976). Whilst Harri Webb wrote largely in English he was fluent in Welsh. His most famous Welsh poem was Colli Iaith (Losing A Language), later put to music and recorded by the Welsh folk-singer Heather Jones.

In 1985 Harri Webb suffered a stroke, after which his health progressively deteriorated. He died at the St David's Nursing Home in Swansea on 31 December 1994.

Archival history

It would appear that the material forming the initial deposit was gifted to Meic Stephens by Harri Webb sometime before 1989, which is when it was transferred to NLW. The additional material purchased by NLW in 1995, 1997 and 1999 would also appear to have been in Meic Stephens' possession, though it is not clear if this was acquired by him before or after Harri Webb's death.

The additional donation in 2004 appears to have been in the possession of Professor J. Gwyn Griffiths at the time of his death in June 2004. On arrival at NLW the material was separated from some of J. Gwyn Griffiths' own papers and accessioned separately.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The greater part of the the archive (described elsewhere) was initially deposited by Mr Meic Stephens, Cardiff, in 1989. Additional papers were purchased in 1995 and again in 1997, at which time the original deposit was also purchased, with further additional papers being purchased in 1999. A final group of papers (listed here) were donated by Mr Robat Gruffudd, Tal-y-bont, Aberystwyth per, Mr Rhys Evans, Cardiff, in September 2004; B1995/2, B1997/1, B1999/4, 0200410723.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The main part of the archive (described elsewhere) comprises papers relating to Harri Webb's work, 1942-1989; material connected with the use of Harri Webb's work, 1949-1986; papers concerning artistic and literary figures, [c. 1940]-1983; material concerning other authors, 1961-1981; papers relating to publications and broadcasting, [c. 1965]-1984; material regarding Welsh literary societies and institutions, 1950-1984; political papers concerning Plaid Cymru, 1961-1978; political papers regarding various other groups, 1952-1983; personal papers, [c. 1919]-1984; and miscellaneous material, 1954-1983. The material purchased in 1999 includes further papers relating to Harri Webb's work, 1949-1983; further material connected with the use of Harri Webb's work, 1967-1995; further political papers, 1964-1977; further miscellaneous material, [c. 1950]-1995; and notes, [late 1970s]. -- The additional donation in 2004 (catalogued here) comprises copies of two ballads and a poem, [?1960x1979]-[1988x1994]; letters received by Harri Webb, 1956-1963, mainly relating to his work as editor of the Welsh Nation; material concerning Harri Webb's political activity, 1949-1963, both with the Parliament for Wales Campaign and with Plaid Cymru; material connected with the Welsh Nation, [1961x1964]; a handful of newspaper cuttings, [1951]-1963; and published material, 1961-1963, presumably kept for reference purposes.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

Action: All records at NLW have been retained..


Accruals are possible.

System of arrangement

The initial deposits were arranged at NLW into the following groups: the work of Harri Webb; material relating to and use made of Harri Webb's work; correspondence from literary and artistic figures; material relating to other authors; publishers, periodicals, recording companies and film; literary institutions and societies; political - Plaid Cymru; political - various; personal; and miscellaneous. The papers purchased in 1999 were arranged as a single additional section: Harri Webb Additional Purchased 1999, and added at the end of the earlier material. The additional group donated in 2004 has been arranged at NLW into six series according to the nature of the material: verse compositions, letters, political activity, The Welsh Nation, news cuttings and published material.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Readers consulting modern papers in the National Library of Wales are required to abide by the conditions noted on the 'Modern papers - data protection' form issued with their readers' tickets.

Conditions governing reproduction

Usual copyright laws apply. Harri Webb copyright is owned by his literary executor, Mr Meic Stephens, Cardiff.

Language of material

Script of material

Language and script notes

English unless otherwise specified.

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Manuscripts of Harri Webb's work, 1969, may be found in NLW MS 20794E and 20795E; letters to and from him are in NLW MS 19754E, 23112E, and 23422E; and photocopies of a manuscript in his own hand are in NLW Facs 942. Further manuscripts and correspondence relating to Harri Webb, 1970-1979, are also held at NLW in the archives of the magazine Planet; whilst other papers concerning him, 1949-1996, are in the Cliff Bere Papers; and a substantial amount of other material connected with him, 1956-1977, is amongst the papers of Plaid Cymru. In addition, letters from Harri Webb may be found in various collections held at NLW, particularly in the John Legonna Papers and the John Tripp Papers.

Related descriptions

Publication note

Meic Stephens, Harri Webb: collected poems (Gomer, Llandysul, 1995); Meic Stephens, No half-way house: Harri Webb - selected political journalism (Y Lolfa, Talybont, 1997).

Notes area


Fonds title supplied from provenance, series and file titles supplied from contents.

The dates of the fonds pre-date and post-date Harri Webb's life due to the fact that it contains a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings [c. 1919]-1974, as well as some material relating to the publication of his work and tribute events which occurred after his death.

Alternative identifier(s)

Virtua system control number


GEAC system control number


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Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru = The National Library of Wales

Rules and/or conventions used

This description follows NLW guidelines based on ISAD(G) Second Edition; AACR2; and LCSH


Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Description compiled September 2005; amended October 2005 and July 2008.


  • English



Archivist's note

Compiled by Martin Robson Riley.

Archivist's note

The following sources were used in the compilation of this description: Ivor Thomas Rees, Welsh Hustings 1885-2004 (Llandybie, 2005); Meic Stephens, 'Harri Webb Anniversary', Cambria: Wales's National Magazine, 13 Aug. 2005; Meic Stephens, 'Webb, Harri (1920-1994)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; Ysgrifau Coffa/Obituaries, 1995 (NLW, unpublished, 1995).

Accession area

Related subjects

Related people and organizations

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Physical storage

  • Text: Harri Webb Papers.