Swansea (Abertawe, "mouth of the Tawe") is a city and county in Wales. It is in the historic county boundaries of Glamorgan. Situated on the South Wales coast, the county area includes the Gower peninsula and the Lliw uplands. Swansea is the third most populous county in Wales after Cardiff and Rhondda Cynon Taff; and the second most populous city in Wales after Cardiff. According to Census 2001 data, Swansea was the 34th largest settlement in the United Kingdom, and the 25th largest urban area. Swansea grew significantly during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, becoming a centre of heavy industry.
The name Swansea is often said to come from "Sweyn's Ey" ("ey" being the Old Norse word for "island") but, as there is no island at Swansea, a more likely explanation is that it comes from "Sweyn" (a corruption of the Viking name "Sven") and "sey" ("sey" being an Old Norse word that can mean "inlet"). Consequently it is pronounced Swan's-y [ˡswɒnzi]) not Swan-sea. The name is thought to have originated in the period when the Vikings settled along the South Wales coast (Swansea is thought to have developed from a Viking trading post). The Welsh name, Aber Tawe, first appears in Welsh poems of the beginning of the 13th century.
The founder of Swansea is believed to be the Viking king of Denmark Sweyn Forkbeard who, in 1013, conquered the Anglo-Saxons of Wessex and Mercia, and who controlled a vast empire including southern England, Denmark and Norway. The earliest known form of the modern name is Sweynesse used in Swansea's first charter which was granted sometime between 1158–1184 by William de Newburgh, 3rd Earl of Warwick. The charter gave Swansea the status of a borough, granting the townsmen, called burgesses certain rights to develop the area. A second charter was granted in 1215 by King John. In this charter, the name appears as Sweyneshe. The town seal which is believed to date from this period names the town as Sweyse. Swansea was granted city status in 1969, to mark Prince Charles's investiture as the Prince of Wales. The announcement was made by the prince on 3 July 1969, during a tour of Wales. It obtained the further right to have a lord mayor in 1982.
The local government area is 378 km² (146 sq mi) in size, about 2% of the area of Wales. It includes a large amount of open countryside and a central urban and suburban belt.
Swansea can be roughly divided into four physical areas. To the north are the Lliw uplands which are mainly open moorland, reaching the foothills of the Black Mountain. To the west is the Gower peninsula with its rural landscape dotted with small villages. To the east is the coastal strip around Swansea Bay. Cutting though the middle from the south-east to the north-west is the urban and suburban zone stretching from the Swansea city centre to the towns of Gorseinon and Pontarddulais.
The most populated areas of Swansea are Morriston, Sketty and the city centre. The chief urbanised area radiates from the city centre towards the north, south and west; along the coast of Swansea Bay to Mumbles; up the Swansea Valley past Landore and Morriston to Clydach; over Townhill to Cwmbwrla, Penlan, Treboeth and Fforestfach; through Uplands, Sketty, Killay to Dunvant; and east of the river from St. Thomas to Bonymaen, Llansamlet and Birchgrove. A second urbanised area is focused on a triangle defined by Gowerton, Gorseinon and Loughor along with the satellite communities of Penllergaer and Pontarddulais.
About three quarters of Swansea is bordered by the sea—the Loughor Estuary, Swansea Bay and the Bristol Channel. The two largest rivers in the region are the Tawe which passes the city centre and the Loughor which flows on the northern border with Carmarthenshire.
In the local authority area, the geology is complex, providing diverse scenery. The Gower peninsula was the first area in the United Kingdom to be designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Excluding the urbanised area in the south-eastern corner of the county, the whole of the Gower peninsula is part of an AONB. Swansea has numerous urban and country parklands. The region has featured regularly in the Wales in Bloom awards.
The geology of the Gower peninsula ranges from carboniferous limestone cliffs along its southern edge from Mumbles to Worm's Head and the salt-marshes and dune systems of the Loughor estuary to the north. The eastern, southern and western coasts of the peninsula are lined with numerous sandy beaches both wide and small, separated by steep cliffs. The South Wales Coalfield reaches the coast in the Swansea area. This had a great bearing on the development of the city of Swansea and other towns in the county like Morriston. The inland area is covered by large swathes of grassland common overlooked by sandstone heath ridges including the prominent Cefn Bryn. The traditional agricultural landscape consists in a patchwork of fields characterised by walls, stone-faced banks and hedgerows. Valleys cut through the peninsula and contain rich deciduous woodland.
