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SWANSEA

Site Details



NPRN 33145

Map Reference SS69SE

Grid Reference SS6564293048

Unitary (Local) Authority Swansea

Old County Glamorgan

Community Castle (Swansea)

Type of Site CITY

Broad Class CIVIL

Period Multiperiod

Site Description Swansea or Abertawe is believed to have been founded in 1013. The port was shipping coal and limestone from the town by 1550; during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Swansea grew significantly becoming a centre of heavy industry, notably copper, arsenic, zinc and tin smelting, with associated extensive railways and docks. The town’s industrial importance made it the target of frequent heavy bombing attacks during World War Two and in February 1941 the Three Nights' Blitz left the centre, to the west of Castle Street, completely destroyed and 227 people dead. Through the twentieth century, the heavy industries declined, leaving a huge area of dereliction and prompting establishment in the early 1960s of the much-lauded Lower Swansea Valley Scheme to reclaim the land. Swansea was granted city status in 1969.
The most important buildings in Swansea are the medieval Castle (nprn 94515), Tabernacle Chapel (nprn 8993) at Morriston and the 1930s Guildhall (nprn 144).
B.A.Malaws, RCAHMW, 06 November 2008.

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Swansea is the second largest city in Wales, and is located on the south coast. In the late tenth century the area was part of the Welsh kingdom of Deheubarth, but Swansea is thought to have been founded in 1013 as a Viking settlement, established by the Danish King Sweyn Forkbeard who had led a number of raiding parties in the area. Following the Norman Conquest, Swansea was integrated into the marcher lordship of Gower, and the first castle built in 1106.

Initially a port for the export of wool, hides and cloth, by the mid-sixteenth century coal and limestone was being shipped from here. Owing to its favourable location on the coast and its trading links with other towns and cities, Swansea’s industrial production began to flourish in the early eighteenth century. Copper smelting and processing became central industries in Swansea and earned it the nickname ‘Copperopolis’. The Hafod Copper works, founded in 1810, were the largest in the world, but other metallurgical industries and coal mining prospered as well. Rapid expansion of the town took place to provide housing, schools and places of worship for the industrial workers and their families. Included in these were the Tabernacle Chapel, the so-called ‘Cathedral of Welsh Nonconformity’, and Morris Castle, one of the earliest multi-storey residential blocks in Europe. As a result, Swansea’s population was only overtaken by Cardiff in 1881.

In the late eighteenth century when seaside resorts developed around the Welsh coast, Swansea attempted for a time to follow along. However, as the heavy industries had adverse effects on the quality of the environment, the bathing establishments soon relocated east to nearby Mumbles. Despite this, tourists were lured by the spectacle of large machinery and the roaring furnaces. Numerous visitors from continental Europe marvelled at the international flotillas moored in Swansea harbour or developed a morbid fascination for the ragged street urchins and impoverished workers. As part of her relief efforts for the industrial workers of Swansea, the international opera star Adelina Patti gave annual concerts in the town’s former Prince Albert Hall. Born in Spain to Italian parents, Patti had set up her home on the nearby Craig-y-Nos estate.

Record updated as part of the AHRC-funded project 'Journey to the Past: Wales in historic travel writing from France and Germany'.
R. Singer (Bangor University) and S. Fielding (RCAHMW), 2017.

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