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Cardiff
Naturalists' Society


Cymdeithas Naturiaethwr
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Edwin Seward (18531924) 21st President


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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. One of his first works involved extending Insole Court, Llandaff, he then went on to design many importan 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 James and Thomas
  • Cardiff Free Library in The Hayes (188082) Now called the Old Library
  • Cardiff Workhouse (1881) Now called St David's Hospital
  • Cardiff Royal Infirmary (1883)
  • The Coal Exchange (188488)
  • 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

 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 Walter Parry James was the brother-in-law of Peter Price the 12thPresident with whom James had been in partership until 1867

 Partnership Announcement The Western Mail 2nd February 1875

Partnership Announcement The Western Mail 2nd February 1875

Old Library West side from Ballinger 1895

Old Library West side from Ballinger 1895

Old Library West side in 2017

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

Sketches made by Edwin Seward at Candleston Castle in Volume XXV of the Transactions

His interest in and acomplishments 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

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 dissapointments 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

Municipal buildings suggested design by Mr. Edwin Seward Evening Express 7th February 1893

it was further noted to another design "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 provinoial town in the kingdom"

 Municipal buildings suggested design Evening Express 14th October 1895

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 I 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

Main entrance to the Exhibition from Park Place South Wales Echo 4th May 1896

By 1905 he had been sucessful 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

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.

An interesting sidebar regarding the design is given in the transactions.

The outstanding alteration was the opening up of the dome. Lord Pontypridd was responsible for this, and but for his bringing forward the suggestion, the Museum might not have the existing impressive Entrance Hall, for it was designed originally to be completely covered over at first floor level. This amendment necessitated the provision of a second floor for the Court Room, the Library, and Administrative Offices, which, in turn, made it necessary to lift the dome considerably, which without doubt greatly improved the main elevation.

National Museum Smith and Dunbar design. Volume LXV of the Transactions

National Museum Smith and Dunbar design. Volume LXV of the Transactions

Seward claimed damages from the Corporation (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)

Cardiff Museum. Evening Express 10th March 1908

Cardiff Museum. Evening Express 10th March 1908

The last 2 references I can find (online I have not done a careful physical search) regarding him in local newpapers indicate that the rift may have been large enough for him to want to distance himself from insitutions that he had once been closely involved with are this... from the Barry Dock News 14th January 1916...

A letter wa.s received from Mr. Ediwin Seward, F.R.LB.A.. Cardiff, mak- ing 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

Wikipedia

Victorian Web"

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