1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Swansea
SWANSEA, a municipal, county and parliamentary borough, market town, and seaport of Glamorganshire, South Wales, finely situated in an angle between lofty hills, on the river Tawe or Tawy near its mouth in Swansea Bay, a beautiful recess of the Bristol Channel, 201 m. W. of London by rail and 45^ m. W.N.W. of Cardiff. The Great Western main line has a junction within the borough at Landore, whence a branch runs into a more central part of the town. The Vale of Neath branch of the same railway and the Rhondda & Swansea Bay railway (now worked by the Great Western) have terminal stations near the docks on the other (eastern) side of the river, as also has the Midland railway from Hereford and Brecon. All these lines approach the town from the north and east through an un- attractive industrial district, but the central Wales branch of the London & North-Western railway from Craven Arms in entering it on the west passes through some beautiful wood- lands and then skirts the bay, having parallel to it for the last 3 m. the light (passenger) railway which runs from Swansea to Mumbles Pier. The older part of the town, being the whole of the municipal borough previous to 1836, occupies the west bank of the Taw£ near its mouth and is now wholly given up to business. Stretching inland to the north along the river for some 3 m. through Landore to Morriston, and also eastwards along the sea margin towards Neath, is the industrial quarter, while the residential part occupies the sea front and the slopes of the Town Hill (580 ft. high) to the west, stretching out to the pleasant suburb of Sketty. The east side of the river (known as St Thomas's and Port Tennant) is approached from the west by a road carried over the North Dock Lock and the river by two girder drawbridges, each of which has a double line of roadway (on which tramways are laid), two footpaths and a line of railway. All the main thoroughfares are spacious, and in two or three instances even imposing, but most of the resi- dential part consists of monotonous stuccoed terraces. The climate is mild and relaxing and the rainfall averages about 40 in. annually.
Public Buildings, &c.—The old castle, first built by Henry deNewburgh about 1099, has entirely disappeared; but of the new castle, which was probably intended only as a fortified house, there remain the great and lesser halls, a tower and a so-called keep with the curtain wall connecting them, its chief architectural feature being a fine embattled parapet with an arcade of pointed arches in a style similar to that of the episcopal palaces of St Davids and Lamphey built by Henry Gower (d. 1347), bishop of St Davids, to whom the building of the new " castle " is also ascribed. Part of it is now used as the headquarters of fhe 4th Welsh (Howitzer) Brigade R.F.A. Possibly some traces of St Davids Hospital, built by the same prelate in 1 33 r , are still to be seen at Cross Keys Inn. The parish church of St Mary was entirely rebuilt in 1895-1898. It pre- viously consisted of a tower and chancel (with a fine Decorated window) built by Bishop Gower, the piers of the chancel arch being partly built on earlier Norman work, the Herbert Chapel (originally St Ann's) of about the same date as the chancel and rebuilt in the early part of the 16th century, and a nave built in 1739. Of the earlier work there remains the door of the rood loft (built into a wall), a 15th-century brass-inlaid marble slab with a representation of the resurrection, in memory of Sir Hugh Johnys (d. c. 1463) and his wife, and three canopied altar tombs — one with the effigy of a priest and another with effigies of Sir Matthew Cradock[and his wife. Within the parish of St Mary was St John's, the church of a small parish of the same name lying to the north of St Mary's and once owned by the Knights Hospitallers. This church, which was entirely rebuilt in 1820, was renamed St Matthew in 1880, when a new St John's was built within its own parish. There are 26 other churches and 10 mission rooms belonging to the Church of England, besides 2 Roman Catholic churches, a synagogue and 84 Nonconformistlchapels (31 Welsh and 53 English) and 20 mission rooms, but all are modern buildings. There are 9 ecclesiastical parishes and parts of two or three others, all in the diocese of St Davids. The Royal Institution of South Wales, founded in 1835, is housed in a handsome building in the Ionic style erected in 1838-1839 and possesses a museum in which the geology, mineralogy, botany and antiquities of the district are well represented, there being a fine collection of neolithic remains from the Gower Caves and from Merthyr Mawr. Its library is rich in historical and scientific works relating to Wales and Welsh industries and contains the collection of historical MSS. made by Colonel Grant-Francis, some time its honorary librarian, but one of its most valued possessions is the original contract of affiance between Edward II. (when prince of Wales) and Isabella. Its art gallery has many prints and drawings of great local interest and here the Swansea Art Society holds its annual exhibition. The Swansea Scientific Society also meets here. In its early days the institution was the chief centre of scientific activity in South Wales, those asso- ciated with its work including L. W. Dillwyn, James Motley, Dr Gutch and J. E. Bicheno, all botanists, J. Gwyn Jeffreys, conchologist, Sir W. R. Grove and the 1st Lord Swansea, the last three being natives of the town.
