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The History of Swansea Jack

Swansea Jack was a black retriever with a longish coat. He was similar in appearance to a modern Flat-Coated Retriever,but was instead identified at the time as a Newfoundland dog, despite being considerably smaller and lighter in build than the typical modern Newfoundland dog, possibly because he was reported to have been born in Newfoundland. He lived in the North Dock / River Tawe area of Swansea with his master, William Thomas. Jack would always respond to cries for help from the water, diving into the water and pulling whoever was in difficulty to safety at the dockside.

His first rescue, in June 1931, when he saved a 12-year-old boy, went unreported. A few weeks later, this time in front of a crowd, Jack rescued a swimmer from the docks. His photograph appeared in the local paper and the local council awarded him a silver collar. In 1936, he had the prestigious ‘Bravest Dog of the Year’ award bestowed upon him by the London Star newspaper.

He received a silver cup from the Lord Mayor of London and he is still the only dog to have been awarded two bronze medals (‘the canine V.C.’) by the National Canine Defence League (now known as Dogs Trust). Legend has it that in his lifetime he saved 27 people from the Docks / River Tawe. Swansea Jack died in October 1937 after eating rat poison.

His burial monument, paid for by public subscription, is located on the Promenade in Swansea near St. Helen’s Rugby Ground. In 2000, Swansea Jack was named ‘Dog of the Century’ by NewFound Friends of Bristol who train domestic dogs in aquatic rescue techniques.

A pub on Oystermouth road, close to the jail in Swansea is named Swansea Jack, in honour of the dog and the nickname for natives of Swansea is “Swansea Jack’s”.

The nickname for Swansea City AFC, the only premiership football club in Wales, is “The Swans” but their offical website is called the Jack Mag and their supporters are known as the Jack army.


It is believed that this name stems from the famous dog. Others claim that the derivation is from the nickname given to Swansea’s sailors, who had a reputation as skilled and dependable mariners. Another theory is that the coal miners of nearby coalfields called the miners from Swansea “Jacks” because their lunch-boxes were uniquely made of Swansea tin and called Jacks.

Weddings in Gower Hill House self catering holiday cottage is ideally situated to accommodate guests attending weddings in Gower at any of the numerous wedding venues situated on the Gower peninsula and in the city of Swansea area. Ocean View, Old Walls Leisure, Llanrhidian Park, King Arthur Hotel, Oxwich Bay Hotel, etc. Its hard to believe just how many establishments there are on the Gower peninsula that are licensed to perform marriage ceremonies and provide wedding reception facilities. The major players in the ‘Weddings in Gower’ business are shown on the map below but there are also a small number[...]

Gower Folk Festival

The Gower folk festival is held every year in June at the Greyhound Inn, Oldwalls, Llanrhidian. It is organised by the Halfpenny Folk club that meets on the first Sunday of every month at The Greyhound Inn.

In 2016 the 23rd Gower Folk Festival will be held on the 10th to the 12th June.

Gower Folk Festival is unique, with fantastic music set amidst the scenery of Gower. This is an area of outstanding natural beauty with sandy beaches, ruined castles and wild ponies, all within walking distance of the festival. The festivals atmosphere is legendary, both audience and performers are members of an exclusive musical party taking place in a very special location. Tickets are limited to 350-400, so you’ll soon get to know everyone. Camping is provided on site, so there will be nothing easier than sliding out of your tent into a workshop or concert…

The artists performance area is in a marquee that can accommodate all ticket holders and the folk music workshops are held in a separate tents. The marquee, workshop tent, and camping area are all within the grounds of the Greyhound Inn.

The festival also can’t happen without a wide variety of people helping out, so if you have been to the festival before, know the area and fancy volunteering, please get in touch

For all information on the festival visit the Gower Folk Festival’s website

The Greyhound Inn is a traditional 19th century inn with a welcoming atmosphere. There is a well-stocked bar offering real ales from its own Microbrewery – The Gower Brewery Company. An extensive bar menu is served from noon until 9pm Monday to Saturday and 3pm to 9pm Sundays. From 12.00 until 2.30pm on Sundays a traditional roast dinner is served, with the option of a vegetarian alternative. The food is home-cooked and, wherever possible, locally sourced. Specials at the Greyhound regularly include locally caught sea bass and Gower saltmarsh lamb.

Visit the Greyhound Inn website
Visit the Gower Brewery website
Visit the Halfpenny Folk Club website

The Gower Walking Festival

The Gower Walking Festival is a non profit organisation entirely run by volunteers. All funds raised are used to pay for the annual festival brochure (walk programme), posters, flyers and website. Without volunteers there would be no festival, so we hope that as you enjoy your walk or activity you may wish to consider joining us. We are always looking for people to help, so if you would like to find out more please let us know. You can use the form on the Contact page to ask for details.

