History of Swansea

    A picturesque city located on the south west coast of Wales, the roots of Swansea reach back to medieval times. The town itself appears to have developed initially as a Viking settlement, but borough status was granted the residents of Swansea sometime before 1184, allowing the local residents to begin development of the area.

    Over the next 600 years, Swansea grew in importance as a port city. The French Normans built the first docks which would eventually accommodate ships holding a wide variety of goods. Wine, hides, wool and textiles all made their way onto ships at Swansea and in later years a flourishing ship building industry also became centered around Swansea Bay.

    The Normans also established a castle at the mouth of the Tawe River and a watchtower at Oystermouth. Then, as the Industrial Revolution moved through Great Britain, the combination of Swansea’s port, the abundance of local coal and established trading links brought Swansea an exciting new industry, smelting copper.

    Large smelters were operating in the area by 1720 and the smelting industry grew rapidly. Additional works were established over the next one hundred years that processed arsenic, zinc and tin and other works were built for the manufacture of tinplate and pottery items. Copper production was the backbone of Swansea during these glorious growth years, earning it the nickname of “Copperopolis”.

    On the domestic side of things building works kept pace with the commercial Swansea Castle was one of the earliest large buildings, being worked on from 1106 and serving many purposes over the years including acting as a barracks and drill hall. The beautiful Oystermouth Castle served a residence for the Marcher Lords of Gower when the borough of Swansea was first established.

    As the Industrial Revolution drew to a close, the very face of Swansea began to change. Wealthy owners of local industry began to develop huge estates for personal use. At the same time, the town of Swansea itself began to build its reputation as a high-class resort town by the sea. The tourist industry began to grow in Swansea when the world’s first passenger railway was developed in 1807. Various forms of this railway continued running excursions along the coastline until 1960.