Ancient Carmarthenshire ferry crossing could be revived

9 March 2017

Almost 1,000 years after it was described by chronicler Gerald of Wales, a ferry could once again be crossing the Tywi estuary in Carmarthenshire.

The service between Ferryside and Llansteffan was a favourite with 19th and early 20th Century tourists from the south Wales valleys during “miners’ fortnight”.

But it was discontinued during the 1950s, leaving walkers and cyclists facing an 18 mile (29km) round trip up the estuary.

On Thursday, the plans were submitted to the Coastal Communities Fund for a purpose-built boat which could be plying the route again within two years.

The idea is the brainchild of retired Liverpool University professor Kenton Morgan.

He said: “It’s known there are 400,000 annual visitors to Cefn Sidan beach just along the coast, and tens of thousands of visitors to Llansteffan Castle, Ferryside Castle and Laugharne, with its Dylan Thomas links.

“If the plan is approved, the ferry itself will become a tourist attraction.”

As the name suggests, the settlement of Ferryside developed around the landing stage of a ferry across the Tywi estuary which may have pre-dated the Norman Conquest.

Image copyright Jaggery/Geograph
Image caption Ferryside beach looking towards Llansteffan

It is mentioned as early as 1170 when it was granted to the Knights Hospitaller at Slebech Commandery, and was crossed by Gerald of Wales two decades later.

However, with the second-highest tidal range in the UK, crossing the estuary is not without its difficulties.

A conventional boat would require a 820ft (250 metre)-long jetty, owing to the slope of the beach.

To overcome this the group behind the scheme has chosen an amphibious craft, using technology developed by a New Zealand company.

The ferry would be fitted with retractable wheels like an aircraft, which would avoid the need for a jetty.

If successful, the boat would be built in Solva in Pembrokeshire.

Two public meetings have been held and backing has been secured from both the community and county councils.

An initial outline of the plan has been submitted to the Coastal Communities Fund and the next stage will be to submit a full proposal and business plan.

Swansea to Pontarddulais Train Journey on Film 1964

Record of one of the last train rides – on the “old puff puff” – from Swansea’s Victoria Station to Pontardulais. The line was closed soon afterwards, part of the reshaping of the railway system undertaken by Dr Beeching, chair of the British Railways Board. The footage was shot by Swansea’s Borough Librarian, Leslie M Rees, and his deputy, with Mr Rees later providing a commentary (he happens to mention that the jail, seen in passing, has an excellent branch library). 

This line ran from Swansea Victoria to Pontardulais, calling at Swansea Bay, Mumbles Road, both Killay and Dunvant at one time, Gowerton, Gorseinon and Grovesend. Once the Beeching axe struck, the train ran simply from Swansea to Gowerton and on to Llanelli and from Llanelli to Pontarddulais via Bynea and Llangennech. The ‘new face of British Railways’ is seen – a diesel train (“not half so romantic as the old puff puff”) heading for Shrewsbury, few passengers embarking or disembarking. “Of course”, comments Mr Rees, “that probably is the reason why all these trains are being taken off, we just don’t use them.” 

National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales preserves and celebrates the sound and moving image heritage of Wales, making it accessible to a wide range of users for enjoyment and learning. Its film collection reflects every aspect of the nation’s social, cultural and working life across the 20th century, giving a fascinating insight into Welsh filmmaking, both amateur and professional.

Glynn Vivian Talk, 17 February – Smelting and Selling: the Vivians and the Copper trade in nineteenth-century Swansea

Community Café: Professor Louise Miskell

Glynn Vivian Artist Talk.

17 Feb 2017
12.30PM. Ends at 1.30pm
This event is free.
Glynn Vivian
Alexandra Road Swansea SA1 5DZ

Smelting and Selling: the Vivians and the Copper trade in nineteenth-century Swansea

Room 1

Booking essential.

Vivian and Sons is perhaps Swansea’s best known nineteenth-century copper firm. They epitomised the town’s rise to fame as a centre of the global copper trade. This talk looks behind their successful image at some of the challenges and difficulties faced by the Vivians as they worked to establish their copper smelting business at Hafod. Drawing on evidence from the extensive Vivian correspondence held at the National Library of Wales, their efforts to produce high quality copper and to build up a substantial customer base for their products will be explored alongside their relationships with Swansea’s other leading copper firms.

All activities are free.

Community groups in Swansea ‘feel undervalued’ …

15 January 2017

Volunteers and community groups which have taken on services to stop Swansea council from axing them feel undervalued, a report has said.

The finding was made during a review into how the council can help residents run services in their own communities.

About 75 have been taken on by groups including community centres, recreation areas and clubs.

The report to this week’s cabinet said more needs to be done to recognise their good work.

