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Harbour Office

Harbour Office in 1912

View of the Harbour Office by moonlight

The first record of Swansea Harbour Trust’s office accommodation comes from W H Jones’ book, ‘The History of the Port of Swansea’, which states that in March 1855 (although this is erroneously stated as 1885) the Trustees rented premises in Mount Street formerly occupied by Thomas Attwood, Solicitor and that, in October 1858, the building was completely destroyed by fire. The Harbour Trust then commissioned its first purpose-built Harbour Office building, an imposing edifice erected on the corner of Mount Street and Victoria Road. Opened in 1860, this building was occupied by the Swansea Harbour Trust until 1903, when its prestigious new Harbour Office building in Adelaide Street (now Morgans Hotel) was completed. The old Harbour Office was demolished in 1964, as was the adjacent Sailors’ Home, to make way for a new dual carriageway.

The above engraving from 1865 shows the Sailors Home & Shipping Office on the left,
and the Swansea Harbour Trust Office on the right.


 Photograph of the Harbour Office and Sailors’ Home taken in 1960 (Swansea Museum can
be seen in the distance on the left-hand side of the picture)


Harbour Office Building, Adelaide Street, Swansea

 The Harbour Office building in Adelaide Street (now Morgans Hotel) is an impressive art-nouveau edifice that arose from an architectural competition held in 1901 to design new office accommodation for the Swansea Harbour Trust. Ninety-seven architects submitted designs from all over the UK, with the sum of 100 guineas as the prize. The commission was won by Edwin Seward, a partner in the Cardiff firm James Seward & Thomas who had designed some of Cardiff's most notable public buildings of the late 19th century, including the Free Library in the Hayes and the Coal and Shipping Exchange in Mount Stuart Square.

The foundation stone for the new building was laid on the 18th February 1902 by the Mayor of Swansea, Griffith Thomas, who was also Chairman of the Swansea Harbour Trust. The stone was laid using an ornamental trowel with an ivory handle and a silver blade which can still be seen today in the collection of the Swansea Museum. The contract for construction was awarded to Messrs. Lloyd Bros. of Swansea in the sum of £14,567.00, plus an additional contract in the sum of £3,667.00 to add an *extension to the southern end of the building. The new Harbour Office building was opened by Griffith Thomas on the 13th October 1903.

Constructed in red Cattybrook brick and Portland stone, the richly-ornate building has many outstanding features such as a large ornamental clock tower, an impressive dome over the main staircase with leaded lights indicating the points of the compass, and a fine stained glass window portraying various maritime and industrial themes. On the first floor is a grand teak-panelled boardroom featuring a large mural by Robert Morton Nance depicting Swansea Harbour in the 17th century, with Swansea Castle in the background. The original art-nouveau light fittings remain, but the purpose-built oval boardroom table around which the Trustees once sat is now housed in the new Harbour Office building on Swansea's Kings Dock. Surrounding the table were thirty boardroom chairs made from solid oak and upholstered in crimson Moroccan leather, each one bearing the Company's crest embossed in gold. One of these original chairs can still be seen today in the Swansea Museum.

The exterior of the building is ornamented with several stone-sculpted figures, and the ones on the clock tower have been attributed to Italian sculptor Marco Fabbeni, who had a studio/workshop in St Mary Street, Swansea. He is said to have used a local lady by the name of Frances Gray as his model. Other sculptors named in documents from that time are Mr Houghton of Swansea and Mr T Jones of Cardiff.

The building was occupied by the Swansea Harbour Trust and its successors, the Great Western Railway, the British Transport Commission, the British Transport Docks Board and Associated British Ports for a period of 88 years until, in 1991, when the current Harbour Office building was constructed on the lock head at Kings Dock, Swansea.

* the extension referred to in paragraph 2 was originally leased to Capital & Counties Bank, which was taken over by Lloyds Bank in 1918.

The Boardroom (now Morgans restaurant)

Main staircase and stained-glass window


Panorama showing far end of Boardroom


 Panorama showing twin entrance doors to Boardroom

Boardroom - general view.

Boardroom - general view 2.

Old chair from the Swansea Harbour Trust Office with the crest carved on the back.

Close-up of stained-glass window

Harbour Office Clock

Harbour Office in the early 70s.

Above, two advertisments for Felix Martin. His premises were opposite the side door of the Harbour Office.

Somerset Place with the Harbour Office at the end of the block.

Same view but with the old buildings demolished ready for development.
The rear of the Harbour Office can be seen on the left.

The Somerset Hotel with the Centre Hotel next door.

Somerset Hotel.

Swansea Dockers Club just around the corner from the Harbour Office.

The new Harbour Office situated adjacent to the locks. In the background to the right is the
Customs House and to the left you can see the Dry Docks Workshop.

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