The free library and art gallery of the corporation, a four- storeyed building in Italian style erected in 1887, contains the library of the Rev. Rowland Williams (one of the authors of Essays and Reviews), the rich Welsh collection of the Rev. Robert Jones of Rotherhithe, a small Devonian section (presented by the Swansea Devonian Society), and about 8000 volumes and 2500 prints and engravings, intended to be mutually illustra- tive, given by the Swansea portrait-painter and art critic, John Deffett Francis, from 1876 to i88r, to receive whose first gift the library was established in 1876. It also contains a complete set of the patent office publications.
The grammar school founded in 1682 by Hugh Gore (1613- 1691), bishop of Waterford, is now carried on by the town council under the Welsh Intermediate Education Act of 1889, and there is a similar school for girls. The technical college is also carried on by the town council, the chief features of its curriculum being chemistry, metallurgy and engineering. A training college for school-mistresses, established by the British and Foreign School Society in 1872, was transferred to the town council in 1908.
The other public buildings of the town include the gildhall and law courts, in the Italian style with Corinthian pillars and pilasters, built in 1847 and internally remodelled in 1901 ; a prison (1829); a fine market hall (1830), rebuilt in 1897; a cattle market and abattoirs (1869); the Albert Hall for concerts and public meetings (1864); the] Royal Metal Exchange (1897); harbour trust offices (1904); a central post office (1901) and two theatres. The benevolent institutions include the general hospital, founded in 1817, removed to the present site in 1867, extended by the addition of two wings in 1878 and of an eye department in 1890; a convalescent home for twenty patients from the hospital only (1903); the Royal Cambrian Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, established in 1847 at Aberystwyth, removed to Swansea in 1850, and several times enlarged, so as to have at present accommodation for ninety-eight pupils; the Swansea and South Wales Institution for the Blind, established in 1865 and now under the Board of Education; the Swansea and South Wales Nursing Institute (1873), providing a home for nurses in the intervals of their employment; a nursing institution (1902) for nursing the sick poor in their own homes, affiliated with the Queen's Jubilee Institute of London; the Sailors' Home (1864); a Sailors' Rest (1885); and a Mission to Seamen's Institute (1904).
The town possesses 103 acres of parks and open spaces, the chief being Llewelyn Park of 42 acres in the north of the town near Morriston, Victoria Park (16 acres) and recreation ground (8 acres) abutting on the sands in the west, with the privately owned football field between them, Cwmdonkin (15 acres) commanding a fine panoramic view of the bay, and Brynmill (9 acres) with a disused reservoir constructed in 1837 and now converted into an ornamental lake. Other features of these parks are a small botanical garden in Cwmdonkin, a good collection of waterfowl in Brynmill, and a small aviary of the rarer British birds in Victoria Park, which also has a meteorological station in connexion with the meteorological office, and a statue of Mr William Thomas of Lan erected in 1905 in appreciation of the work done by him in preserving and obtaining "open spaces" for Swansea. In the town itself there are statues of J. Henry Vivian and of his son Sir Henry Hussey Vivian (created Lord Swansea in 1893) each 'n h' s turn the "copper king." The corporation owns about 645 acres of land within the limits of the ancient borough. This consists mainly of land acquired under an Inclosure Act of 1761, but a small part is surplus land acquired in 1876-1879 in connexion with an improvement scheme for clearing a large insanitary area in the centre of the town.
The town is lighted with gas supplied by a gas company first incorporated in 1830 and by electricity supplied by the corporation. There is a good system of electrically worked tramways, 5I m. being owned by a company and nearly 6 m. by the corporation, but the whole worked by the company. The town obtains its chief supply of water from moorlands situated on the Old Red Sandstone formation in the valley of the Cray, a tributary of the Usk in Brecon- shire where a reservoir of 1,000,000,000 gallons capacity has been constructed at a cost of £547,759. under parliamentary powers obtained in 1892, 1902 and 1905. The water is brought to the town in a conduit consisting of 23J m. of iron pipes and 3m. of tunnel into a service reservoir of 3,000,000 gallons capacity made on the Town Hill at an elevation of 580 ft. above sea-level. There is a further supply obtained from three reservoirs of a combined capacity of 513,000,000, constructed in 1866, 1874 and 1889 respec- tively in the Lliw and adjoining valleys, in the drainage area of the Loughor, about 10 m. to the north of Swansea.
