Tag Archives: White Rock

Swansea High Street: new project to gather memories of its vibrant history

Connected Communities Project – News


Swansea High Street: new project to gather memories of its vibrant history

A new collaborative project has been launched to explore and celebrate the rich history of one of Swansea’s most famous streets, High Street. Swansea Scenes – Cymraeg.

Led by Music Art Digital Swansea and supported by Swansea University’s Connected Communities Programme and the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Swansea Scenes oral history project will focus on uncovering and documenting the history of the communities who have used the social spaces of High Street since the 1800s – from music halls and Wales’ first cinema, to Wales’ first gay club and live music pubs. 

The memories and materials gathered by the Swansea Scenes project will be detailed in a feature-length documentary film, a digital archive, and a virtual museum located at various places across the city, using the latest technology to provide spaces with digital content that is linked to a specific geographical area.

The project will feature some of High Street’s best-known buildings:

The Grade II-listed Palace Theatre was built in 1888 and hosted the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Morecambe and Wise, and was the site of Oscar-winner Sir Anthony Hopkins’s first stage appearance in 1960. The iconic building has had a chequered existence, being used as a theatre, cinema, makeshift morgue during the Blitz, a gay nightclub, bingo hall, and a dance club in the 90s. It was also the first venue in Swansea to show moving pictures.

The Elysium Building opened in 1914 as a cinema on one level and a club for the town’s working men on another. It also contained a ballroom and a ladies reading room. The cinema closed in 1960, with the whole building eventually closing 1994. It remains derelict to this day.

The Bush Hotel, a Grade II listed Georgian building, was used by Oliver Cromwell in the 17th century, after horse racing at Crymlyn Burrows. In 1804 investors met at The Bush to discuss establishing the Mumbles train, and it is said to be the last Swansea pub in which Dylan Thomas drank before leaving for the USA. The building has now been demolished.

Working in collaboration with the Connected Communities Project, Swansea Scenes will look to train a core team of 15 local volunteers in heritage, oral history, filmmaking and digital design and development.

The Swansea Scenes project forms part of the Connected Communities Programme that researches and celebrates the history of communities across the Swansea Valley, and has been developed by at the Research Institute for Arts and Humanities (RIAH) and the history department at Swansea University.

Please visit the Connected Communities website above or visit the project on Facebook for more information: @SwanseaScenes.

Best wishes,

Kate Spiller
Impact and Engagement Officer | Swyddog Effaith ac Ymgysylltu
Research Hub for Arts, Humanities and Law | Canolfan Ymchwil y Celfyddydau, y Dyniaethau a’r Gyfraith
Research, Engagement and Innovation Services | Gwasanaethau Ymchwil, Ymgysylltu ac Arloesi

Swansea University | Prifysgol Abertawe

Direct Tel | Ffon Uniongyrchol +44 (0)1792 606587
Email | Ebost k.spiller@swansea.ac.uk

www.swansea.ac.uk | www.abertawe.ac.uk

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.

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: http://www.li.com/events/copperopolis…

‘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 – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/24/industrial-scars-landscapes-of-south-wales-toxic-j-henry-fair

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

Old Dy’vorians Association Lecture at the UWTSD Dynevor Campus on 20th October at 7-00 pm …

Distinguished TV scientist to deliver annual lecture in Swansea

Distinguished scientist, award-winning author and TV presenter Professor Richard Fortey FRS FRSL, will deliver the annual Old Dy’vorians Association Lecture at the UWTSD Dynevor Campus on 20th October at 7-00 pm.  Professor Fortey1 will be speaking about his new book, The Wood for the Trees2, published earlier this year.

Professor Fortey said:

“I had dreamed of having my own piece of woodland for many years, but somehow there was never enough cash in the bank. In 2011, thanks to fronting a BBC4 television series based upon one of my books, I was suddenly solvent enough to turn that dream into reality.  We purchased a small patch of classical beech and bluebell ancient woodland in the Chiltern Hills.

“I soon realised that to understand the natural history of the woodland we had to explore its human history. Far from being “wildwood” it had been managed by the same estate for nearly a millennium. The wood became a research project, and this talk summarises some of our discoveries: everything from geology to a ghost story.

“Now I have a clearer view of what makes “nature” in our small island. I have learned to see the wood for the trees.

Professor Fortey was Keeper of Palaeontology at the Natural History Museum, London and President of the Geological Society of London during its bicentenary in 2007.  In 1993, his first trade book, The Hidden Landscape, was named the Natural World Book of the Year.  He won the Lewis Thomas Prize for science writing (2003) and in 2006 won the Royal Society’s Michael Faraday Prize for public communication of science.

His eight major popular science books also include, Life: An Unauthorised Biography (1998), shortlisted for the Rhône-Poulenc Prize, and (2001), Trilobite!: Eyewitness to Evolution, shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize, the UK’s most prestigious non-fiction award.  In 2005 Earth: an Intimate History was shortlisted for the Royal Society’s Aventis prize for science books. Life: an Unauthorised Biography was listed as one of ten ‘Books of the Year’ by the New York Times.  He has also written humorous books (sometimes anonymously) and comic verses about dinosaurs for children.

His many television appearances include: in 2012, the BBC 4 series Survivors: Nature’s Indestructible Creatures, which took a global look at modern-day species whose ancestors survived mass extinction events in the Earth’s history.  In 2013 he presented the BBC 4 programme The Secret Life of Rock Pools.  In 2014, he presented the BBC 4 three-part series Fossil Wonderlands: Nature’s Hidden Treasures, when he travelled to fossil sites to learn more about the distant past.  That year he also presented The Magic of Mushrooms, in which he showed that fungi (another major enthusiasm) had close but still poorly understood inter-relationships with plants and animals.  Earlier this year he presented the three-part series Nature’s Wonderlands: Islands of Evolution on BBC 2.


Lecture: ‘The Wood for the Trees’

Speaker: Professor Richard Fortey FRS FRSL

Venue: Dynevor Campus, University of Wales Trinity St David’s, De la Beche Street, Swansea.

Date: Thursday, 20th October.

Time: 6-00 pm (Complimentary refreshments in the Dynevor Cafe) for 7-00 pm (Start of Lecture in the Samuel Roberts Lecture Theatre).

Tickets:  The lecture is FREE.  No ticket required.


Mr Phill Davies (Secretary, ODA) Tel: 01792 883978   E: phillipdavies47@btinternet.com.

Dr Ted Nield (President, ODA) T: 07815 146676.  E: geoscribe@yahoo.co.uk.


  1. A print-quality photo of Professor Fortey is available on request from nield@geolsoc.org.uk or geoscribe@yahoo.co.uk.
  2. The Wood for the Trees: The Long View of Nature from a Small Wood, by Richard Fortey. Published by William Collins (2016, ISBN 978-0-00-810466-5).