Michael Portillo meets John Dillwyn Llewellyn

GBRJ63dPassionate about trains, Michael Portillo has been taking to the railway tracks of Britain for the sixth series of Great British Railway Journeys, recently released on DVD.

Armed with his copy George Bradshaw’s famous railway handbook, he retraces four journeys that were first documented in the Victorian monthly guide, witnessing what’s changed and discovering how our love of the railways began.

His travels bring him to Swansea where he explores the life and passion of John Dillwyn Llewellyn, a prominent figure in Victorian society and co-founder of the Royal Institution of South Wales. John Dillwyn Llewellyn was a pioneer of technology, science and photography.

During his visit to Swansea, Portillo looks through Dillwyn Llewellyn’s photograph albums at Swansea Museum before setting off to Penllergare Valley Woods, where he recreated one Dillwyn Llewellyn’s shots of the waterfall.


Besides discovering Dillwyn Llewellyn’s pioneering photography, during Series 6 Portillo also tries his hand at curling, visits the birthplace of golf, gives an old engine a fresh start in Derby, explores London’s Highgate Cemetery, takes a trip to Lindisfarne, learns of the miners who fuelled the Industrial Revolution, explores the treasures of the Bodleian Library… and much more!


The sixth series of Great British Railway Journeys is available now on DVD and we’ve got three sets to give away.

To be in with a chance of winning one of the DVD sets simply answer the question:

What visual art form did John Dillwyn Llewellyn pioneer?

Please enter your answer along with your contact details in the form below.

Competition terms and conditions
1. Competition is open to UK residents only, excluding employees of Swansea Museum.
2. To enter: complete the online entry form on www.swanseamuseum.co.uk including your answer and contact details.
3. Closing date for entries is 12.00 noon Monday 13th June 2016.
4. Winners will be selected at random. Winners will be notified by Friday 16th June 2016 via phone or email.
5. The promoter’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
6. There are three prizes, and a winner will be selected for each prize of one DVD set of Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys Series 6.
7. The prize is not transferable and there is no cash alternative to the stated prize.
8. By entering the promotion you agree to receive communication regarding this promotion only. No further communication will be made with you once the promotion has closed unless otherwise requested.
9. No purchase necessary. To enter offline with the same chance of winning, send a stamped postcard with correct answer to the question, your name, address, phone number and email address to Portillo’s Railway Journeys Competition, Marketing Services, Cultural Services, City and County of Swansea, Room 153, Guildhall, Swansea, SA1 4PE to arrive no later than 12.00 noon on Monday 13th June 2016.
10. For a list of winners, please send a SAE to: Portillo’s Railway Journeys Competition, Marketing Services, Cultural Services, City and County of Swansea, Room 153, Guildhall, Swansea, SA1 4PE after Friday 17th June 2016.
11. The promoter reserves the right to terminate, amend or extend this promotion in wholly exceptional circumstances outside its control.
12. The promoter acknowledges that this promotion isn’t sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook and Twitter in any way.
13. The promoter is City and County of Swansea, Cultural Services, City and County of Swansea, Room 153, Guildhall, Swansea, SA1 4PE.

The Art of Gordon Stuart at Swansea Museum

January 14th – February 11th 2016.

There are very few artists working in Wales who painted as many portraits of famous people as did Gordon Stuart. His prodigious output spanned over six decades. Yet there was so much more to his work than just portraiture as this small exhibition will reveal.

Gordon Thomas Stuart was born in Toronto in 1924 into a working class family.  His considerable talent was spotted early on and in 1934 he attended art classes in the city art gallery  where he won a prize of $100 for a drawing. On leaving school he worked in a graphic design company. In 1942 he joined the Canadian Army and came to Britain for the first time.

Gordon spent most of his military service in Italy where he was captivated by the landscape and the people. His artistic skills were used to draw sketches of enemy positions. When the war ended he returned to Canada with the intention of saving enough money to return to Italy. Back in Toronto he resumed his art studies and became assistant art editor of New Liberty magazine.

In 1952 he returned to Europe and spent an enjoyable year in Paris. When his money ran out he moved to London and combined work with part time study at St. Martin’s College. Finding it difficult to survive in London he decided to return to Canada after firstly visiting Carmarthen. In west Wales his fortunes picked up, he attended classes in the local art school met his future wife Mair and painted the last portrait of Dylan Thomas, in Laugharne in September 1953.

Following their marriage in 1955, Mair and Gordon moved to London. Gordon trained as a teacher and worked in several schools across the city.  They returned to Wales in 1975 when Gordon took up a part time lecturing post in Dyfed College of Art in Carmarthen.