Harbour and Commerce.—Swansea owes its commercial prosperity to its great natural advantages as a harbour and its situation within the South Wales coal basin, for the anthracite portion of which it is the natural port of shipment. It is the most westerly port of the Bristol Channel and the nearest to the open sea, only 35 m. from the natural harbour of refuge at Lundy, and there is sheltered anchorage under the Mumbles Head at all states of the tide.
The modern development of the port dates from about the middle of the 1 8th century when coal began to be extensively worked at Llansamlet and copper smelting (begun at Swansea in 1717, though at Neath it dated from 1584) assumed large proportions. The coal was conveyed to the works and for shipment to a wharf on the east bank, on the backs of mules and somewhat later by means of a private canal. The common quay was on the west bank; all ships coming in had to lie in the nver bed or in a natural tidal basin known as Fabian's Bay, on the east. Under an act of 1791 harbour trustees were appointed who cleared and deepened the river bed and built a long pier on either side of it; in 1796 the approach to the port was made safer by means of an improved light on Mumbles Head. A canal connecting the tidal part of the river Neath with the mouth of the Tawe, made in 1789, was in 1824 connected with the Vale of Neath canal by means of an aqueduct across the Neath river, when also a small dock, Port Tennant (so named after its owner) or Salthouse Dock, was made near the east pier, and this continued to be used till 1880. Meanwhile in 1798 the whole coalfield of the Swansea Valley was connected with the port by a canal 16J m. long (acquired by the Great Western railway in 1872). In 1851 the river was diverted eastward into a new channel (called the New Cut) and its old channel was locked and floated, thereby forming the North Dock with an area of li§ acres and a half-tide basin 500 yards long covering 2J acres. The Swansea Valley canal has a connecting lock with this dock, and on the island between the dock and the New Cut are patent fuel works, copper ore yards and other mineral sheds and large grain stores and flour mills. The South Dock, begun in 1847 under powers obtained that year by a private company, transferred in 1857 to the harbour trustees and opened in 1859, is mainly used for shipping coal and for dis- charging timber and fish. Lying parallel to the sea front and to the west of the entrance channel from which it runs at right angles, it has an area of 13 acres with a half -tide basin of 4 acres and a lock 300 ft. long by 60 ft. wide. The next development was on the east side of the river where the natural inlet of Fabian's Bay, inside the harbour mouth, was utilized for the construction of the Prince of Wales's Dock (authorized 1874, opened October 1881, extension opened March 1898). Its total area is 27 acres, its quays are nearly 7000 ft. long, and it is connected with the Tennant canal. The very rapid increase in the demand for anthracite coal (for the shipment of which Swansea has practically a monopoly) soon necessitated still further accommodation and in July 1904 was begun the King's Dock, which lies farther east and has an entrance direct from the bay. By means of the embankment made in connexion with it, 400 acres were reclaimed from the sea. It has an area of 68 acres, its lock measures 875 ft. by 90 ft. and its quays 10,550 ft. long, and it has a depth of 32 ft. of water, or inner cill. The total dock area of Swansea has thus been increased to about 147 acres with a total length of quays exceeding 3 m. The harbour docks and adjacent railways (which exceed 20 m.) are owned and administered by a harbour trust of 26 members, of whom one is the owner of the Briton Ferry estate (Earl Jersey), 4 represent the lord of the seigniory of Gower (the duke of Beaufort), 12 are proprietary members and 9 are elected annually by the corporation of Swansea. The trustees are conservators of the river Tawe and parts of Swansea Bay, and the pilotage and lighthouse authority of the district. They were incorporated by the Harbour Act of 1854. There are 9 private graving docks.
