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Born in Yeovil in Somerset, Seward came to Cardiff in his sixteenth year as an assistant to George Robinson 10th President whom in many ways he was to outstrip in terms of buildings in Cardiff.
Edwin Seward from Contemporary Portraits. Men and women of South Wales and Monmouthshire. Cardiff Section, Western Mail Ltd. 1896
One of his first works involved extending Insole Court, Llandaff, he then went on to design many important buildings in Cardiff
Key amongst these are buildings which are well documented elsewhere: -
- Extensions to Insole Court (1873-8) With George E. Robinson 10th President initially and then with W. P. James and G. Thomas
- Cardiff Free Library in The Hayes (1880–82) Now called the Old Library
- Cardiff Workhouse (1881) Now called St David's Hospital
- Cardiff Royal Infirmary (1883)
- The Coal Exchange (1884–88)
- David Morgan department store (1899) (note Peter Price the 12thPresident was an earlier architect of this building in 1891)
Insole Court, aspects developed by Robinson and Seward
Insole Court, aspects developed by Robinson and Seward
As noted above, in 1875 he moved into partnership with W P James and George Thomas. It is noteworthy that there is another Cardiff Naturalists' Society link here in that William Parry James was the brother-in-law of Peter Price the 12thPresident with whom James had been in partnership until 1867
Partnership Announcement The Western Mail 2nd February 1875
Old Library West side from Ballinger 1895
Old Library West side in 2017
he gave an extensive presidential address covering many aspects of the Societies aims and interests which was printed in Volume XXV of the transactions in 1893 and is available at the NLW Journals site. In the same edition of the transactions there is an excellent drawing of architectural features of Candleston Castle
Sketches made by Edwin Seward at Candleston Castle in Volume XXV of the Transactions
His interest in and accomplishments in Art are well documented and in 1884 he worked with T.H. Thomas 16th President on a Fine Art Exhibition At Cardiff. From many references it is clear that the two men had a close working relationship on a number of important projects for Cardiff.
Fine Art Exhibition At Cardiff Weekly Mail 23rd February 1884
For the Municipal Museum, Mr. Edwin Seward was appointed architect. His plans were apparently ready when it became known that a National Museum of Wales was to be brought into being. His scheme was therefore held up, eventually abandoned, and subsequently provided the subject of an action at law
After is presidency he remained an active member for many years and in Vol XL of the transactions it is noted under Field Days that on Sept. 25, 1907. A visit was paid to the "Castell" field at Craig Llwyn, Lisvane, to inspect the mounds and other evidences of early occupation. Mr. Edwin Seward, F.R.I.B.A., read a short descriptive paper, and afterwards Mr. and Mrs. Seward entertained the party to tea at Lisvane House. Lisvane House, became a listed building in 2000 it was listed for its Arts and Craft style and 1688 staircase. Unfortunately the staircase was removed when the house was converted into 6 flats.
However his relationship with the society was ultimately to end and the reasons are possibly in relation to his many other works and ideas for the borough of Cardiff as it was then. Many of his ideas, proposals, successes and ultimately disappointments and disputes are well documented in local papers. As early as 1893 he was making one of many proposals for Municipal buildings in Cardiff
Municipal buildings suggested design by Mr. Edwin Seward Evening Express 7th February 1893
In 1894 his partnership with George Thomas was dissolved (W.P. James having passed away earlier)
A Partnership Dissolved. Evening Express 9th January 1894
Seward was very busy as in the same year it is reported that he was responsible for the layout of the Cefncoed (now known as Cyncoed) developments to the east of Roath park lake
Roath Park opening. South Wales Echo 12th June 1894
Plan Of The Lay-Out Of Cefncoed Estate, Development Of The District. Evening Express 1st August 1894
it was further noted to another design in 1895 that "His design for a new Town-hall at the north-end of Cardiff Arms. Park was a very noble one, and, if it could have been carried out, would have given us such a hall with such surroundings as would have been the envy of nearly every provincial town in the kingdom"
Municipal buildings suggested design by Evening Express 14th October 1895
These were not realised, but he did go on to design and oversee the construction of a major building which is not listed above because it was a temporary building. It was a truly impressive sight as documented in this from the South Wales Echo 4th May 1896
Cathays Park is a noble and an invaluable "lung" which it were little less than sacrilege to contaminate with bricks and mortar. But this by the way. Upon Cathays Park has been erected a series of noble structures, housing exhibits from all parts of the world. The building Exhibition proper is after the design of Mr Edwin Seward, F.R.I.B.A., R.C.A.
