Swansea’s Welsh name, Abertawe, describes its location at the mouth of the Tawe, where the river empties into Swansea Bay. The Vikings named the area Sveins Ey (Swein’s Island), probably referring to the sandbank in the mouth of the River Tawe.
The Normans built a castle here, but Swansea didn’t really get into its stride until the Industrial Revolution, when it developed into an important copper-smelting centre. Ore was first shipped in from Cornwall, across the Bristol Channel, but by the 19th century it was arriving from Chile, Cuba and the USA, in return for Welsh coal.
By the 20th century, however, the city’s industrial base had declined, although Swansea’s oil refinery and smaller factories were still judged a worthy target by the Luftwaffe, which devastated the city centre in 1941. The insensitive rebuilding of the city’s heart did not do much for its recovery, but in recent years, with the opening of the new National Waterfront Museum, a sparkling marina, and a thriving restaurant and bar scene, Swansea’s future is looking more lovely than ugly.