Skip Navigation Link
NLW Logo
Early Photography in Swasnsea



Welsh Pioneers

Swansea in the nineteenth century

At the beginning of the nineteenth century Swansea was a port and market town enjoying the prosperity of rapid industrial growth. Copper ores were brought at first from Cornwall, then north Wales and Ireland, then from Spain, Cuba and south America to be smelted at Swansea using the fuel of south Wales. The town became the world centre for nonferrous metallurgy. Within Wales only Merthyr Tydfil could compare in size with Swansea. But unlike Merthyr's "bleak and barren hills" Swansea was a pleasant place to live, a resort facing a beautiful bay, with mild sea air.

Welsh Pioneers

The ruling families remained in the area and took a keen personal interest in the new industries. The Vivan family of Singleton Abbey, originally from Cornwall, made their fortune from copper smelting. Both John Henry Vivan and his son Henry Hussey Vivian completed their education by studying metallurgy in Germany and France. The old established families were also well aware of the value of science. When the Royal Institution of South Wales, a predominantly scientific society, was established in Swansea in 1835, the founders included members of nearly all of Swansea's prominent families.

John Dillwyn Llewelyn

Who was who?

The array of family members, cousins and friends found in the Dillwyn Llewelyn albums can at first glance seem quite confusing. Below are brief biographical details of many of those featured or associated with the albums.

Members of the Dillwyn Llewelyn family

John Dillwyn Llewelyn (1810-1882)

The squire of Penlle'r-gaer who married Emma Thomasina Talbot (1806-1881) in 1833. She was a cousin of William Henry Fox Talbot, the inventor of the negative-positive photographic process. During his tenure at Penlle'r-gaer he created the two lakes, landscaped the grounds, built orchid houses and an observatory. He became an enthusiastic and proficient photographer and invented the Oxymel process.

Thereza Mary (1834-1926)

The eldest daughter of John Dillwyn Llywelyn, Thereza was interested in both photography and astronomy. In 1858 she married Nevil Story-Maskelyne of Basset Down in Wiltshire, grandson of Nevil Maskelyne the Astronomer Royal.

John Talbot (1836-1927)

The eldest son of John Dillwyn Llewellyn, he was Mayor of Swansea in 1891, MP for the town during 1895-1900 and the last member of the family to live at Penlle'r-gaer.

Emma Charlotte (1837-1928)

The third child of John Dillwyn Llewellyn, Emma was a keen artist who married Henry Crichton and settled in Clyro, Breconshire. She and her husband were contemporaries of Rev. Francis Kilvert.

William Mansel (1838-1866)

Born on Christmas Day, William Mansel, or Willy, was an Oxford graduate who was a lieutenant in the 4th Hussars at the time of his death. He was frequently photographed as a child.

Elinor Amy (1844-1887)

A talented sketcher, Elinor seems to have suffered from ill health for much of her life.

Lucy Caroline (1846-1920)

The youngest daughter of the family, Lucy was a talented artist and is thought to have been disabled from birth.

Relatives of the Dillwyn Llewelyn family

Mary Dillwyn

Lewis Llewelyn Dillwyn (1814-1892)

Youngest brother of John Dillwyn Llewelyn who married Bessie de la Beche. He later became an MP, was elected mayor of Swansea, and at one time was a director of the Great Western Railway.

Mary Dillwyn (1816-1906)

Youngest sister of John Dillwyn Llewelyn, was a noted early woman photographer. She married the Rev. Welby in 1857 after which her interest in photography ceased. Mary died at Arthog, Meirionnydd in December 1906.

Sir Thomas Mansel Franklen (1840-1928)

A nephew of Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot, the third son of Richard Franklen of Clemenstone was also a keen photographer. He donated 150 of his glass negatives to the National Museum of Wales. After his death a large number of his papers, including NLW photograph album 249, were donated to the National Library.

Susan Franklen (1835-1860)

Sister of Sir Thomas Mansel Franklen and cousin of the Dillwyn Llywelyn family. Believed to have suffered from ill health for most of her life, she died after contracting a heavy cold. The inscription inside the Mary Dillwyn Album (NLW ffoto album 3900) suggests it was compiled as a gift for her.

Sir Henry de la Beche (1796-1855)

Geologist, father-in-law of Lewis Llewelyn Dillwyn.

Matthew Moggridge (-1882)

A noted archaeologist who married Fanny (1808-1894), the eldest sister of John Dillwyn Llewelyn. He was also the father of J. Traherne Moggridge and served as a magistrate during the Rebecca Riots.

J. Traherne Moggridge (1842-1874)

Nephew of John Dillwyn Llewelyn, he became a noted entomologist and botanist who corresponded with Charles Darwin. NLW photo album 1 was given to him by his mother Fanny (eldest sister of John Dillwyn Llewellyn).

Friends of the Dillwyn Llewelyn family and others

William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877)

An acquaintance of the Dillwyn Llewelyn family from childhood and a cousin of Emma, the wife of John Dillwyn Llewelyn, he spent many school holidays at Penrice Castle on the Gower Peninsula. Inventor of the negative-positive photographic process.

Calvert Richard Jones (1804-1877)

Educated at Oxford, this mathematician and talented painter served briefly as the rector of Loughor. He was a friend of John Dillwyn Llewelyn and Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot. Although he is credited with having taken the earliest accurately dated photograph in Wales in 1841, the Margam Castle daguerrotype, Calvert Richard Jones seems to have given up photography in 1856.

Caroline, Dulcie & Emily Eden

These three daughters of a wealthy family involved in metallurgical and municipal circles in Swansea are featured in many photographs taken by the Dillwyn Llewelyn family. The family resided at Llanynior, Gower.

Mrs Hussey Vivian (-1868)

She married the prominent copper magnate Henry Hussey Vivian in 1853. Known as Flora, she was his second wife and they lived at Parc Wern. Sadly, ill health caused her to live out her life as an invalid.

Ernest Vivian (1848 - 1922)

Ernest Ambrose Vivian later became the second Lord Swansea. He features in NLW photograph album 3900 with his grandmother, Mrs Sarah Vivian.

R. O. Dougan

Born in Illford, England, Dr. Robert Ormes Dougan studied at University College, London, and Trinity College, Dublin. Dr. Dougan accepted the newly created post as Librarian of Trinity College where he developed an interest in the Book of Kells. A chance meeting with Henry Huntington resulted in his appointment as Librarian at the Huntington Library in 1958 until his retirement to Santa Barbara in 1972. It was from him that NLW photograph albums 1 & 2 were acquired by the National Library of Wales in 1954.