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New exhibition celebrates 225th anniversary of the Swansea Canal

07 Jul 2023 2 minute read
Camlas Abertawe – Swansea Canal. Photo by Alan Richards is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A new exhibition at the National Waterfront Museum celebrates the 225-year history of the Swansea Canal.

Constructed between 1794 and 1798, following the development of Swansea harbour from the 1760s, the canal was built to transport coal from the upper Swansea Valley to Swansea docks for export, or for use in the early metallurgical industries in the Lower Swansea Valley.

Running just over 16 miles from Swansea to Hen Neuadd, Abercraf, by the 1840’s the growth of industries linked to the canal saw the development of towns and villages in close proximity including Abercraf, Clydach, Penwyllt, Pontardawe, Ynysmeudwy, Ystalyfera and Ystradgynlais.

The canal was sold to the Great Western Railway in 1873, which used it for the transportation of  high volumes of coal, and it continued to be profitable until 1895.

Decline

A period of decline followed from the start of the 20th Century and the last commercial traffic used the waterway in 1931.

Boats continued to operate on the canal to carry out maintenance work, with horse-drawn boats last recorded at Clydach in 1958, however much of the waterway has been closed and filled in since the 1930s, leaving around five miles of the original canal in existence today.

Alan Tremlett, from the Swansea Canal Society, said: “The exhibition is a brilliant way to tell the story of the canal. It’s being seen by hundreds of visitors to the museum every week, educating them about the role it has had to play in Swansea’s history, and continues to play today for local people and the wildlife who call it home.”

The National Waterfront Museum Swansea is hosting the exhibition for Glandŵr Cymru, the Canal & River Trust in Wales, in partnership with the Swansea Canal Society.

David Morgan, development manager for Glandŵr Cymru, said: “We hope more people can enjoy visiting the museum and finding out about a huge period of local history for Swansea and a canal that still has a special role to play in the local area today.”

To discover more about the 225th anniversary of the Swansea Canal, and more events celebrating the anniversary during the year, visit canalrivertrust.org.uk/sc225.

Entry to the museum and exhibition is free and it is set to run until 17 September.


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