Monumental Welsh Women

Monumental Welsh Women
Cranogwen Statue

Artist: Sebastien Boyesen

Client: Monumental Welsh Women/Cerflun Cymunedol Cranogwen Community Monument

Location: Llangrannog, Ceredigion

Services: Commissioning

Phase: Completed 2023

Studio Response has commissioned the statue of Sarah Jane Rees – better known by her bardic name Cranogwen - the third statue of a named, non-fictionalised, Welsh woman in Wales.  It follows the successful unveiling of the Betty Campbell Monument in central Cardiff in 2021 and the Elaine Morgan statue in 2022.

 Designed and created by renowned sculptor Sebastien Boyesen, a resident of Llangrannog, the statue represents Cranogwen’s extraordinary life and her many and varied achievements.  The statue was unveiled as part of a community focused day of celebrations on 10th June 2023.

 Echoing Cranogwen’s encouragement of female talent, Keziah Ferguson, a promising female sculptor and sculpture alumni of Ysgol Gelf Caerfyrddin / Carmarthen School of Art has been mentored during the project by Boyesen, working with him on the commission. 

 The sculpture was commissioned following the Hidden Heroines campaign organised by Monumental Welsh Women and broadcast on BBC Wales in January 2019.  The other women on the shortlist were Margaret Haig Thomas (Lady Rhondda), Elizabeth Andrews, Sarah Jane Rees (Cranogwen) and Betty Campbell, who became the first woman on the list to be honoured with a statue.

 Cranogwen was a pioneer in many fields considered unsuitable for women at that time.  She was a skilled mariner and worked for two years as a sailor on cargo shops between Wales and France.  Aged 21, she became a headteacher, overcoming opposition to the appointment of women.

 A gifted writer, Cranogwen was the first woman to win a poetry prize at the National Eisteddfod, beating the major male Welsh poets of the day, Islwyn and Ceiriog. She went on to be one of the most popular poets in Wales and was the first woman to edit a Welsh-language women’s magazine – ‘Y Frythones.’ Packed with stories, poems and features, it campaigned for girls’ education. As an editor, Cranogwen also encouraged the talents of other women; several of the female writers she gave a platform to in ‘Y Frythones’ went on to successful literary careers.

 Cranogwen excelled with the spoken as well as the written word. At a time when public speaking by women was frowned upon, she embarked on a career as a lecturer, Temperance campaigner and preacher – travelling across America twice.

 Anne-Marie Bollen from Cerflun Cymunedol Cranogwen Community Monument said,

 ‘Cranogwen would be proud of the community in Llangrannog who’ve come together actively and inclusively during this campaign, a small community with a big heart. Our genuine thanks to each and every supporter. As with previous generations, those to follow will also be inspired by Cranogwen.’

 Monumental Welsh Women is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to recognising the contribution of women to the history and life of Wales. Its mission is to normalise female ambition and success by celebrating the achievements of great Welsh women and inspiring the next generation of great Welsh women.

 The group has set itself the challenge of seeing all five of the women shortlisted for the Hidden Heroines campaign – Betty Campbell, Elizabeth Andrews, Cranogwen, Lady Rhondda, Elaine Morgan - immortalised as statues at different locations around Wales in five years.

 Studio Response has commissioned the Cranogwen statue, the Elaine Morgan statue and the Betty Campbell Monument on behalf of Monumental Welsh Women and is continuing to work with the group on the commissioning of the two remaining statues.

The statue of Cranogwen has been made possible thanks to the support of Monumental Welsh Women’s funders and partners and generous donations by members of the public. 

Sebastien Boyesen worked with Castle Fine Art Foundry on the fabrication of the statue.

 Images courtesy of Molyneux Associates.