Lewis Llewelyn Dillwyn

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"a wet Quaker"
Dillwyn as caricatured by Spy (Leslie Ward) in Vanity Fair, May 1882

Lewis Llewelyn Dillwyn (19 May 1814 -19 June 1892) was a Welsh industrialist and Liberal politician who served as MP for Swansea for 37 years.

Early life[edit]

Dillwyn was born in Swansea, Wales, the fourth of six children of Lewis Weston Dillwyn and Mary Dillwyn (formerly Adams, née Llewellyn). He had two brothers and three sisters.[1] His grandfather, William Dillwyn, was an American Quaker, who, alongside others such as William Wilberforce had campaigned for the abolition of the slave trade.[1] His father had been sent to Swansea by his father William, to take over the management of the Cambrian Pottery, and lived at Sketty Hall. He was educated at Kilvert's Academy in Bath but, following his father's election to Parliament as one of the two members for Glamorgan in 1832 he and chose to follow a business career by taking over the management of Cambrian Pottery, rather than enter Oriel College, Oxford as had been intended. His father was a friend of the geologist Henry De la Beche and Dillwyn and De la Beche carried out experiments on china clays and granites with the aim of improving the production of earthenware.[2] On 16 March 1838, Dillwyn married de la Beche's daughter Elizabeth and, with his wife's artistic guidance, the pottery produced a range of beautiful Etruscan ware which is today a collector's item.[1] They had four children, the best known of whom was Amy Dillwyn and lived at the newly built Hendrefoilan House in Sketty.[3]

Industrial Activities[edit]

Dillwyn followed his father and his Quaker antecedents in pursuing industry and commerce and radical politics, and played a major part in the industrial development of Swansea. He was head of the firm of Dillwyn and Richards at the Landore spelter-works and began to expand his industrial activities to include silver refining. Later, he formed a partnership with William Siemens to establish the Landore Siemens Steel Co., and by 1874 this company had become one of the four largest producers in the world, employing some 2000 workers. In the 1880s, following a slump in the steel industry slumped, Dillwyn concentrated his manufacturing activities on his spelter works at Llansamlet, Swansea, and soon became one of the major zinc producers in the country.[1] Dillwyn was also for many years an active director of the Great Western Railway and Chairman of the Glamorganshire Banking Co.[4]

Military Connections[edit]

In 1859 he was appointed Captain in Glamorgansire Rifle Volunteers[5] In 1881, while inspecting the troops after they had completed a week's truing he fell from his horse and sustained serious injuries from which he did, however, recover.[6]

Political career[edit]

In 1837, at the early age of 22, Dillwyn became a Glamorganshire magistrate and in 1842 played a prominent role alongside his brother, Dilwyn Llewelyn (who had taken his mother's maiden name after inheriting the Penllegare estate) in preventing the Rebecca Riots from engulfing Glamorgan as they and neighbouring Carmarthenshire.[6] During the 1840s he became a member of both the Swansea Town Council and the Swansea Harbour trust.[6] In 1848 was Mayor of Swansea, during which year the British Association held its annual meeting in the town. Dillwyn took advantage of the occasion to put in place an urban scheme which secured the town's supply of pure water and led to the naming of its streets and their improvement through the introduction of paving.[1]

In 1855 he was elected Member of Parliament for Swansea District, succeeding J.H. Vivian who had held the seat since 1832. He held the seat with few challenges for thirty years and although opposed in 1874 by Charles Bath of Fffynone he comfortably defeated him. In Parliament, Dillwyn had built a reputation by the 1860s as an advanced radical and, at least until the election of men such as Henry Richard, he was regarded as the leader of the Welsh Liberal Party from his regular corner seat below the gangway. Although not an effective speaker - one obituary even alluded to his 'remarkable inability to make a coherent speech'.[6] - Dillwyn earned status as a critic of clerical privilege.[1] It was significant in this respect that Dillwyn was an Anglican and this made his supported for the campaigns of the Liberation Society against the status of the established church more effective. He introduced bills in 1860 and 1863 to enable dissenters to be elected as trustees of endowed schools and his motion on the Church of Ireland (28 March 1865) influenced Gladstone's gradual move towards disestablishment.[1] From 1870 he supported the disestablishment of the Welsh Church, in 1873 moved an anti-clerical amendment to the Endowed Schools Act amd from 1883 he moved annual resolutions in favour of disestablishment of the Anglican church in Wales.[7] He also favoured Local Option, which would entail the closure of all public houses within a given area.[6]

