Swansea is home to the world’s first passenger railway service running between Swansea and Mumbles. Originally built in 1804 to move limestone from the quarries of Mumbles to Swansea, it carried the world’s first fare-paying railway passengers on 25 March 1807 (the same day the British Parliament abolished the transportation of slaves from Africa). It later moved from horse power to steam locomotion, and finally converted to electric trams, before closing in January 1960, in favour of motor buses. At the time of the railway’s closure, it had been the world’s longest serving railway and it still holds the record for the highest number of forms of traction of any railway in the world – horse-drawn, sail power, steam power, electric power, petrol and diesel
History of Swansea
It is believed that Swansea was established by Vikings during the 7-8th century and that the name is derived from the Norse words SEWYN and EYE. The city was developed along the lower reaches of the river Tawe that enters the Bristol channel at Swasea docks. The welsh name for Swansea is Abertawe that translates as “mouth of the river Tawe”. The Normans established the Borough of Swansea in the 12th century and by the end of the medieval period the Town was a prosperous trading centre. In the late 18th century, Swansea known as the “Brighton of Wales”. The Burrows (sea front around the current marina area) was laid out as a pleasure garden with public assembly rooms and a marine promenade.
With the onset of the industrial revolution Swansea became one of the most heavily industrialised towns in Britain and was known as Copperopolis. It was the centre of the worlds copper smelting industry, controlling the world price of copper, and the third largest coal port in Britain. The Swansea Metal Exchange was opened in Wind Street and became the international centre for trade dealing in tinplate. The Bank of England opened its first branch outside London and over thirty Vice Consulates from all over the world were opened in Swansea.
Two other interesting facts to emerge from this time are that Birds Custard Powder was invented by Alfred Bird in his chemist’s shop in Port Tennant Road and that Swansea was the first town in Britain to have its own telephone exchange.
Cottages in Wales
Despite the failure of Swansea’s bid to become the UK City of culture in 2021 the city council and the Swansea 2021 bid team are determined toimplement the programme of local, national and international events that were compiled in the bid. Click on the image opposite to view one of the Swansea UK City of Culture 2021 promotional videos.