William Downing Evans was born in Caerleon in 1811, the son of a lime burner. He had moved to Newport by 1837 and lived there until his death in 1897.
In 1837 he was appointed Registrar of Births and Deaths for Newport and Deputy Clerk of the Board of Newport Poor Law Guardians.
In 1845 he presented evidence to show the importance of implementing a proper policy on public health. This was at a time when Newport was expanding at a terrific rate and sanitary conditions were very poor.
William was well known in his time as a poet, composer and painter going under his Bardic name of 'Leon'. In fact he was often described as the bard of Newport.
You can read the fascinating life story of this man in a book recently published by the South Wales Record Society - William Downing Evans, Poetry and Poverty in Nineteenth Century Newport. This can be purchased directly online from the publishers. Click here for details
There is a CD to accompany the book available from the SWRS for around £4. This contains 15 tracks of words and music by the bard. These recordings have been made by some technically brilliant method of converting sheet music into audio - described as 'audio rendered MIDI performances' on the sleeve notes. This was produced by Benjamin Robert Tubb - the full works (and more!) can be found online here: www.pdmusic.org
Now, though the voice synthesis process has been quite successful, the words are not easy to make out. So we have produced a video - matching the written words with the sung words - a bit like a karaoke.
Here then is A Toast for Lord Tredegar:..
Here's a very old glass slide of William's mother, Ann Evans, and his daughter, Louisa Caroline Evans. The date 1857 is written on the back.
The child is Louisa Caroline Evans, born 1856 in Newport, Monmouthshire, to William Downing Evans and his wife Eliza (nee Jones, from Oystermouth). She is sitting on the lap of Grannie Evans, William Downing Evans's mother. Ann, a devout Baptist, was also a Jones from Oystermouth and was married to Joseph, a lime burner from Caerleon. He died in 1845 and Ann went to live with her son and his family in Dock Street, Newport, where she died in 1861. Louisa died in 1888; the slide comes from the collection of Louisa's great grandson.