Much of the county is hilly with the main area of upland being located in the council ward of Mawr. Areas of high land up to 185 metres (600 ft) range across the central section of the county and form the hills of Kilvey, Townhill and Llwynmawr, separating the centre of Swansea from its northern suburbs. Cefn Bryn, a ridge of high land, forms the backbone of the Gower peninsula. Rhossili Down, Hardings Down and Llanmadoc Hill form land features over 600 ft high. The highest point of the county is located at Penlle'r Castell at 374 metres (1215 ft) on the northern border with Carmarthenshire.
From 1804 until the 1920s, Swansea experienced continuous population growth. The 1930s and 1940s was a period of slight decline. In the 1950s and 1960s the population grew and then fell in the 1970s. The population grew again in the 1980s only to fall again in the 1990s. In the 2000s, so far, Swansea is experiencing a small amount of population growth.
The population of the Swansea urban area within the unitary authority boundaries in 2001 was about 169,880. The other urban area within the unitary authority, centred on Gorseinon, had a population of 19,273 in 2001. However, the wider urban area including most of Swansea Bay has a total population of 270,506 (making it the 25th largest urban area in England and Wales).
Archaeology on the Gower peninsula includes many remains from prehistoric times, passing through Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age. Prehistoric finds are rare in the Swansea city area. The Romans visited the area, as did the Vikings, whose name for the settlement on the river is used in English today.
Following the Norman Conquest, a marcher lordship was created. Named Gower, it included land around Swansea Bay as far as the Tawe, and the manor of Kilvey beyond the Tawe, as well as the peninsula itself. Swansea was designated its chief town and subsequently received one of the earlier borough charters in Wales.
Swansea became an important port, shipping some coal and vast amounts of limestone (for fertiliser) out from the town by 1550. As the Industrial Revolution reached Wales, the combination of port, local coal, and trading links with the West Country, Cornwall and Devon, meant that Swansea was the logical place to site copper smelting works. Smelters were operating by 1720 and proliferated.
Following this, more coal mines (everywhere from north-east Gower to Clyne and Llangyfelach) were opened and smelters (mostly along the Tawe valley) were opened and flourished. Over the next century and a half, works were established to process arsenic, zinc and tin and to create tinplate and pottery. The city expanded rapidly in the 18th and 19th centuries, and was termed "Copperopolis".
From the late 17th century to 1801, Swansea's population grew by 500%—the first official census (in 1841) indicated that, with 6,099 inhabitants, Swansea had become significantly larger than Glamorgan's county town, Cardiff, and was the second most populous town in Wales behind Merthyr Tydfil (which had a population of 7,705). However, the census understated Swansea's true size, as much of the built-up area lay outside the contemporary boundaries of the borough; the total population was actually 10,117. Swansea's population was later overtaken by Merthyr in 1821 and by Cardiff in 1881, although in the latter year Swansea once again surpassed Merthyr. Much of Swansea's growth was due to migration from within and beyond Wales—in 1881, more than a third of the borough's population had been born outside Swansea and Glamorgan, and just under a quarter outside Wales.
Through the 20th century, heavy industries in the town declined, leaving the Lower Swansea Valley filled with derelict works and mounds of waste products from them. The Lower Swansea Valley Scheme (which still continues) reclaimed much of the land. The present Enterprise Zone was the result and, of the many original docks, only those outside the city continue to work as docks; North Dock is now Parc Tawe and South Dock became the Marina.
Little city-centre evidence, beyond parts of the road layout, remains from medieval Swansea; its industrial importance made it the target of bombing, known as the Blitz in World War II, and the centre was flattened completely. The city has three Grade One listed buildings, these being the Guildhall, Swansea Castle and the Morriston Tabernacle.
