Swansea, its Port and Trade and their Development


The following section, and the separate timeline section, are almost entirely based on  material extracted from the book Swansea, its Port and Trade and their Development by Alderman Edward Harris, 1935, published by Western Mail & Echo Ltd. who kindly gave permission to Gareth Hicks for this use of material from the book. The sections headings are my own, any different source from the above book will be shown as such.


Some historical snippets of general interest

Early lead roof strippers ?

Return to index

The first market was erected in Swansea in 1652 for the sale of fish, vegetables and corn, it was sited in Market Square , between Wind St and Castle St. It consisted of a roof supported by ten pillars, the roof was covered by lead stripped off a chapel of St David's Cathedral, and how this lead got to Swansea was a matter of some conjecture. It was mooted that  it was a gift from Oliver Cromwell to "a gentleman of Swansea". It happened that Colonel Phillip Jones was then Governor of Swansea [and a  close associate of Cromwell and later Lord Jones of Fonmon in the Vale], and this alleged disposal of the St David's lead was raised at his impeachment, as was Bishop Barlow so accused of the same deed. Early experimentation with the criminal justice system ?

Return to index

Castle Bailey Street in Swansea was in ancient  times divided down the middle by a straight line of stones. That part adjacent to the Castle secured debt prisoners from molestation.  This ancient privilige of freedom from arrest, similar to that of "Sanctuary" in Norman times, had originally been granted by William de Breos in 1305 to the Burgesses of Swansea when in the Church of St Mary but was mysteriously  transferred to the Castle and  also extended so as to give the debtors the right to trade  whilst in the prison there situate, and display their goods for sale.

This custom was described in Donovans Tours in 1805; 
"An indulgence extends to any debtor confined in the prison of Swansea Castle, by virtue of which they have the opportunity , if their debts be small, with a little exertion, prudence, and economy to liberate themselves from the horrors of jail. Having obtained this indulgence which on proper representation it is in the power of the High Bailiff to grant, they are allowed to expose whatever articles their slender funds may enable them to muster , for sale in the open street, on that side of the market place next to the Castle.  The limits of this bailiwick are distinctly pointed out by a range of small stones down the highway, and within this boundary the debtors are secure from the molestation of their creditors as though they were confined in their dismal cells within the walls of the Castle. Here the line between vice and innocence may be defined  at least to a certain extent. Here we may descriminate between the conduct of those whom the habits of idleness, of intemperance, or artful fraud, have involved in difficulties, and the unfortunate , the man whom the cold and paralysing hand of misfortune has overtaken, in spite of the honest, but unavailing struggles of his industry."

This privilege seems to have stopped sometime after 1800 due to the misconduct of the debtors.

Background  note to roads in  Swansea

Return to index

There were no roads at all when the Castle was built c 1099, its approaches being mere trackways , some leading to points of communication such as the ford and ferry boat landings giving access to the east, the riverside for shipping, Oystermouth Castle and Gower, and Loughor Castle. When these trackways nearest the castle were crudely formed into roadways and built upon, the principal streets of Ancient Swansea came into being, namely; the Strand, Wind St, Butter St, Castle Bailey St, Castle St, High St, with alleys or passages leading off. As the town grew there followed ; Fisher St, Frog St, Cross St and Goat St; and later; College St, the Whitewalls, the Burrows Rd,  and Rutland St. These streets more or less made up the town  at the start of the C18 after which it expanded more rapidly.

On one side of Castle Bailey St there was formerly a building known as Island House. On the other side of this was a narrow street called Potato St, from the custom of farmers and others to sell potatoes there on market days. It disappeared when Wind St and Castle Bailey  were widened. Some of the other streets of the town also received their names as a result of the goods offered for sale in them e.g Butter St, Wind or Wine St.

Swansea ferries

Return to index

The Ferry, over the River Tawe, which gave its name to Ferryside, is mentioned in this Charter of 1305 to the Burgesses where it provided that a sheaf of wheat or 4d per household should be paid by them for its use.Whilst the inhabitants of Swansea and Llansamlet made monetary payments, in the Englishery of Gower each tenement was chargeable with a render of three sheaves of each sort of corn. The residents of Swansea were free of the Loughor boat and vice versa.The ferry over the Llwchr River was slightly inland from  the supposed site of Ancient Leucarum and also that of the ruins of the old Norman castle.Tolls were charged at the Swansea Ferry at also the lower or Pipe House Ferry which once belonged to Bishop Gower with charges being applied to the maintenance of St David's Hospital and other religious institutions of the town. Upon the construction of the North Dock c 1836, both the Pipe House Ferry and the ford ceased.

Ancient fisheries in the Tawe

Return to index

The Exchequer MS shows that pre 1231 "John de Breus, Lord of Gouher, had granted to the monks of Neath Abbey a moiety of two fisheries in his water of Tawy-- whereof one lies near Swansea Castle and the other at Horegrove , where the Memroth[ Vendrod ?] stream falls into Tawy."

The records also show that the monks were granted another fishery in the Tawe at Ynismond or above Glais.

By 1686 there were four fishing weirs on the salt sands opposite St Thomas Chapel, with the Manor of Kilvey.

Bussey Mansell

Return to index

By 1886, the Cromwellian soldier, Bussey Mansell, had become the owner of considerable lands in the Swansea area, and had involved himself in the industries and social fabric of the town. He was interested, with Hopkin Jones, in a colliery at Boymaen, had erected a windmill on Kilvey Hill, and a watermill  known as New Mill near Llansamlet church. It was upon his advice that Bishop Gore founded the Grammar School.

Toll Gates

Return to index

In times past Swansea was surrounded by toll gates and all ways in and out were barred. There were toll gates at Picton Place, St Helen's Road, Dillwyn St, top of Mount Pleasant[near Gibbet Hill], Llangyfelach Road, Wassail St, the Hafod, and Burrows Road. Some charged tolls for vehicles only , others for pedestrians too. Toll Gates were used when the Pottery and North Dock bridges over the Tawe were built, and tolls were charged for some time at Wychtree Bridge.In ancient times there was a gate near Kings Arms which split High St into two .

The Prison at Swansea Castle

Return to index

Mr S C Gamwell , in his Guide to Swansea described the prison and terrible conditions existing there,  in the following terms;

"In 1853, when the Inspector of Prisons visited Swansea , he found that the prison  consisted of the ruined keep of the Castle, divided into four rooms , varying from twelve to fifteen feet square. No furniture was allowed to the prisoners, and only one room, in which women were confined, possessed a lock. There was no glass in the windows, no fuel   allowed even in the coldest period of the winter , and no food at any time.If they had no friends to provide the necessaries of sustenance , they must depend upon charity, and the tender mercy of the Poor Law Guardians for daily bread, and for medicine  when sick. Not even a drop of water was within reach of the wretched prisoners , whose gaoler resided in a distant part of the town, and so could not aid them in an emergency."

These iniquities were perpetrated in the name and as a prerogative of the Lord of Gower.  In 1858, the franchise prison in Swansea Castle was, with a number of others in other parts of the country, abolished by Act of Parliament.

Background note to the Ancient Churches of Swansea and Gower.

Return to index

Long before King Alfred , who introduced the Parochial system into England, the ancient Britons had built cells or churches throughout the country for religious purposes. The number and general distribution  of which suggests that there was an ancient and self governing Celtic Church long before the introduction of the Latin Church.

Several churches in the Lordship of Gower are thought to relate back as far as  the Roman occupation, certainly records show that there were many ancient churches in Gower predating  the Normans who despoiled them. Once established in Wales, the Normans built  and endowed many new churches , they also endowed many abbeys and churches in England with lands acquired by them in Wales , thus impoverishing this country.

As a general rule, churches with Welsh names beginning with "Llan", meaning  an  enclosure or village,  are likely to be of the earliest form of religious settlement.They are also dedicated to one or other of the Saints connected with the ancient cells or Welsh monasteries, including amongst them ; Teilo, Dewi [or David], Illtyd, Padarn, Cadoc or Cattwg, Cennydd, Cynllo, Brynach, Cyfelach, and Ishmael.

Churches built by the Normans were, on the other hand, generally dedicated to Latin Saints, and made subject to the Latin Church and its system of control.

To strengthen the Norman position, Welsh abbots and monks were constantly removed from office and replaced by foreigners  who favoured the Normans.

The division of Wales into parishes was not a Welsh system, it is thought to have been done gradually over a long period, A factor which  probably accounts for the great difference in the size of Welsh parishes is that new churches could easily be built in new parishes where the Normans were strong [usually in the most valuable locality], they left the others until all that remained  was formed into one parish , hence the enormous and irregular size of the parishes in the Welsh parts of Wales.

This is demonstrated  in the Lordship of Gower where in 1583  there were 23 parishes with Parish Churches. The largest of these were generally those with Welsh names and occupied by the Welsh. Some of the English parishes were very small, such as Nicholaston with only 540 acres, most of those in Gower were erected in the C12 and C13.

It is generally thought that the first church in the Swansea area [ and perhaps Great Britain] was that of Llandilo Talybont, near Pontardulais. The Book of Llandaff mentions it in the context of Meurig, son of Tewdrig, King of Glamorgan. Teilo was the Bishop of Llandaff in the C6.

See separate notes re St David's Hospital and St Mary's Church.