After his retirement from the in 1986  he became a full-time painter. Although he still took portrait commissions , much of his subject matter was drawn from the landscape of west Wales, and still life studio compositions mainly of flowers. Gordon and Mair travelled extensively during this time to Canada and Europe. In 1992 a trip to the south of France was the inspiration for some of his most memorable works a series of paintings of Boule players. Gordon liked nothing more than capturing individuals in their day to day lives – children playing, people returning home, or shopping, or simply walking in the rain.

In 1995 Gordon was appointed artist in residence when Swansea hosted the Year of Literature. Over the course of the year a glittering array of authors, poets, artists, musicians, politicians came to the city. Gordon made hundreds of sketches and well over eighty portraits.

Gordon was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy summer exhibitions. He won a number of prizes for his paintings and five of his portraits have been bought by the National Portrait Gallery, London. His work is held in many public collections in Britain and Canada. Gordon became a Royal Cambrian Academician in 2001 and was honoured by Swansea University in 2014 for his contribution to art.

A new book, The Art of Gordon Stuart by Dylan Rees and Twm Gardner is launched at The Taliesin Arts Centre on Saturday 23rd January at 2pm.

Story Telling Performance by Sian Cornelius

As part of Museums at Night and the Welsh Museums Festival the museum is hosting a solo storytelling performance by Sian Cornelius followed by other stories of Welsh myths and legends.
From 6:30pm on Friday October 30th.

Free Entry, Suitable for ages 11 +.

Watch Sian talk about her work over on Vimeo…

Hidden Now Heard MENCAP: Film Showings

The second series of films focus on Swansea Museum’s Hidden Now Heard MENCAP exhibition. Including exciting films such as True Grit, The Crash Reel, andGoldfinger, just to name a few.

Showing films which are connected to the exhibits really allow for a more in depth understanding, and allow members of the public to really explore the topics which are covered in the exhibitions from that particular era.

Film showings are welcome to all, are free of charge, and are all U rated.

Film Date Time
 True Grit January 23 10am
The Crash Reel & The Sands of Iwo Jima February 1 10am & 1pm
Friends of mine February 8 1pm
Goldfinger & Diamonds are Forever February 15 10am & 1pm
The Eighth Day & Tommy February 18 10am & 1pm

About the Hidden Now Heard Mencap Exhibition: MENCAP are researching Hensol Castle and its past history as a hospital for people with learning disabilities. The exhibition will be based on the oral testimony of former residents, staff and those involved in the resettlement of patients.


Swansea Pottery – A Celebration.

aboard - Swansea Pottery


2014 sees both the 250th anniversary of the beginning of industrialised potting in Swansea, and the 200th anniversary of the production of porcelain in Swansea.

While there had been potting in and around Swansea prior to 1764, at the Burrows and on the Gower, July 31st of that year saw the ground of the old copper works on the Strand leased by burgess to William Coles. Coles was a Quaker Ironmaster from Neath, who undertook to “erect a manufactory for the production of earthenware and stoneware”.

There had been experiments to produce porcelain in Swansea prior to 1814. However, it was the arrival of William Billingsley and Samuel Walker from Nantgarw, in October 1914, and the construction of a new porcelain kiln, which saw the beginning of “Swansea Porcelain” production.

This exhibition showcases the variety of wares produced in Swansea between 1764 and 1814.

The subject of ceramic production in Swansea is an enormous subject; much has been written before this exhibition, and I am sure, will be in the future.

The exhibition opens to the public on Friday 19th September in The Long Gallery.

Film showings at the Museum

Swansea Museum embraces modern media improving the visitor experience. As part of Swansea Museum’s exhibitions and events programme, the Museum will be showing films regularly, adding a new dimension, and ensuring that visitors are really captivated by the topics and subjects explored within its exhibitions.

Showing films which are connected to the exhibits really allow for a more in depth understanding, and allow members of the public to really explore the topics which are covered in the exhibitions from that particular era.

The first series of films focus on Swansea Museum’s WW1 exhibition, Swansea and the Great War. Including exciting films such as Dr Zhivago, My Boy Jack, Warhorse and Birdsong, just to name a few.

Film showings are welcome to all, are free of charge, and are all U rated.


Film Date Time
Warhorse August 17 2pm
Gallipoli September 7 2pm
Private Peaceful September 21 2pm
Farewell to Arms October 5 2pm
The Monocoled Mutineer October 19 2pm
My Boy Jack November 2 2pm
Beneath Hill 60 November 16 2pm
All the Kings Men December 7 2pm
Birdsong December 14 2pm


White Rock Ferry

White-Rock-Ferry-cover-212x300The White Rock Ferry was the essential means of crossing the Tawe for copper workers at White Rock and Hafod and the public going from Pentrechwyth to the town. (All photos courtesy of West Glamorgan Archive Service.)

White Rock volunteers Tudor and Janet Price have written a comprehensive history of the White Rock Ferry and the families who operated it. Their research took them to Swansea’s three archives and both museums. They interviewed members of the ferry families, young at the time the ferry ran but with clear and vivid memories.

