The Dynevor House Names

Extracted from Dave Tovey’s article in TOD 10

Prior to our Annual General Meeting on 16th March 2004, Professor David Warner indicated that he wished to commemorate the link with our old school by naming certain areas within the S. I. H. E.’s new Dynevor Centre after former pupils or masters of the school. There were several suggestions made and discussed in the subsequent Committee meetings but when I proposed, for simplicity, that the original Dynevor House names be perpetuated for this purpose there was an unanimous acceptance of the idea. 

The Committee were surprised to learn that my research had revealed that there had been originally six ‘Houses’ named throughout the history of the school. I think it fair to assume that most of our readers will share the view that there had only been four Houses; Dillwyn, Grove, Llewelyn and Roberts but early school sources indicate that Burns and De la Beche can be added to this list. 

The Institute accepted our proposal and five of the names were assigned within the campus; the Dillwyn East Wing; the Llewelyn Ceramic Block; the De la Beche North Wing; the Grove West Wing and finally the Samuel Roberts and James Burns Lecture Theatres. With my suggestion accepted, a question was raised in my mind that had always puzzled me during my stay at Dynevor School in the Fifties – who were these individuals who had been recognised in this way by the school. I embarked on further research to investigate all six names and not just the four that had invoked my earlier curiosity. 

The fact that some of the names are readily recognised as names that have been adopted as streets and roads throughout Swansea indicates that they must have been well known local personages but the question to be answered was in what fields did they make their reputation and fame? 

Three of the names, Dillwyn, Llewelyn and De la Beche, were relatively easy to establish as these were known members of the Swansea ‘aristocracy’ and founder members of the town’s Royal Institute of South Wales. The other three, Grove, Roberts and Burns required further research to explain the school’s choice all those years ago. My findings on all six individuals are as follows.

Lewis Weston Dillwyn MP FRS (1778-1855) was a pioneer botanist, zoologist and manufacturer of the world-renowned fine porcelain, ‘Swansea China’. He was elected to fellowships in the Royal Society in 1804 and Linnaean Society in 1806 for his sixteen-volume work British Confervae – a pioneering publication on the subject that eventually took 12 years to complete. 

To the people of Swansea, Lewis was more associated with the Cambrian Pottery, which had been bought by his father, William, in 1807. Lewis was placed in charge of the pottery the following year. Between 1814 and 1817, he produced the renowned ‘Swansea Porcelain’. The Pottery was situated in the Strand area, near to High Street Station, now occupied by Unit Superheaters.

John Dillwyn Llewelyn (1810 - 1882)

John Dillwyn Llewelyn (1810 – 1882) was the eldest son of Lewis Weston Dillwyn who inherited two estates from his maternal grandfather (Ynysygerwyn in the Neath Valley and Penllergare in Swansea) and, on coming of age, and according to instructions in the Colonel’s will, added the name of Llewelyn to his own. He married Emma Talbot, the youngest daughter of Thomas Talbot of Margam and Penrice. Significantly, Emma was first cousin to the pioneer photographer Henry Fox Talbot. 
Throughout his life he was intensely interested in horticulture, botany and arboriculture and the grounds of Penllergare became renowned for their innovative landscape design in the then fashionable picturesque style. He was particularly fond of orchids and had a purpose built orchid house, possibly the first of its kind in the UK, erected in the walled gardens. 
He was a gifted amateur scientist and a member of the Royal Institution of South Wales. His interest in astronomy led to the building of an equatorial observatory (the second only in Wales) adjacent to the mansion. It is as a photographer that John Dillwyn Llewelyn is now best remembered. Inspired by Henry Fox Talbot, he became enthusiastic, skilful and accomplished. He was involved in the foundation of the Photographic Society of London in 1853 and was a founder member of what later became the Royal Photographic Society.

