Here at GBF we love the stories connected to food; where it comes from, different regional traditions and the individuals who’ve shaped what we cook today. So, we knew that an evening at 5, Cwmdonkin Drive in Swansea was going to be a special experience…
This unassuming terraced house in the Uplands area of the city is where Dylan Thomas was born. It has been lovingly restored by Geoff Haden, a local structural engineer who first looked round the house in 2003 – and was horrified to find this historic house had become a crumbling student bedsit. With purple walls! He bought the property and has set about a truly remarkable transformation.
Each room has been returned to its original state, with detailed help from people who have living memory of the house when the Thomas family bought it as a new build, in 1914. One of these was Emily, who worked as a maid in the house when she was 15 and Dylan was 16. The rooms are faithfully painted in their original colours and attention to detail extends to every last screw. You’ll find no modern Phillips fixings in these doors – all 500 of them have been replaced by hand with authentic slotted head screws.
There are real Thomas family photos on the walls, genuine and correctly dated copies of Boy’s Own magazine scattered in Dylan’s tiny boyhood room along with a few empty packets of Woodbines, and a working gramophone with 78s crackling in the front parlour. It’s an incredibly evocative experience.
Naturally, we were also drawn to the kitchen. To modern eyes, the layout is unusual as the space is divided into three small rooms. The central area is home to a large coal range and worktop, and then two smaller rooms open towards the back of the house. One is the strategically-placed larder on the coldest corner of the building, the other is the tiny scullery with a huge butlers sink and ceiling-high shelves of vintage plates. It’s an extraordinary room; immensely practical, cosy and homely. It’s not hard to imagine the family routines this room would have housed.
In this kitchen, our traditional supper is being prepared for the evening. We are seated in the front parlour and proceed to tuck into a wonderfully straightforward and absolutely excellent Welsh meal. We are served laverbread and cockles on potato cakes, grilled Carmarthenshire goats cheese with caramelised apple, then Gower salt marsh lamb with rosemary and red wine sauce, all topped off with Patagonian cream tart. We shared a beautiful bottle of white Glyndwr wine from the Vale of Glamorgan. The food, house, music and history all contributed to a memorable immersion into early 20th century Wales, and the roots of Dylan Thomas. Walking out of the front door and back into 2016 was a bit of a culture shock!
Book your Dinner with Dylan
Dinner parties of four to 10 people can book the house for dinner at http://www.dylanthomasbirthplace.com/dinneratdylans. The house is available for overnight stays, as well as for event hire. There are daily guided tours and cultural gatherings every Wednesday evening, in honour of the Thomas family routine which allowed Dylan to have friends over every Wednesday to discuss poetry. Prices, upcoming events and news are all on the website at http://www.dylanthomasbirthplace.com/