The festival is normally held in June and this years festival programme will be published later this year.

Full details can be found on the Gower Walking Festival’s website.


Gower Golf Clubs

There are five Gower golf clubs located on the peninsula. Pennard, Langland Bay, Fairwood Park, Clyne and the Gower Golf and Country Club. The courses are all within easy reach of Hill House and re all within 5 miles of each other. The Langland Bay golf club is especially suitable if you have non playing members in your party. They can relax and sun themselves on the beach at Langland or Caswell bay. There is also a driving range and 9 hole course at Gowerton and for the novice or less able golfer the Ashley Road pitch and put course is ideal. This is located close to the boating lake at Singleton, with its very own crazy golf course, and the Lido at Blackpill that provides relaxing entertainment for the non playing members of your party.


Langland Bay Golf Club

There are great views and there are great golf courses, rarely do they come together with such perfection as they do at Langland Bay. Telephone: 01792 361721

Pennard Golf Club

Pennard is a magnificent links course situated 8 miles west of Swansea, with spectacular views over Three Cliffs Bay on the Gower Peninsula. Telephone: 01792 233131

Fairwood Park Golf Club

Fairwood Park is set in 150 acres of fabulous woodland and parkland countryside and to this day remains the only golf course within the County of Swansea to have ever hosted a PGA event. Telephone: 01792 297849

The Gower Golf Club

One of the most stunning courses in Wales Telephone: 01792 872480

Clyne Golf Club

Clyne is listed among Peter Alliss’s 200 best golf courses in the British Isles and the course enjoys commanding views in all directions. Indeed, Peter’s father Percy Alliss was Clyne’s first professional in 1920. Telephone: 01792 401989

Gowerton Golf Range

2 Baskets of golf balls with free club hire for £6.00. 9 hole Par 3 Golf, Driving Range, Fishing Lake & Cafe. No membership required. Friendly staff. Free parking. Telephone: 01792 875188

Ashley Road Pitch and Putt

Alongside the promenade, between Singleton boating lake and Blackpill, the course has no handicap requirements and equipment can be hired for a minimal fee. It’s ideal for beginners of all ages and those who just want to have some fun. Just turn up, pay and play. Telephone: 01792 207544



Gower Surf Schools

Surfing compares with similar sports like snowboarding/skiing in that the very basic skills can be learned in a day but more tuition time is needed to learn control and intermediate skills. The lessons provided by the following Gower Surfing schools give an accelerated introduction into a very difficult sport by the use of ‘beach teaching’ the skills required by qualified instructors able to assess individuals ability and surfing conditions. As a measure of the success of the local Surf Schools the majority of people achieve stand up surfing in their first day. Tuition is also available for surfers who want to improve or learn new skills.

The Welsh Surfing Federation Surf School

The Welsh Surfing Federation Surf School is based in Llangennith. It is a non-profit organisation, the governing body for surfing in Wales, and raises funds to promote surfing in Wales. The School’s role is to teach new surfers the safe, enjoyable use of the sea and to promote environmental awareness. It operates from spring to autumn, full time during the summer months and at weekends and by arrangement early and late in the season. It is the original Llangennith Surf School, the only school based in Llangennith, and has providing surf lessons since 1981. The school’s instructors are Surfing GB or International Surfing Association coaches, Beach Lifeguards and have been CRB/DBS checked. There are female and male instructorsand lessons can be conducted in Welsh.Contact the Welsh Surfing Federation Surf School for more information



British Surf School

Operates all year round at Caswell Bay and during the summer months at Rhossili Bay. We provide all the surfing equipment you will need for free and we cater for everyone. Our surf coaches have a wide range of experience in coaching people and young people from all walks of life from premier league football players/British Lion rugby players to young people on a pathways project. Surfing is for everyone and a great way to break barriers, build confidence and get fit at the same time. Surf GSD is a member of the GB Surfing school scheme and also on the Approved Outdoor activity providers list for the City and County of Swansea. All surf coaches are qualified lifeguards, BSA surf coaches along with having CRB enhanced checks. Choose from group or private lessons at Rhossili or Caswell beaches. Contact British Surf School for more information



Lloyd Cole Surf Academy

Three times Welsh Champion Lloyd Cole is so passionate about Welsh surfing that he has opened a Surf Academy. His aim is to promote Wales as a first class surf destination whilst helping to develop and nurture Welsh surfing talent. The Academy offers coaching for the complete beginner through to the Elite surfer and Pro weekends with world class guest coaches. Lloyd Cole Surf Academy prides itself on having the best equipment, coaching facilities and the very best coaches in Wales! If your goals are to experience surfing for the first time, fine tune your current surfing abilities or even competing against the best in the country Lloyd Cole surf academy can help you achieve it and more! Contact the Lloyd Cole Surf Academy for more information


