Picnic at Goppa .... John Dillwn Llewelyn, 1855

Picnic at Goppa ... September 23, 1855

John Dillwyn Llewelyn


Two of the Pioneers of Photography - John Dillwyn Llewelyn (1810-1882) and Rev. Calvert Richard Jones (1804-1877) - developed the art of capturing photographic images here in Swansea, Wales.


 Lime Leaf .. Calvert Jones, 1845

Calvert Jones ...... Self Portrait

Lime .. 1845   Calvert Jones

Calvert Jones  self portrait

In the mid 19th Century, Swansea was a very significant sea port, exporting 60% of the world demand for the most important metal of the day - copper. It was a fertile age for scientific innovation and discovery. When William Henry Fox Talbot developed the precursor of modern photography, an eminent Swansea chemist, John Talbot Dillwyn Llewelyn, used his scientific expertise to advance the new craft of "painting with light" further.

John Dillwyn Talbot Llewelyn was the son of LW Llewelyn, a wealthy Welsh industrialist and distinguished botanist. His great great grandfather, William Dillwyn, settled in America in the late 17th Century where he became one of the country's first Quakers. John Dillwyn married Emma Thomasina Talbot , who was a first cousin of William Henry Fox Talbot. Emma was similarly enthusiastic about photography, and processed all her husband's prints.

Llewelyn developed a keen interest in the new art form of photography from its earliest days and experimented alongside Antoine Claudette, the inventor of the daguerreotype process that employed a metal plate coated with light sensitive chemicals. In 1842 John Dillwyn Llewelyn produced botanical daguerreotypes at Kew Gardens, London.

Llewelyn also spent many months working closely with his cousin in law, William Henry Fox Talbot in Swansea and Port Talbot at the Talbot dynasty's country retreats in idyllic Wales. Fox Talbot's process was the precursor of modern photography which used light sensitive negative- to-positive paper for producing multiple prints.

In 1856, John Dillwyn Llewelyn developed the "Oxymel" process. This stabalised photographic images on "dry" plates and utilised a solution derived from a mixture of honey and vinegar. This was the breakthrough which made the holy grail of "instantaneous" photography a reality - it meant that photographs could be taken outdoors and away from the laboratory for the first time. Llewelyn became a pioneering landscape photographer and chronicled family life at his picturesque estate in Penllergaer, Swansea. Fox Talbot considered Llewelyn to be the first botanic photographer who later became a founder member of the Royal Photographic Society.

The National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth have four albums of photographs created by John Dillwyn Llewelyn during his prolific photographic years.

A distance relative of John Dillwyn Llewelyn, Rev. Calvert Richard Jones shadowed the pioneering developments of contemporary photography for which Fox Talbot and Dillwyn Llewelyn were responsible. The son of a Swansea land owner, Jones became a maritime painter in his formative years, and later a daguerrotypist before adopting Fox Talbot's calotype process. Although he was less of a scientific pioneer of photography than Talbot and Llewelyn, Calvert Jones became one of the leading exponents of the fledgling art who practised photography with Fox Talbot.

The Colosseum, Rome ... Rev. Calvert Jones, 1846

Colosseum .. 1846  Calvert Jones

Calvert Jones' innovative style led to his own creation of wide angle, panoramic and architectural photography. He employed a process which enabled him to align two photographs taken across a wide scene. Jones developed candid portraiture at home in Swansea and took maritime photographs of the docks and bays at Swansea. He travelled extensively on photographic expeditions to France and Italy, where he captured images most famously of the Colossuem, Rome in 1846. While in France, he met and worked with Hippolyte Bayard, who was the inventor of a positive paper photographic process. Through Calvert Jones, WH Fox Talbot became acquainted with Bayard, which later facilitated his discovery.

There is no record of Calvert Jones having taken any photographs after 1856 until his death in 1877, although it is known that he continued to paint.


Margam Hall (Castle) ... 1845  by Calvert Jones

Margam Hall (castle) ... 1846

Rev. Calvert Jones

One of the earliest architectural photographs by Swansea's Calvert Jones. The 19th Century neo Gothic hall at the Talbot family's estate at Margam, Port Talbot, Wales c. 1845.
William Henry Fox Talbot was a frequent visitor to the castle, usually in the company of fellow photographic innovator, Swansea's John Dillwyn Llewelyn.
Calvert Jones devised the method of making overlapping photographic exposures to capture the panorama of a scene. The people featured in the photograph are various members of the Talbot and Jones families. Calvert Jones was the world's first portrait photographer.

Pictured below :  The scene today at the former Margam estate of the Talbots. Now a majestic public park on the edge of Port Talbot, the town was founded on the industry of the Talbot family empire. Today, Margam Park includes Europe's largest hedge maze, the UK's first indoor "Orangery" and the site of a 12th Century Cistercian Abbey. The Celtic Standing Stones Museum is located within these grounds.

 Margam Castle, Port Talbot, Wales


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