Llewelyn was the eldest son and second child of Lewis Weston
Dillwyn and his wife Mary (née Adams, the illegitimate daughter
of Colonel John Llewelyn). Lewis Weston Dillwyn managed
the family-owned Cambrian pottery in Swansea, was an MP
for Glamorgan from 1832 - 1837, Mayor of Swansea in 1839,
a magistrate, a distinguished botanist and a founder member
of the Royal Institution of South Wales.
His son John inherited
two estates from his maternal grandfather (Ynysygerwyn
in the Neath Valley and Penllergare, four miles north
of 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 Thomasina
Talbot, the youngest daughter of Thomas Mansel Talbot
and Lady Mary Lucy (née Strangeways) of Margam and
Penrice. Significantly, Emma was first cousin to the
pioneer photographer Henry Fox Talbot. The newly-weds
set up home at Penllergare. During the honeymoon and
early days of the marriage, the house underwent considerable
alteration and refurbishment and there was much improvement,
in design and layout, to the gardens and surrounding
John and Emma eventually
had seven children, six of whom survived into adulthood.
The eldest was a daughter Thereza (1834 - 1926), their
son and heir was John Talbot (1836 - 1927) known during
his young life as ‘Johnny’, then followed Emma Charlotte
(1837 - 1928), William (1838 - 1866) called ‘Willy’
by the family, Sybella (1842) who died in infancy,
Elinor (1844 - 1887) and Lucy (1846 - 1920).
Although John Dillwyn
Llewelyn was a man of independent means, his interests
and preoccupations were eclectic. He became actively
involved with local affairs. He qualified as a magistrate
and was made High Sheriff of the County of Glamorgan.
He was a noted philanthropist, giving both time and
money to many good causes, sitting on committees and
acting as benefactor to local schools and hospitals.
For his employees who were not accommodated on the
estate he had cottages built, (reputedly designed
by Emma) near to his newly endowed chapel of ease,
later to become St David’s parish church, at Cors
Einon. This hamlet surrounding the Old Inn on the
crossways eventually became the village of Penllergaer.
With his brother Lewis and brother-in-law Matthew
Moggridge, in 1843 he became an active participant
in aiding Captain Napier and the police to quell a
local Rebecca Riot at the Pontardulais toll gate.
Also, after threats of a French invasion
in the mid 19th century John supported and trained his own
militia, the 5th Company Glamorgan Rifle Volunteers (founded
12th October 1859) until they were disbanded some 14 years
later. He also gave a 42 acre holding known as Knapp Llwyd
(now called Parc Llewelyn near Morriston) to the local people
as a public park.
John Dillwyn Llewelyn
was a committed family man who, though not a prolific
diarist like his father, kept the occasional journal,
wrote accounts of local events, papers for the RISW,
and frequent letters to the family, particularly his
wife, when away from home. For his children he wrote
and illustrated stories, often of a chivalric nature
and set in fictitious but instantly recognisable local
places. 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 orchideous 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. When the British Association for the
Advancement of Science met in Swansea in 1848 he met
and entertained many of the leading scientists in
Britain at Penllergare. His interest in astronomy
led to the building of an equatorial observatory (the
second only in Wales) adjacent to the mansion. It
is perhaps as a photographer that John Dillwyn Llewelyn
is now best remembered. Inspired by Henry Fox Talbot,
he became enthusiastic, skilful and accomplished and
Penllergare was pivotal in providing an infinite variety
of subjects for his camera. His last years were plagued
by ill health. The asthma he suffered from for most
of his life grew worse. He and Emma went to live in
London, eventually buying Atherton Grange in Wimbledon
in 1879. It was here that Emma died in 1881 and John
survived her by only sixteen months, dying in 1882.
Both in turn were brought back to Wales and buried
in the churchyard at Penllergare.
John Talbot Dillwyn
Llewelyn (1836 - 1927) succeeded his father at Penllergare.
He was born at Sketty Hall where his parents were
staying while alterations were taking place at home.
He was educated at Eton and Christchurch, Oxford.
He married Caroline Julia Hicks Beach (the daughter
of Sir Michael Hicks Beach) and together they lived
at Ynysygerwn until his parents retired to London.
He proved to be a worthy successor to his father by
enhancing and consolidating the horticultural splendours
of the Penllergare gardens whose heyday coincided
with his being Vice-President of the Royal Horticultural
Society. He was a well-respected landowner and squire,
noted philanthropist, a politician (M.P. for Swansea
1895 - 1900) and keen sportsman. He was a founder
member and first chairman of Glamorgan Cricket Club
and was made a baronet in 1890.