18. The Harbour Act and the Mumbles Lighthouse

Reading about the Port of Swansea ] Swansea Harbour in 1771 ] Swansea's South Dock (c.1870s) ] Swansea's South Dock (c. 1880s) ] Swansea Docks in 1881 ] Brunel's report for Swansea Docks 1846 ] 2. Charter of William de Newburgh ] 6. A Royal Charter ] 9. Trade In The Early Port ] 10. A port Indenture of 1135 ] 11. Salt A vital commodity ] 12. Swansea's Layer Keeper ] 12a. Early Quays and Docks ] 14. The Uncrowned King Of Swansea ] 15. Swansea in the 1790s ] 16. After Gabriel ] 17. 1790s Swansea;The Time For Change ] More about Swansea in the 1790s ] 17a. Smuggling in Swansea and Gower ] [ 18. The Harbour Act and the Mumbles Lighthouse ] 19. Port Tennant ] Port Tennant in 1827 ] 20. port Development. A Chronology ] 21. The South Wales ports ] 22. Joseph Rutter's pamphlet of 1843 ] 25. Thomas Page's report of 1846. ] 27. John Henry Vivian ] 29. The East Dock ] 30. The Prince of Wales opens the East Dock ] The Helwick Lightvessel ] Jack's World: Swansea North Dock in the 1880s ] James Harris Seascape Painter ] Mr Padley of Swansea ] Plan of the Prince of Wales Dock ] Who put the 'Sweyn' in Swansea? ] Swansea's first tugs ] The Victorian port of Swansea ]

Acts of Parliament

In many instances, local Acts of Parliament were the only way of bringing about change in a local community. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries many aspects of daily life were regulated by statutes. They are often a quick and accurate way of finding out what happened in a community over a period of time. The table shows the local Acts that affected Swansea between 1759 and 1822. There were also many general Acts such as those dealing with Poor Law which affected the whole of the country. I have not listed them because they would confuse the picture.

The statutes give an impression of the concerns of the more affluent members of the community. Early Acts dealt with land management such as the enclosure of the Borough’s common lands or the disposal of the Duke’s estates. The impact of the Industrial Revolution becomes evident as the emphasis of the Acts switches to transport and industry.


Short Title



Private Act for vesting certain estates of the Duke of Beaufort, including Gower, Kilvey, and Swansea Castle etc. in Trustees, with power to sell or lease the same.

32 Geo. II c.23


Enclosure Act for dividing and enclosing the Town Hill and the Burroughs in Swansea.

2 Geo. III c. 7


Private Act for further amending and explaining the Duke of Beaufort’s Act of 1759.

2 Geo. III c.49


Private Act for confirming a Lease of Coals, and Lands whereon to erect Copper or other Works in Kilvey, from the Hon. Louisa Barbara Mansell to Chauncey Townshend, Esq.

7 Geo. III c.58


Market Act for the Corporation of Swansea to erect a Market in the Castle garden and poster, on lands of the Duke of Beaufort.

14 Geo. III,


Road Act for building a Bridge, with necessary access thereto, across the River Tawey, near the Wych-Tree in Llansamlet, to Llangavelach parish.

18 Geo. III c. 68


Harbour Act for repairing, enlarging, and preserving the Harbour of Swansea, and appointing the Trustees therefor.

31 Geo. III c. 83


Canal Act for making and maintaining a canal from the Brewery Wharf at Swansea to Ystradgynlais in the County of Brecon.

34 Geo. III, c. 109


Harbour Act for amending the former Act (1791) and for improving the Mumbles Light in Swansea Bay.

36 Geo. III c. 93


Road Act for continuing the term and altering the powers for maintaining the Wych-Tree bridge and approaches.

39 & 40 Geo. III, c.41


Tramway Act for constructing a Tram or Rail-road from Swansea to Oystermouth, with power to make branches thereto.

44 Geo. III c. 45


Harbour Act for amending and enlarging the powers granted by the two former [Harbour] Acts of 1791 and 1796.

44 Geo. III c. 46


Local Act for Paving, lighting, cleansing and watching the Town of Swansea, in the County of Glamorgan.

49 Geo. III c. 79


Road Act for further continuing and altering the powers of former Acts relating to Wych-Tree Bridge and its approaches, and for repairing roads in St John’s juxta Swansea.

3 Geo. IV, c. 1


The 1791 Harbour Act

By the end of 1790 there was sufficient agreement amongst the Corporation to proceed to apply for a Bill for ‘The Improvement of the Harbour and River of Swansea’. The Bill was successful and resulted in the Swansea Harbour Act of 1791. The Act transferred responsibility for maintenance of the harbour from the Corporation to the Swansea Harbour Trust. A situation that was to exist until 1923. The apparent loss of control from the Burgesses to the Trustees was not as clear as it might seem, many of the senior Aldermen of the town became Trustees. The long established interests of both the Duke of Beaufort and the Corporation were clearly provided for in the details of the Act. The preservation of their vested interests was to have severe complications for the Trust in its work in the years ahead.



The Act was obviously a landmark for the Port. The detail of the proposals in the text of the Act clearly indicate the depth of discussion and consideration of the problems Swansea faced. Dredging of the main access channel into the river, the construction of piers to change the dynamics of deposition in Fabian’s Bay and a lighthouse at Mumbles to guide ships into the port. All these proposals were expensive long term investments and show commendable ambition if not practicality. The inability of the Trustees to understand the complexity and implications of the task they were charged with resulted in many delays and subsequent harbour Acts had to revise the composition of the Trustees and their money raising powers. An inability to agree on effective remedial action to prevent deterioration of the port was perhaps a legacy of the Gabriel Powell years when the aldermen of the corporation were selected for their conservatism and lack of ambition rather than their ability to understand the new world that was developing.

The two main outcomes of the Act were the building of the Mumbles lighthouse, seen above in its original form with two coal burning braziers, and the Western Pier shown right in 1809 before alteration and enlargement.



The View for Sunday 4 December 2000

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