Llangennith Gower Surfing School

Llangennith Surf School run surf lessons and surf courses from Llangennith Beach. The aim of the surf school is to teach individuals how to surf, from absolute beginners through to intermediate level. We have fully qualified BSA and GB Lifeguards Certificate Instructors with the highest quality of coaching, ensuring you have a fantastic experience. Contact Llangennith Surf School for more information

Other Surf Schools

Contact Progress Surf School for more information
Contact South Wales Surf Lessons for more information
Contact Adventure Wales for more information


Surfing equipment shops

PJ’s Surf Shop

Family run business by enthusiasts who have been surfing for over 40 years, This is the place to find out about surfing, bodyboarding and windsurfing, in South Wales and especially around Llangennith. In our shop we sell surfboards, wetsuits and many brands of surf clothing. As part of our complete service to surfers and others we offer surf reports, surfboard hire and repairs as well as giving visitors to Llangennith information about where to stay and what’s going on. Contact P J’s Surf Shop for more information

On Board Surf and Snow

On board surf and snow has Wale’s largest Boardroom with over fifty surfboards on display, so if you are just starting out, surfing for fun or are surfing on the competition circuit we will have a board to suit your style and technique. Contact On Board Surf and Snow for more information

Hot Dog Surf Shop

Hot Dog Surf Shop in Kittle, Gower is located just a couple of miles from the area’s best breaks in the region. The store has an extensive selection of fashion, wetsuits and hardware! Hot Dog offers a relaxed shopping environment away from the crowds of the high street and with free parking, friendly and helpful staff a visit to us is a must! Contact Hot Dog Surf Shop for more information

Big Drop Surf Shop

Big Drop Surf Shop has been open in Swansea, South Wales since 1995 and is now one of Wales longest established surf shops. After 18 years in Swansea city centre we have just moved (2013) to a great new shop situated right on the shore of the estuary in Penclawdd. With a lot more room we will now have space for all those essentials needed for the beach and we have our own customer car park with free parking. Contact Big Drop Surf Shop for more information

Gower Surf Company

Shops supplying surf boards, wetsuits, clothing, leashes, wax, deck pads, fins, DVDs and anything you might need to go surfing. For surf hire, wetsuit hire, boots, hats, gloves, leashes and anything else you may need to go surfing. A range of surfboard hire is usually available, whether you want to rent an SUP, body board, mini-mal or short board. Contact Gower Surf Company for more information

Gower Peninsula Castles

Evidence of the Norman invasion of Wales and their influence on Gower can be seen in the many castles that they built in the peninsula. Oxwich, Oystermouth, Weobley and Penrice are well preserved but the others, at Swansea, Penard, Penmaen, Landimore, Scurlage and Llougher (Built on the site of the Roman fort) are in poor condition and some are completely overgrown. Gower peninsula castles that are managed by CADW include Oxwich, Weobley and Swansea castle. Oystermouth Castle is managed by the City of Swansea. All are open to the public and links that give directions, opening times and entry charges are given below. Penrice castle is privately owned and is not open to the public


Weobley Castle
01792 390012


Just 1.5 miles from Hill House along the coastal footpath Weobley castle is one of the few surviving fortified manor houses in Wales

More Information on Weobley Castle

Oxwich Castle
01792 390359

Oxwich is a grand Tudor house, built in courtyard style, on a wooded headland above Oxwich Bay.

More information on Oxwich Castle


Swansea Castle

01443 336000

The ruins of Swansea castle are on the edge of Castle Square in the center of Swansea shopping district. The castle can only be viewed from the outside.

More information on Swansea Castle


 Oystermouth Castle
01792 361302

Built on a hill at the center of Oystermouth village this castle has a commanding view over Swansea bay and the Mumbles,

More information on Oystermouth Castle



The ruins of Pennard Castle are situated on the hill overlooking the valley leading down to Three Cliffs bay and is freely accessible to one and all. The castle dates to the 12th century but ruin probably dates to the 13th and 14th century when the castle was rebuilt. It seems to have been located in a perfect defensive position but by the end of the 14th century it was abandoned due to the encroaching sand.




Landimore castle is thought to have been built during the 15th century. Its ruins are overgrown and located on private property, not accessible to the general public, at Bovehill Farm, Landimore.







Gower Smugglers

The smuggling of contraband has been a way of life for many people living close to the sea and shipping routes. The height of smuggling on the Gower peninsular was at its peak during the 18th and 19th centuries. Taxes were high and there was a shortage of many common commodities especially during the Napoleonic wars. It was more lucrative for farm workers to become full time Gower Smugglers than work the land. This resulted in a shortage of farm labourers and lead to an increase in farm labourer’s wages.