St Davids Hospital

Return to index

One of the earliest institutions for the relief of the sick and poor, it was thought to be situated somewhere around the Cross Keys Hotel site [1930s] facing St Mary St. Some claim it was founded in the reign of Edward II by Eleanor, the only daughter and heiress of William de Breos . 
However, the generally accepted version of its beginnings gives credit to Henry de Gower, Bishop of St Davids under a Charter of foundation in 1332. The Charter hints at the general conditions of poverty existing at the time ;

" Lest priests decreped and infirm, and other poor men in the Bishoprik of St Davids be at any time destitute of food, and begging, to the scandel of the clergy and the Church, we do with the consent of our Lord and King of England, and the Lord of the Place, out of the lands and possessions of Sweyns', and othersdacquired, for the safety of our souls , and the souls of our predecessors and progenitors found a certain Hospital to the Blessed David, Archbishop and Confessor for the support of six chaplains[ six after the number six , which is a perfect numeral] for the celebration of divine services in the said Hospital every day for ever, on behalf of the undermentioned being living and deceased persons, and for the support of the chaplains and laymen deprived of bodily health, to be maintained in the said Hospital in Sweyns' aforesaid on the lands tenements and revenues undermentioned."

Most of the said tenements were within the town, some were sited in the Parishes of Pennard and Llangyfelach. 
The Charter also refers to the Gates of the town which suggests the existence of a Town Wall at that time. 
Henry de Gower also settled two thirds of the tithes for the Parish of Swansea upon the Hospital, leaving one third for the Vicar. 
In his will of 1354, Peter de la Mere, made provision for the distribution amongst the inmates of a sum of money and also a dozen pairs of shoes to be given to the poor, six pairs for men and six pairs for women. 
In a Charter of 1334, John De Acum , who refers to himself as Master of the Hospital, bound himself to the Earl of Hereford to found a chantry for the Earl in the Hospital. 
In Birch's, Margam, and Penrice MSS, is a reference to the conveyance , in 1367, from the Abbey and Convent of St Peter, Gloucester, to Master John de Swansea, Warden of St Davids Hospital, of the glebes and advowson of Oystermouth, saving two marks to Ewenny. 
The churches and tithes of Penrice and Llanrhidian were appropriated to the Hospital at some point in time. 
In 1379, the Hospital appears to have suffered from a lack of funds for its work for Adam Houghton, Bishop of St Davids and Lord Chancellor of England, annexed the Parish Church of Oystermouth to the support of the Hospital. 
The Hospital was dissolved in the first year of Edward VI's reign and became the property of the Crown. 
The Survey by Cromwell of 1650 refers to the Hospital as  being "held in suite for the Court Leet."

St Mary's Church, Swansea

Return to index

There is some conjecture as to the earliest church established in Swansea but a reliable record relates to 1188 in the reign of Henry II.  Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, with Geraldus Cambrensis, visited Wales on an apparent recruiting campaign for the Crusade. They visited Swansea, Geraldus's description includes reference to mass being held within the confines of the Castle and this  is thought to evidence the existence of a Church there at the time.

It is considered probable that a Church was built  by the Normans in 1099 at the same time as the Castle itself.

The Taxatio of Pope Nicholas IV in 1231 refers to tithes granted to Edward I and values the church in Swansea at £10.

The church was re-erected on its present site c 1328 by Henry De Gower, Bishop of St Davids who endowed it with one third of the tithes of the Parish.It is referred in the Charter of St Davids Hospital in 1332 as " the Church of the blessed Marye of Sweyns." In 1354, Peter de la Mere,'s will refers to the Chapels of St Anne and Holy Trinity in the Church of Swansea.

According to Dillwyn's Swansea, in the C16/C17 the Portreeve presided over all Parochial and municipal meetings and swore in the Churchwardens.

In 1739, the roof of the nave fell in on a Sunday morning before the  waiting congregation had entered, the church was rebuilt , apart from the tower.

The church was first lit by gas in 1822, there were 36 lamps.

Between 1879 and 1882 the church was completely renovated by Vicar Dr Morgan, who at the same time cleared out the worst slum area in Swansea, i.e the old houses in Frog St and Cross St.which adjoined the churchyard.

The church rebuilt in 1739 was again taken down and rebuilt by Dean Allan Smith in 1896, some parts of the old church remained..

Swansea as a fashionable seaside and winter resort

Return to index

To attract visitors to the town a beautiful lawn with gravel walks was laid out at public expense on that part of the Burrows nearest to the town and between it and the beach.  However, in 1795 a high spring tide with a following south westerly inundated this area completely, and also threatened to drown the lower part of the town.The area remained desolate and unattractive for many years but in the end the Burgesses again laid out a pleasure ground, marine drive etc and restored the Burrows to their former glory.

Burrows Square was very spacious and was frequently used as a parade ground by troops garrisoned in either the Castle or a building described as the barracks but known as London House sited opposite the Great Western Railway terminus.

Along side the Strand and adjoining the Cambrian Brewery of Mr Haynes, the latter built a "Cold and Hot Sea Water Baths, Pumps for partial bathing, and a Shower Bath."  This part of the Burrows so developed ,and approximately the area of Cambrian Place, Burrows Lodge and the South Dock, became the fashionable quarter of the town and many lodging houses were erected. A bathing house, racecourse and bull ring also came into being over time.

The House of Correction, The House of Industry, and the Infirmary

Return to index

Built almost directly seawards of the present Prison, The House of Correction, The House of Industry, and the Infirmary which  originated in College St in 1808 as a dispensary  was founded and maintained by voluntary subscription. And eventually developed, on another site, into the Swansea General Hospital which was erected in 1869 at a cost of £24,000. The House of Industry and the Infirmary were provided in 1817 after a public meeting and it was decided to acquire and adapt the Bathing House on the Burrows for the purposes of the two establishments.

After alterations were complete the House of Industry could accommodate 180 persons, with rooms for picking oakum, making baskets, spinning, a school, a garden of almost 2 acres, and a field for planting potatoes. At the end of the first year it was found to have debts of £1982 said to have been caused by the "prodigious excess of pauperism" and providing furniture for the house.

The Infirmary opened in 1817, the medical staff consisted of two physicians and three surgeons. It was established for the treatment of the sick of the town and district, but also open to others on the recommendation of the subscribers. Accident cases were dealt with at all hours without such recommendation. Patients resident in the town, too ill to attend, were visited at their homes. In the first six years , 160 indoor patients were treated and 6800 attended as outdoor patients.

Advent and growth of the copper  trade

Return to index

The real growth of Swansea as an industrial and metallurgical centre  is thought have commenced in 1717 on the initiative of Gabriel Powell, a past  Portreeve of the town. In his post as steward to the Duke of Beaufort, he advocated that the copper industry was started in Swansea pointing out its accessibility and nearness to the port in Cornwall where copper ore was obtainable, local sources of cheap and suitable coal, and the harbour for transport.

The first copper works in Swansea were established in Landore by Dr Lane and Mr Pollard, who had owned copper mines in Cornwall. These were followed by the erection in 1720, the year that Swansea was described as " the best built and most cleanly town in all Wales", of another works near the junction of Burlais Brook and the river Tawe. See note re Cambrian Pottery re discontinuation at this latter site pre 1780.

These were followed by a number of other copper works so that the copper industry  soon became the staple industry in the town . As the River Tawe was tidal and thus navigable for small ships as far up river as Morriston, and with no other cost effective alternative at the time, these works were sited along the banks of the river from Hafod to Morriston. By 1851 the works in operation included ; the Forest, White Rock[Bristol Co Copper Works], Middle Bank, Upper Bank, Ynis, Rose , and Hafod.

Copper was firstly imported from Cornwall, but later also from Anglesey, Cumberland, Spain, Cuba, South Africa and South America; and exported to almost all parts of the world. Ore from Spain and abroad was found to be superior to Cornish ore and in time imports from the latter dwindled in volume considerably.

According to Cliffes Book of South Wales published in 1848, the copper trade employed a large number . Messrs Vivian then employed about 500 men and 500 women and girls. The women  were chiefly employed in wheeling ore in barrows for crushing, and were paid 9/- or 10/- a week whilst children received from 3/6 to 6/6. Furnacemen earned from 28/- to 32/- a week and ladlers from £2 upwards. A certain number of men rested on a Saturday, and worked a given task, to keep the furnaces in, on a Sunday; these tasks were called "watches", children did not work night "watches".

Ship builders and repairers needed copper wire for nails and for sheets to sheathe ships' timbers; ships of nelson's navy were sheathed in Swansea copper.

The copper smelting industry in the area , which at its peak c 1880 used two thirds of the ore imported into Britain declined dramatically when  countries  mining the ore set upof their own smelting industries and by 1900 most copper smelting works had closed down, with only one still in operation c 1950.

In time copper production activities were extended to the production of lead, zinc, spelter, nickel, and cobalt, and the refining of gold and silver. Coal pits were sunk to meet the needs of the smelting trade, see General note on coal mining..

Partly based on "Swansea etc" by Alderman E Harris 1934

Follow on;

In 1925 when Elizabeth Philips wrote her book on the Pioneers of the Welsh Coal Fields the attitude of the time to industrial pollution was not so well informed as today.

Referring to the Vivian copper works at Hafod Swansea she writes:

'.....and gradually the beautiful countryside became changed into one of the greatest industrial districts of South Wales. Dense clouds of sulphurous smoke rose to Heaven, and land owners began to complain of the harm done to their crops and pastures and inhabitants to fear that the air they breathed would eventually poison them.

It was, however, more unpleasant than injurious as far as human beings were concerned, and the Vivians, though they did their very best to mitigate it by conducting experiments and offering large rewards for the cure of the nuisance, did not hesitate in pushing on and developing in every possible way their great industry.'

Steve Keates 25.5.2000 to Glamorgan mailing list

Iron Ore Mining and Iron Works

Return to index

Metallurgy and iron mining are mentioned in the code of laws of Dyvnwal Moelmud more than 400 years BC whilst the making of iron is clearly mentioned in the laws of Howell Dda c 925 AD. The Prince's smith was one of the great offices of State. 
As a result of the vast destruction of timber for charcoal and as a fuel for the manufacture of iron, an Act in Elizabeth I's reign prohibited the erection of ironworks except in specified districts. At that time Sir William Matthews of Radyr had two iron furnaces at work in the Taff valley.

