Welcome to SAL’s Adventures with Octavius! #AwO

From January to April 2023 we will be living vicariously through Octavius Morgan (1803-88), Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and later Tory MP for Monmouthshire, on his travels through the Britain of the 1820s.

As a fresh 16-year old, he and his family, from their home of Tredegar in South Wales, went on a tour of Northern England – Yorkshire, primarily – and one year later, toured round North Wales. He visited manufactories, country houses, museums, cattle fairs, Cathedrals and spa towns, went to the races, to traditional music festivals, struggled with transport troubles, complained (endlessly) about the roads, and took great pleasure in the beauty of nature – he was a classic 19th-century gentleman tourist.

We know all this because he made journals of his travels, which he later donated to SAL – these texts have formed the basis of our #AwO project:

  • We have digitised and transcribed Octavius’ travel journals, which can be found at here (there are also two journals of European travels, digitised (see here), but not yet transcribed – get in touch if you’re interested in helping!).
  • We’ve made an interactive map, helping us visualise and explore Octavius’ journeys – click on each section of the journey to read the relevant part of the journal!
  • We’ll be following Octavius on his journey through social media #AwO – follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to get regular snapshots of Octavius’ travels, illustrated with contemporary material from the SAL collections,[1] allowing us to see what he saw, back in the 1820s.

We’ve prepared a small exhibit in the SAL library, displaying pages from Octavius’ journal, paired with images from the SAL archives.

Octavius’ journals are a fabulous historical source, teaching us about: 19th-century tourism and cultural activity, the excitement of the industrial revolution, the day-to-day amusements and troubles of a Georgian gentleman, the mindset of the upper-classes of the 1820s, among many other things. But they also offer us the opportunity to travel back through time, to experience the world of the past, and bring it back to life – and, for that reason alone, they are of great value.


Created by Andrew Doll


[1] The illustrations are drawn from the Ashpitel, Turner and Nevinson sketchbooks, the Willson Lincolnshire collection, the R Paul Collection, Grose Collection, Coleraine Collection, the SAL Prints & Drawings collection, and from Octavius Morgan’s journal itself.