Whilst the city itself has a long history, many of the city centre buildings are post-war as much of the original centre was destroyed by World War II bombing on the 19th, 20th and 21st of February 1941 (the 'Three Nights Blitz'). Within the city centre are the ruins of the castle, the Marina, the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea Museum, the Dylan Thomas Centre, the Environmental Centre, and the Market, which is the largest covered market in Wales. It backs onto the Quadrant shopping centre which opened in 1978 and the adjoining St David's Centre opened in 1982. Other notable modern buildings are the BT Tower (formerly the GPO tower) built around 1970, Alexandra House built in 1976, County Hall built in 1982. Swansea Leisure Centre opened in 1977; it has undergone extensive refurbishment which retained elements of the original structure and re-opened in March 2008. Behind it stands the National Waterfront Museum, opened in October 2005.
On 27 June 1906, one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded in the UK during the twentieth century struck Swansea with a strength of 5.2 on the Richter Scale. Earthquakes in the UK very rarely cause any structural damage as most occur away from heavily populated areas but, with the earthquake centred on Swansea, many taller buildings were damaged.
There are a number of theatres in the city and the surrounding areas. The Grand Theatre in the centre of the city is a Victorian theatre which celebrated its centenary in 1997 and which has a capacity of a little over a thousand people. It was opened by the celebrated opera singer Adelina Patti and was refurbished from 1983–1987. The annual programme ranges from pantomime and drama to opera and ballet. A new wing of the Grand, the Arts Wing, has a studio suitable for smaller shows, with a capacity of about 200. The Taliesin building on the university campus has a theatre, opened in 1984. Other theatres include the Dylan Thomas Theatre (formerly the Little Theatre) near the marina, and one in Penyrheol Leisure Centre near Gorseinon.Fluellen Theatre Company is a professional theatre company based in Swansea performing regularly at the Grand Theatre. In the summer, outdoor Shakespeare performances are a regular feature at Oystermouth Castle, and Singleton Park is the venue for a number of parties and concerts, from dance music to outdoor Proms. Although Pontardawe is outside the city boundaries, the trip from Swansea to Pontardawe for the annual folk festival is a short one. Another folk festival is held on Gower. Standing near Victoria Park on the coast road is the Patti Pavilion; this was the Winter Garden from Adelina Patti's Craig-y-Nos estate in the upper Swansea valley, which she donated to the town in 1918. It is used as a venue for music shows and fairs. The Brangwyn Hall is a multi-use venue with events such as the graduation ceremonies for Swansea University. Every autumn, Swansea hosts a Festival of Music and the Arts, when international orchestras and soloists visit the Brangwyn Hall. The Brangwyn Hall is praised for its acoustics for recitals, orchestral pieces and chamber music alike..
45% of the rural council ward Mawr speak Welsh, as do 38% of the ward of Pontarddulais. Clydach, Kingsbridge and Upper Loughor all have levels of more than 20%. By contrast, the urban St. Thomas has one of the lowest figures in Wales, at 6.4%, a figure only barely lower than Penderry and Townhill wards.
On the literary stage, the poet Dylan Thomas is perhaps the best-known. He was born in the town and grew up at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Uplands. There is a memorial to him in the nearby Cwmdonkin Park; his take on Swansea was that it was an "ugly lovely town". In the 1930s Thomas was a member of a group of local artists, writers and musicians known as The Kardomah Gang.
Other former residents include:
There are a number of sporting venues in Swansea. St Helen's is a cricket and rugby ground. It is the home of Swansea RFC and Glamorgan County Cricket Club play some matches there. It was in this ground that Sir Garfield Sobers hit six sixes in one over: the first time this was achieved in a game of first-class cricket. The final ball landed on the ground past the Cricketers' pub just outside the ground. The stadium is metres from the coast of Swansea Bay. Strong local rivalries exist between Swansea and Cardiff in football and between Swansea and Llanelli in rugby.
Swansea City A.F.C. moved from the Vetch Field to the new Liberty Stadium at the start of the 2005–2006 season, winning promotion to League One in their final year at their old home. The first game at the new stadium was a football friendly against Fulham which ended 1-1 on 23 July.