Long before the advent of any steel works in this district there was an iron forge at Forest [near Morriston], and large ironworks at Yniscedwyn, Ystalyfera and Ystradgynlais, at which last mentioned , and at Mumbles, iron ore was available. The forge at Forest belonged to Mr Thomas Popkin who was Sheriff of Glamorgan in 1718. The iron from these works , and those established later at Millbrook, Landore, and Morriston, was  mainly sent to Swansea for export.

In 1729 , Robert Popkin of Forest in parish of Llansamlet, was , with Richard Seys of Swansea, Christopher Portrey of Yniscedwyn, Henry Williams of Brecon and Gabriel Powell of Pennant Brecon, party to a deed of release to John Llewelyn of Ynisygerwn Neath, and Robert Morris of Yniscedwyn Ironworks.This deed related to the Yniscedwyn ironworks in the occupation of Ambrose Crowley,Gent and partners. 
These works were said to have commenced c 1717 making the Popkins early iron pioneers in this district .

According to local tradition iron was first mined at the Mumbles by the Phoenicians.

In 1740 the ability to use coal in iron smelting was dramatically introduced with a discovery at the Coalbrookdale Iron Works in Shropshire.

In 1835 there were only four blast furnaces in the anthracite coal area of which Swansea is at the centre. Three were at Yniscedwyn, the other at Abercarne in Breconshire. Until 1836 the fuel used at Yniscedwyn was coke brought from long distances. In that year the owner, Mr Crane, discovered that by using heated air , or the hot blast, he could melt iron with anthracite coal. This new process was of immense benefit to the area where there was large deposits of iron stone , or ore.There was a great reduction in the cost of production and also the quality and quantity  of iron was much improved.The process was also immediately extended to bituminous coal, and a mixture of bituminous and anthracite coal.

The immense value of this process led to a rush to erect new works at Ystalyfera, Banwen, Onllwyn, Abernant [Neath valley], Penallt, Brynamman, Trimsaran and Gwendraeth Valley, all of which added to the importance and prosperity of Swansea. The position was optimistically described in an article in the Cambrian in 1839 which concluded that within 5 years the number of furnaces in South Wales would have doubled to 244  and allowing production of 80 tons a week for each furnace projected a total production of over 1m tons of cast iron in this district alone, equal to how much had been produced in the whole of Gt Britain the previous year.

Partly based on "Swansea" by Alderman E Harris 1934

Other metal industries

Return to index

Throughout the C19 copper production activities were extended to the production of lead, zinc, spelter, nickel, and cobalt, and the refining of gold and silver.

The zinc works were mainly sited along the Foxhole to Llansamlet canal and used its water. 
Zinc is used to coat "galvanised " sheets.

As lately  as 1850 , lead ore was being obtained from workings in the Bishopston valley


The Mond Nickel Works were established at Clydach in 1902.

Partly based on "Swansea" by Alderman E Harris 1934

Commencement and growth of the tinplate trade

Return to index

Between 1741 and 1753 another important addition to the industries of the district and the first in the Swansea Valley came into being when a tinplate rolling mill was started at Ynispenllwch, near Clydach.This eventually came into the possession of the Miers family who were also connected to the Ynisgerwn Tinplate Works.

Among the oldest tinplate works in the Swansea area still working[1934], and in order of age, are; Yniscedwyn, Ystalyfera, Gilbertsons[Pontardawe], Cwmfelin, Upper Forest and Beaufort Works. There are [1934] numerous other tinplate works in the immediate district, namely; Worcester, Duffryn, Aber, Elba, Baldwins, Park, Players, Bryn, Glanrhyd, and Gurnos Tinplate Works. Also a large number at Gowerton, Gorseinon, Pontardulais, Neath, and Briton Ferry.

All these exported their products from the Port of Swansea.

An interesting side note is that the Landore Tinplate Works, one of the first to be established in Swansea, was erected on the same site as Dr Lane's Copper Works.

After the imposition of the McKinley tariff in 1891, a large number of craftsmen emigrated to the USA thinking that the Welsh tinplate industry was doomed, but new markets were found and developed.

Modern steel and tinplate 
In the C20 the Swansea valley became famous as part of the Llanelly to Port Talbot steel and tinplate belt which c 1950s made three quarters of the tinplate made in Britain.  The tinplate and steel trades are largely interdependent, often with common ownership. The "modern" tinplate works and the steel works making plate for them included some established in the mid C19 e.g Upper Forest, Beaufort and Dyffryn [Morriston]. The Swansea area made a significant contribution to the motor industry through its production of steel sheets, metal alloys and oil.

The manufacture of steel  in the area led to the establishment of the Mannesman Tube Works in Landore making weldless steel tubes.

Partly based on "Swansea" by Alderman E Harris 1934

Harbour facilities at Swansea

Return to index

From their earliest days, until 1791, when the first Swansea Harbour Act was passed, and the Swansea Harbour Trustees came into being, the Harbour and Port of Swansea had been entirely controlled  by the Portreeve and Corporation of Swansea, but subject to jealously guarded  ancient rights and privileges of the Lords of the Seigniory Gower and Kilvey.

The provision made for accomodation of ships appears to have been largely limited to quays and wharves erected alongside the river with a quay at Mumbles and another for small vessels at Blackpill. And this notwithstanding that the importation of metal ores and export of coal  had become a considerable portion of the port's trade. As well as trade in cattle and corn between Swansea and Somerset. As trade increased in volume and ships increased in berthen it became necessary that the Bar of the Harbour should be cleared and better and more commodious facilities created. The Corporation still regarded Swansea as a seaside resort and were slow to change anything despite the agitation of coal masters, masters of ships and others , lead by Mr Charles Collins, Mr Padley and Mr Robert Morris, to improve the "navigation of the port and river". Feelings ran so high that Charles Collins was physically assaulted by Gabriel Powell, and his clergyman son, at a meeting of the Corporation in 1787.

The Act of 1790 was termed as one for the enlarging and preserving of the Harbour of Swansea. 
The Board of Trustees had representatives of all interested parties.The right was reserved for the Corporation to construct at their own cost, docks on their own lands to the west of the Harbour.

The Harbour Trustees immediately proceeded to clean the river, widen and deepen the channel, erect a beacon or lighthouse on Mumbles Head, and erect two stone piers at the Harbour entrance.As a result ships of 300 tons burthen were able to enter and leave on the lowest neap tides.

The right of the Corporation , and the Lord of Gower, to receive fees and tolls on all shipping entering the port, was extinguished in 1862 by compensation payments.

Several quays, wharves and slips and graving docks were also erected privately over time, and bore the names of their founders, e.g ; Camerson's Wharf, Padley's Wharf, The Liverpool Wharf [belonging to the Swansea and Liverpool Packet Company], Richardson's Slip, Bath's Yard etc.

Partly based on "Swansea" by Alderman E Harris 1934

Ducking Stool

Return to index

Dillwyn's Contributions published in 1840 comments on the expenditure of 2s 9d made by the Corporation in 1723 in respect of the Ducking Stool, as follows ; 
"In the accounts of 1668, where it is called the Cocking Stool , there  is a charge for 'the reparcion of it with a beam thirty feet long' , and it is shewn by other frequent mention of its repair that scolds and unquiet women must in those days have been numerous in the town."

The Public Stocks 
The Public Stocks where various offenders paid a penalty for their petty transgressions, was situate near the Castle. It consisted of a wooden frame in which their ankles or wrists were confined and this in full view of the general public. It is stated that there was another stocks in the village of Sketty."

Ancient amusements and pleasures 

Return to index

Dillwyn's Contributions published in 1840 comments that the two oldest houses for public entertainment were said to have been the Golden Lion in the Market place and the Star in Wind St, both of which had been demolished 20/30 years previously.It was related by Colonel Llewellyn that when he was a boy c 1770 the Star kept the only post chaise in that part of Wales, and remembered one, Tom Diawle, the first driver of any Swansea chaise.

Further commentary by Dillwyn was in respect of an expenditure of 10s. in the Corporation accounts for 1723 for a bull collar; 
"Bull baiting continued to be a favourite amusement in Swansea until 1769 when it ceased to be patronised at the expense of the Corporation. In 1748 the bull ring was moved from Greenhill to the town's end, and again in 1754 , to the Burrows. Every butcher who killed a bull without having been baited was fined a sum according to the size of the animal."

In 1797, the celebrated Jewish prize-fighter, Mendoza, gave an exhibition of boxing, and an imitation of other famous fighting men of the day at the Town Hall.

The ancient but primitive Racecourse on the Burrows was abandoned in favour of a new modern course on the Crymlyn Burrows on the opposite side of the river. This was very popular throughout the country  despite the approach from Swansea being either by ferry or or round via Morriston and the Wychtree Bridge. The Corporation presented a Plate of £50 at the races held there. Races were usually followed by "Race Balls" in the Assembly Rooms, considered the fashionable events of the year.

Sailing matches  were held annually between the Swansea and the Neath Pilot lifeboats.

The various fairs held in the town were always occasions for pleasure, often boisterous in character.

Before the days of football and cricket, and music and dance halls, the most popular form of entertainment was the drinking of beer and wines which would account for the exceptionally large number of public houses which existed in the older parts of the town. In the Strand , almost every other house was a public house.

Commentaries ---Swansea in 1800

Return to index

These items are included to show what has been published about Swansea, and when, with an example of content.

Swansea in 1800
The "Cambrian Tourist" by an unknown author published in 1801 which by 1821 had run into five editions. 
" ...the machines for bathing are kept about half a mile from the town, under the direction of Mrs Landley, who likewise keeps a lodging house near the place, the charges are twenty five shillings a week, board and lodging; and ten shillings and sixpence a week for a private parlour...." 
"Swansea Bay is beautiful and the sail from Swansea to Ilfracombe, one of the pleasantest and cheapest I have ever enjoyed." 
"Swansea is seen to great advantage from the bay, its best front being towards the channel; it is a mixture of good and bad, of old streets and new, wide and narrow, pride and poverty, much show, and little wealth." 
"The post office here is very obliging, and conveyances to Bristol, Gloster, or London, although expensive, are regular and safe........The libraries are good, well supplied and civil, and the shops accommodating, and plentifully stocked." 
" The mail road to Caermarthen[sic] is by Pontarddylais[sic], nine miles; Llanon, four miles; Caermarthen, thirteen; .....its [Swansea] population is now estimated at 8,200 inhabitants.."

