A Brief History of Swansea

Swansea is the largest city in Wales and the twenty-fifth largest city in Great Britain. Its history and fate are extremely similar to that of Cardiff, but there are several things that are unique to Swansea as well.

The earliest traces of life around the area that is now the city of Swansea date back to the Stone age, Bronze age, and Iron age. The territory was mostly inhabited by indigenous people, but given the coastal placement, there was a constant flow of migrants during this time as well. The Romans have also entered the Swansea gulf, proof being a villa’s ruins that were discovered around this area. However, no Roman forts were built here as there were in Cardiff, so Swansea was way less exposed to the Roman influence. However, The Norsemen, also known as Vikings, which were responsible for constant raids during the next couple of centuries, are said to be responsible for the city’s name. The name of Swansea is said to come from Old Norse Sveinsey, which meant something along the lines of Sveinn’s Island. This traces back to a certain Danish King, who also bore the name of Sweyn, and who is considered to be one of the founders of Swansea.

In the early 10th century, Swansea was occupied by the Normans, which encouraged English migration to this area. It is then that the first timber castle was built in Swansea, also by the Normans. However, the Welsh assaulted the establishment and burned it to the ground several decades later. In the 13th century, the famous Breos family took over Swansea, rebuild the original castle in stone, and reigned over the town for a couple centuries after.

Swansea is an important port for the whole country – and its importance grew even higher during the modern times. It was the primary source of limestone for the Wales area but also had a booming industry. Using several coal and ore mines around the town, Swansea established itself as an industrial city. Copper extraction around this area was so productive that the town gained the name of Copperopolis during the Industrial Revolution time. Another productive industry in the city was pottery, which used up a considerable amount of coal that was extracted from the nearby mines. Swansea was also a prominent spot on the Mumbles Railway, which connected the most important industrial spots in Wales.

Much like any other town in Great Britain, Swansea didn’t do too well during the Victorian Era – forced labour and child labour were the norm, living conditions for the workforce were poor, food and water quality was scarce. The city was also hit by several epidemics during the 19th century, including cholera and yellow fever.

In the 20th century, Swansea’s industry went into decline. The second world war brought the town in the visor of the German bombers, who launched attacks on Swansea because of its economic importance. As a result, most of Swansea was burned to the ground by 1941 and was rebuilt in classical 50s British style.