Who Were the Dillwyns?

The Dillwyn family were pioneers and movers in science, culture, politics and industry during the nineteenth century.  

The Dillwyn Project promotes research into the cultural and scientific achievements of this remarkably dynasty and works to preserve, extend and disseminate the archives of the Dillwyn family. 

William Dillwyn (1743-1832)
A Quaker and anti-slavery campaigner who emigrated from America to Britain.  William Dillwyn was a founder member, with Thomas Clarkson and Granville Sharp, of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade and he wrote, with John Lloyd, The Case of our Fellow Creatures, the Oppressed Africans (1783). He purchased the Cambrian Pottery in Swansea thus establishing the family's connection with the area. His travel journals have been transcribed and are published here.

Papers of William Dillwyn and of the Dillwyn family in New England 1711-1858 (Ref. LAC/126/B) are held at the Richard Burton Archives. The original diaries of William Dillwyn (Ref. WILWYN) are held at the National Library of Wales. See Resources  for more information.

Lewis Weston Dillwyn (1778-1855)
Eminent botanist, Fellow of the Royal Society, founder member of the Royal Insitution of South Wales, owner of the Cambrian Pottery.  He was the author of several works on botany and conchology. His diaries have been transcribed and are published here. Son of William Dillwyn and father of John, Mary and Lewis.

Papers of, and relating to, Lewis Weston Dillwyn c1778-1920 (Ref. LAC/126/C) are held at the Richard Burton Archives. The original diaries of Lewis Weston Dillwyn (Ref. LEWWYN) are held at the National Library of Wales. See Resources for more information.

John Dillwyn Llewelyn (1810-1882)
Pioneer photogapher who collaborated with Henry Fox Talbot (to whom he was related by marriage). He was also an astronomer, a botanist and a Fellow of the Royal Society, making him an important figure in the history of science in Britain. Amongst his children was Thereza, who kept up the family interest in science.  Visit The Penllergare Trust for an illustrated timeline.

Mary Dillwyn (1816-1906)
A notable early British female photographer and Wales's first woman photographer.  Mary Dillwyn's photograph albums have been digitised by the National Library of Wales.

Thereza Mary Story-Maskelyne [neé Dillwyn Llewelyn] (1834-1926)
Interested in photography and astronomy, Thereza Dillwyn Llewelyn made some pioneering telescopic photographs of the moon in 1857/8. She married Nevil Story-Maskelyne in 1858, Professor of Minerology at Oxford.  Recorded as a correspondent of Charles Darwin in the 1870s (see The Darwin Project: Darwin Correspondence Database), her diaries, unpublished memoirs and photographs were recently acquired by the British Library: 'The Papers of Thereza Story-Maskelyne (1834-1926). ' Add MS 89120 1845-1923.

Lewis Llewelyn Dillwyn (1814-1892)
A scientist and industrialist, before he prioritised his political career.  A longstanding Liberal MP, campaigner for the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales, and in the final years of his career, he helped to establish the first Welsh Parliamenteary Party of the Liberals and became a supporter of the Cymru Fydd home rule movement.  He died whilst campaigning during the election of 1892.  Married to the the daughter of eminent geologist, Henry De La Beche. His second daughter was Amy Dillwyn.  His diaries have been transcribed and are published here.  The original diaries are held, courtesy of R & S Morris, at the Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

Elizabeth Amy Dillwyn (1845-1935) 
An early woman industrialist, she saved a spelter works from collapse and making her own fortune.  Her forthright opinions, eccentric dress and her habit of smoking a cigar brought her celebrity and respect.  Prior to her industrial career, she published six novels, the most famous being The Rebecca Rioter (1880) in which she tells the story of the notorious attack on the Pontardulais gate by the Rebeccaites from the point of view of a rioter.  All Amy Dillwyn's novels all concerned with the position of women in Victorian society, she was an early supporter of the Women's Freedom League and was president of the Swansea branch of the NUWSS. For more about Amy Dillwyn click here.

Her papers, held at the Richard Burton Archives, include diaries and notebooks, as well as personal correspondence. The collection (Ref. 2012/11) is currently uncatalogued but the Archives can advise on content.