Saturday, 4 July 2015

5 Parkwern Mansion

5. Parc Wern (photos: Amy Dillwyn, Parc Wern Nurses Home) – 4 July 2015

Sketty’s Parc Wern Road runs from the top of Glanmor Road down to where Gower Road becomes Sketty Road: opposite this point stood the mansion of Parkwern.  This later became Parc Beck Nurses’ Home, but has more recently been redeveloped into private residences. 

When Parkwern was built around 1799 it was very different from its modern appearance, as shown in sketches by the ceramic illustrator Thomas Baxter around 1817-1818.  Lewis Llewelyn Dillwyn MP was a tenant at Parkwern from 1842 to 1853, and his daughter Amy was born there. The family subsequently moved to Hendrefoilan House, and Amy Dillwyn became a novelist, industrialist and philanthropist.

Although it is outside the boundary of the neighbouring Singleton estate, Parkwern was purchased in 1853 for £6,000 by copper-master John Henry Vivian of Singleton Abbey.  The house was re-modelled to a Tudor Gothic design of Henry Woodyer, the Guildford architect of St Paul’s Church, Sketty, and doubled in size.  Inside were separate areas for male and female servants, and outside a stable block and coach house.

J.H. Vivian’s eldest son Henry Hussey had become manager of Hafod copper works in 1845 aged 24, and married Jessie Goddard, daughter of the M.P. for Swindon.  They lived at Verandah, now within the Botanic Gardens in Singleton Park, but within a year his wife died in childbirth.  In her memory St Paul’s Church in Sketty (then known as Singleton Church) was built, and much of Verandah was demolished.

After Henry Hussey had re-married in 1853 (to the daughter of another M.P.) he moved into Parkwern once it had been enlarged. 

To improve the water supply to Parkwern, in 1857 he had a water-wheel erected on the stream that flows through Singleton.  This has since been replaced by a modern water-wheel, near the Gorsedd Stones in Singleton Park.  Although J.H. Vivian had died in 1855, his widow Sarah remained in Singleton Abbey until her death in 1885. 

Only then could her eldest son Henry Hussey move from Parkwern, which passed to his second son William Graham by the terms of J.H. Vivian’s will.  As the bachelor squire of Clyne castle with extensive estates he had no need of moving to Parkwern, and instead of letting the mansion he left it standing empty for 26 years.  During the First World War his youngest sister Miss Dulcie Vivian made it available as a military hospital run by the Red Cross: in July 1917 53 patients were there. 

After the war the mansion with its 18-acre estate was purchased in 1920 for £16,500 by businessman Roger Beck, chairman of Swansea Hospital’s board of management, on behalf of the hospital authorities.  It became the Nurses’ Training School in May 1922, when it was renamed Parc Beck in his honour.  Roger Beck died the following year and is buried in Oystermouth cemetery.

A large accommodation block was added in 1925, designed by Glendinning Moxham (architect of the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery) to match the design of Woodyer’s building work seventy years earlier.  Plans for a new six-hundred-bed hospital on the site did not materialise, and instead Singleton Hospital was built in Sketty Lane.  In the 1960s a separate brick-faced accommodation block was added at Parc Beck, when it became Swansea University’s Department of Nursing and Midwifery.

From 1916 part of the extensive Parc Beck estate had been used successfully for decades as allotments, but sadly this ceased in 1989, despite a campaign by the Parc Beck Allotments Society.  The area was sold for building, and the property was converted into luxury homes, though fittingly Parc Beck survives as the name of the housing development.    


1 comment: