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We've been asked to provide details of local meetings and classes for the area. So here are those that have been sent to us so far. If you want to post details of a society or meeting then send the details to the mailbox below. We reserve the right to edit or decline any material we deem inappropriate to the site. If you want to send us a link to your website we will add it to our Weblog page.

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The Royal Institution of South Wales

Oystermouth Historical Association

Programme for 2002


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:

The History of the Countryside: The...

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Oliver Rackham's book is a classic for anyone who wants to understand the way Britain's countryside has changed over the past two thousand years. I have never came across any other book that offered so many insights into trees, hedgerows, and roads explained in such a readable and interesting way. The author starts in Roman times and goes into marvellous detail to explain the way in which roads and hedgerows shaped the landscape. He looks at the 'new arrivals' such as rabbits and sycamores. The differences between woodlands, wood pastures and commons are better described here than any other book I have come across. A comprehensive reference and bibliography section give you plenty of further ideas for more reading. (Nigel Robins)

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