Town & City Historic Maps
Swansea & Mumbles
Medieval town to Copperopolis
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In the Middle Ages, Swansea became a centre for trade around the mouth of the River Tawe. Following Norman control of the area, Swansea Castle was established in the early 12th century and a borough charter was granted at the end of that century.
Great growth began in the 17th century with the establishment of copper-smelting in the area of the lower Tawe valley, an industry which grew until Swansea was the world capital of the copper industry — hence its nickname of ‘Copperopolis’. Initially using ore from Cornwall, Swansea took advantage of its local coal resources and its good port facilities to process copper, arsenic, tin, gold and other metals, using imported raw materials from all over the world. The port exported the final products, along with many tons of coal.
At the time of the background map shown here (c.1919), heavy industry and its spoil heaps dominated the lower Tawe valley, and extensive docks dominated the south of the town, but evidence of its medieval past and its street layout survived. The remains of the Norman castle became a workhouse and the course of the River Tawe had been altered to make access for ships easier.
Further along Swansea Bay, Mumbles developed from a site with a prominent medieval castle (Oystermouth Castle) to become a local playground for the people of Swansea and a pleasure resort with funfair, a narrow-gauge railway and a pier. The map sheet includes a historical map of Mumbles, showing the resort, its castle and pier.
The Historic Towns Trust is working with a team from Swansea University and Bristol University to produce this map in two versions: English language and Welsh language.
Published in association with
The University of Bristol is globally regarded for both its research and teaching excellence. The university has a reputation for innovation with a focus on global issues as diverse as human rights, climate change and information security. It aims to bring together the best minds in individual fields, and encourage researchers from different disciplines and institutions to work together to find sustainable solutions to society’s pressing problems. The university is involved in numerous international research collaborations which enable students to work on real-life projects in partnership with business, government and community sectors.
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