Royal Institution of South Wales Records

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Administrative / Biographical History

The Royal Institution of South Wales was founded in 1835 by George Grant Francis (then only 21) and is the oldest cultural society of its kind in Wales. Francis drew up a prospectus for the establishment of a Literary and Philosophical Society in Swansea and within one week he had obtained over 50 names as annual subscribers. Two general meetings were held at the Town Hall in Castle Bailey Street and the Society was duly founded with the following objects: 'The Cultivation and Advancement of the various Branches of Natural History, as well as the Local History of the Town and Neighbourhood, the Extension and Encouragement of Literature and the Fine Arts, and the general Diffusion of Knowledge.' Amongst the founders were Lewis Weston Dillwyn (1778-1855) who had an interest in botany and natural history and was President of the Royal Institution from 1835-1856; George Grant Francis (1814-1882) whose chief love was antiquarian research and collecting; John Henry Vivian (1785-1855) was chiefly influential in obtaining the Royal title for the Institution; Sir William R. Grove (1811-1896) occupied his leisure hours with scientific studies and was 'the first to effect the actual combination of the gases oxygen and hydrogen by an electrical current'; Sir Henry De la Beche (1796-1855) devoted his adult life to geology; Sir W.E. Logan (1798-1875) became an enthusiastic student of geology; John Gwyn Jeffreys (1809-1885) was a conchologist; Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot (1803-1890) was President of the Royal Institution in 1856-1857; Reverend W. Hewson, Vicar of Swansea took the chair at one of the Town Hall meetings in 1835; and Matthew Moggridge gave many lectures on Botany, Zoology, Coins and Gower. In 1838, Queen Victoria consented to be the patroness of the Institution and gave her permission for it to be called the Royal Institution of South Wales. The Royal Institution owned and managed Swansea Museum for nearly 140 years. For ten years from 1975, the Royal Institution entered into partnership with Swansea University which helped to support the Museum. In 1991 the Museum and its collections were given to Swansea City Council.

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