AN UNLIKELY pair who teamed up last year to build a guest house and hub in Usk dedicated to an evolutionary scientist from the town have provided an update on their work.

Alfred Russel Wallace was born in Llanbadoc at Kensington Cottage, which local business owner Clive Jones bought in 2010.

South Wales Argus: Alfred Russel Wallace

Alfred Russel Wallace

Mr Jones said he had no idea the great evolutionist - who independently came up with the theory of natural selection in 1858 - had lived in the property, but realised once he had bought it.

“I’ve always been interested in history and once I’d looked at his life in greater depth, I had it in the back of my mind that I would try and do something to celebrate the man if a suitable property came up,” Mr Jones told the Argus after embarking on his mission to dedicate what was the Inn Between Pub on Bridge Street to the scientist last March.

South Wales Argus: Kensington Cottage, where Alfred Russel Wallace was born

Kensington Cottage, where Alfred Russel Wallace was born

After Mr Jones’s relative heard Professor Ken Wann – a resident in Usk and lecturer in Physiology at Cardiff University – talking about the cottage and its connection with the scientist, the two were put in contact at the start of last year.

A year on, Usk Civic Society have got on board with the plans to bring a trail to the town dedicated to the scientist’s connection with it – where visitors can scan QR codes to read about him, while a bust is also planned for the town square.

South Wales Argus: Clive Jones (left) and Prof Ken Wann

Clive Jones (left) and Prof Ken Wann

Mr Jones says Mr Wann will take charge of strategy, given his brilliant knowledge of Wallace, with no target date yet set for the plans – but a loose aim to get it finished by the end of the year so visitors can enjoy learning about Wallace from next spring.


The guest house will include five letting rooms named after the peaks of the Sierra Nevada in California, as well as a history of Wallace and his work, with portraits and books.

Mr Wann says he had hoped the work would have been finished by now, but due to the challenges of the pandemic that became difficult.

“It’s been a challenging year with it really, but we’re still very enthused by the plans and very motivated to get it done,” he said – also pointing to the fact Usk was named Wales’ number one place to live in this year’s Sunday Times guide.

South Wales Argus: Prof Ken Wann

Prof Ken Wann

“We hope that will bring more visitors to the town, which is important. Considering what a lovely place Usk is, it has relatively few visitors.”

Speaking last year, Mr Wann said: “I’ve lived in Usk for eight years and can’t believe how little is made of the fact Wallace was born here.

“I’d love to be able put a spotlight on the man here, for people to come to Usk and realise the contribution he made.”

South Wales Argus: Work at the Alfred Russel Wallace last spring

Work at the Alfred Russel Wallace last spring

Reflecting on the last year, Mr Jones added: “Running a business throughout Covid and trying to progress the work for Wallace has been very tough, but we’re very much committed to it.

“We are hoping it is done this year and we can start taking guests, but we will need some luck, which we’ve not had in the last year. This pandemic has been so unpredictable. The sooner it is over, the sooner we can crack on with it all.”