In 2003, Swansea RFC merged with Neath RFC to form the Neath-Swansea Ospreys rugby club. Swansea RFC remained at St Helen's in semi-professional form, but the Ospreys moved to the then-named New Stadium in Landore for the start of the 2005–2006 season. The final Ospreys match at St Helen's was played on the same day as the final Swans league game at the Vetch on 30 April 2005. Neath-Swansea rugby games used to be hotly-contested matches, such that there was some debate about whether a team incorporating both areas was possible. In fact the Neath-Swansea Ospreys seem to be the most successful club since Welsh rugby's reorganisation, coming fifth in the Celtic League in their first year of existence and topping that league in their second year.
The Swansea Bowls Stadium opened in early 2008. The stadium will host the World Indoor Singles and Mixed Pairs Championship from 16 April to 20 April 2008.
Swansea, like Wales in general, has seen many non-conformist religious revivals. In 1904, Evan Roberts, a miner from Loughor (Llwchwr), just outside Swansea, was the leader of what has been called one of the world's greatest Protestant religious revivals. Within a few months about 100,000 people were converted. This revival in particular had a profound effect on Welsh society. The "Welsh Revival" of 1904 is acknowledged as having been an instigator of, and a major influence on the twentieth century's Pentecostal movement. One of its first overseas influences was seen in the African American church: the Azusa Street Revival, beginning 9 April 1906 at Los Angeles, USA. It has been said that 25% of the world's Christians (usually Protestant Pentecostals or Charismatics) are Christians as a direct result of the 1904 revival in Swansea.
Swansea was once a staunch stronghold of the Labour which, until 2004, had overall control of the council for 24 years. The Liberal Democrats are the largest group in the administration that took control of Swansea Council in the 2004 local elections. For 2007/2008, the Lord Mayor of Swansea is councillor Susan Waller.
Friendship link with:
Swansea originally developed as centre for metals and mining, especially the copper industry, from the beginning of the 18th century. The industry reached its apogee in the 1880s, when 60% of the copper ores imported to Britain were smelted in the Lower Swansea valley. However, by the end of the Second World War these heavy industries were in decline, and over the post-war decades Swansea shared in the general trend towards a post-industrial, service sector economy.
Today, the most important economic sectors in Swansea are public administration, education and health; distribution, hotels and restaurants; and banking, finance and insurance. Much large scale private sector economic activity in the city consists of either manufacturing, call centres or other commercial back office functions including outsourcing. In addition to being a holiday resort, Swansea is also a commercial centre, and the recently regenerated dock areas are home to some cutting-edge hi-tech industries. One of the best-known employers in Swansea is the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. Relative to the UK as a whole, Swansea (and Wales) lacks high quality professional and managerial jobs in the private sector, reflecting a phenomenon often described as a 'branch factory' economy where companies locate production or service delivery facilities in one area while placing head office functions elsewhere. However, while average earnings in Swansea are below the Welsh and UK figures, this does not necessarily reflect a gap in living standards since the cost of living varies geographically.
Swansea University has a campus in Singleton Park overlooking Swansea Bay. Its engineering department is recognised as a centre of excellence with pioneering work on computational techniques for solving engineering design problems. The Department of Physics is renowned for its research achievements at the frontiers of Theoretical Physics, particularly in the areas of Elementary Particle Physics and String Theory. And many other departments such as History, Computer Science and German were awarded an "Excellent" in the last inspection. The university was awarded the Times Higher Education Supplement Award for the UK's "best student experience" in 2005. Other establishments for further and higher education in the city include Swansea Metropolitan University and Swansea College, with Gorseinon College seven miles (11 km) outside the city. Swansea Metropolitan University (formerly Swansea Institute of Higher Education) is particularly well-known for its Architectural Glass department; stained glass being a long time speciality.
In the local authority area, there is one nursery school; six infant schools and five junior schools. There are 77 primary schools, nine of which are Welsh-Medium, and six of which are voluntary aided. There are 15 comprehensive schools under the remit of the local education authority, of which two are Welsh-medium. In addition, there are six special schools.