Mr Seward was one of the first to publicly, support the idea of a Cardiff Exhibition on comprehensive lines, and all the general suggestions outlined in his first sketches and reports to the Council have been adopted, with many others, arising from the continual expansion of the scheme. He was one of the few who placed the scheme before Lord Windsor, so as to obtain his Lordship's invaluable attachment to it as President.
The style of the facade of the Exhibition is Moorish, which has been skilfully modified for the temporary purpose required. The space for the chief sections comprises about 84,000 square feet, 20,480 square feet being allotted the machinery, electricity, and general industries' section 13,280 square feet to mining and mining appliances 9,600 square feet to the picture gallery 8,400 square feet to the maritime section, and so on. An area of some 350 feet by 100 feet has been reserved in front of the building for the purposes of a sweeping carriage drives access to which is gained at the north gate in Park-place, and the exit from which is at the south gate. The main entrance to the Exhibition is imposing in effect and elegant in design, being a decorated horseshoe archway of 40 feet in height and of proportional width. The portal is flanked by two towers, crowned by Oriental domes, which are repeated at either end of the extensions of the frontage. The roof of the entrance hall rises to a central dome, the apex of which is little less than 100 feet from the floor.
On entering, the visitor sees before him a vista of warm and bright colour. At his left is the entry to Old Cardiff on the right are the fireproof doors leading to the Fine Art Gallery. At the termination of the central aisle an immense hall is placed crosswise to it, containing three grand divisions, or naves. Here are shown the thousands of exhibits of which the Cardiff Exposition of 1896 consists. From these, openings give upon the grounds which surround the buildings, and to the grand concert hall, capable of seating 8,000 persons
Main entrance to the Exhibition from Park Place South Wales Echo 4th May 1896
By 1905 he had been successful in gaining the commission to design the new Cardiff Museum to be located in Cathays Park.
Cardiff Museum Seward design. Volume LXV of the Transactions
However by 1908 it was clear that his plans were not moving forwards and the court of governors of the new National Museum of Wales had decided to put it to open competition and selected in due course the design by the firm of Smith and Dunbar.
Seward claimed damages from the Corporation
Cardiff Museum. Evening Express 10th March 1908
the case was still ongoing in 1910 and there are detailed reports in the local newspapers of the proceedings and the various witness statements. (I have not yet tracked down the result of this case. if anyone reading this knows the result please get in contact with the publicity officer via the contacts page). However this should not be something that overshadows the many positive things that Seward did for Cardiff an example of which is his campaigning for better fire safety
To Save The Children, Evening Express 9th January 1909
The last 2 references I can find (online I have not done a careful physical search) regarding him in local newspapers indicate that the rift may have been large enough for him to want to distance himself from institutions that he had once been closely involved with are this... from the Barry Dock News 14th January 1916...
A letter was received from Mr. Edwin Seward, F.R.LB.A.. Cardiff, making a generous offer of valuable historical, archaeological, and other works of national and local interest. Mr. Seward also kindly promised to present to the Public Library books of historic reference by the late Mr. T. H. Thomas (Arhmydd Penygarn).
And this from the Llanelly Star 26th May 1917...
Mr. Edwin Seward, late of Cardiff, whose name must be well known to many of my readers. He is a naturalist, an antiquary, a bibliophile, an accomplished collector, and an art critic of no mean skill. His beautiful house at Lisvane was a museum in itself, and its owner an encyclopedia on all sorts of intellectual subjects. Mr. Seward has removed to Weymouth, and his departure is a serious blow to the cultivated world in South Wales. Our loss is Weymouth's gain.
So we know he moved away at some point between those dates. He lived there until 1924. His final distance from the area along with the acrimonious dealings with some other key members of the society (such are reported in the South Wales Daily News 23rd February 1895 in relation to the original Cardiff Museum design) probably explains the lack of a detailed obituary in the Transactions for such a distinguished ex-president
Some other internet links relating to Seward
Back to the 150th Anniversary index
Before this... Charles Thomas Whitmell (1849 – 1919) 20th President
Next up... Robert William Atkinson, B.Sc. (Lond.), F.I.C., F.C.S. 22nd and 54th President
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