Oddisworth's Guide states that, in 1801, the mail coach with a guard arrived at the Mackworth Arms[ then in Wind St] from London through Bristol every morning at about five o'clock; and from Milford it arrived at the same place about eight o'clock every evening, from whence it immediately set out for London. letters had to be in the office in Wind St before seven o'clock in the evening and were delivered out at eight in the morning. 
Carriers proceeded weekly to Carmarthen, Hereford and Llandilo
There were several coasting vessels to and from London, and the brigantine "Swan", Master John Bevan, was a constant trader. 
Constant traders to Bristol , with good accommodation, were the "Phoenix"[Captain Diamond], the "Expedition"[Captain Hawkins], and the "William and Catherine"[Captain Phillips], fares two shillings and sixpence , and five shillings and upwards for cabin accommodation. 
Constant traders to Gloucester were the "Providence Packet" [Captain Dark], and the "Unity"[Captain Jones]. 
Very frequent passages were to be had to Plymouth, Falmouth, the coasts of Cornwall, Devon and Somerset, and regularly to Dublin, Waterford and Cork.

Commentaries ---Swansea in 1806-7

Return to index

These items are included to show what has been published about Swansea, and when, with an example of content.

Swansea in 1806-7

Malkin, in an account of his tours of Wales published in 1807 describes Swansea as it then was.

"....still it is a very cleanly place, and the most so of any large town in Wales."

Commentaries ---Swansea in 1830

Return to index

These items are included to show what has been published about Swansea, and when, with an example of content.

Swansea in 1830 
Matthews' Swansea Directory of 1830 describes Swansea. 
"... the theatre during the season is supplied by first class performers of the Bath and Bristol stage and is well frequented." 
"...the markets for fish, poultry, meat and vegetables are plentifully supplied on Wednesday and Saturdays, and indeed every day of the week." 
"....a new Town Hall was erected at the bottom of Wind St in 1825, when Richard Jeffreys was Portreeve." 
"....the Guildhall was that built or rather redesigned and extended in 1848 when Michael John Michael was Mayor."

Commentaries ---Swansea in 1859

Return to index

These items are included to show what has been published about Swansea, and when, with an example of content.

Swansea in 1859

The "Tour of Gower" was published in 1859 by G P Bevan of London. 
"..coming over the viaduct at Landore one gets a pretty good notion of what the copper works are like outwardly. How people can exist in this pandemonium seems a mystery, but not only do they exist, , but according to Dr Thomas Williams' report, they are actually healthy and attain a tolerably long life." 
"..the population is large and rather dirty towards the upper part of the town in which the railway station is situate, but improves towards the west.... where aristocratic Swansea principally resides."

Theatre at Swansea

Return to index

The popularity of the town as a fashionable resort made its theatres of those times some of the most attractive in the country.  The first was at the bottom of Wind St, known as the Little Theatre, run by a Mr Macready from the Theatre Royal, Bristol. This was followed by the Star Theatre, on the opposite side of Wind St, and that was followed  in 1806 by the Theatre in Goat St.

Swansea had close association with the celebrated actress Sarah Siddons whose gifted but unfortunate sister Julia Ann Kemble, better known as Anne of Swansea, lived here in circumstances far from affluent for many years.

Swansea early export trade and the coming of the Vivians and Grenfells

Return to index

An interesting "aside" which confirms that coal was already being exported from Swansea in 1728 appears in the "Records of Cardiff,  that , in 1728, the Trinity Brethren were insisting that , Swansea , which previously had been and always deemed a creek of Cardiff, had been appointed a distinct port from Cardiff although it remained a member of Cardiff. Consequently coals shipped from Swansea to Cardiff must pay duty at the latter place."

Another from the same Records in 1773 makes the statement that "no coal can ever be raised within this port [Cardiff] to be shipped for exportation, or carried coastwise, its distance from the water rendering it too expensive for any such sale."And even as later as 1782 these Records show that Cardiff was not even then contemplating the export of coal.

It is obvious from the above records that due to its situation within the coal field, and the many collieries within or within easy reach of the town, coal was being exported from Swansea, even to Cardiff, before 1728 and long before Cardiff became a great and important seaport.

The chief market for coal from Swansea in those days appears to have been Cornwall, from where large quantities of ore were imported. This trade brought the Vivian* family to South Wales, they were also interested in copper, lead, zinc, silver, nickel, and cobalt. It is said that Sir John Vivian, the first of the Vivians to settle in Swansea, came from Truro c 1800. He became interested in the copper works of Cheadle & Co at Penclawdd, and that of Morris & Rees at Loughor. The world famous Hafod Works, with its progressive production methods , were started in 1810.

The Grenfells, another prominent Swansea "copper" family also originally came from Cornwall.

* Follow on;

A little more on the VIVIANs:-

John Vivian cane to Swansea from Cornwall in 1798 on behalf of the Associated Miners of Cornwall to report on the state of the copper trade, and in 1810, with his son John Henry, opened in business in the Hafod. John Henry was succeeded in business by his four sons, the eldest Henry Hussey, eventually being created the first Baron Swansea in 1893. His eldest son Ernest, a batchelor became the second Baron, and the fourth son Odo, the third Baron. Odo's son John Hussey Hamilton Vivian is the present Lord Swansea.

Brian B Comley 19.5.2000 to the Glamorgan mailing list

Follow on;

An account of Swansea in Daniel Defoe's Journey Round the Whole Island of Great Britain published 1724 - 1726

The chief sea port is Swanzey, a very considerable town for trade, and has a very good harbour. Here is also a very great trade for coals, and culm, which they export to all the ports of Somerset, Devon, and Cornwal, and also to Ireland itself; so that one sometimes sees a hundred sail of ships at a time loading coals here; which greatly enriches the country, and particularly this town of Swanzey, which is really a very thriving place;.........

Steve Keates 21.5.2000 to the Glamorgan mailing list

Coal exports

As well as the activities of Sir Humphrey Mackworth involving coal and copper other coal mines were sunk in the area around Swansea. Chauncy Townsend is credited with originating the coal trade on the western side of the Swansea River.

Townsend developed the Llansamlet Collieries in 1750 and his son in law John Smith was able to develop the coalfield so that upon his death his sons Charles and Henry were able to take on the whole estate of Gwernllwynwyth.

By 1806 Charles Smith possessed 'extensive collieries in the Swansea Valley' As well having a great interest in the Welsh language he was a 'regular contributor to the Swansea paper'. writing under the name of "Viator". His collieries were of considerable significance fifty years before Merthyr and Aberdare worked coal on any large scale.

By 1810 a thriving trade in coal had been established in the Neath and Swansea district. The good harbour enabled coal export and the coal was also used in the iron and copper works.

Coal Export figures 

  • Nov. 1743 and April 1744 Sent to Sea 3,000 tons
  • 1745 - 1746 6,600 tons
  • 1748 - 1749 7,000 tons

Coal sent to Bridgwater 

  • 1790 1,608 tons
  • 1796 1,384 tons
  • 1800 368 tons
  • 1809 1,446 tons

Adapted from The Pioneers of the Welsh Coalfield Elizabeth Philips, Western Mail 1925

Steve Keates 17 July 2000 to the Glamorgan mailing list

Fuel and Oil Industries

Return to index

About 1847 a fuel works was erected in Swansea by Warlich & Co[Deptford]. This was the first of many to be established in the town which became so important to its industries and shipping trade. Perhaps the best known of these were Graigola, the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Phoenix and more recently[1934], the Rose Fuel Works. The fuel was made in the form of bricks , and in recent years briquettes and ovoids, the trade declined significantly in the early C20.

In 1922 the National Oil Refineries was established at Llandarcy, their large fleet of tankers discharging their crude oil cargoes at the Queen's Dock from where it is pumped [1934] through pipes to the works.

Swansea canals and tramways

Return to index

In the early days of coal it was brought into the town and harbour in panniers carried by horses and mules.  When Robert Morris decided to use wagons to bring coal  in from his collieries people objected on the grounds that noise would be a serious nuisance and that the vibration would surely sour the beer in their cellars.

Apart from the fact that serious road repairing and making got under way in many parts of Wales, including Swansea, in 1763, and after the Turnpike Acts of 1773, it was tramways that were first turned to as an alternative but these proved inadequate to be followed in 1794 by statutory powers to build the Swansea Canal up-valley as far as Ystradgynlais.  In the 10 years to 1804 the Canal produced an income of £3590 mainly from the 54,235 tons of oal and culm brought down it for export.

In Oddisworth's Guide to Swansea of 1802 is this description of the Canal; 
"The course of the canal is from the Pottery, by Llandwr, Morriston, Clydach, Yniskedwyn to Hen-noyadd in Breconshire. On the line of this canal, the collieries are worked belonging to Mr Aubrey, Messrs Martin Sheasby, Arthur, Lott, Hayes & Co. Besides those are collieries on the river of Swansea, which are  very considerable, belonging to Messrs Lockwood & Co, and Messrs Smith & Co, who are said to work per day upwards of 1500 tons of excellent binding or run coal. 
By the side of this canal, the walk is very pleasant, affording many objects worth observing. There are no less than 36 locks in the space of 15 miles, from an elevation of 372 feet, and many aquaducts. Adjoining are large  smelting copper works , the iron forge, brass and tin works, a fine copper rolling mill, iron furnaces and foundry, and a most stupendous steam engine at Llandwr, which cost the prorietors upwards of £5000 to complete; this machine throws up from a vast depth one hundred gallons of water each stroke, which is repeated twelve times a minute, making 78,000 gallons of water an hour; it was made by Messrs Boulton & Watts
On the left side of the canal, within half a mile is a Chalybeate Spring, which may be soon an object of speculation, if some decent houses were built near it."

