Coat of Arms
The early history of the Arms of Swansea is obscure. An unfounded legend has it that the original device was an Osprey, which now forms the crest of the present Achievement of Arms and also the present badge of the Mayor.
Seal of the Council
Between 1632 and 1922, the Seal of the Council bore a portcullis of eight bars, probably derived from the Crest of the Arms of the Somerset family, who were Lords of Gower. The portcullis is also depicted on the ceremonial maces of the borough, which date from 1753, and on other items from this period. This suggests that the portcullis may have been regarded as the insignia of the borough during this period.
In January 1843, the General Purposes Committee of the Council resolved to abandon the portcullis seal for a design which had appeared on the seal of a document dated 1548, entitled 'Ordinances for the Towne of Swaynsey'. The seal on this document was possibly the Borough Seal of the time, and it was claimed by historians of the early 19th century that the devices depicted on it were the Arms granted to the Borough by William de Breos, Lord of Gower, in 1316. Such claims cannot be supported by documentary evidence, although there is certainly some connection, since the Arms of de Breos appear in the design of the Seal. These Arms have been blazoned as follows:
Gules, a Castle double-towered Argent, in the gateway a portcullis half-down or; on each tower a banner bearing the Arms of de Breos, viz. Argent, a lion rampant crusilly or. In chief on a shield or an Osprey rising regardant with a fish, the tail-end in its beak, both proper
This design was not adopted for the Seal of the Corporation following the committee resolution, but it was displayed on many items of corporation property, and appears especially on the covers of 19th century Minute books and volumes of other corporation documents. The device was adopted as the Common Seal of the Council in November 1922, and it still appears on the present Seal of the Council.
The official Coat of Arms used today
The official Arms used by the council today were granted by the College of Arms in 1922. These Arms differ slightly from the device depicted on the shield. The Arms are blazoned as follows:
Per Fess wavy Azure and barry wavy of six Argent, of the first a double-towered Castle or, in Chief on an Inescutcheon of the third a Lion passant guardant Gules; And for the Crest, On a Wreath of the Colours an Osprey rising holding in the Beak a Fish proper; Supporters: on the dexter side a Lion Gules gorged with a Mural Crown or, and on the sinister side a Dragon Gules gorged with a Mural Crown or.
The motto is 'Floreat Swansea'.
The Arms are, to an extent, symbolic: the castle represents the medieval fortifications of the town (castles occur frequently in Civic Heraldry); the blue and white wavy bars represent the sea, since Swansea is a port; the lion as dexter supporter and on the inescutcheon commemorates the link with the de Breos family; while the dragon as sinister supporter is the national emblem of Wales and is a supporter in the Achievement of Arms of the present Lord Swansea.
In April 1974, the City of Swansea was joined with the former Gower Rural District to form the new District and City of Swansea. The Arms granted to the Corporation of the County Borough of Swansea in 1922 were transferred unchanged to the present City Council in May 1975. The re-granting of the Arms was confirmed by Certificate of Transfer of the College of Arms dated 11 March 1976.