Rances Price Gwynne
Fanny Price Gwyther
was born in Tenby in 1819. Throughout her life she was fascinated by the
history of the town and spent time observing local castles and churches as well
as the natural landscapes and their flora and fauna.
Fanny was an
accomplished artist and writer who also dedicated much of her time to causes
she was passionate about. She married a solicitor, John Gwynne, in 1845 and
co-founded the Shipwrecked Mariner’s Society and later, Tenby branch of the
Lifeboat Institution. In 1876 she supported the building of St. Julian’s
Fisherman Chapel and was involved in the campaign for a museum in Tenby;
donating artefacts to the collection and attending the opening in July 1878.
She was also a leading member of Tenby’s Victorian Society and protested
against the proposed demolition of the South West Gateway (Five Arches).
In her lifetime, some
of Fanny’s etchings were published and sold in Tenby and as well as their
artistic merit, they offer an invaluable insight into mid-Victorian
Pembrokeshire. Similarly, her paintings include Albert, Prince of Wales, on Castle Hill (1865), which reveals the
bustle and excitement of a royal visit; and Lydstep
Caverns, which depicts the nineteenth century fascination with natural
history. Many of her paintings are held at Tenby Museum and Art Gallery.
Fanny’s first book Sketches of Tenby and its Neighbourhood
(1846) was quickly followed by Allen’s
Guide to Tenby, described as ‘a carefully observed guidebook with facts
never previously recorded’. The Tenby Souvenir explored tales of
seafarers, local history and scenery through poetry and prose. Fanny also
produced an illustrated novella (Ton at
the Seaside) about a Victorian summer in Tenby and Five Pounds Reward, a farce for the dramatic society. She also
composed music and poetry that appeared in The Red Dragon, the National
Magazine of Wales.
Fanny played an important role in the
social life of Tenby. She was actively involved in charitable activities
and in 1870 it is noted that she ‘would be happy to present the hospital [the
proposed Cottage Hospital] with a kitchen range’. She later joined
the general committee of the cottage hospital. She and her husband John
also made generous donations to the building fund for the Tenby parochial
schools despite having no children of their own.
In her later years,
Fanny suffered illness and neglect. John died in 1880 and Fanny remained at
their home in Bridge Street with a maid, Martha Parcell. However, by 1898 her
condition was described as ‘in want of
the meanest things in life, namely food, fire and clothing’. The Medical
Officer of Health said ‘the house was
filthy and filled with an abominable stench which was injurious to health…the
very old lady, seated in an armchair in front of a gas stove from which very
little warmth was obtainable, was afraid to complain in case her servant, who
was usually drunk at night, tried to poison her’. Ultimately, a doctor was
appointed to ensure her wellbeing and friends assisted with food and clothing.
Frances Price Gwynne
died in 1901, aged 82 years. Her prolific contribution to the arts, literature
and heritage of Tenby and West Wales is testament to her life which is also
commemorated on her home in Bridge Street.