The Swansea Canal was followed by the construction of a tramway towards Cwmbwrla, and the construction by Mr Charles Smith of Gwernllwynchwyth of an iron rail tramway [replacing an older one by Mr Townshend] to carry coal from his Llansamlet pits through Foxhole to the port. 
This tramway was in 1803 converted into a canal, called Smith's Canal, and which for a  long while served the collieries of  Messrs Lockwood and Messrs Smith and others in Llansamlet.

By 1805 tramways are  so common place in Swansea that travellers commentated on them e.g The Rev J Evans in 1805 refers to a mile long  iron tramway in an adit at the Pentre Colliery .

In 1822-23 the Tennant Canal from Swansea to Neath was constructed. At Neath it joined the Neath Canal, most of which had been built under an Act of 1791. The Tennant Canal followed for part of its length an old canal across the Crymlyn Bog built by Edward Elton c 1790 and which was claimed to be the first canal ever built in Wales. Oddisworth's Guide has the following description of the Elton Canal;

"About 2 miles from Swansea , on the north east side of Kilvey Hill, is Burley Hill, or Kilvey Mount, one of the seats of Herbert Evans Esq., but at present in the occupation of Edward Elton Esq. A mile beyond it is Llanywern Colliery, the property of the last named gentleman. Binding coals of very superior quality , and sold for exportation on the river of Neath, at a place called Trowman's Hole , whither they are conveyed from Llanywern by means of a canal, which in many respects is worthy of observation, and particularly as being the first that was ever made in Wales.  Before this canal was cut, the coals were taken to Swansea river by a tedious and expensive land carriage and shipped at Foxhole.It was found necessary to take the canal for nearly two miles through the midst of Crymlyn, or Crumlin bog or morass, the soft spongy ground of which rising up repeatedly after the surface was cut away, seemed to present an unsufferable obstacle to the completion of the undertaking. The work was finished in the year 1790, and may be looked upon as not the least striking instance which this country affords of spirit and perseverance  successfully exerted; the length of the canal being somewhat more than three miles, and the whole cost of the undertaking defrayed by a single individual."

In cleaning the Elton Canal the skeleton of an old boat was found in what appeared to be an even older canal or ditch made through the bog and known as Clawdd-y-Seison, which it was thought had been used in early times for the conveyance of coal from the ancient collieries of Kilvey.

Mumbles Railway

Return to index

In 1804 the construction of a tramway from Swansea to Mumbles , with a branch up the Clyne Valley was proceeded with under Act of Parliament for the purpose of  " opening communication with limestone quarries, coal mines, iron mines and other mines, and the conveyance of limestone . coal etc, greatly facilitated. "

The coal mines referred to , but not named, were the Ynys and Rhydydevyd Collieries of Sir John Morris  in Clyne Valley. In its earliest days this railway could be best be described as a tramway. They first experimented with using sails for wind power, this failed, and horse drawn vehicles substituted.

The tramway was first constructed over the Burrows and along the sandhills and nearer the sea than its present position [1934], resulting in it being inundated by the sea in 1815, and thus  moved further inland.

There is this quaint description in Matthews Swansea Directory of 1816
"There is a carriage resembling the long coaches near the Metropolis which twice a day goes and returns from Swansea and Mumbles, conveying sixteen passengers. Many pleasant parties are formed by this conveyance , and by taking the first that goes down in the morning , and returning with the last in the evening , much of the beautiful marine scenery may be seen within a few miles for the small expense of two shillings for each person."

Over time the horse drawn tram gave way to the chain of tramcars which were driven by steam locomotives. 
In 1926 they were abandoned in favour  of the modern electrically driven cars[1934]

At Swansea the Oystermouth Railway 'the first passenger railway' was opened for mineral  traffic in 1807 under an Act of 1804 incorporating 'The Oystermouth Railway and Tramroad Company'. It commenced at the Brewery Bank in Swansea and then along the banks of Swansea Bay to Norton Halls, then east to Oystermouth. Passengers travelled in carriages not to dissimilar to a stagecoach, these were pulled by horses of great power. It did however also run northwards from Swansea as well and continued on the west side of the Swansea Canal as far as Morristown, communicating with several mines on the line. A limited passenger traffic soon sprang up, although it was not untill1877 that locomotive traction was introduced. The book quotes from an article about this railway in a journal called Modern Transport (Dec.1935) where it states that 'Passenger-carrying in vehicles resembling stage-coaches commenced almost at once, (1807) although no specific powers had been obtained'. Part of the line was converted to electrical operation in 1929.

From A History of British Railways Down to the Year 1830. By Dendy Marshall, C F. Oxford University Press 1938.

Stephen Keates 1.4.2000 to the Glamorgan mailing list

Quarrying of limestone and lime burning

Return to index

In earlier days lime was in great demand countrywide for use as manure in agriculture, and great quantities of limestone were quarried and  exported from Swansea, often as ballast. Lime was also made in large amounts in Swansea and district, there were lime kilns near Greenhill and in St Thomas. Before the construction of the Loughor Railway Bridge very small vessels even used to go up the Loughor River for lime to the lime works at Castellddu near Pontardulais. There are ruins standing [1934] of innumerable old limekilns in Gower and also on the Black Mountains above Brynamman.

Although lime burning is still being carried on  at the Mumbles [1934] lime gradually gave way to other artificial manures such as basic slag and superphosphtaes manufactured largely from waste products at the local works such as those of Messrs Vivians at Hafod.

The "Cambrian Visitor" of 1813 refers to limestone in Glamorgan being capable of being worked as marble and particularly mentions the beds at Mumbles worked by Mr Wallis who had a mill for sawing and polishing near Norton village.Also to the elegant "specimens" to be seen at Mr Wallis's wareroom in Frog St, Swansea.

Various very interesting archaelogical finds have been made in limestone quarries and during building excavations on the Gower.


Return to index

The L.M.S Railway

In 1846, Nathanial Cameron, who had been Colonel in command of a Highland regiment at Waterloo, and in 1835, had been the first Mayor [ as opposed to the earlier Portreeves and Mayors of the Commonwealth period] of the town obtained an Act enabling him to construct a railway for the conveyance of coal from his collieries at Loughor and Gorseinon to Rhydydyfed , near Swansea, at which point it would join up with the one up the Clyne Valley. This railway was part built but not properly managed and was  eventually abandoned. The districts and collieries named were, however, served in 1854 when a railway known as the Swansea Docks and Mineral Valleys Railway was built. This wa, before 1876, taken over by the London and North Western Railway Company , and is now [1934] part of the London Midland and Scottish Railway [LMS] into Swansea. Unfortunately  for the town this railway was built along the foreshore of Swansea Bay limiting public access to the beach only to three or more points.

The Great Western Railway

The crucial point in the development of the railway facilities was the building of the Great Western Railway which reached Swansea in 1850, Carmarthen in 1852 and Haverfordwest in 1853. This not  contributed to the growth of trade of the town and port, but established a quick and cheap means of transport for passengers instead of the old stage coaches or passage by boat to Bristol. In this respect, a more regular service of small steam boats known as "Steam Packets" had been established between Swansea and Bristol as far back as 1822. There had of course been even earlier services by small sailing vessels.

The Midland ,Vale of Neath, and Rhondda and Swansea Bay Railways.

The other railways into Swansea came into operation as follows; The Swansea Vale Railway, later worked by the Midland Railway Company, during 1860-61; The Vale of Neath Railway in 1863; and the Rhondda and Swansea Bay Railway in 1890. Both the last named are now[1934] owned and run by the GWR who in 1923 acquired the Swansea Docks from the Harbour trust.

Swansea Docks

Return to index

Better transport facilites such as canals, tramways and railways, and even roads coupled with increased trade meant that Swansea had to improve its docks accomodation. So, in 1852, the North Dock was constructed, along and by floating part of , the bed of the River Tawe which necessitated the diversion of the river by and to what became known as "New Cut"; and in substitution for the old ferry. A number of "opening bridges" were built to cross the Dock Basin and the New Cut. Tolls were charged on all pedestrians and vehicles, these were scrapped in 1889 by the Swansea Corporation Act, largely due to the efforts of Mr R D Burnie, Mayor of Swansea in 1883.

The South  Dock followed immediately, under the  private company sponsored "Swansea Dock Act 1847", being finally completed in 1859. The initial  building management ran into financial difficulties and the Corporation had to step in and invested monies in the project although in the end it had to be taken over and completed  by the Harbour Trust.

The Prince of Wales Dock followed in 1881, the King's Dock  in 1909 and the Queen's Dock in 1920.

Swansea now [1934] possesses large and commodious docks with a quay frontage of 32,000 lineal feet, warehousing of over 382,000 square feet and total waterway of 270 acres.The use of the North Dock has been discontinued and it is being filled in .The North Basin useage continues for vessels bringing grain to the modern flour mills of Messrs Weaver & Co Ltd.The King's Dock is capable of taking the largest ships afloat[1934], the Swansea Docks are the nearest Bristol Channel docks to the Atlantic and the first Lord Swansea predicted that Swansea was destined to become the "ocean port" of England.

[See also Harbour facilities at Swansea subject]

Steel Trade

Return to index

In 1867 the manufacture of steel was introduced into Swansea when the Landore Siemens Steel Company commenced manufacturing using Dr Siemen's process at Dillwyns old silver works at Landore. A bigger site was afterwards acquired and a new factory erected. Mr George Grant Francis, writing in 1875, gives the credit for introducing steel to Mr Evan Matthew Richards . Mr W H Jones on the other hand gives credit for this to Mr Lewis Llewellyn Dillwyn who was chairman of the company which Mr Richards was also a director of. The Landore Works now[1934] belong to Messrs Baldwin & Co.

