Oswin E. Craster and guidebooks



Oswin Edmund Craster (1916-2006) was appointed an Assistant Inspector to the Office of Works in 1938. After war service in the SOE (in France and Burma) [IWM interview], he returned to the Office of Works becoming Inspector for Wales, and then Chief Inspector (to 1976).

His father, Sir Edmund Craster (1879-1959), had excavated at Corbridge with Francis Haverfield, (Sir) Leonard Woolley, and J. P. Bushe-Fox.


(1951) [1970]

Craster prepared a single guide for the Ancient Monuments of Anglesey (1953), as well as a guide for the Roman town of Caerwent (1951), followed by a short guide to the Roman fort at Y Gaer (1954) outside Brecon. This was followed by a guide to Cilgerran Castle (1957).

These were followed by replacement guides to Llanthony Priory (1963), Tintern Abbey (1964), and Skenfrith Castle (1970).

In England he prepared the guide for Hurst Castle (1976) in Hampshire (appearing as a 2nd edition in French, 1978).

[see Guardian obituary]

A.J. Taylor and Ministry of Works Guidebooks



Arnold Joseph Taylor (1911-2002) [see ODNB] wrote several of the guidebooks for England and Wales. In 1935 he was appointed Assistant Inspector to the Office of Works, and in 1946 Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Wales, Assistant Chief Inspector in 1954, and Chief Inspector in 1961 (to 1972).

The guidebooks are:

  • Minster Lovell Hall (1939; 2nd ed. 1958)
  • Raglan Castle (1950)
  • Monmouth Castle and Great Castle House (1951)
  • Basingwerk Abbey (1953)
  • Caernarvon Castle and Town Walls (1953) [replacing earlier 1929 guide by Peers]
  • Rhuddlan Castle (1955)
  • Conway Castle and Town Walls (1956)
  • The Jewel Tower, Westminster (1965)
  • Harlech Castle (1980) [replacing the guide prepared by Hemp and Peers]
  • Beaumaris Castle (1985) [with Richard Avent] [CADW Guide]

Guides for Ancient Monuments in Wales

South Wales

South Wales (1959)

Sir Cyril Fox’s guide to the Ancient Monuments in the Care of the Ministry of Works in South Wales and Monmouthshire (1954) provides a window into how the work for providing guidebooks was progressing.

The only sites without guidebooks were:

  • 5 Carreg Cennen Castle
  • 7 Llanstephan Castle
  • 10 Caerphilly Castle
  • 14 Loughor Castle
  • 16 Neath Abbey
  • 17 Neath Abbey Gatehouse
  • 19 Old Beaupre Castle
  • 20 Oxwich Castle (in preparation)
  • 23 Weobley Castle
  • 27 Chepstow, Bulwarks Camp
  • 31 Hen Gwrt
  • 32 Llanthony Priory
  • 35 Newport Castle
  • 37 Runston Chapel
  • 41 Carew Cross

William Frances Grimes and guidebooks for Wales

(1960 [1971])

(1960 [1971])

William Francis Grimes had worked for the National Museum in Cardiff until just before the Second World War when he went to the Ordnance Survey (and took part in the Sutton Hoo excavations). He had a distinguished career with a strong interest in prehistory (see D.W.J. Gill, ‘William F. Grimes’, The making of a prehistorian’, Bulletin of the History of Archaeology (2000) [here]). He was invited to prepare two paper guides to two prehistoric sites in Wales:

  • Capel Garmon burial chamber (1958) [CADW]
  • Pentre-ifan burial chamber (1953) [CADW]

In 1953 Grimes was still the Director of the London Museum, but in 1956 he had been appointed Director of the Institute of Archaeology in London. He had conducted excavations at Pentre-ifan. Wilfrid J. Hemp had conducted work at Capel Garmon.

