Swansea History Web. Looking at the future of the Slip.

Swansea Bay : The cleanup starts here

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Swansea History Web. The new waste water treatment works at Swansea. Just as the Main Drainage scheme was seen as a big step forward in the 1930s, Swansea’s new treatment works will have a profound effect on our coastline. An investment in the region of 85 million, will end the practice of pouring raw sewage into the bay.

They tell us they have learned all the lessons. Primary treatment, secondary treatment, and disinfection and eventual discharge from a long sea outfall into the outer reaches of the bay. The dynamics of the bay, an unknown science to the engineers of the 1920s, have been modelled by computer hopefully guaranteeing a clean and reliable system.

In March 1999, a number of schoolchildren were treated to ice creams at Bracelet Bay to mark the opening of the scheme. There was very little mention in the local press, although local people are wary of what it is going to cost them. But perhaps, hopefully some of the children who enjoyed the ice cream party on that March morning will enjoy something their grandparents enjoyed; A day out at Swansea Slip!

Above: The souvenir brochure. Right: Schoolchildren celebrate the opening at Bracelet Bay. The original sewage outfall is in the bay behind them.

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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)

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