Swansea Borough Police (continued)

[Home Page] [ Teachers and Students guide ] [ The History Web Bookshop ] [Recommended Reading] [Microhistories] [ Articles ] [Basics: The Census] [Basics: Hearth Tax Returns][ Operation Bolero ] [ Swansea's Blitz in colour ] [ Cholera - an introduction ] [ Cardiff History Web ] [ Early Iron Industry in Wales ] [ Early housing in Swansea ] [ Union Workhouses; an introduction ] [ Swansea Jack ] [ Local Clubs and Societies ] [Board of Health Plan symbols] [ Swansea's earliest local Acts of Parliament ] [Swansea Borough Police] [ Molly at the Kitchen Front ] [ Features ] [ Resources ] [ See you at the Slip ! ] [ Swansea's Christmas Imp! ] [ Swansea and the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 ] [Early electricity in Swansea] [ The History of Swansea Basic Reading ] [ The port of Swansea ] [ The U-boat Campaigns in the Bristol Channel 1939-45 ] [ Site Guide ] [ Contact us at Swansea History Web ] [ About Swansea History Web ]

The Early Borough Police Force The Swansea Police Fire Service

This page continues the story of the high points of the borough police force.

Swansea’s First Motorised Ambulance

In 1908 a motor ambulance which was controlled by the Police was purchased with financial aid of various industrial concerns. A substantial sum was raised by Swansea Police Recreation Club.

First Road Census

A census of traffic was taken by the Police on the Mumbles Road, between 9 am and 9 p.m. on Whit-Monday 1911. The total traffic comprised 37 motor cars, 34 motorbikes 219 horse drawn vehicles, and 1,160 pedal cyclists.

First Crossing Patrol

In 1911 an early ‘Safety First’ measure was the posting of a Constable for duty as a school crossing patrol near St. Joseph’s School in Llangyfelach Street.

Police Strike

Although there was no strike in Swansea a number of Policemen went on strike in London. This brought about a public enquiry which investigated the pay and conditions of the service. This enquiry resulted in the Desborough Report and which brought about the Police Act of 1919 giving new Police Regulations.

Above: A Swansea Borough constable steals a little boy's cigarettes; typical Dick German humour from 1909. The original cartoon appeared in the South Wales Daily Post for April 1 1909. The original caption...

'One of the clauses in the Children's Bill which comes into force to-day is to the effect that "Constables, park-keepers, or other uniformed persons with like powers, may take away a young person's cigarettes in any street or public place, though not authorised to search him." Cheap smokes for policemen now!'

First Traffic Lights

1927 saw the introduction by Mr. Thomas Rawson, Chief Constable of the Police Box System and Automatic Traffic signals both the first of their kind in Wales.


1936 saw a one way transmission from Central Police Station to their cars. Later a two-way system was introduced.

 Auxiliary Service

October 1940 saw the start of the auxiliary service which consisted of 247 officers and men. This service was required owing to many Police Officers leaving to join the war.

Women Police Constables

In October 1941 women were appointed to the force as auxiliary Police Constables. By 1943 there were thirty women mainly employed in administration and communication duties. The auxiliary force was disbanded in 1946.

999 Call

In November 1946 saw the introduction of the 999-emergency call system. This proved very successful and is the most efficient way of alerting the Police to an incident.

First Instant Response Unit (I.R.U.)

In 1949 a mobile Police team consisted of a sergeant and three constables patrolling in a radio-equipped car. This allowed the rapid movement of Constables from one area to another to patrol on foot or in response to messages transmitted from headquarters. This was most efficient especially in dealing with outbreaks of disorderly conduct or rendering assistance following serious accidents.

Below: Swansea's first police call box (probably some time in 1922). You can see the key to the box hanging in the glass panel on the front. ahh the good old days.

SHW Microhistory: 3. The Washing Lake, Town Hill

Washing Lake in the 'great snow' of 1982.

One of the most important physical features of Anglo-Norman Swansea still exists above ground!

A good reliable water supply was essential for any town and any stream or spring that was used quickly became a central part of local life. The sandstone of Town Hill provided many springs of good clear water which the earliest Norman inhabitants of the town prized very highly. Ww

As is common in most cultures, prominent physical features were given names, many of which survive cultural and language changes. This stream which arises from a spring on the hill above Swansea Institute was the most famous and useful spring to supply the early town with its water. It wasn known for hundreds of years as 'Washing Lake' which is derived from the Old English words 'waesse' and 'lacu' meaning wet or swampy stream.

English language place names date from the earliest history of the town of Swansea. Indeed some local Welsh place names have been shown to be derived from original ancient English names.

The Washing Lake ran from the field above the original Workhouse which was known as Cae Cwm in the 1830s, down through the workhouse enclosure and down the side of the road known as Bryn Syfi. The modern road of Mount Pleasant is the small valley carved by Washing Lake as it made its way down to the river. The stream had a number of tributaries which made it a substantial torrent by the time it got to the bottom of the hill.

Some of the large houses at the bottom of Mount Pleasant built bridges and culverts for the stream. One of the original culverts can still be seen in the rear wall of the Windsor Lodge hotel.

Washing Lake in 1985

By the 1700s the stream was used to feed the large tannery that was built on fields on the western side of the medieval town (where The Hanbury pub is today). The stream has never been known to dry up and provided much of the western side of medieval Swansea with their water supply. The lower reaches of the stream were equally useful as a sewer which emptied into the town ditch.

The stream figured heavily in early attempts to build reservoirs in the 1800s. It still has traces of the cast iron pipes and sandstone walls from that time. The name Washing Lake receded into history when the stream ceased to be important. Washing Lake miraculously survived redevelopment in the early 1900s, 1920s, 1950s and the 1990s, and remains an enigmatic survival of the medieval town. It still survives today as part of the local wildlife corridor

More SHW Microhistory



SHW's Book of the Month:

Salt by Mark Kurlansky

You can obtain a copy of this book by using our association with  In Association with Amazon.co.uk

Just click on the book title or cover picture!

This is not a local history book and Mark Kurlansky is a journalist not a local historian. Nevertheless he has produced a fascinating history of one of the world's basic commodities. I first came across Kurlansky with his book about the history of Cod. I think anyone who wants to know about the history of the Bristol Channel has to be familiar with the fish and how it encouraged Bristol fishermen to discover the Grand Banks. Salt is another offbeat yet fundamental bit of our history. We've had a popular web page on salt for ages and Swansea had a Salthouse Point at the mouth of the River Tawe for centuries. Kurlansky takes you on a journey across space and time to discover the importance of salt for mankind. From Jericho to Gandhi, salt has had an important part to play. This is a lovely book that enhances the quality of history for it adds depth and value to something we use every day. (Nigel Robins)

All content © Swansea History Web 2001, 2002

Citation information: www.swanseahistoryweb.org.uk/[page title].htm

Teacher's and Student's Guide (Sitemap)

About Swansea History Web    If you want to navigate the site come to the Home Page

This is a free site. You should not be paying anyone to view. If you are please contact us.

 Site Guide  Contact us   The Swansea History Web CD ROM

In Association with Amazon.co.uk