Copies of the booklet are available at Swansea Museum, Swansea Museum Collections Centre at Landore (open on Wednesdays), or email John Ashley.

For more information, please visit the whiterocktrails.org website


Swansea and the Great War 1914 – 1918.

Swansea and the Great War exhibition opening  this Friday, on 25 July, until 18 January 2015 in Gallery One. 

The 28th July 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of one of the most catastrophic wars in European history.

Over 60 million people were mobilised for the armed forces alone. Young men signed up to serve in their thousands from all over Britain including, of course, Swansea and South Wales.

Many of those who signed up never came home and those who did were often greatly affected by the events they witnessed.

Great War Loughor

The exhibition will focus on the stories of several Swansea individuals who were involved in the Great War. As well as the stories of the men who went to fight the exhibition will also reveal the struggles faced by women who were left behind. It will look at their contribution to the war effort and we will also explore the stories of those who conscientiously objected.

Bonhams’ Valuation Day – 16 July

An item that was consigned into the Cardiff office, it just goes to prove that value can be found so close by. Konstantin Ivanovich Gorbatoff (Russian, 1876-1945) 'Capri'  Sold in 2011 for £80,000

Konstantin Ivanovich Gorbatoff (Russian, 1876-1945) ‘Capri’
Sold in 2011 for £80,000

Just a quick note to let you know about our Bonhams’ Valuation day coming up on 16 July.

Swansea Museum are proud to announce that it will be hosting Bonhams.

“For size and scope, Bonhams fine and decorative art valuation service is without equal. Our valuers are renowned for their professionalism, knowledge and confidentiality.” www.bonhams.com

Please bring items that you wish to be valued, whether it’s furniture, paintings, porcelain, pottery…

Please phone Bonhams to book as places are limited. Times between 10 and 2pm.

The photos are 3 items that were consigned into the Cardiff office, it just goes to prove that value can be found so close by…

  1. A jewelled gold bowl possibly Alexander Treiden for Hahn, St. Petersburg, before 1899. Sold in 2014 for £22,000
  2. A silver-gilt shaded enamel topographical spoon Feodor Rückert, Moscow, 1908-1917. Sold in 2014 for £30,000
  3. Konstantin Ivanovich Gorbatoff (Russian, 1876-1945) ‘Capri’. Sold in 2011 for £80,000
Russian gold bird bowl

A jewelled gold bowl possibly Alexander Treiden for Hahn, St. Petersburg, before 1899
Sold in 2014 for £22,000

Russian enamel spoon

A silver-gilt shaded enamel topographical spoon Feodor Rückert, Moscow, 1908-1917
Sold in 2014 for £30,000

The Three Lives of Dylan Thomas book launch 26 June at 7pm


Dylan Thomas by Alfred Janes, 1953. Harry Ransom Centre, University of Texas at Austin © estate of Alfred Janes

Hilly Janes daughter of Alfred Janes is launching her new book “ The Three Lives of Dylan Thomas” on 26th June at 7pm. She will be giving a short talk with a Q&A session afterwards. Here are a few lines about the book. In The Three Lives of Dylan Thomas, Hilly Janes explores the poet’s extraordinary life and legacy through the eyes of her father, the artist Alfred Janes, Thomas’s great friend, who  painted the poet at three key moments, in 1934, 1953  and, posthumously, in 1964. Janes, like Thomas, went to Swansea Grammar School, and later studied at the art school. Along with other sons of Swansea including Daniel Jones, Mervyn Levy, Vernon Watkins and Charlie Fisher, Janes was one of the remarkably talented ‘Kardomah Boys’ to whom Thomas paid tribute in his poignant post-war elegy to the town, Return Journey.

In the Three Lives of Dylan Thomas, Hilly Janes plots the journey of the self-styled ‘Rimbaud of Cwmdonkin Drive’ from his birthplace in Swansea to London and back again, drawing on a personal archive that includes drawings, diaries, letters and new interviews with Thomas’s friends and descendants, as well as with biographers, critics and art historians. Her portrait digs beneath the reputation of the feckless, disloyal, boozy Welsh bard to reveal a very complex character who was much loved by those who knew him well.

Here are some quotes from reviews of the book if you want to include them: Griff Rhys Jones: “An excellent take on a complex subject.” Professor John Sutherland, The Times: “One closes Hilly Janes’s modest, but clear-sighted, life with the conclusion that he had an extraordinary gift… And one really ought, one thinks, take another look at the work of Fred Janes….” Daisy Goodwin, Sunday Times: “A reminder that the point about Thomas was not his chaotic life but his luminous talent.” Allan Massie, The Scotsman: “Hilly Janes has written the best of the many books about Dylan Thomas which I have read. ”