Retired Section Swansea Docks


     Next Page     Home Page



Bridges over the New Cut &

North Dock, Swansea

 Built in 1843 for pedestrians, horse-riders and horse-drawn carts and carriages, the first road bridge across the New Cut consisted of two steel sections that swung apart to allow sailing ships to pass through. The bridge was opened and closed by means of hand-operated winches, one on either side of the New Cut. Some years later, around 1851, a wooden double-bascule railway bridge was constructed to convey patent fuel across the New Cut from Warlich’s fuel works in St. Thomas to the North Dock for shipment. These two bridges can be seen in the first photograph on the following page.

A drawbridge known as the ‘Pottery Bridge’ across the upper lock of the North Dock was already established by 1850, and in 1851 a low-level drawbridge was installed by the Millbrook Iron Company across the lower lock entrance. In 1857 the Midland Railway drawbridge was erected across the upper end of the New Cut, and in 1873 the high-level Vale of Neath Railway drawbridges spanning the New Cut and the lower North Dock lock entrance were constructed by Wm. Armstrong & Co. of Newcastle upon Tyne.

 By 1866 the original road and rail bridges across the New Cut had come to the end of their useful lives, and tenders were put out by the Swansea Harbour Trust for the provision of a new 22’ wide road & rail drawbridge to replace these obsolete structures. Opened on the 18th October 1867, the new drawbridge saw 30 years service before being replaced by a 45’ wide swingbridge in 1897. The new swingbridge, designed by the Harbour Trust’s engineer A. O. Schenk, was constructed by Andrew Handyside & Co. of Derby at a cost of £20,000. The operating machinery was supplied by Wm. Armstrong & Co. for £5,000, and included a high-pressure hot water system to prevent the bridge mechanism from freezing up during the winter months. This swingbridge, pictured on the following page, spanned the New Cut for over 60 years until replaced in the early 1960’s by the lower of the two road bridges we see today.

 Finally, the original low-level drawbridge across the lower North Dock lock entrance was replaced in 1903 with a new drawbridge constructed by Andrew Handyside & Co. at a cost of £9,000. It is this bridge – busy with trams, cars, horses, lorries and handcarts – that can be seen in many of the photographs on the following page. It is interesting to note that the operating machinery for all these bridges, apart from the first two mentioned, was hydraulically powered – that is to say, driven by high-pressure water provided by a central hydraulic pumping station. 


Map showing the South and North Dock, the Beaufort Dock (highlighted in red) and the proposed East Dock (Prince of Wales Dock)


North South and Beaufort Docks 34-1/2 acres

Great reduction on shipping or Tonnage Rates and Abolishment of levelling Charges


Giving the Ship owner The choice of Ports and greater command of the Freight Market. The only Telegraphic Ship Signal System in the Bristol Channel is OPEN on the Mumbles Head at the Lighthouse belonging to Swansea Harbour Trust directly connected with the General Post Office system of Telegraphs and Officially styled ‘’Swansea Bay’’ Ship Owners, Brokers and others desirous of having their Vessels reporting direct to them will be good enough to signify the same to the General Superintendent of Swansea Harbour, charges as customary.

Messages filed by Vessels calling for ‘Orders’ open for this purpose day and night

Swansea is the first Port in the Bristol Channel, 85 miles from Lundy Vessels can enter the Bay and find good sheltered anchorage under the Mumbles Head at any state of the tide, free of all charges whatever. Full particulars and every information may be obtained by application either personally or by letter of Mr. Capper General Superintendent of Swansea Harbour, Harbour Office Swansea.

Steamers chartered for the South Wales Ports, save one or two, if not 3 Tides, by loading and discharging at Swansea, and the cost of some hours steaming up the Channel past that Port, and down again to Sea


The new modern improvements including the introduction of a  Patent Dioptric Lens has been recently applied to the Mumbles Lighthouse and maintained by the Harbour Trustees free of charge to the Shipping now consists of one large lantern 114ft above the sea. Exhibiting a bright fixed light distinctly visible in clear weather 18 to 20 miles distance. It is in Lat’51 Lon’3-57-20 West.

The postal office telegraph is immediately opposite the Harbour Office

The population of Swansea is 20000 in the last census. It has almost doubled in 20 years

Shipping Office for Seamen and the Sailors Home next to the Harbour Office

Steamers are not required to Wait Turn at the Roadstead and are docked with the assistance of Tugs.

The Lock Gates are of Iron and Timber and worked by Hydraulic Power. Erected by William Armstrong are the fixed and portable Cranes and Coal Hoists.

Direct Railway communications from the ships side in the dock and new cut to all parts of the Kingdom.

Ships can obtain water direct from the Corporation Water Works where mains run along the quay. Vessels frequenting the Docks are allowed to adjust companies free

Coal from the well known Aberdare and member coal fields shipped to any extent with utmost dispatch

Depth of Water at entrance of Harbour, 28ft O.S.T. (being deepened) Deepest Dock Cill 26ft Springs, 18ft Neaps.

Full particulars and every information may be obtained by application either personally or by letter of Mr. Capper
General Superintendent of Swansea Harbour Trust

The above was taken from an advertising poster issued by Swansea Harbour Trust.



Top of Page