The total exports (foreign and coastwise) from Swansea during 1907 amounted to 4,825,898 tons, of which coal and coke made up 3.655,050 tons; patent fuel, 679,002 tons; tin, terne and black plates, 348,240 tons; iron and steel and their manufactures, 38,438 tons; various chemicals (mostly the by-products of the metal industries), 37,100 tons; copper, zinc and silver, 22,633 tons. Its imports during the same year amounted to 899,201 tons, including 172,319 tons of grain ana other agricultural produce, 156,620 tons of firewood, 145,255 tons of pig-iron and manufactured iron and steel, 47,201 tons of iron ore, 121,168 tons of copper, -silver, lead, tin and nickel with their ores and alloys, 63,009 tons of zinc, its ores and alloys, 41,029 tons of sulphur ore, phosphates and other raw material for the chemical trade. The town (which is often called " the metallurgical capital of Wales ") is the chief seat of the copper, spelter, tin-plate and patent fuel industries, and has within a compass of 4 m. over 100 different works of 36 varieties (exclusive of collieries) for the treatment or manufacture of copper, gold, silver, lead, sulphate of copper, spelter, tinplates, steel and iron, nickel and cobalt, yellow metal, sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid, creosote, alkali, galvanized sheets, patent fuel as well as engineering works, iron foundries, large flour and provender mills, fuse works and brick works. Copper smelting, which during most of the 19th century was the chief industry, has not maintained its relative importance, though Swansea is still the chief seat of the trade, but three-fourths of the tinplates - manufactured in Great Britain and nineteen-twentieths of the spelter or zinc are made in the Swansea district, and its tube works are also the largest in the kingdom. While the bulk of the coal is sent to France and the Mediterranean ports, an increasing quantity of anthracite is shipped to Germany, and, in sailing vessels to the Pacific ports of America, patent fuel is largely sent to South America, whence return cargoes of mineral ores and grain are obtained, while Germany, France, Italy, Rumania, the United States and the Far East are the chief customers for tinplates. Over one hundred fishing-smacks and trawlers usually land their catches at the south dock, where there is a flourishing fish-market. There is also'a large ice factory.
From 1535 to 1832 (with the exception of 1658-1659) Swansea was associated with the other boroughs of Glamorgan in sending one representative to Parliament. In 1658 Cromwell gave the town the right of separately returning a member of its own, but this right lapsed with the Restoration. In 1832 St John's, St Thomas and parts of the parishes of Llansamlet and Llangy- felach were added to the parliamentary borough of Swansea, to which along with the boroughs of Neath, Aberavon, Kenfig and Loughor a separate representative was given. In 1836 the municipal borough was made coextensive with the par- liamentary borough and continued so till 1868, when some further small additions were made to the latter, with which the municipal borough was once more made co-extensive in 1889. Meanwhile in 1885 the parliamentary constituency was made into two divisions with a member each, namely Swansea Town consisting of the original borough with St Thomas's, and Swan- sea District consisting of the remainder of the borough with the four contributory horoughs. In 1888 Swansea was made a county borough and in 1900 the various parishes constituting it were consolidated into the civil parish of Swansea. Its total area is 5194 acres. The corporation consists of 10 aldermen and 30 councillors. The assizes and quarter sessions for Glamorgan are held at Swansea alternately with Cardiff. The borough has a separate commission of the peace, and, since 1891, a court of quarter sessions.
The population of the old borough was 6099 in 1801 and 13,256 in 1831; after the first extension it amounted to 24,604 in 1841* The population in 1901 was 94,537. Of those who were three years of age and upwards, nearly 67% were returned as speaking English only, 29 % as speaking both English and Welsh, and 32% as speaking Welsh only.