During this period Dillwyn came to be regarded as a conspicuous Radical and was an active supporter of the Reform Act of 1867. During the passage of the Second Reform Bill Dillwyn's involvement as a leading member of the ‘Tea Room’ cabal of disaffected Liberals in April 1867 helped to bring about household suffrage, a measure which led to an overnight increase in the urban electorate throughout Great Britain.[1] At the 1868 General Election he was instrumental in promoring the candidature in Cardiganshire of Evan Matthew Richards, a fellow Swansea industrialist. This election was notable for the allegations of clerical influence and intimidation and later, in Parliament, Dillwyn championed the cause of Cardiganshire farmers who were evicted for their votes in 1868 election. Similarly, in the 1880s, he supported the Denbighshire tenantry who agitated against tithes. In 1887 Dillwyn and Stuart Rendel affirmed the Welsh Liberal Party's support of Irish Home Rule.[8]

Following the redistribution of parliamentary constituencies in 1885, Dillwyn became MP for the new constituency of Swansea Town from 1885 to 1892. Dillwyn was opposed in 1885 by the little known 22 year-old Conservative candidate, W.H. Meredyth. Meredyth belonged to a leading Anglo-Irish family and drew much of his support during the campaign from various members of the aristocracy who came to Swansea to support him.[9] Dillwyn's victory by a reduced majority of just over a thousand votes demonstrated that the Conseravtive cause had gained ground in Swansea, particularly since the city itself had been divided from the more working-class suburbs and contributory boroughs in 1885.

General Election 1885: Swansea Town

Electorate

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Lewis Llewelyn Dillwyn 3,660
Conservative W.H. Meredyth 2,520 -
Majority 1,140
Turnout 81.3
Liberal win (new seat)

In 1886 he increased his majority.

General Election 1886: Swansea Town

Electorate

Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal Lewis Llewelyn Dillwyn 3,040
Conservative A.J. Lambert 1,740 -
Majority 1,300
Turnout
Liberal hold Swing

Cultural Associations[edit]

Dillwyn was a prominent member of the Aborigines' Protection Society, a Fellow of the Linnean Society and a Fellow of the Geological Society and delivered talks on ornithology and natural history to the Royal Institution of South Wales.[10] One of the lectures was about Labuan, a tiny British colony. Dillwyn, together with James Motley, a fellow member of the RISW, published an illustrated volume, intended as first of a series, on the natural history of Labuan.[11] He was also a photographer, his brother John Dillwyn Llewelyn being a pioneer photographer and botanist.

Death and Legacy[edit]

Dillwyn, now aged 78, had every intention of contesting the 1892 General Election despite facing an election. On 1 June a joint meeting of the Swansea Conservative and Liberal Unionist associations resolved to nominate F. Ormesby-Gore as the candidate in the forthcoming election.[12]

On 18 June he attended a meeting at Swansea Liberal Club where David Randell was re-adopted as Liberal candidate for the Gower constituency and gave speech. Later that evening he attended a meeting to plan his own campaign but was taken ill and although he recovered consciousness he died the following day at the Royal Hotel, Swansea.[6]

Dillwyn's funeral at St Paul's churchyard, Sketty, was largely private, at the request of his family, although this was said to have given rise to 'a great deal of comment' in radical circles.[13] He was buried in Sketty churchyard. His only son, Harry, a hard-drinking barrister,[1] and one daughter had predeceased him, but he left two daughters including the novelist Elizabeth Amy Dillwyn. The Hendrefoilan estate passed to Dillwyn's grandson John, son of his eldest daughter, Mary Nicholl of Merthyr Mawr, near Bridgend.[1]

Following Dillwyn's death, his nephew, Sir John Llewelyn, was nominated as the Conservative candidate for the election.[14] He was narrowly defeated by the Liberal, R.D. Burnie but was elected in 1895.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Painting, David. "Lewis Llewellyn Dillwyn". Oxford DNB. Retrieved 28 May 2014. 
  2. ^ Geological Society
  3. ^ "Hendrefoilan House, Sketty, Swansea". Victorian Society. Retrieved 27 October 2012. 
  4. ^ National Library of Wales: Dictionary of Welsh Biography
  5. ^ The London Gazette, October 25, 1859
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Sudden Death of Mr L.L. Dillwyn MP". Weekly Mail. 22 May 2014. Retrieved 25 June 1892. 
  7. ^ Rees (2004). Gwent Local History: 59–60. 
  8. ^ National Library of Wales: Dictionary of Welsh Biography
  9. ^ Rees (2004). Gwent Local History: 61–2. 
  10. ^ City and County of Swansea Royal Institution lectures
  11. ^ Contributions to the natural history of Labuan, and the adjacent coasts of Borneo
  12. ^ "The Coming Dissolution. Mr Dillwyn to be Opposed at Swansea". Cambrian. 3 June 1892. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  13. ^ "The Death of Mr L.L. Dillwyn MP". Evening Express. 21 June 1892. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  14. ^ "The Political Campaign in Swansea". Cambrian. 1 July 1892. Retrieved 23 May 2014. 

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Henry Vivian
Member of Parliament for Swansea District
1855 – 1885
Succeeded by
Henry Vivian
New constituency Member of Parliament for Swansea
18851892
Succeeded by
Robert John Dickson Burnie