Several other large and important steel works have since been erected in and around Swansea, such as the Cwmfelin, Upper Forest, Duffryn, Gilbertsons, Elba, Bryngwyn, and Grovesend Steel Works, all of which, [in 1934] with the exception of Upper Forest and Elba, are now owned or controlled by Messrs Richard Thomas & Baldwin.

Modern steel and tinplate 
In the C20 the Swansea valley became famous as part of the Llanelly to Port Talbot steel and tinplate belt which c 1950s made three quarters of the tinplate made in Britain. The "modern" tinplate works and the steel works making plate for them included some established in the mid C19 e.g Upper Forest, Beaufort and Dyffryn [Morriston]. The Swansea area made a significant contribution to the motor industry through its production of steel sheets, metal alloys and oil.

Partly based on "Swansea" by Alderman E Harris 1934

Coal mining

Return to index

See also subject Swansea early export trade and the coming of the Vivians and Grenfells

Numerous collieries were sunk and successfully worked around 1727 in various parts of the Borough, these included Ynys, Rhydyfed, Worecester, Trewyddfa, Six Pit, Charles Pit, Ynistanglwys, Callands and Round Pit , none of which remain open today [1934].In fact there isn't a single colliery now left [1934] within the Borough although one is being sunk between Clydach and Glais and Messrs Glasbrook Bros Ltd are working coal within the Borough from their Garngoch Collieries which are just outside.

A large number of collieries were sited at Dunvant, Pentre, Plasmarl, Morriston, Llangyfelach, and in the parish of Llansamlet, all ceasing operation within living memory. Many of these  were closed down since "the war" [WWI]  including Killan, Pentre, Copper Pit, Mynyddnewydd, Tirdonkin, Samlet and Birchgrove Collieries. This was largely due to the prohibitive cost of working lower seams, the cost of pumping, the competition of petrol and other oil power, the loss of foreign markets and the general economic conditions and trade depression. This has led to large scale unemployment in the industry.

About 1933 in Morriston contractors laying main sewers came across several old colliery workings, none of which were shown on any colliery plans in existence. These showed that the top or surface seams had been worked without sinking pits long ago, and then forgotten about.

Coal mining is still [1934] being carried out westwards of the Borough, along what is known as the South crop, and there are a number of important collieries still operating at Garngoch, Penclawdd, Loughor, Pontardulais and Clydach. Also within the last few years new collieries have been opened at Cadle and Llangyfelach.

All the collieries mentioned are within easy reach of the port and most of the coal produced is used locally with some exported. The coal trade no longer contributes what it used to to the prosperity of the town and port[1934].

Partly based on "Swansea" by Alderman E Harris 1934

Deep sea fishing

Return to index

See also Swansea Docks

The favourable position of the docks is perhaps the factor which  led in 1901 to the  establishment of the deep sea fishing industry. Swansea is now the home port of a large fleet of some forty odd deep sea trawlers mostly owned by Consolidated Fisheries Ltd. It is reckoned [1934] to be one of the half dozen leading fishing ports in the country; South Dock Basin is given over entirely to these trawlers, and there is a large fish market alongside with an ice factory and curing house.There are railway facilities adjoining and by this means huge quantities of fish are distributed throughout the country.

Manor and Borough of Swansea

Return to index

Until the grant of its first charter  between 1158 and 1184 not much is known about how Swansea ran its affairs. The records of churches help as it can be assumed that where there was a church there was likely a parish.

Many records show that ancient Swansea was, or  had,  a Manor within its boundaries. For 500 years after William the Conqueror, the manor, an agricultural estate, was the unit of local government. Its head was the lord of the manor, literally the landlord, not necessarily a titled person, who held the land from the King.The estate was administered by the manor court, a periodic meeting of the tenantry, presided over by the lord, or his steward.Custom governed everything, the principle was " justice shall be done by the lord's court, not by the lord". The principal records of the manorial estate were the Court Rolls, some of these records are deposited with county Record Offices but  the principal repository for records of Welsh estates is the National Library of Wales

The Lords of Gower, as Lords Marchers, claimed jura regalia and for effective control divided the Lordship into about 30 Manors and those included in the present [1934] Borough would be those of Swansea [ described in Cromwell's Survey as "The Hospital of Swansea"], Millwood, Trewyddfa, Kilvey, Oystermouth and Sketty[described as the Barony of Sketty], part of the Parcell of Clase in Gower Wallicana, part of Gower Anglicana, and probably part of the Manor of Moortown[Murton], and Bishopston. The Manor of Swansea had its Court Baron and Leet Court, and also a chief seat or residence.

Notwithstanding that Swansea was created a Borough  in its first Charter , the  manorial rights and privileges were exercised concurrently for centuries. At least as late as 1934 the Court Leet remained and was exercised at the will and pleasure of the Duke of Beaufort as Lord of the Manor.

The boundaries of the Borough were almost the same as the ancient parish of St Mary, and extended from Brynmill Stream to the River Tawe, and from Burlais Brook and Weig on the north down to the sea.

In 1832 by Act of Parliament the limits of the town for parliamentary purposes were extended to include St Thomas and parts of St John's, Llangyfelach, and Llansamlet. In 1835, the Municipal Corporation Act brought the Borough into line with all other Municipal Authorities in the country as a Corporation, also confirmed the extension of the Borough boundaries to follow the parliamentary limits and divided the Borough into three wards. The area of the enlarged Borough was then c 5000 acres, but the area of the town itself as then built was only about 230 acres. In 1867 the Borough boundaries were further extended to include an area of land at Cwmbwrla, part of Graig Trewyddfa between Landore and Morriston , and that part of Morriston known as Cwmbath and Pentrepoeth.This increased the Borough to 5363 acres in area.

In 1888 the population of the Borough was 78,164, and the rateable value £256,700. In that year the Borough acquired the status of County Borough making it entirely separate from the administraive County of Glamorgan. By the Swansea Corporation Act of 1889 the area of the County Borough was further extended by the addition of ; so much of the parish of Swansea Higher and of the parish of Penderry as were then within the parliamentary , but beyond the municipal or borough boundaries, and also part of the township or parish of Clase Higher and Lower.  Roughly speaking Swansea was extended west and north so far as the Stream known as Cwmrhydyceirw Brook a little beyond Chemical Road, Morriston.This increased the area of the County Borough to 6229 acres. It was then divided into ten wards.

In 1918 the County Borough boundaries were again extended to comprise the Oystermouth Urban District, the parish of Brynnau in the Gower Rural District, and the parishes of Cocket and Llansamlet , and parts of the parishes of Penderry and Clase Rural in the Swansea Rural District. The population of Swansea County Borough thus increased from 131,476 to 160, 810 and the acreage from 6229 to 24,241 making it the fifth largest by acreage in the whole country.It was now divided into eighteen wards with fifteen Aldermen and forty five Councillors.

Partly based on "Swansea" by Alderman E Harris 1934

Gas Works

Return to index

The first gasometer and works were erected , by Dr Wilkinson of Bath, on Corporation land at Dyfatty and commenced the supply of gas in 1821 when the streets of the town were first gas lit. Griffith Jenkin was Portreeve when the Corporation resolved to grant the lease of the land for 60 years at a rent of £5 pa.  In 1830 an Act was passed to allow better lightimg by gas in Swansea, and the Swansea Gas Company was formed as a statutory body. The directors of the Company in 1836 were John Nixson [chairman], and H Habbakuk; the scretary was A Jenkins and the Treasurers Walters Voss & Co. The lease was appparently issued for 99 years from 1820, and in 1851 the assignee was one William Richards.

A new gasworks was erected around 1840-42  at Burrows Field no 6 alongside the Oystermouth road, the site having been sold by the Corporation to the Swansea Gas Company for £150.15. A Corporation report refers to the old site having been converted into a Pottery. Until the Corporation launched their electricity undertaking most of the streets and roads were lit by gas. The main gas works was moved in 1924 to Morriston.

Water supplies

Return to index

Until 1837 Swansea had been obtaining its water supplies for domestic, trade and other purposes from winches, local wells and springs, and partly from local canals, by this date they were however found to be absolutely unfit and inadequate.

The best known of the ancient springs and wells were the Dyfatty Spring, two wells at the lower end of Morris Lane, one of which was in the Strand, near the Brewery, and the other at the back of the Royal Oak; St helens Well at the fot of the Rhyddings; St Thomas Well near Maesteg House ; Sketty Well oppposite Sketty Church; Clyne Well ; Baptist Well, on Mount Pleasant and which supplied the Washing Lake and Tannery ; Singleton Well in the Maesydd Fields, and later on within the premises of the Singleton Brewery; Pantyglasdwr Well near the junction of Carmarthen and Llangyfelach roads; one opposite the Great Western Railway Station ; one at the corner of Goat St and Caer St; and John Humphrey Well at the bottom of Constitution Hill.

The flushing and cleansing of the slaughterhouse were solely dependent upon a meagre supply obtained from the Dyfatty Stream, for the convenience of the public two spouts  [pistylls] were placed upon this stream but people often had to wait for hours to fill their pitchers.

St Helen's Well 

Was reputed to posess medicinal  and curative properties and for generations therefore was the resort of invalids and visitors to the town who not only drank the water but washed and bathed in it too as it was " most efficacious in the cure of ulcer and bad legs". Colonel Morgan , who succeeded in the ownership of St Helen's after his great uncle, Captain Jones, and upon whose land the well was situated, in referring to this habit of bathing, quaintly said " and as the people were not so particular as to their bathing costumes as now, the owner, [Captain Jones], was frequently scandalised by a view of the proceedings, for this reason he built a high wall enclosing and almost surrounding a considerable bathing ground. After that , whatever went on inside wa hidden from the outer world." It is thought this well dried up and was diverted when the Corporation built a sewer in Brynymor Terrace.