For further details about Grimes see Gill in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Ministry of Works guidebooks to Wales

Laugharne Castle © David Gill

Laugharne Castle © David Gill

By 1955, the Ministry of Works had published (or was planning to publish) nearly 50 guidebooks and pamphlets to sites in Wales in its care. These included ones by the following authors (and using the spelling then used):

Harold Brakspear

  • Tintern Abbey (1934)

Oswin Edmund Craster

  • Anglesey, Ancient Monuments of (1953)
  • Brecon Gaer (1954)
  • Caerwent Roman City (1951)
  • Cilgerran Castle (1957)

Peter Castle Floud

  • Castell Coch (1954)

William F. Grimes

  • Capel Garmon Burial Chamber (1958)
  • Pentre-ifan Burial Chamber (1953)

Douglas Bland Hague

  • Gwydir-uchaf Chapel (1953)

Wilfrid James Hemp

  • Beaumaris Castle (1933)
  • Bryn Celli Ddu (1935)
  • Denbigh Castle (1932) [with Ralegh Radford]
  • Ewloe Castle (1929)
  • Flint Castle (1929)
  • Harlech Castle (1927) [with Peers]

Bryan Hugh St John O’Neil

  • Criccieth Castle (1934)
  • New Castle, Bridgend (1949)
  • Talley Abbey (1938)

Charles Reed Peers

  • Caernarvon Castle and Town Walls (1929)
  • Harlech Castle (1927) [with Hemp]

John Clifford Perks

  • Chepstow Castle (1967)

C.A. Ralegh Radford

  • Coity Castle (1946)
  • Cymmer Abbey (1934)
  • Denbigh Castle (1932) [with Hemp]
  • Dolbadarn Castle (1948)
  • Dolwyddelan Castle (1934)
  • Eliseg’s Pillar (1953)
  • Ewenny Priory (1952)
  • Grosmont Castle (1930)
  • Kidwelly Castle (1935)
  • Lamphey Palace (1948)
  • Llawhaden Castle (1947)
  • Margam Museum (1949)
  • Ogmore Castle (1933)
  • St David’s, Bishop’s Palace (1934)
  • St Dogmael’s Abbey (1962)
  • Skenfrith Castle (1949)
  • Strata Florida (1936)
  • Tretower Castle (1950)
  • Tretower Court (1938)
  • Valle Crucis Abbey (1967)
  • White Castle (1934)

H.N. Savory

  • Tinkinswood and St Lythans Long Cairns (1950)

A.J. Taylor

  • Basingwerk Abbey (1953)
  • Conway Castle and Town Walls (1956)
  • Monmouth Castle and Great Castle House (1951)
  • Raglan Castle (1950)
  • Rhuddlan Castle (1955)

R.E. Mortimer Wheeler and Tessa Wheeler

Planned, but not published

  • Oxwich Castle

NOTE: these are not necessarily the earliest dates of publication and will be updated if new details come to light.

Crossraguel Abbey


After the Second World War Ralegh Radford conducted two excavations in Scotland: one at Whithorn, and the other on Orkney. It was at this  time that he prepared the Department of the Environment ‘blue’ guide on Crossraguel Abbey (1970). This was published as the Historic Scotland guide in 1995, and then reprinted in 2010.

The present guide has four main sections:

  • The story of Crossraguel Abbey
  • A short tour of Crossraguel Abbey
  • The Abbey as a place of worship
  • The Abbey as a home

The guide also includes ‘further reading’.

Wilfrid J. Hemp: guidebooks

One of the pioneering guidebook writers for heritage sites in Wales was Wilfrid J. Hemp (1882-1962), Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Wales from 1913. He collaborated with (Sir) Charles Reed Peers on the guidebook for Harlech Castle (1927). This was followed by the guide for Flint Castle (1929), Ewloe Castle (1929), Denbigh Castle (1932) [with Ralegh Radford], and Beaumaris Castle (1933). He then prepared a short guide to the burial chamber at Bryn Celli Ddu (1935) on Anglesey