From a Welsh Galileo to Somali Culture, This Is the Heritage That Shaped Wales; from the Welshman Who Observed the Moon at the Same Time as Galileo to the Family Who Were the First to Provide the Royal Navy with Steam Coal, Wales Is Awash with Lost Stories of Historical Achievement. Nowamajor Investment Will Help Uncover the Country's Lesser-Known Legends

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Byline: Aled Blake reports

GALILEO GALILEI may have been more familiar with the moon than most of his contemporaries, but he had probably never heard of Carmarthenshire. So, in all likelihood, he would have been unaware that, as he gazed into the heavens, his activities were being emulated by the distinguished scholar Sir William Lower at his family home in Trefenty.

Sir William worked closely with Thomas Harriott, who, in 1609, produced the UK's first telescope - just a year after Galileo did the same.

And Wales' contribution to the embryonic space race didn't end there.

In the 1850s, Swansea's John Dillwyn Llewellyn took one of the earliest photographs of the moon from the Penllergaer Observatory - which he built for his daughter's 16th birthday.

A couple of decades later came the birth of celestial photography, by Denbigh-born Isaac Roberts - arguably the most important contribution to science by a man named Isaac since a certain Mr Newton sat underneath an apple tree.

The technique, which captured star clusters and nebulae and detailed interstellar gas clouds and galaxies, was pioneered in 1888.

With his technology, Roberts was the first person to identify the spiral shape of the Andromeda Nebula - Earth's neighbouring galaxy.

But Denbigh was not only the home to pioneering scientists such as Isaac Roberts.

From being a residence for royal princes to a refuge for a Royalist garrison during the Civil War - in fact Denbych translates as small fortress - the small market town has had a colourful history dating back before the Normans.

The town is first mentioned in records in the years following the Norman Conquest when it became a border town guarding the approach to the Hiraethog Hills and Snowdonia.

The town has a history of esteemed residents. One of many Denbigh men who were well regarded during the Tudor and Stuart period included Humphrey Llwyd, who produced the first painted map of Wales, while Sir Henry Morton Stanley, a Denbigh resident was one of the first Europeans to map the territories of Eastern Africa, including the Congo.

Tales such as Henry's and Humphreys' are well placed to receive the muchneeded oxygen of publicity from a pounds 175,000 investment from the Heritage Lottery Fund to support four projects across the country, designed to celebrate inventions, industry and cultures that have had a significant impact on shaping modern life in Wales today.

Since 1995, the HLF has awarded more than pounds 190m to 1,700 projects in Wales.

Dan Clayton Jones, the fund's chairman, said: "Wales has a rich and varied past but there's still so much more to discover.

"These small grants will enable communities to find out more about the history on their doorstep and unearth the bigger stories about their area and the country as a whole.

"There are fascinating stories about Wales' contribution to the oldest science, astronomy, our early heritage in North Wales, the impact of Somali immigration on Cardiff's growth as a city, and the missing link in Cardiff's chain of heritage sites.

"Through innovative workshops, exhibitions, digital archiving, talks and volunteer training the projects will educate, engage, challenge and enthuse people to share the stories of our past and preserve them for the future.

"This is what HLF grants are all about and we are delighted to support such a wide range of projects"

The Astro Cymru project, which falls in the International Year of Astronomy, will benefit from a pounds 50,000 HLF grant, to mark 400 years of astronomy in Wales.

Being run through the Share Initiative, the scheme will celebrate Wales' contribution to astronomy through school heritage workshops, inter-generational learning events, lifelong learning programmes and a touring exhibition in Swansea, Cardiff, Brecon and Welshpool. …