The plethora of secluded bays and sandy inlets along the sparsely populated southern coast of the Gower peninsula was the ideal area for unloading contraband away from prying eyes and the revenue men. At the height of the industrial revolution Swansea the third largest coal exporting port in Britain and it attracted shipping from all over the world. The crew of the coal ships returning from the Ireland, Europe and further afield could supplement their income by loading up with comestibles in foreign ports and off load the goods to the smugglers before docking in Swansea.



The boat of choice for the smugglers was the Bristol Channel pilot cutter. A specialist design of single-masted boat, developed for the needs of speeding maritime pilots to large ships entering and leaving the Bristol Channel. The design has been described as the best sailing boat design ever, for being both high speed, highly manoeuvrable and yet easy to handle by just two crew. It has a float bottom that makes it ideal for sailing close to the shore to unload the contraband loaded further off shore from the ships returning to Swansea.
The extent of the smuggling operations and the activities of the smugglers are well documented in the revenue collector’s archives. It appears that the government’s failure to adequately fund the local revenue service lead to an escalation of smuggling activities and the smugglers could operate with impunity. In the 1720s Swansea smugglers were so influential that they had the port’s customs officers summoned for jury service on a day when they landed a large cargo in the harbour.

The activities of smugglers in the Pwll Du area are well documented and it is claimed that more contraband was landed here than anywhere else in the Bristol Channel. The headland at the sheltered bay is 300 feet high and provides an ideal vantage point for guiding the smugglers in and observing the activities of the revenue men. The trail inland from the beach is through the wooded Bishopston valley that provided plenty of cover for the smuggling activities.

The house that now stands behind the shingle bank at Pwll Du was the Beaufort Inn and it, together with the farms at Highway were the used as staging posts by the smuggling gangs. Most of these gangs were controlled by William Arthur of Great Highway Farm, and John Griffiths of Little Highway.

Another infamous smuggling centre was Port Eynon where the Lucas family ran operations from the Salt House. The Lucas family have a long and distinguished history — Sir Charles Lucas fought for the King in the Civil War, and was executed on the orders of Oliver Cromwell. John, the black sheep of the family, who after a spell abroad, fortified the Salt House and started his smuggling dynasty. He had a reputation for violence but it is reported that he used the spoils of smuggling to support the Gower poor. Culver hole, a medievile pigon loft built into a cliff side cave at Port Eynon and Port Eynon church are both reputed to have been used to store contraband goods at the time of the battle of Trafalga.

It is said Rhossili Bay was ideal for smugglers due to its remote location; one well known smuggler was William Stote, Innkeeper of Middleton, who imprisoned a revenue officer in his stable. Contraband was hidden all over western Gower and it is reported that especially dug cellars were located on Rhossili Down and at Landimore. Some smugglers resorted to deliberately wrecking ships as the booty gained from shipwrecks was a great ‘prize’. The wreckers of Rhossili may have been responsible for some of the ship wrecked in and around the bay. False lanterns set along the coast lured ships to their fate. The infamous ‘Dollar Ship’ was wrecked in Rhossili bay in the 17th century. Spanish silver dollars depicting Phillip IV dated to 1625 and 1639 were recovered from the wreck over a hundred years later in 1807. It is reported that further finds were made throughout the years, the last being in 1833. Other known ship wrecks in the bay include; City of Bristol 1840, Tocopilla 1878, Mary Stenhouse 1879, Verani 1894, Ann of Bridgewater 1899, Notre Dame de Lourdes 1910, Pansy 161 1941 and the Cleveland 1957. Remains of Helvetia wrecked in 1887 and of Vennerne wrecked in 1894, can still be seen in Rhossili Bay. Some of these ships may have been the victims of the wreckers of Rhossili.

Customs investigations were common and on one occasion 101 casks of brandy, rum and wine were left on Rhossili beach. There are many accounts of clashes between smugglers and revenue men at Pwll Du, Oxwich Port Eynon and Rhossili. At the beginning of the 19th century the revenue men were gaining the upper hand over the smugglers but smaller scale smuggling operations continued.

Two notable appropriately named landmarks are testament to the smuggling heritage of the Gower coast. These are;

Brandy cove, a small secluded sand inlet between Caswell bay ad Pwll Du.


The Brandy House at Landimore on Gower’s north coast.


Prior to the end of the 19th century, when the estuary on the north coast began to silt up, there was as a thriving port at Penclawdd and many mooring jetties at Crofty, Llanmorlais, Landimore and Llanmadoc. It is claimed that the Brandy house at Landimore was specifically built for smuggling purposes.



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