British photographic history

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Trivia: What's the connection between a statue in Victoria Park, Swansea with a pioneer of photography?

Near the Patti Pavilion stands the statue of Alderman William Thomas, the Pioneer of Open Spaces.

A director of the Landore Tinplate Company, William Thomas of Lan Manor, Morriston, was elected to Swansea Corporation in 1871. Because the rapid increase of industrialisation in the 19th century left little land for recreation, he offered a prize for the best essay in English or Welsh on the desirability and advantages of recreation grounds for the working classes and poor children of Swansea.

His challenge elicited not just essays, but an offer of a suitable piece of land.

John Dillwyn, the elder son of Lewis Weston Dillwyn, had inherited the Penllergare estate when he came of age in 1831, on the condition that he took on the additional surname Llewelyn.

In 1833 at Penrice church he married Emma Talbot, youngest daughter of Thomas Mansel Talbot, of Penrice Castle. John Dillwyn Llewelyn was a pioneer photographer, related through his wife Emma to the Fox Talbots of Laycock Abbey in Wiltshire, who played a major part in the development of photography. In 1874 J D Llewelyn responded to William Thomas's challenge by offering the 42 acre Cnap Llwyd Farm, near the ruins of Morris Castle, to the people of Swansea. Later he also gave £1,000 towards the expense of the farm being laid out as a park. This was officially opened in October 1878 by John Talbot Dillwyn Llewelyn (since his father was unwell), during William Thomas's term as mayor, and named Parc Llewelyn.

It was the first of Swansea's designated parks, and during the Second World War large areas were used in the Dig for Victory campaign to produce oats, wheat and potatoes.

William Thomas o Lan went on to secure the land for Victoria Park, the Recreation Ground at St Helen's, as well as Cwmdonkin, Brynmill and Brynmelyn Parks.

Article courtesy of South Wales newspaper.

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