After the provision of a piped supply most of these springs and wells were abandoned but many were reopened during the great drought of 1887.

The Bryn Mill Reservoir

In 1837 a company known as the Swansea Waterworks Company was formed and given Parliamentary powers to construct a reservoir at Brynmill . The promoters of the Bill were ; William Henry Smith, Matthew Moggridge, G G Bird, M J Michael, John Williams, J J Price, John Jeffreys, Richard Aubrey, James James, Richard Evans, Thomas Morgan, T F Langa, W Williams, John Williams, W E Logan, John Edmonds, D Perrott, John Williams, Thomas Glover, William Wilkins, Michael Marks, Richard Richards, junior, Richard Henry Attwood.  It was to their credit that they were the first to realise that the need of the town for an adequate supply of water but they grievously erred in believing that a wholesome  and abundant supply of water could be provided from " divers springs and streams within the parish of Swansea and and also from certain ponds and reservoirs called Upper Bryn Mill Ponds or reservoirs and in the channel of certain streams or brooks used in working two water corn mills called Upper Bryn Mill and Lower Bryn Mill". The first directors of the Swansea Water Company were Mr W H Smith, Mr G G Bird and Mr J Jeffreys.

The Survey of Gower of 1650 states that there were three grist mills at Brynmill taking power from the Brynn Stream, and in the context of a lease  refers to a Williams Thomas  holding the premises from   the late Sir Anthony Mansell .There is also a reference to the " benefit of the Passage Boat there", which indicates that changes have taken place in the course of the Brynn Stream, for instance , when Singleton Abbey was built, to say nothing of the railway and Mumbles road which now cross the stream[1934].

The capacity of the reservoir constructed was 5,500,000 gallons , the water came from the Brynmill Stream and about a third thereof from a spring on the grounds of Mr H H Vivian. It was sited at a too low level to supply other than the lowest parts of the town, and then only intermittently and at insufficient  pressure.Only about 1100 houses, a quarter of those then in the Borough, were served and for only a few hours each day.

The Cwmdonkin Reservoir

Mr W H Smith , realising these defects, between 1837 and 1850 commenced the construction of a slightly larger reservoir  , and at a much higher level , at Cwmdonkin where water from the Cwmdonkin and other streams was to be collected.In 1854 the Local Board acquired Cwmdonkin  from him even though still not completed.

Outbreaks of cholera

Due probably to the lack of drainage and the inadequate and defective water supplies, there were two serious outbreaks of cholera in Swansea in 1832 and 1849 which led to a public enquiry and the setting up of the Local Board of Health. The Mayor in 1848/9 was Michael John Michael who was presented with a piece of plate for his sterling work in the 1849 cholera crisis; his nephew was Dr William Henry Michael , who was for a time Medical Officer of Health to the Board, was commissioned to produce a report on the prevalence of cholera in Swansea . This showed the different degrees of prevalence in the town, the first outbreak was most serious in Little Wind Street and the lower parts of the town but the second was in the upper parts where although the drainage was better , due to the altitude, the epidemic was aggravated by lack of water and there were more deaths than in any other part. Gruesome descriptions of the manner in which the bodies were hurriedly and indecorously buried in common graves or pits survive to this day.

The Local Board therefore set about their duties in earnest. To cut a long [and interesting, see the book !] story short their activities eventually resulted in the opening of the following new reservoirs to supply  Swansea, and the taking over of the whole water/sewerage undertaking  by the Borough.

New reservoir to supply Swansea

The Velindre or Lower Lliw Reservoir was opened in 1863, cost £160,000. 
The Blaennantddu Reservoir in 1878, cost c £100,000. 
The Upper Lliw Reservoir in 1892, cost £116,000. 
The Cray Reservoir in Breconshire, in 1906, cost £690,000. 
At the time of writing of this book in 1934 , plans were under way for the construction of a new and larger reservoir near the source of the River Usk, also in Breconshire.

Swansea Tramways

Return to index

In 1874 an Act authorised the constitution of the Swansea Improvements and Tramways Company with powers to construct tramways within the Borough. Operations commenced soon after and tramways were constructed to radiate from the centre of the town to most of the important suburbs.

In 1902 Swansea Corporation obtained the Swansea and District Light Railways Order enabling the construction of certain light railways and tramways within the Borough  and about 5 miles of light railways or tramways were built mostly as extensions of the existing tramways.

Electric Lighting

Return to index

By the Swansea Electric Lighting Order 1889 the Corporation were empowered to generate and supply electric energy within the Borough for public and private purposes.  The Electricity Station at the Strand came into commission in 1900. In 1934 it is said that " electric light is now provided in practically every road and street  of any importance in every part of the Borough  and energy for power purposes supplied to a large number of works and industries."  In that year capital outlay was estimated to be £1,500,000, number of customers exceeded 22,000, and the number of street lamps was 4,650.

In 1934 a new super power station was under construction and almost completed  at Tir John North and this was to be connected to the National grid system

Sewers in Swansea

Return to index

As far as records show the first public purpose built sewer in Swansea was built in 1851 when the Local Board of Health entered into a contract one Thomas Davies for the construction at a cost of £1500  of a brickwork sewer extending from the East Burrows along Pier Street, across land that Adelaide St and Victoria Road have since been built over, then along Mount St, Quay Parade and the Strand to a point north of Morris Lane. There were apparently difficulties with building contractors even in those days [!] for the records show that Davies could not finish the job and the Board had to do so with direct labour.

The 1849 public enquiry by Mr Clarke found that Swansea was very imperfectly drained and that out of 15,000 yards of highways only 3,180 yards had covered drains.There were then six drains, by far the longest of which was the Town Ditch which was also the most important and least eficient.These all emptied into a local brook or directly into the river.Very few houses were connected to them. Indeed some were just open culverts for surface water plus any sewage which was added on the way.

So before 1851 the drainage of the town was crudely served by the river, and to some extent by the artificial watercourse  known as the Town Ditch. The latter was referred to in 1553 in the first Bye Laws in the following terms ;   "Nor that no person caste any filth in the town ditch without the south Yeatt [ gate] and all this doing in pain of amercement of 111d, doing to be paid incontinent one half to the hie Lord, the other half to the comyn coffer, and whomsoever shall happen to see of these things to take the vessel that thei carrieth the ....for his owne. "   
Old maps show the lower end of the ditch near the artificial mound known as the Mount which was removed c 1804 for the construction of the Mumbles Railway. Its course can be so traced via the Cwm Evan John Stream as far as Cwmgarw on Town Hill. Its original exact purpose is not clear but undoubtedly the Town Ditch eventually became more or less a public sewer.

Once the construction of proper serage works had been embarked upon , the Local Board proceeded with other schemes and by 1855 public sewers had been extended as far as Wyndham St but by 1860 it was clear that all the sewers were defective due to lack of water supply which would not be remedied until the LLiw Reservoir was opened in 1863. In 1869   an unusually heavy fall of rain flooded the principal streets in the town, the Cambrian described the situation as follows ;

" Our town has often boasted  of its sewerage which it was believed would prove ample for any and every emergenmcy which might arise. A prodigious amount has been expended in the work, and the ratepayers are being taxed in the shape of Local Board of Health rates to an extent almost unbearable in order to pay the instalments of principal and interest upon the amount borrowed for the purpose. Believing the drainage efficient, the town quietly submitted but on Friday last the trial test proved that the boasted efficiency was fallacious--for from some cause or other, either the inefficiency of the drainage, or the main outlet being obstructed, the streets and roads in many places became altogether impassable , the celars and kitchens of a large number of houses being flooded...... 
If the sewerage is insufficient for such an emergency as Friday last, the sooner the public are made acquainted the better for all classes; whilst on the other hand , if the main outlet was impeded, it is equally important such should be publicly known, so that the responsibility may be thrown upon the proper shoulders."

When the Borough was extended by Act of 1918 a statutory obligation was imposed on the Corporation to introduce a complete sewerage scheme for the extended Borough within 10 years, with the discharge to be  at specified intervals into the true tide of   the Bristol Channel at a point 300 yards eastward and seaward of the Mumbles Head. In 1934 it is recorded that the "the main sewer, extending from the Borough boundary at Clydach to the Mumbles , which involves the construction of four parallel tunnels , each 2000 feet long, underneath the Mumbles Head is now rapidly nearing completion." There are references to several other sewerage works either in progress or planned in the same year.

Education in Swansea

Return to index

Random facts.

The Grammar School for Boys  was founded and endowed by Bishop Gore in 1682. This was followed by a Free School for Boys in Goat St, and a Free School for Girls in Fisher St, later York St.

The Master of the Boy's School [Free ?] in 1816 , when it was said to have accomodation for 300 boys, was Thomas Treherne, and in 1836, James Hammett.These schools were established under the system introduced by James Lancastyer towards the end of the C18.

These were followed by schools opened in various parts of the town by the National Society for the education of children according to the principles of the Church of England, and by the British and Foreign Schools Society which was promoted by the Nonconformists. All the latter schools were taken over by the School Board created under the 1870 Act.

Prior to the 1870 Education Act, the educational needs of the town were met on a scale commensurate with the times and size of population.

It was the custom of the Catholic Church to to give free education to the brighter sons of the poor, and Wales was strongly Catholic until considerably after the Reformation.The probabilities therefore are that the Monks of the St David's Hospital taught many of the youths of the town, the Hospital was also referred to as a College in old records. It was also the practice of the numerous clergymen , deprived of their livings at the start of the Commonwealth period and /or who were refused Licences to preach under the Declaration of Indulgence, to teach.

