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Building a bridge at Swansea Slip

Early bathing in Swansea Bay ] The Slip emerges ] Swansea Slip : the place to be... ] Swansea Slip: The place to be (continued) ] Swansea Slip:decline and fall ] Swansea Slip: Cleaning up the act ] Swansea Bay : The cleanup starts here ] Building a bridge at Swansea Slip ] [ The Swansea Slip Bridge ] Bert and Dick at the Beach ] Early Swansea sewerage schemes ] Swansea's Main Drainage Scheme ] Swansea's Main Drainage Scheme (Continued) ] A Map of Swansea's Main Drainage Scheme ] Swansea's sewerage system under Mumbles Head ] The Mumbles Head sewer outfall ] Slip Statistics ]

The inaugeration plaque for the Swansea Slip Bridge

In 1915, the issue of access to the beach at the Slip was solved by the construction of the Slip Bridge. For generations of Swansea visitors, the sands of Swansea have been characterised by the bridge which still dominates the skyline today. 

Below is a postcard commemorating the opening in 1915. Britain was in the thick of World War One so patriotic flags were everywhere.

It still provides the function it was designed for, safe beach access although the danger today is not the railways but the horrendously busy Mumbles Road, one of the busiest roads in South Wales. The wonderful alcoves of the bridge were not always empty, they were quickly brought into the 'Slip culture' by having little shops and cafés built into them. In later years it was where you got your municipal deckchair from!

The opening of the Slip Bridge in 1915.

Click on me for a better photograph! Click on the photograph to the left for a modern big picture of the Slip Bridge.

SHW Microhistory: 7. Swansea's Viking origins

Viking themes dominate some of the decoration of Swansea's Guildhall because it was felt important to emphasise Swansea's unique Viking connections at the time the Guildhall was built.

The name of Swansea has always generated considerable debate, and some very elaborate explanations about its origins.

The Viking name of Sweyne is clearly evident in the name. Some historians have been desperate to add an extra explanation for the '-sea' part of the name, usually revolving around some island or 'eye' that might have existed in the mouth of the River Tawe. Thus, Sweyne's Eye or Sweyne's Island is seen as an explanation for the early town where Viking settlers lived. Although this has been a very popular idea in the past, the evidence is not really there.

You have to ask yourself if you as a norse trader would set up camp on a rather dangerous sand spit in the middle of the river whis is prone to flooding and which also could be submerged by high tides, or would you rather opt for a river bank with a nice easily defended hill, next to a good anchorage and an easy ford across the river where people could easily meet you for a local market? As with many things the simplest explanation is most likely the answer.

Local people probably knew the mouth of the River Tawe as Sweyne's, which became easily changed to Sweynes's (and countless other pronounciations across a multilingual community speaking Latin, Old English, French, Norse, and Celtic languages). For those of you who are still sceptical there's a pub in town called 'Yates's', if you read this aloud you'll see how the process happens, and if you're still not convinced listen to how other people pronounce 'Yates's'.

The Sweyn of the story is most likely Sweyn Forkbeard who was briefly King of England 1013-14. At this time the scandinavians who populated parts of the western coast of Britain were more interested in trade than military conquest and it is likely that the trading post of 'Swenes's' would have been well known along the coast of what would eventually become the Bristol Channel.

In the nineteenth century, Swansea citizens were extremely proud of this Royal Viking foundation and valued it far higher than any Welsh connection (not that there was one really). When Swansea's Guildhall was built in the 1930s, considerable effort was made to reflect the phenomenal history of the ancient borough in the art and structure of the building. The photos here

Magnificent Viking warriors dominate a number of the doorways of Swansea's Guildhall.

show some of the impressive sculptures and fittings that reflected the Viking origins of the town. The dash to 'Welshness' of the new order means that Sweyn is being pushed into the past. It is a sad fact that the current rush to convert everything into the Welsh language and culture means that historical fact is far less important than political fiction. Swansea's identity as a uniquely special place on a European stage is becoming subsumed into a 'second city in Wales' label which is a crying shame, for Swenes's was one of the trading capitals of the west coast of Britain some time before most people had even heard of a place called Wales.

Percy Thomas, the Guildhall and the Vikings (Audio File)

More SHW Microhistory

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