During the past fifty years the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority was sited in Morriston, the Welsh Maritime and Industrial Museum moved from Bute Street, Cardiff, to Swansea Marina, and the Wales National Swimming Pool relocated from
Cardiff’s Empire Pool to near . But before acquiring any of these, Singleton Hospital gained a fine
asset by accommodating the British Empire Panels, better known as the Brangwyn
In the 1930s two acres of Victoria Park were taken for the site for a new Guildhall, to replace the
Place building that is now the Dylan Thomas
Centre. That building had been erected
in 1825-29, enlarged in 1848 and again later; but as early as 1907 it was
evident that a larger building was needed for the additional responsibilities
of local government. The First World War
and other matters delayed commencement, so the foundation stone of a new
Guildhall was laid in May 1932. As with
building Cefn Coed
Hospital, Tir John Power Station and
the Mains Drainage Scheme, the government’s unemployment relief scheme
facilitated the construction of ’s
new Guildhall. Swansea
While construction, which included an Assembly Hall on the southern side, was underway, news emerged that the trustees of Lord Iveagh were offering the British Empire Panels, painted by Sir Frank Brangwyn, to any corporation deemed able to house and display them worthily. Councillor Leslie Hefferman viewed them, and on his return from
London urged his colleagues to declare ’s interest. Swansea
In 1924 the businessman and philanthropist Edward Guinness, Lord Iveagh, had offered to meet the cost of a mural painting to be placed in the Royal Gallery of the Palace of Westminster, to commemorate peers killed in the First World War. Frank Brangwyn, who had been apprenticed to William Morris, was a member of the
, and who had
served as an official First World War artist, was chosen for this
commission. His home in Royal
contained large enough studios for the scale of projects he undertook. Having begun by producing large panels of war
scenes (which can be seen in the National Museum of Wales), he set these aside
to enhance the somewhat gloomy Royal Gallery with ‘decorative painting representing various dominions and parts of the Sussex British Empire’.
He wished to show a world of beauty and abundance, drawing on his
wide travels and his studies of animals in London Zoo.
But Brangwyn’s main supporter Lord Iveagh died in 1927, and the Royal Commission on Fine Art insisted that the five panels then completed be displayed in the Royal Gallery: previously it was understood that only the entire completed set would be displayed. Sadly the reception to the five panels was unfavourable – the members of the Commission felt that the work was unsuitable for where it was to be displayed.
After years of working on this huge undertaking Brangwyn was bitterly disappointed, but he completed the sixteen panels, which were displayed at the 1933 Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition at Olympia. He considered the British Empire Panels, which took him seven years, to be his magnum opus.