The origin of names at Swansea Docks
In the 1960’s, with the redevelopment of the north side of the Prince of Wales Dock, the rebuilding of the roadway from the main docks entrance to the new Ferryport, and the construction of the new Marine Control Building, the three main men of the day decided to perpetuate their heritage by ascribing their names to these various works.
Keith Langdon, the Docks Engineer, wanted the new main dock roadway to be called Langdon Road, but Bill King, the Docks Manager, decided that he would rather retain that privilege for himself and, to this day, ‘King’s Road’ remains the name of that particular stretch of highway. Nevertheless, Bill King generously allowed Keith Langdon to attach his name to the less-important new roadway along the north side of the Prince of Wales Dock, and this is still known as ‘Langdon Road’. Ironically, owing to its level of trade with the local building industry and the general public, Langdon Road has turned out to be much more of a docks ‘landmark’ than King’s Road ever was. Oh well…
Meanwhile, the Dockmaster, Captain Jack White felt it fitting that his name should be appended to the new Marine Control Building, and this became officially known as the ‘White House’. I suppose we should be grateful that the new Harbour Office, which was constructed under the auspices of the later Port Engineer, John Pope, didn’t become known as ‘The Vatican’.
Other more historical links come directly from the industries of the day, such as the Graigola Merthyr Patent Fuel Company, the Rose Fuel Works, the Phoenix Patent Fuel Works and the Petolite Fuel Company, which gave their names to Graigola Wharf, Rose Wharf, and Phoenix Wharf on the south side of Kings Dock, and to the Petolite Yard on the south side of the Prince of Wales Dock.
There are some interesting residential connections too with local industry, such as the former Lambert’s Cottages alongside ‘D’ Shed which housed workers from Charles Lambert’s Copperworks on the south side of the Prince of Wales Dock. Also, the adjacent conurbation of Port Tennant owes its very name to the owner of the Neath & Swansea Junction Canal, George Tennant, as the Swansea terminus of his canal was a small dock within Fabian’s Bay known as ‘Port Tennant’. Later, when the Prince of Wales Dock was built over the site of George Tennant’s canal basin, the south-east wharf of the new dock was given over to traffic from the canal and became known as Tennant’s Wharf. At the eastern end of the Prince of Wales Dock, the canal company also built a lock keeper’s cottage which remained in use as a domestic residence until well into the 1990’s.
The docks themselves are named after distinguished historic royal individuals although, for some reason, they remain curiously anonymous. So, for the sake of clarification, the Prince of Wales Dock is named after Edward, Prince of Wales, who opened the facility in 1881; Kings Dock alludes to King Edward VII (formerly the aforesaid Edward, Prince of Wales) who ‘cut the first sod’ of the dock in 1904, and Queens Dock takes its name from Queen Mary who, together with her husband King George V, performed the opening ceremony in 1920.
Residents and visitors to the Swansea Marina will be familiar with the area known as Pocketts Wharf, but some may not know that it owes its name to Mr. James Wathen Pockett, who relocated his company’s steam packet business from the North Dock to the South Dock Basin in 1871 (See section on paddle steamers)
I ’m sure that others will be able to contribute much more on the origin of names within the Swansea Docks area, but now I really must have a look at Port Talbot!
The 4 additions below were contributed by Ron Tovey:
Starling Benson (1808-1879)
After whom two pilot cutters and probably one tug were named Benson.
Originally from North Yorkshire, the Benson family moved to London where they were involved in numerous business ventures. Thomas Starling Benson (1775-1858) became involved in the copper industry in Swansea and Glamorganshire in co-partnership of a company called Benson, Usborne & Co.
Starling Benson was his son from his second wife, Hannah Newbury and he settled in Swansea in 1830, becoming Mayor in 1843 and Chairman of the Swansea Harbour Trust in 1856. He and his fathers business interests now included coal mining including the mines in the Peclawdd, Llanrhidian areas of North Gower. In 1860 he moved from Swansea to Fairyhill, near Reynoldston on the Gower peninsula.
David Davies (1818-1890)
After whom two bucket dredgers were named, the first launched in 1890, fate unknown and the second launched in 1925 and scrapped in 1964.
Once described as “One of the most remarkable Welshmen who has ever lived”, David Davies life was a truly rags-to riches story.