History.—No traces of any Roman settlement have been discovered at Swansea, though there seems to have been a small one at Oystermouth, 5 m. to the south, and the Via Julia from Nidum (Neath) to Loughor probably passed through the northern part of the present borough where a large quantity of Roman coins was found in 1835. The name Swansea stands for Sweyn's "ey" or inlet, and may have been derived from King Sweyn Forkbeard, who certainly visited the Bristol Channel and may have established a small settlement at the estuary of the Tawe. The earliest known form of the name is Sweynesse, which occurs in a charter granted by William earl of Warwick some time previous to 1184; in King John's charter (1215) it appears as Sweyneshe, and in the town seal, the origin of which is supposed to date from about the same period, it is given as "Sweyse." An attempt has been made to derive the name from Sein Henydd, the Welsh name of a Gower castle which has been plausibly identified with the first castle built at Swansea, but that derivation is etymologicaUy impossible. The Welsh name, Aber Tawy, first appears in Welsh poems of the beginning of the 13th century. The town grew up round the castle which Henry de Beauchamp (or Beaumont) on his conquest of Gower about 1099, built on the west bank of the river. The castle passed with the lordship or seigniory of Gower, of which it was the caput, into the hands of the De Braose family in 1203 (by grant from King John) and eventually it came by marriage to the Somersets and is still held by the dukes of Beaufort, whose title of barons de Gower dates from 1506. The castle was frequently attacked and on several occasions more or less demolished, in the 12th and 13th centuries by the Welsh under the princes of Dynevor. It was visited by King John in 12 10 and probably by Edward II. in 1326, for, after his capture, the chancery rolls were found deposited in the castle and were thence removed to Hereford. It was finally destroyed by Glendower, was a " ruinous building " when seen by Leland (1536) and has since wholly disappeared. In the Civil War the town was royalist till the autumn of 1645 when Colonel Philip Jones, a native of the adjoining parish of Llangyfelach and subsequently a member of Cromwell's upper house, was made its governor. Cromwell stayed in the town in May 1648, and July 1649, on his way to Pembroke and Ireland respectively, and later showed it exceptional favour by giving it a liberal charter and parliamentary representation. The town claimed to be a borough by prescription, for its only known charters of incorporation are those of Cromwell and James II., which were never acted upon. It probably received its first grant of municipal privileges from William 3rd earl of Warwick some time before 1184. By a charter of 1215 (confirmed by Henry II. in 1234, by Edward II. in 1312 and Edward III. in 1332), John himself granted the burgesses the right of trading, free of all customs due, throughout the whole kingdom (except in London), a right which was previously limited to the seigniory. By 1305 the burgesses had become so powerful as to wring a most liberal grant of privileges from their then seigneur William de Braose (fourth in descent from his namesake to whom Gower was granted by King John in 1203), and he bound himself to pay £500 to the king and 500 marks to any burgess in the event of his infringing any of the rights contained in it. By this charter the burgesses acquired the right of nominating annually two of their number for the office of portreeve so that the lord's steward might select one of them to exercise the office, an arrangement which continued till 1835; the bailiff's functions were defined and curtailed, and the lord's chancery was to be continually kept open for all requiring writs, and in Gower — not wherever the lord might happen to be. A patent of murage and pavage—from which it may probably be inferred that Swansea was a walled town—was granted by Edward II. in 1317 and another by Edward III. in 1338. Cromwell's charter of '1655, though reciting that "time out of mind" Swansea had been " a town corporate," incorporated it anew, and changed the title of portreeve into mayor, in whom, with twelve aldermen and twelve capital burgesses, it vested the government of the town. The mayor, ex-mayor and one selected alderman were to be justices of the peace with exclusive jurisdiction and the mayor was the coroner. Four annual fairs were appointed, namely on the 8th of May, 2nd of July, 15th of August and 8th of October—the first, how- ever, being the only new one. In 1658 the protector by another charter granted the town independent representation in parliament, At the Restoration, Cromwell's charters lapsed, but in 1685 James II. granted another charter which contained the arbitrary proviso that the king by order in council might remove any orficer or members of the corporation. This charter was not adopted by the burgesses.
De Braose's charter of 1305 bears some evidence to the importance of the shipping of Swansea even at that date, for by it there was granted or confirmed to the burgesses the right to take from the lord's woods" sufficient timber to make four great ships at a time and as many small vessels as they wished. Coal was even then worked in the district. Cromwell in his charter of 1655 recognized Swansea as " an ancient port town and populous, situate on the sea coast towards France convenient for shipping and resisting foreign invasions." Its status was only that of a "creek" in the port of Cardiff till 1685, when it was made an independent port with jurisdiction over Newton (now Porthcawl), Neath or Briton Ferry and South Burry, its limits being denned in 1847 as extending from Nash Point on the east to Whitford Point on the west, but in 1904 Port Talbot, which was included in this area, was made into a separate port.
From about 1768 to 1850 Swansea had a somewhat famous pottery. Beginning with earthenware which twenty years later was improved into " opaque china," it produced from 1814 to 1823 superior porcelain which was beautifully decorated with landscapes, birds, butterflies and flowers and is much prized by connoisseurs. During a short period (1845-1850) an imitation of Etruscan ware was also produced with figures of rich red colour over a body of black.
See Lewis W. Dillwyn, Contributions towards a History of Swansea (1840); Colonel G. Grant-Francis, Charters Granted to Swansea (1867), and The Smelting of Copper in the Swansea District (2nd ed., 1881); S. C. Gamwell, A Guide to Swansea and District (1880); Lieut.-Colonel W. LI. Morgan, R.E., An Antiquarian Survey of East Gower.