Research on the literary, scientific and industrial legacy of the Dillwyn family

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.

Who were the Dillwyns?

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.

Lewis Weston Dillwyn (1778-1855)
Eminent botanist, Fellow of the Royal Society, founder member of the Royal Institution 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.

John Dillwyn Llewelyn (1810-1882)
Pioneer photographer 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 and is pictured above using an early microscope.  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 Mineralogy 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a correspondent of Charles Darwin in the 1870s (see The Darwin Project: Darwin Correspondence Database), her diaries, unpublished memoirs and photographs were recently acquired by the British Library: 'The Papers of Thereza Story-Maskelyne (1834-1926) Add MS 89120 1845-1923'.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 finally supporter of Cymru Fydd.  Married the daughter of eminent geologist, Henry De La Beche. His second daughter was Amy Dillwyn.  His diaries have been transcribed and are published here.

Elizabeth Amy Dillwyn (1845-1935) 
An early woman industrialist, she saving 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.

Further Information: 

Dillwyn family tree, created by Richard Morris, can be viewed here.

A lecture on 'The Dillwyn Dynasty' by Dr David Painting can be viewed here, or downloaded as a pdf: The Dillwyn Dynasty

Dillwyn Map showing the locations and buildings in Swansea where the Dillwyns lived, worked, lectured, experimented or campaigned, several of which were built by the family, can be found here.

 See also Dillwyn Resources

About the Dillwyn Project

The Dillwyn Project is based at Swansea University and brings together academics, archivists, librarians and experts from outside the University.

Grants and Awards:
AHRC Fellowship to explore the literary legacy of Amy Dillwyn.

Dillwyn Diaries
Click on the link for details of where to find transcriptions of the diaries of Lewis Weston Dillwyn, Lewis Llewelyn Dillwyn and William Dillwyn (forthcoming) and to read more about the ongoing project to publish the diaries and papers of Amy Dillwyn (by kind permission of the copyright owner and biographer of Amy Dillwyn, Dr David Painting).

Dillwyn Publications and Resources
We are putting together a bibliography of publications about and by the Dillwyns. This is in its very early stages and we would welcome suggestions of articles and books which ought to be included in these resources. We are also interested in hearing of any archival material or unpublished research relating to the Dillwyn Dynasty. Please email suggestions (with full publication details where relevant) to