Born the eldest of nine children and brought up in a small two up two down cottage in the village of Llandinam, a small village in the centre of Wales. He left school at eleven years of age to help his father on the small farm of which the family were tenants. He bought his own 150 acre farm in 1844 and two years later purchased another.
His civil engineering skills came to the fore due to flood prevention skills he acquired through farming. The building of railways was soon to follow and in 1865 Davies stood unsuccessfully as a Liberal candidate in the Cardiganshire parliamentary elections.
It was around this time that David Davies became interested in the untapped coal reserves of the upper Rhondda Valley and with a small group of investors took out a lease on some land near Treorchy. After 15 long months, and on the verge of giving up hope, they hit on one of the world’s richest coal seams. Thus was born the Ocean Coal Company whose workforce rapidly grew from a few hundred to 5,000 men.
In 1874 David Davies stood successfully as a Liberal candidate for Cardiganshire and he was elected unopposed in the elections of 1880 and 1885. ....With most of his coal being shipped out of Cardiff, there were disagreements with the Marquis of Bute regarding tariffs and Davies decided to build his own port at nearby Barry, then a small village with a population of less than a hundred people in 1881. This rapidly grew to almost 13,000 by 1891 and for a few years Barry was the busiest coal port in the world. David Davies was also instrumental in the campaign to set up the University of Wales at Aberystwyth.
Emily Charlotte Talbot (1840-1918)
After whom the Port Talbot Tug of 1922 was named.
The daughter of Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot, a Lord Lieutenant of Glamorgan, she was born in Belgrave Square in London.
Following the death of her brother, Emily - known locally as "Miss Talbot" throughout her life- inherited her father's fortune and estates at Margam and Penrice. She was largely responsible for creating a port and railway system to attract business to Port Talbot. She made her home at Margam Castle, and on the 26th September 1918 was buried in the family vault in Margam church.
From a press obituary: One of the wealthiest women in Great Britain, her great gifts to benevolent, educational, and religious purposes were often anonymous, and few knew what a large portion of her riches she devoted to the needs of others, particularly in South Wales, of which she was the true Lady Bountiful. During the last two years, owing to failing health, she was unable to spend much time in the Principality, but lived in quiet and retirement in London, only seeing her intimate friends. Despite her indisposition, she took a deep interest in war charities, providing two large Y.M.C.A. huts in Glamorgan, and converting Penrice Castle into an officers' hospital, which she equipped and maintained at her own expense. Only recently she provided a capital sum sufficient to produce £1,500 a year for a chair of preventive medicine at the medical school in connection with Cardiff University.
To the Church, too, she was a queenly benefactress, and her name was a household word in Wales. She combined with a benevolent spirit a rare business aptitude, and to her foresight and energy may be largely attributed the development and prosperity of Port Talbot from a small village to a thriving town possessing docks, steel works, and important railway junctions. In the welfare of the folk dependent on her she took the deepest interest, and on one occasion, an unremunerative colliery falling into her hands, she, rather than discharge the miners and close it down, kept it working for several years for the sake of the women and children, at a loss to herself of nearly £100,000.
Roger Beck (1841-1923)
After whom the pilot cutter that served the port from 1924 until 1959 was named.
The son of a successful businessman, from Isleworth, near Richmond, Roger Beck came to Swansea in 1872 and quickly established himself in the steel making industry, investing in the ELBA Works in Gowerton. He later became involved in many other business ventures.
Roger Beck was probably one of Swansea’s greatest philanthropists, a Quaker who remained a bachelor throughout his life, living for over 30 years at The Rhyddings on Southward Lane. He became a councillor for Oystermouth and was instrumental in setting up the Y.M.C.A. in Swansea along with the Ragged School in Pleasant Street and the Swansea Eye Hospital.
Parc Wern in Sketty had been used as a military hospital in WW 1 and was purchased by Roger Beck on behalf of the town’s hospital authority in 1920. This then became a nurses training school in 1922 and was renamed Parc Beck. This building was demolished in recent years and replaced by flats.
Roger Beck became chairman of Swansea Harbour Trust in 1918 and because of his intervention with an unconditional personal loan, staved off liquidation at a very difficult period for the port.