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Photographer’s unusual Swansea images revealed after being gifted to archive

01 Oct 2021 3 minute read
Circus parade along St Helen’s Road, Swansea, passing the corner of Argyle Street, in the 1970s (Derek Gabriel courtesy of the West Glamorgan Service).

Richard Youle, local democracy reporter

They are everyday scenes of Swansea and also those unusual ones when something unexpected trundles down the street.

Like an elephant, or a supersonic car.

These photographs are an excerpt from a collection from the 1960s onwards which has been donated to the Swansea-based West Glamorgan Archive Service.

They include a circus parade in the 1970s, shoppers on the junction of College Street and High Street with FW Woolworth in the background, and crowds celebrating Swansea City’s promotion to the old First Division in May 1981.

The first supersonic world land speed record car, Thrust SSC, outside Fulton House, Swansea University, in the 1990s (Derek Gabriel courtesy of the West Glamorgan Service).

They are among many items which are gifted to the archive service every year.

County archivist Kim Collis said he was particularly pleased with the photographic collection, which was courtesy of published photographer Derek Gabriel.

“We are absolutely delighted to receive more photographs of Swansea to add to our collections and these albums created by Mr Gabriel show how everyday Swansea street scenes, which most of us would never think of recording, acquire interest through the passage of time,” said Mr Collis.


Time has certainly moved on for the old Woolworth building, which more latterly was an Argos store.

Other archive deposits in recent months include First World War diaries, photographs of soldiers of 248 Battery stationed at Blackpill during the Second World War, slides taken by Afan Camera Club of the Passion Play staged in Port Talbot, and a programme about the the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to the borough of Neath in 1937.

Swansea City supporters celebrating the promotion to the old First Division in May 1981 (Derek Gabriel courtesy of the West Glamorgan Service).

Swansea is changing, like many other towns and cities, but it is those images of ordinary life that many people gravitate to, according to historian and author Gerald Gabb.

“Undoubtedly,” he said. “If you go on social media there are lots of them.

“In Swansea there is a whole series of photographic books by David Roberts which came out every year at Christmas, and sold very well.”

Mr Gabb, of Swansea, and a member of the Royal Institution of South Wales, said: “It’s that sort of history that ordinary people really tend to be into.”

He added that the FW Woolworth building used to be the Cameron Hotel.

Photograph taken from Jones Terrace looking over New Orchard Street towards Mainer Street, 1970s (Derek Gabriel courtesy of the West Glamorgan Service).

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Huw Davies
Huw Davies
2 years ago

The elephant parade passes in front of the old National Provincial Bank. They became fully Nat. West in 1970 so may be 1960s.

David Thomas
David Thomas
2 years ago

St Helens Road when it was still part of Swansea. Now it’s kebab shops, Indian restaurants and a mosque. More like Baghdad than Swansea.

Jane Deeley
Jane Deeley
2 years ago
Reply to  David Thomas

Do you mean when there were Italian Ice cream parlours and Italian offee shops iin the 60s and 70s Mr. Thomas? Were you racist then as well?

Claude Balls
Claude Balls
2 years ago
Reply to  Jane Deeley

Kudos Jane! love St Helens road. It’s got fantastic selection of restaurants and shops.

Richard Coombe
Richard Coombe
2 years ago
Reply to  Jane Deeley

Not really a racist remark is it? Really its fact i Dont know any Italian Suicide bombers Either thats because they all belong mostly to a paticular faith(Fact) .. Could get you in trouble when the freedom of speech act comes into force so be careful about calling someone a racist on a forum it could get them beaten up or worse words without foundation will be a crime .

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