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Help Uncover the Role of the Welsh in Newfoundland

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Sir William Vaughan of Golden Grove, Carmarthenshire, Wales was a pioneering but little appreciated Newfoundland colonist in the early 17th century. 

This GoFundMe campaign has been launched on behalf of The Sir William Vaughan Trust Incorporated by the Trust's executive. The Sir William Vaughan Trust, based in St. John’s and Trepassey, Newfoundland, was established as a not-for-profit corporation in 2013 with the primary objective of helping to better understand the Welsh legacy from 17th century Newfoundland and the role played in particular by Sir William Vaughan and his Cambriol settlement.  The Trust conducts documentary research on both sides of the Atlantic and archaeological digs in the Trepassey area, the “capital” of Cambriol. Through that work, the true story of Cambriol is being revealed, bit by bit.

But here is the rub: we have reached a point in our research where funds considerably in excess of our resources will be needed to finance the task at hand. Hence this ambitious GoFundMe campaign.

All funds received through this campaign are withdrawn by the Trust's treasurer and deposited directly into the Trust's bank account.

Trepassey, Newfoundland with its sheltered harbour.


By the close of the 16th century, Welsh merchants and seafarers, directly and through Bristol, were trading into Newfoundland, bringing back salt cod and forest products (from logs to fir seedlings). During the early 17th century, Welsh Captains Thomas Button and Thomas James were exploring the eastern Arctic north of Newfoundland looking for a way to China. 

And in the most impressive early Welsh New World venture, in 1616, Sir William Vaughan that illustrious son of Golden Grove acquired a large block nearly a quarter of the size of Wales on Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula on which he set up the Colony of Cambriol, sending over an unknown number of Welsh families until he was dispossessed by Charles I in 1637.

Long dismissed as a “failure”, Sir William’s Cambriol can now be seen as part of the continuous and prominent role that the Welsh played in 17th Century Newfoundland at a time when that “fishing station” was central to the creation of the British Empire. 

A graduate of Jesus College Oxford (and of Vienna), Vaughan published profusely on religion, philosophy, medicine (including a medical guide for Cambriol settlers) and Welsh social conditions and agricultural innovation. He had many contacts amongst westward looking explorers and investors. Yet literally none of his papers are “known to exist”. 

Torcoed Fawr, Carmarthenshire, Wales, where Sir William Vaughan lived after he married.

In 1626, Vaughan published his best known work The Golden Fleece in English celebrating the virtues of his Cambriol Colony. It contains one of two known copies of Captain John Mason’s pioneering map (pictured above) of Newfoundland on which the Cambriol portion is endowed with South Wales place names.  On Mason’s map, Trepassey is marked as “Colchos”, the home not of a Golden Fleece but of vast schools of cod, or as Vaughan called them “Neptune’s sheep”.      

 The Golden Fleece by Sir William Vaughan, 1626

Even more intriguing than The Golden Fleece, however, is his Carolonis Cambrensis published the previous year in 1625 in honour of the marriage of Charles I to Henrietta Marie of France (which contains the first known copy of Mason’s map). Framed as a 70-page poem, alternately lavishing praise on the King and Queen and then on the virtues of Cambriol, it is slick propaganda. It is a work often listed by historians - but likely very seldom read – as it was published in Latin and an English translation is apparently unavailable. But not for long as the Classics Department at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland, aided by a small grant from the Sir William Vaughan Trust, has a Faculty and Graduate Student team at work translating this Early Modern gem. 


In reality, the Welsh presence in Trepassey and Early Modern Newfoundland did not end with Vaughan’s dismissal in 1637. Our digs have produced pottery and other artifacts documenting a 17th and 18th century trading network that stretched from Trepassey to Italy, Spain, Germany, North Devon, English Midlands and Wales. The Trust’s 2017 dig on Trepassey’s Lower Coast, for example, produced the distinctive black pottery of Buckley, North Wales (manufactured from 1720 to 1775) evidencing a continuing Welsh-Newfoundland connection some 100 years after Vaughan.

Buckley, North Wales pottery (ca 1720 – 1775)

Indeed, the Early Modern pioneering Welsh role seems reflected to this day by the large number of Welsh family names in Newfoundland.


Tremendous scholarship will be required to track a forgotten man from a forgotten era.  A “from the mud of the dig to the dust of the archive” strategy is called for.  The Trust has identified several highly prospective archives that bear Vaughan oriented research in Wales and England and numerous archaeological sites on the Lower Coast and other areas around Trepassey Harbour that need work.

Funds raised from this campaign will be used by the Trust  to continue our research, including archival research in Wales and England, and further archaeological work in Trepassey. All donations in any amount gratefully accepted.

For further information, visit our website at

                                                            THE TRAIL IS WARM AND GETTING WARMER


Diolch yn fawr iawn.


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Fundraising team: Sir William Vaughan Trust (2)

Carol Osmond
St. John's, NL
Sir William Vaughan Trust Incorporated
Cabot Martin
Team member

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