From the seventeenth to the nineteenth century British scholars were fascinated by everything Celtic and druidmania was flourishing. One of the first to promote this interest was the antiquarian John Aubrey, who suggested in 1659 that the stone circles at Avebury and Stonehenge had been built by the Celts as druidic temples. Furthermore, the Irish author, J. J. Toland, held a meeting for druids at Primrose Hill, London in 1717 and established The Ancient Druid Order.
In Wales Henry Rowlands (1655-1723), the Anglesey antiquarian, tried to prove, in his Mona Antiqua Restaurata (1723), that the cromlechi on the island were druidic temples. But when Iolo Morganwg visited Anglesey at the end of the eighteenth century he was disappointed at 'the exceedingly pitiful monuments of the Island' and he realised that this gave him a chance to promote the antiquities of Glamorgan instead.
The Archdruid and Druids of the Gorsedd of the Bards of the Isle of Britain today do not trace their origins back to the world of the Celtic druids, but the fact that the Gorsedd of the Bards meets within a stone circle demonstrates the influence of eighteenth-century neo-druidism on Iolo Morganwg's lively imagination.
[image: The picture 'The Bard' by Phillipps J. de Loutherbourg, 1794.]
The picture The Bard by Phillipps J. de Loutherbourg - frontispiece of Musicale Poetical Relicks of the Welsh Bards by Edward Jones, second edition, 1794.
[image: Ancient Druid: 'An Archdruid in his Judicial Habit' from Costume of the Original Inhabitants of the British Isles (1815) by Samuel Rush Meyrick and Charles Hamilton Smith.]
An Archdruid in his Judicial Habit from Costume of the Original Inhabitants of the British Isles (1815) by Samuel Rush Meyrick and Charles Hamilton Smith.
[image: The alleged Druidical Temple of Tre'r Dryw (Anglesey) - prepared by the Revd Henry Rowlands (1723)]
The alleged Druidical Temple of Tre'r Dryw (Anglesey) - prepared by the Revd Henry Rowlands (1723)