Under the Propagation Act, a number of free Puritan Schools were established throughout the country and in 1652 , Moor Pye, who had lost his living at Llanavapley, was appointed headmaster at Swansea. Colonel Phillip Jones reported in 1655 that Pye had left to take up pastoral duties at Bishopston , and Peter Meyrick was appointed in his place.It isn also recorded that William Thomas MA. was supplying a vacancy at that place in 1656, the same man was ejected from the living at St Mary's in 1661.

It is also recorded that in 1665 a Mr Geedel Jones was the schoolmaster  at the Free School in "the Towne of Swanzey", and "was well affected....to the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England".

In 1702, Evan Llewellyn , mentioned in the Ilston Records as a helper of John Miles, is described in Calamy's Account of ejected ministers as "Schoolmaster at Swansea".

Pursuant to the Act of Indulgence 1672, one Daniel Higgs of Swansea, a Worcestershire clergyman, and then Vicar of Rhosilly and later Porteynon, applied for licence to preach at the old school building. Associated with Higgs in this was Stephen Hughes who had been deprived of his living at Mydrim in 1661, and then resident in Swansea. Hughes married a wealthy Swansea lady, he was described as one of the founders of Nonconformity and he was imprisoned at Carmarthen for of his religious activities as an itinerant preacher and was excommunicated for keeping a school without licence[in view of the length of time he lived there it could be assumed that this unlicenced school was also in Swansea] .His other claim to fame being that he collected and published a book of the works of Vicar Pritchard of Llandovery, and also two  editions of the Welsh Bible  in 1672 and 1678, not to forget a n equally valuable Welsh translation of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. It was said of him that "he excited heads of families to teach their children and servants, and one neighbour to teach another ". 
Whilst in London , supervising the printing of his books, Hughes became closely associated with Thomas Gouge , who financed several of Hughes's publications, and established a large number of Charity Schools throughout Wales. It is generally accepted that Hughes was influential in advising Gouge on this. The latter established the Welsh Trust , for promoting his charitable work , which after his death in 1681 was transferred from Swansea to London and in 1698 became the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge[SPCK], of which Sir H Mackworth became one of the first trustees.  
Stephen Hughes died at Swansea in 1688.

The town is also fortunate to be the home of the Royal Institution of South Wales , founded in 1835, this contains a magnificent Library and valuable Museum.

Swansea has at various times also been served by private schools. Pearse's Swansea Directory of 1856 shows that there were 28 private schools in Swansea, apart from the National Schools, Hafod Schools, Foxhole Schools, and the Free Schools in Goat St[Boys], York St [Girls], Queen St [Girls], Richards Place [Infants], and Wycliffe [Boys and Girls].

There are also records of Charity Schools of a semi-religious nature being established in the neighbourhood of Swansea by Griffith Jones of Llanddowror, The Rev Price, Llangyfelach, Vicar of two large parishes in Glamorganshire, in 1747 wrote praising the work done at a school in one of his parishes , and the good effects would " encourage my importunity for a Welsh school in each of my parishes, for my further assistance in my ministry."

Many students for the Welsh Ministry, who afterwards became prominent ministers received their training at some of these private schools in Swansea e.g Normal College and Arnold College.

Nonconformity in Swansea

Return to index

This section addresses the contribution made by the town of Swansea to the establishment and  growth of Nonconformity in Wales. Please read the above section on education in Swansea as well.

The invaluable work done by Stephen Hughes, Daniel Higgs and Marmaduke Matthews has already ben referred to.

After the dawn of the Puritan Movement, Swansea appears to have become a town of puritanical inhibitions, and later a place of refuge for ministers expelled from , or refused licences to preach at, other places. The power and influence of Colonel Phillip Jones doubtless contributed to this but some indication of a similar attitude  and strict religious views on the part of Mayors and Portreeves of the town can be drawn from the fact that one Mayor punished a person for setting sail out of the port on a Sunday, and also from the Corporation record showing that the sum of 6/8 was paid for taking a Quaker to gaol for his religion.

It was in the Ilston Valley of Gower that in 1649 , during the Commonwealth , that John Miles and Thomas Proud started the Baptist Church in Wales. Although situated on the peninsula of Gower there is no doubt that Miles had in mind to reach a much wider area than Ilston. John Miles was an Englishman, Proud was said to be from Llandewi. The church flourished until the enforced departure of Miles in 1661 for America with the persecution  of Puritan Ministers,  and those who would not conform, that followed the restoration of the Stuarts.

After Miles left , the church at Ilston was continued for a while by Lewis Thomas of Kenfig, but waned in strength over time.Amongst its members were men of mature age trained to become Ministers of the Gospel and standard bearers for the Baptist Church who, at some personal danger to themselves,  travelled throughout the country spreading their beliefs by preaching, and thus setting up new churches. This associates Swansea with the establishment of Nonconformity throughout Wales.

After the death of Stephen Hughes in 1688 his work was carried on by his friend and colleague, David Jones who had been ejected from Llandysilio in 1662. He edited and in 1670 published a new edition of the bible of which it is said 10,000 copies were distributed throughout  Wales.

Also associated with Hughes at one time in Swansea was James Owen of Abernant and Shrewsbury who wrote many Welsh and English books and religious pamphlets.

In 1680, if not earlier in 1672, in which year Lewis Thomas was licensed to preach at his home in Swansea, the Ilston Church was removed to Swansea, settled at the old chapel in  Baptist Court Lane in 1698, then branched off into a cause at the Back Lane , Swansea, in 1788, which branch transferred to Bethesda Chapel in 1830.

Swansea is rich in its association with many other Nonconformist ministers of renown , and some names stand out for special mention.

The first that comes to mind is Joseph Harris, better known as Gomer, an eloquent preacher, he set up a printing press at Swansea in which he was assisted for a while by his son, John Ryland Harris, better known as Ieuan Ddu, who, although dying at the early age of 21 , composed many peoms and hymns  still well loved by his countrymen today[1934]. By use of his printing press, Gomer published many Welsh books in days when books were still rare , and also translations of some of the best English religious books at the time. Apart from his invaluable contribution to the growth of religion and Nonconformity in Wales he also published and printed in Swansea in 1814 the first newspaper printed in the Welsh language , under the title of Seren Gomer. No one therefore did more to preserve the Welsh language than Gomer.

Gomer was followed at Bethesda, Swansea by another oustanding minister, Daniel Davies [Davies Dall], who, although blind from childhood, was instrumental in starting many other Baptist Churches in Swansea and district. During the latter's time at Swansea another famous Baptist preacher, Christmas Evans, "whose eloquence was described as torrential", and created quite a revival in North Wales, visited and died at Swansea, he was buried at Bethesda Chapel where many other well known ministers are also buried.

Other names which come readily to mind are ; Lewis Rees of Mynyddbach Chapel[1759+], David Davies also at Mynyddbach[ 1795+]and at Congregational chapels at Sketty and Morriston.The later also re-established the Congregational cause at Swansea when he founded the cause at Ebenezer. There was Thomas Jones of Morriston, father of Sir David Brynmor Jones KC.; Professor Viriamu Jones , Lord Rhayader, Thomas Rees of Ebenezer[author of the standard book on Welsh Nonconformity], Dr David Saunders of Trinity, and Edwin Edmunds who was lately [1934]president of the Welsh Baptist Union .

In 1807, the number of chapels or churches in Swansea, apart from the Church of England, were as follows;

Greenhill---Independent Methodists 
Upper Town [or High St]---Quakers , Baptists, Presbyterians 
Back Lane---Baptists 
Goat St---Followers of Mr Wesley 
Burrows---Followers of Lady Huntingdon 
Wind St---Jews' Synagogue 
At the Place[or Plas, ancient residence of the Herberts]---Roman Catholics. [1.4.2000 G]

Return to index

George Borrow on Swansea name origin

Return to index

Swansea is called by the Welsh , Abertawe, which signifies the mouth of the Tawy. Aber, as I have more than once had occasion to observe, signifies the place where a river enters into the sea or joins another. It is a Gaelic as well as a Cumric word, being found in the Gaelic names Aberdeen and Lochaber, and there is good reason for supposing that the word harbour is derived from it. Swansea or Swansey is a compound word of Scandinavian origin, which may mean either a river abounding with swans, or the river of Swanr, the name of some northern adventurer who settled down at its mouth. The final ea or ey is the Norwegian aa, which signifies a running water; it is of frequent occurrence in the names of rivers in Norway, and is often found, similarly modified, in those of other countries where the adventurous Norwegians formed settlements.

From Wild Wales, George Borrow 1862

Steve Keates 12.5.2000 to the Glamorgan mailing list

Return to index

Swansea Free Grammar School

This academy is now to be erected at Mount Pleasant, from the designs of Mr. Thomas Taylor, architect; Mr. Rayner, builder. The style is Tudor, and the arrangement consists of a school-room, 70 feet in length, by 27 feet in breadth, with open timber roof; two class-rooms. each 27 feet by 16 feet; hat and cloakroom. a large dining-hall, library, under-master's sitting-room. and residence for the head master, with accommodation for sixty boarders; all being approached by an entrance-hall, and united by a groined corridor, 100 feet in length ( a separate approach and entrance being provided for the master's house). The entrance-hall forms the base of a tower, terminating in an octagon, 60 feet high. The principal front faces the south-west, and is 200 feet long, with a terrace 20 feet broad, extending the entire length of the building, and finished by a bank. sloping   towards an extensive plat-ground. The walls are to be built with the native stone, with Bath stone dressings.

This institution was founded, says the "Swansea Guide," "by the Right Rev. Hugh Gore, Lord Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, of Ireland, who endowed it with 650 acres of land, in the county of Glamorgan, by deed bearing the date 19th September, 1682, for free education, in virtue and good literature, of sons of the poorer sort of burgesses of Swansea."

From:- The Builder Vol. 10 Mar 1852 Page 151

Brian B Comley 9 Jan 2002 to the Glamorgan mailing list

[Last Updated : 30 Sept 2002 - Gareth Hicks]