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Cymraeg

Life after the Lords of Gower - 19th century

In the 19th century a grand Post Office replaced the town hall in the courtyard and industrial buildings filled the ditch between the old and new castle.

Swansea Castle c 1800 © West Glamorgan Archive Service
Tithe map (1834) showing the original route of the river © West Glamorgan Archive Service
OS map (1878) showing the new route of the river and the docks © West Glamorgan Archive Service
Swansea harbour and docks © Private Collection
Early photograph of Swansea Castle 1855 © City & County of Swansea: Swansea Museum Collection
Doorway in the Square Tower
Door with “Welcome” message
Swansea Castle c 1800 © West Glamorgan Archive Service
Tithe map (1834) showing the original route of the river © West Glamorgan Archive Service
OS map (1878) showing the new route of the river and the docks © West Glamorgan Archive Service
Swansea harbour and docks © Private Collection
Early photograph of Swansea Castle 1855 © City & County of Swansea: Swansea Museum Collection
Doorway in the Square Tower
Door with “Welcome” message

By 1850 the local military Drill Room was in the "new" castle Great Hall.

As the Industrial Revolution gathered pace industrialists converted the curve of the old river below the castle into a dock for large ships and dug a 'new cut' to make a more direct route to the sea in the 1840's. The Tithe map of 1843 and the first edition Ordnance Survey map of 1878 show how dramatic this change was. The dock was filled in during the 1930s, but the name of the street here, 'The Strand', is a reminder that the river which was used to supply the castle, once flowed at the foot of the castle walls.

Poets in prison

The square tower was used as a debtor's prison. Inmates were allowed to bring the tools of their trade so they could work to repay their debts. A bookbinder brought his presses and two young apprentices, one of whom was so small he could come and go as he wished through a hole in the prison wall. Perhaps he penned these words on one of the doors, sometime before it closed in 1858:

Welcome, welcome, brother debtor,
To this poor but merry place,
Where no bailiff
Dare to show his frightful face.
But kind sir, as you're a stranger,
Five shillings you must pay,
Or your coat will be in danger,
You must either strip or pay.         By order of the Committee.

Others on the outside wrote that, "without exception it (the castle gaol) is the most wretched and miserable case that one can dream of, it is nothing but a ruin." Prisoners had to provide their own food and furniture otherwise the essentials of life were only available from the gaoler - at exorbitant costs!

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