The oldest school in Swansea is Bishop Gore School. The largest comprehensive school in Swansea is the Olchfa School. There is one Roman Catholic comprehensive school in the county - Bishop Vaughan Catholic Comprehensive School. The Welsh medium schools are Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Gŵyr and Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Bryn Tawe.
Independent schools in Swansea include Ffynone House School, Oakleigh House School and Craig-y-Nos School.
Top performing secondary schools in Swansea Borough, (5 GCSEs, grade A-C, according to the latest inspection report from Estyn)
Top performing secondary schools in City and County of Swansea, based on 5 GCSEs, A-C Grade, according to the latest inspection reports from Estyn
Alongside the national BBC and commercial radio services (Classic FM, Absolute Radio and Talksport), Swansea is served by three local radio stations, The Wave on 96.4 FM, Swansea Sound on 1170 AM and Swansea Bay Radio on 102.1 FM. The area is also covered by the two South Wales regional stations, Real Radio on 106.0 FM and Nation Radio on 107.3 FM, as well as by the Welsh-national stations BBC Radio Wales on 93.9 FM and Welsh language service BBC Radio Cymru on 104.2 FM. Swansea University also run its own radio station, Xtreme Radio, on 1431 AM.
Swansea is one of the few regions in Wales with reasonable digital radio coverage, and this was improved further in January 2005 with the launch of the Swansea DAB multiplex, which carries seven services including The Wave, Swansea Sound, BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru. The regional service Real Radio is also available digitally in the area via the MXR Severn Estuary multiplex.
Swansea is primarily served terrestrially by the Kilvey Hill transmitter, which provides digital terrestrial TV and DAB as well as analogue radio and TV. It is also in the catchment area of the Wenvoe transmitter (based in the Vale of Glamorgan) and the Carmel transmitter in Carmarthenshire.
Swansea plays host to the BeyondTV Film Festival. BeyondTV is annual event organised by independent filmmakers Undercurrents to showcase the best of activism filmmakers. Independent filmmakers Undercurrents and Studio8 are based in Swansea.
Swansea has been used as a filming location for the film Twin Town and the TV serials Mine All Mine and Doctor Who. It is the first city in Wales to feature in a version of the board game Monopoly. The Swansea Edition of Monopoly features 33 landmarks around swansea including the Mumbles Pier and the National Waterfront Museum.
There was a high rate of car crime during the 1990s. The BBC has described Swansea as a "black spot for car crime", for example. However, over the past few years, there seems to have been a decline in car crime, possibly due to national media awareness or economic trends. Car crime is a central theme in the film Twin Town, which is set in and around Swansea.
The football violence that Swansea experienced during the 1970s-1990s has considerably reduced, the only major clashes occurring between Swansea City supporters and Cardiff City supporters. Many matches between these sides have ended in violence in both Swansea and Cardiff. These two clubs have a long history of intense rivalry, being described in the media as tribal.
Swansea is also experiencing a growing drug problem, with teenage heroin use on the rise.
Bus routes within Swansea are predominately by First and Veolia Transport Cymru with most originating from Swansea Bus Station. Veolia Transport Cymru operates the rural services around the Gower peninsula and the Lliw Valley branded Gower Explorer and Lliw Link respectively. First, however, intends to introduce a service of 37-seater hybrid buses on one set route between Morriston Hospital and the Civic Centre, which will probably speed up journeys and minimise delays by having passengers pay for their tickets at bus stops before boarding. First operates a shuttle bus (Service 100) to Cardiff Central bus station calling at Bridgend Designer Outlet. Swansea is on the X40 Cardiff to Aberystwyth TrawsCambria bus route connecting the west and south of Wales. National Express serves Swansea operating eastbound to Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport, London, Birmingham, Cardiff and Bristol, and westbound to Llanelli, Carmarthen and Haverfordwest.
There are four dedicated cycle routes in the county area:
A new bridge was completed in November 2007 over the Fabian Way. It provides a new express bus-only lane incorporating a shared-use pedestrian and cycle way. The bus lane serves the Fabian Way Park and Ride facility.