Sir Henry De la Beche FRS (1796 – 1855), at the age of twenty-one, joined the Geological Society of London, continuing throughout life to be one of its most active, useful and honoured members. He was president in 1848 -1849. He visited many localities of geological interest, not only in Britain, but also on the continent. Returning to the southwest of England he began the detailed investigation of the rocks of Cornwall and Devon. The government then appointed him in connection with the Ordnance Survey. This formed the starting point of the Geological Survey of Great Britain, which was officially recognized in 1835, when De la Beche was appointed director. 
He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1819. He was knighted in 1848 and, near the close of his life he was awarded the Wollaston Medal that is a scientific award for geology, the highest award granted by the Geological Society of London. His links with Swansea relate to his involvement with the Health of Towns Commission that investigated the state of south Wales towns in 1844 and the many cholera epidemics that plagued the densely populated industrial towns of the area.

Sir William Robert Grove FRS 1811 – 1896 is known as “Father of the Fuel Cell.” realized that if electrolysis, using electricity, could split water into hydrogen and oxygen then the opposite would also be true. Combining hydrogen and oxygen, with the correct method, would produce electricity. To test his reasoning, Sir William Robert Grove built a device in1839 that would combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity; the world’s first gas battery, later renamed the fuel cell. Interest in Grove’s ‘gas battery’ diminished as the dawn of cheap fossil fuels approached and the steam engine led the industrial revolution. 

It was not until the 1960’s that the fuel cell was ‘re-invented’ when NASA was developing the mission critical systems for the first prolonged manned flight into space. Once in space, an orbiter needed a source of electricity. Conventional batteries were ruled out due to the size, weight and toxicity necessary to support a mission of eight days in space. The once obscure fuel cell became the technological solution to NASA’s dilemma of how to provide power for extended missions to space and today NASA’s space shuttle relies on fuel cells for electricity and drinking water once in orbit.

Mr. Samuel Roberts (- 1910) was the second headmaster of the Swansea Higher Grade School in Trinity Place that eventually evolved into Dynevor School. The first headmaster, Mr. Gomer Jones, left after only one term and it was left to his successor, and longest serving headmaster in the school’s 119 years history, to lead the school in its first formative years. In spite of its humble beginnings, the school flourished under his guidance and in 1894 moved to a larger site in Dynevor Place occupy buildings with accommodation for 500 pupils. By the 1890s the Higher Grade Schools had become successful nationally and sought the same sort of relationship with the new civic universities that the grammar schools had with the older universities. The claims of the school to recognition as a Municipal Secondary School were recognised and on May 17th 1907 Mr. Roberts recorded in the school logbook. “An extra half-holiday was granted this year for Whitsuntide to commemorate the recognition of the School by the Board of Education as a Municipal Secondary School, notice of which was received this week” In 1910, there came the end of an era for the school with the death of its headmaster whose tenure had encompassed a period of some 26 years, which was probably the most dynamic in its history. By the time of his death, plans were in hand for a major expansion of the school. 

Mr. James Burns. The Dynevor School’s Centenary magazine was the source of the information on the ‘Roberts’ and it is from this source that I have extracted the facts of the final ‘Name’. Among the four members of staff who joined Mr. Gomer Jones in that first term in 1883 at the Trinity Place site was Mr. J. (Jimmy) Burns who acted as Chemistry Master in the new school. 

Mr. Glan Powell, a former headmaster of the school and once a pupil of Mr. Burns, notes in the 75th Anniversary School Magazine how ill-adapted the building in Trinity Place was to function as a Higher Grade School: a shed was set up in a corner of the yard as a Chemistry Laboratory with accommodation for 15 pupils only. The obvious teaching conditions to which this arrangement gave rise, took their toll upon the health of Mr. Burns and the school log makes frequent reference to his illnesses. In spite of this Jimmy Burns remained on the staff for 25 years before resigning on grounds of ill health in 1908. 

The longevity of service of both staff members was no doubt the reason for their adoption in the School Names alongside the more famous Swansea ‘fathers’.