31 July 2018

Swansea Canal records at the Public Records Office Kew

The details below give a synopsis of what is contained within the Canal records. I have donated them all to the West Glamorgan Archive Service in Swansea so they are safe and available for anyone to access who has an interest.

I purchased copies of the Swansea Canal records held at Kew in 1993. They amounted to 1947 pages of documents listed as P.R.O. RAIL 876/1, P.R.O. RAIL 876/2, and P.R.O. RAIL 876/3.

The records I purchased were The Swansea Canal Navigation Company Minute Books 1794-1870, which record the monthly meetings of the Company at Swansea and the operations of the Swansea Canal over the above listed dates, and applications by industrial concerns and entrepreneurs who wanted to establish new businesses or industries along the canal corridor. They record Company staff, wages, new businesses, tolls, new wharfs, barges, but no towns are recorded. They had yet to come into being. The Swansea Valley was agricultural at this time with no villages or towns.

The second group of Swansea Canal records are those of the General Assembly of Proprietors. They were the shareholders who had purchased shares in the Swansea Canal Navigation Company and who were entitled to vote on canal business and attend meetings of the shareholders. They kept separate records from those of the Canal Company. They record shareholders business from 1794 to 1870. That included applications to the Swansea Canal Navigation Company to construct railways or wagon ways to the canal from industries within eight miles of the canal.

The third set of records are the Swansea Canal Toll Books 1813-1861 and record the names of 73 business, industries or individuals who used the Swansea canal to transport their goods.

The industries recorded are of iron works, coalmines, potteries, copperworks, forges, tinplate works, and a host of smaller industries. From those industries developed the villages and towns of the Hafod, Trewyddfa, Ynystawe, Clydach, Trebanos, Pontardawe, Alltwen, Rhos, Ynysmeudwy, Cilmaengwyn, Godre’r Graig, Ystalyfera, Ynyskedwyn, Ystradgynlais, Twrch Valley, Cwm-Giedd, Abercraf, and the upper Dulais Valley communities. The Swansea Canal was responsible for the urban development of the Swansea Valley and also assisted in the improvements of Swansea Harbour and town.

These documents are among the most important in recording the development of the Swansea Valley industries and communities. They were initially written with a quill pen but the later records were written with a steel nib pen. Some of the documents are difficult to read, but perseverance will enable the researcher to obtain much valuable information on the development of the Swansea Valley and of the entrepreneurs who created those industries and the townships we see today.

Clive Reed 2018.