Swansea railway station, is located 10 minutes from Swansea Bus Station by foot. Services calling at Swansea operate to Llanelli, Carmarthen, Milford Haven and Haverfordwest, Shrewsbury to the north, and Cardiff Central (for connections to England and beyond), Newport High Street and London Paddington to the east. There are also stations in Gowerton, Llansamlet and in Pontarddulais which are served by Arriva Trains Wales.
Swansea Airport is a minor airport situated in the Gower providing recreational flights only. Further development of the airport is strongly resisted by the local communities and environmental groups. Swansea is served by Cardiff International Airport, east, in the Vale of Glamorgan, which provides scheduled domestic and international flights. It is approximately 40 minutes away by road or 70 minutes by rail. Pembrey Airport, to the west offers charter flights to a few European destinations.
Swansea Marina to the south of the city centre has berths for 410 leisure boats. An addition 200 berths for leisure boats are located near the mouth of the River Tawe. Further leisure boating berths are being constructed at the Prince of Wales Dock in the Swansea Docks complex. The Swansea Docks complex is owned and operated by Associated British Ports and is used to handle a range of cargo ranging from agribulks and coal to timber and steel. Swansea Docks consists of three floating docks and a ferry terminal.
There are some groups trying to bring trams back to Swansea one example is Trams4Swansea.
The beaches at Langland, Caswell and Limeslade are used by swimmers and tourists with children, whereas Swansea Bay tends to attract water-sport enthusiasts. Coastal paths connect most of the Gower bays and Swansea Bay itself, and can attract hikers to the countryside views throughout the year. Although little known on the tourist map, areas north of Swansea offer various panoramas of mountain landscapes. The former fishing village of Mumbles (located on the western edge of Swansea Bay) has a Victorian pier and a number of restaurants, pubs and coffee shops. The promenade at Mumbles offers a panoramic view of Swansea Bay.
Prior to closure in 2003, Swansea Leisure Centre was one of the top ten visitor attractions in the UK. It has been redeveloped as an indoor waterpark and was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 7 March 2008.. The Wales National Pool is based in Swansea.
There are also alternative bars and clubs located in the city centre, with some having live music from local bands. The Office, Sin City, Crowleys, Milkwood Jam and Inferno are the rock clubs sometimes playing live music. There is also a Jazz club, Jazzland.
Oxwich Bay on the Gower peninsula was named the most beautiful beach in Britain by travel writers who visited more than 1,000 around the world in search of the perfect sands (2007). The Travel Magazine praised Oxwich for "magnificent and unspoilt" scenery and as a "great place for adults and children to explore". It boasts over three miles (5 km) of soft, golden sands, making it the ideal family getaway. Not surprisingly, The Guardian named it one of Britain's blue-ribband top 10 category beaches (2007). The Independent newspaper hailed Rhossili Bay as "the British supermodel of beaches" (2006) and the best beach in Britain for breathtaking cliffs (2007), whilst The Sunday Times listed it as one of the 25 best beaches in the world (2006). Thanks to its clear air and lovely golden sand, this romantic stretch of sand was voted the best place in the UK to watch the sun set (Country Living magazine 2005) and one the top romantic spots in the country (The Guardian 2007). Nearby Llangennith Beach, with its soft sands, consistent beach break and great facilities, was listed as the best place to learn how to surf in Britain by The Observer (2006) and one of the 10 'classic surfing beaches by The Guardian (2007) . Gower also claims Britain's Best Beach, Three Cliffs Bay. The Gower landmark topped the BBC Holiday Hit Squad nationwide competition (2006) and was voted Britain's best camping beach by The Independent thanks to its superb setting and quiet location (2007). Three Cliffs Bay also made the final of the ITV series Britain's Favourite View - the only nomination in Wales and backed by singer Katherine Jenkins. Nearby Brandy Cove came sixth in an online poll to find the UK's top beach for the baby boomer generation (2006). Beaches which won 2006 Blue Flag Beach Awards are: Bracelet Bay, Caswell Bay, Langland Bay, Port Eynon Bay and Swansea Marina (one of the few Blue Flag Marinas in Wales). All of these beaches also won a Seaside Award 2006. Limeslade was awarded the Rural Seaside Award and the Green Coast Award. Other Green Coast Awards went to Pwll Du, Rhossili Bay and Tor Bay.
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