Swansea Pictorial History

Swansea Town
During the 7-8th century, the Vikings sailing from Ireland established trading posts around the coast and Swansea could have been one of them - from which the derivation of Swansea from SEWYN and EYE comes from. The Normans established the Borough of Swansea in the 12th century.

By the end of the medieval period the Town was a prosperous trading centre, handling coal, furs, hides, fish, and cloth, wool, foodstuff and luxury goods. In the late 18th century, Swansea was called the “Welsh Weymouth” and the “Brighton of Wales”. With its assembly rooms, public gardens and bathing machines. theatres, fine Regency houses, Guild Hall, Royal Institution, it was the perfect setting for the pioneering work in photography.

The late 18th century. was the period during which Industrial growth began, coal mining being the foundation of all the other industries.

By the beginning of the 19th century,the Town was the copper center of the world and together with the other industries situated in the lower Swansea valley was known as “Copperopolis”.

Vice Consuls from all round the world were opened. Between 1816-181 over 30 vice consuls were opened. Most were from European countries, including Russia, Prussia, the Northern German Confederation, Portugal, Brazil, Naples and the two Scillies, the Ottoman empire Urey, Brazil, Liberia and the U.S.A.

The Swansea Metal exchange was opened in 1887. Birds Custard Powder was invented by Alfred Bird in his chemist's shop in Port Tennant Road. The Cambrian Newspaper was the first English language newspaper to be published in Wale from 1804 to 1930. The Bank of England opened its first branch outside London at Swansea in 1826 in the Commercial Building.

The first Public Telephone Exchange in Britain opened in Swansea in 1881. Some of the early telephone numbers were:

Tel No. 28 -- Ben Evans Sots dept.
Tel No. 56 -- Royal Hotel
Tel No. 158 -- The Cambrian News Paper
Tel No. 278 -- Grand Theatre.

With the Town center completely destroyed after the War, a great opportunity occurred for the town fathers to build a town fit for the 20th century. However they did not, and equally they did not listen to architects throughout Britain who condemned their plans. John Davis in his book “A History of Wales” writing about the reconstruction of Wales says

”Much of what was built was wholly uninspired - the dreadful rebuilding of Swansea in particular.”

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