Kyrle Probus Club
   of Ross-on-Wye


Two Legacies - 20th September 2012



Two Legacies


DAVIES – with an ‘e’ – is a common surname in Wales and there have been many famous bearers of that name over the years. Not many however influenced the industrial heritage, education and the arts in Wales as significantly as did David Davies of Llandinam and his granddaughters, Gwendoline and Margaret.


This Davies family was the subject of an absorbing talk and presentation, entitled ‘Two Legacies,’ given to the recent meeting of Kyrle Probus Club, by member Brian Wozencroft, himself a Welshman.


Brian began with the artistic legacy provided by the spinster sisters Gwendoline and Margaret, who between 1951 and 1963, bequeathed some 260 works of international repute to the National Museum and Gallery of Wales, completely transforming its art collection.


The sisters had been left £500,000 each by their wealthy grandfather and they used the money to buy works of art beginning with  ‘The Storm’ by Turner, purchased in 1908 and Rodin’s ‘The Kiss’  acquired in 1812 and Renoir’s famous ‘Lady in Blue’ in 1913. By the 1920s they had amassed the largest collection of French impressionist and post-impressionist works in Britain.


Brian explained that his research into the sisters’ art collection, led him into his discovery of the second legacy and the remarkable rags-to-riches story of  their grandfather, David Davies. He was born in 1818 in the village ofLlandinam, Montgomeryshire.. His father was a tenant farmer and Davies left school at the age of 11 to work on his father’s farm.


He eventually bought his own farm and later moved to a farm on the banks of the river Severn, an area prone to flooding. He set about creating flood prevention works, which so impressed the county surveyor for Montgomeryshire that he was asked to build the foundations, road and embankment for a bridge over the Severn. The bridge is still there today.


As his civil engineering skills developed, Davies became interested in the building of railways and in 1855 he won a contract to build the Llanidloes to Newtown line. Six more lines followed. In 1865, Davies, turned his attention to coal and sunk some experimental pits in the upper Rhondda valley.. His workers searched in vain for the ‘black gold’, before they eventually hit upon one of the finest seams of coal in the world.


Another of his lasting achievements was the building of Barry Dock to secure a world-wide market for his Rhondda coal and Barry eventually overtook Cardiff as the biggest coal-exporting port in the world.


Davies was elected to Parliament as MP for Cardiganshire in 1874 and was re-elected twice more. He also strongly supported the campaign to establish universities in Wales and lived to see the establishment of AberystwythUniversity, before his death in 1890, at the ago of 72.





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