SOCIETIES OF THE
LATE 20TH CENTURY
THE HISTORY OF
ASTRONOMY IN WALES
Although the emphasis of these pages is on the history of
astronomy in Wales in the period up to the
middle of the 20th century, it might be appropriate to
record a few astronomical societies from the last few decades which are
now defunct. For that reason, this is emphatically not the
place to discuss the Swansea Astronomical Society which was formed
in 1948, the Cardiff and Gwynedd Astronomical Societies
which were formed in the 1970's, or some more recent organisations:
they all have lasted to the
present day and continue to flourish.
Amateur astronomical societies require much dedicated effort
to maintain. When membership wanes, as can often happen in
any voluntary organisation, it can become difficult to
continue. It might be appropriate to record the stories
of some of these as a tribute to the hard work put in
by their members.
See the companion page about astronomical
societies in Wales for more general issues about historic
The Cardiff and District Astronomical Society
A Cardiff and District Astronomical Society existed in the late
1940s and early 1950s.
[Reference: T. W. Williams, obituary of Arnold Buxton, Monthly Notices
R.A.S., 110, 125, 1950.]
The Cambrian Astronomical Society
The Cambrian Astronomical Society existed in Cardiff in the
1960's. This was one of a few attempts to establish a
society in the city before the Cardiff Astronomical Society
achieved permanent success from 1975.
[References: List of Members of the British Astronomical Association, 1966;
J. G. Porter & P. Moore, 1972 Yearbook of Astronomy;
J. Brit. Astron. Assoc., vol. 77, no. 2, pp. 126-127, 1967.]
The Swansea University College Astronomical Society
An astronomical society existed at University College Swansea in
List of Affiliated Organisations of the Brit. Astron. Assoc.,
J. Brit. Astron. Assoc., vol. 87, no. 3, p. 320, 1976;
minutes of the out-of-London meeting of the Brit. Astron. Assoc.,
J. Brit. Astron. Assoc., vol. 87, no. 1, p. 3, 1976.]
The Clwyd Astronomical Society
The Clwyd Astronomical Society existed in northeast Wales in
the late 1970's. It was formed in 1976, instigated by
Kevin Payne of Denbigh who became Secretary. It lasted until
The Llanelly Astronomical Society
The Handbook of the Federation of Astronomical Societies
for 1982 included a Llanelly Astronomical Society among its lists
of organisations. The contact was given as V. M. Jenkins of Llanelli.
This list had a tendency to include societies
for some years after they became defunct: we conclude that the
society must have existed some time in the late 1970's.
Nothing more is known about it.
Schools astronomical societies
Some secondary schools have established astronomical societies and
clubs for the benefit of pupils. These include ones at
Llantarnam and Monmouth schools.
List of Affiliated Organisations of the Brit. Astron. Assoc.,
J. Brit. Astron. Assoc., vol. 87, no. 3, p. 320, 1976.]
The Astronomical Society of Wales, 1981-1994
An attempt was made to establish an Astronomical Society
of Wales in the 1980's, inspired by the society of that
name that existed between 1895 and c.1914.
It was formed at an inaugural meeting held
in Cardiff on 21st March, 1981. Dr. Phil Williams of the
University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, was elected
The Society began by holding quarterly meetings in various
locations around Wales, including Swansea, Cardiff, Neath,
Bangor and Aberystwyth. It published a quarterly Journal
containing popular articles by members, firstly professionally
printed, later photocopied but still of a high standard. Initially, the
spread of membership and activities was across Wales, with
strong participation from the Cardiff and Swansea Astronomical
Societies. There were initially strong hopes that it would
act to support and coordinate amateur astronomical activity
across the whole of Wales, complementing and promoting the
work of amateur societies. Indeed the Society stimulated the
formation of the North Clwyd and Bridgend astronomical societies
within its first year.
Participation from the professional research
community was, however, limited.
Occasionally, voluntary organisations can be beset by
disagreements and personality clashes, particularly
when strong personalities are involved: the Astronomical
Society of Wales was no exception.
Much of the work in organising the Society was taken on by
Mr. Bernard Edward Featherstone (1913-1995) of Port Talbot,
a dominant figure
in amateur astronomy in West Glamorgan. He singlehandedly
edited the Journal and arranged many of the affairs of the
Meetings tended to be held mainly in Neath, and later
exclusively in Port Talbot. The membership became increasingly
concentrated on the area around Port Talbot, with little
participation from people from further afield. The society
continued into the early 1990's. In 1994 the membership
reorganised themselves as the Port Talbot Astronomical Society,
bringing to an end the Astronomical Society of Wales.
Today the banner of amateur
astronomy in that area is still successfully
carried by the Port Talbot Astronomical
The North Clwyd Astronomical Society
The North Clwyd Astronomical Society operated in the area
around the mouth of the River Clwyd
in the 1980's. It was founded in October 1981,
instigated by Ms. (now Dr.) Gwyneth Hueter and Mr. Robert Newton.
It held regular meetings at Ysgol Dewi Sant in Rhyl, usually
with talks by members, and sometimes by outside speakers:
for example, Dr. Mike Hapgood of the Rutherford-Appleton
Laboratory, a specialist in the Earth's upper atmosphere and
its interaction with the solar wind, and who came originally from
Colwyn Bay, was a frequent visiting speaker.
The Society published an occasional newsletter.
Several meetings were organised in partnership with the
Gwynedd A.S., the A.S. of Wales, and the Chester A.S.
Gwyneth Hueter, and later Bob Newton, moved away from the
area, leaving the main responsibility for organising the
society to Mr. Derek Owen of Pensarn. The society continued
until his sudden death from a heart attack at his workplace
in February 1989. Without his leadership, the Society
was unable to continue and ceased in the spring of 1989.
The Neath Astronomical Society
The Neath Astronomical Society existed for a short period
in the mid 1980s. It was formed at a meeting on 19th October, 1984.
Mr. Andrew Short served the Society as Chairman, Mr. Peter Jenkins as
Secretary, and Mr. Graham Davies as Treasurer. Initially
interest was strong, with an attendance of about twenty at its
meetings in Alfred Street in Neath. Impressively, these meetings
were held on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, this interest
began to lapse and the Society was disbanded on 21st March, 1986.
The author of these pages is very grateful to Mr. Andrew Short
for kindly providing information about the Society.
The Aberconwy Astronomical Society
The Aberconwy Astronomical Society operated in the area
around Llandudno at the end of the 1980's and early
1990's. Its foundation was prompted by Mr. Eddie
Watson-Jones when he moved to Penmaenmawr on his
retirement as Assistant Secretary of the British Astronomical
Association in London.
It arranged lectures at its regular meetings.