Thirty-nine community centres are run by voluntary management committees along with six bowls clubs including the main Swansea bowls centre and Swansea Bowls Association – an umbrella group for smaller clubs.

On top of that, there are about 30 “friends of parks” groups which work in partnership with the council carrying out litter picks, reporting maintenance issues and putting on events.

Talks are also taking place about the future of sports pitches as the council continues to look at ways of making savings.

“There was a consistent message from our evidence gathering that many community volunteers and community groups do not feel valued either by their communities or by the council,” the councillor-led scrutiny panel report said.

“We believe that recognition for the work of volunteers is important not just because this is the right thing to do, but also because it provides encouragement and it lets them know that they have the support and backing of the council and the wider community.”

The report also found some people see handing services over to communities as a “threat rather than an opportunity”.

There was also “concern” raised by some about the level of service being provided if the council is not involved and the longer term sustainability of projects because of the current age of many volunteers.

Ten recommendations have been made including publicly promoting the roles of volunteers and creating an award category in the annual Lord Mayor’s Awards.

In response to the report, Mark Child, cabinet member for wellbeing and healthy city, said: “Community groups and volunteers are often the lifeblood of their communities. Without them we’d all be poorer.”

He added: “Community groups have a great track record of achievement.

“An important part of this is that they are often embedded in their neighbourhoods so it means they’re better able to shape services so they meet the needs and expectations of local residents.”

Hotel idea for Swansea’s Hafod copperworks site

Plans to regenerate Swansea’s former Hafod copperworks site could also include a hotel and leisure complex.

Heritage Lottery funding has already been granted to set up a distillery and visitor centre to attract up to 50,000 visitors per year.

But a hotel complex has been earmarked by Swansea council which would also be used by sports fans attending matches at the nearby Liberty Stadium .

Council leader Rob Stewart said there was an “opportunity” for the scheme.

The copperworks dominated the world copper market for 150 years, but has lain derelict since 1980.

CU@Swansea, a partnership between the council and Swansea University, has been working since 2010 to preserve the buildings and heritage of the Grade II-listed works.

Along with those works, which form part of the Tawe corridor regeneration strategy, the Penderyn distillery would be the centrepiece of the project.

The hotel would be built on land which is used as a car park on match days for the Liberty.

Riverside homes, restaurants and water sports facilities make up the rest of the strategy.

Copperopolis: Swansea’s Heyday, Decline and Regeneration – Professor Huw Bowen talk …

16 March: In the second lecture of the 2016 History of Capitalism series, Huw Bowen, Professor of Modern History at Swansea University, explored the significance of Swansea, the city at the centre of a world-wide trade network in the 19th Century due to its dominance of world output of smelted copper. Introduced by Hywel Williams, Senior Adviser at the Legatum Institute.

More information:…

Last Hafod-Morfa walk this year . . .

Don’t forget our last guided walk for 2016 of the Hafod Morfa Copperworks will be on Wednesday 2nd November. The walk starts at 2:00 p.m. from the Swansea Museum Collection Centre situated in the Landore Park and Ride Car Park. There is no charge – but to book your place please phone the Museum Collection Centre on 01792- 467282.

‘Beauty and horror’ in the industrially scarred landscapes of South Wales …

These two links are from The Guardian, 24 October 2016.

John Vidal takes to the skies with US photographer J Henry Fair on an aerial toxic tour of south Wales –

The Hafod and Middle Bank Works, c. 1840. Note the ships far up the river

The Hafod and Middle Bank Works, c. 1840. Note the ships far up the river

Lower Swansea Valley with the wind blowing unusually from the east

Lower Swansea Valley with the wind blowing unusually from the east

White Rock Ferries talk, 21 October …

John Ashley will talk about the White Rock Ferries Families at Growing up in Victorian Swansea.

A history day presented in partnership with Swansea U3A and the  Historical Association, Swansea Branch, at the Waterfront Museum, Swansea Marina, on Friday 21 October, 11 am – 4.30 pm.

Entry is free. No need to register in advance but please don’t arrive halfway through a talk.

11.00    Welcome

11.05    Setting the scene: a snapshot of Swansea in 1849 (Sarah Goodall)

11.15    Child Paupers in the Swansea Workhouse (Bernard Lewis)

11.45    A Victorian Education in Mumbles (John Powell)

12.15    Victorian Street Food (Sarah Lever)

12.45    morning plenary

1.00    lunch break

2.00    Work opportunities

Monologue, The Victorian Parlourmaid (Debra John)

2.45    Life, leisure, labour – jobs for young people in Victorian Swansea (Sarah Gregory)

3.15    Copper and ferry families (John Ashley)

3.45    Leisure – Swansea Bay and the development of parks (Sarah Goodall)

4.00    Plenary session

4.30   Close