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Swansea Pilots

Sea pilots have assisted the Masters of vessels entering and leaving the harbour of Swansea since the development of maritime trade in the early sixteenth century, and initially the task of pilotage would have been undertaken by fishermen and other local seamen with an intimate knowledge of local tides, shipping hazards and weather conditions. Acts of pilotage within the Bristol Channel, including Swansea, were controlled by the Port of Bristol until the passing of the Swansea Harbour Act of 1791 which, amongst other things, introduced the compulsory licensing of pilots by the Swansea Harbour Trust. In 1793 there were 11 licensed pilots recorded at Swansea, and by 1803 the number had increased to a fixed maximum of 24. The appointment and regulation of Swansea’s sea pilots remained with the Harbour Trust until the Swansea Pilotage Authority was established as a separate entity after the takeover of the port by the Great Western Railway in 1923. The Swansea Pilotage Authority was abolished, as were all other UK pilotage authorities, under the Pilotage Act of 1987, and in 1988 its duties and responsibilities were taken over by Associated British Ports.

Pilot Cutters

A description and illustration of early 19th century pilot cutters is shown below:-


By 1892 there were nine licensed pilot cutters at Swansea - the ‘Vivian’, the ‘Vigilant’, the ‘Rival’, the ‘Benson’, the ‘Glance’, the ‘Mary’, the ‘Grenfell’, the ‘Camelia’, and the ‘C. Bath’. The port yearbook for 1892 states that “Pilots are always to be obtained off the Mixon or within Mumbles Head, and no vessel must attempt to run for Swansea without one. They cruise in vessels of both schooner and cutter rig, with the letter S and a number on their sails.” A description of these cutters illustrated by a photograph of the ‘Vivian’, together with a photograph and model of the ‘Grenfell’, is shown below:-


Pilot cutter 'Grenfell', bearing the licence number S9 on the bow and the aft sail,
being towed out of Swansea Harbour, c.1904

Above is a model of the pilot cutter 'Grenfell', together with a plaque stating that she was built at
 Swansea by Philip Bevan in 1865. The sail plan is given as 1880.

(We are grateful to the Swansea Yacht & Sub Aqua Club for kindly allowing us to photograph this model.)

1898 saw the commissioning of the ‘Beaufort’, described in its day as a “schooner-rigged steam pilot cutter”, and
“the first steam-powered pilot cutter in the world.” Details and photographs of the ‘Beaufort’ are shown below:-



The pilot cutter ‘Roger Beck’ was commissioned 1924 to replace the aging ‘Beaufort’, and was named after the last
person to hold the position of Chairman of the Swansea Harbour Trust before the takeoverof Swansea Docks
by the Great Western Railway. Details and photographs of the ‘Roger Beck’ are shown below:-


Roger Beck.

In 1951 the ‘Woodbridge’ was acquired by the Swansea Pilotage Authority as an auxiliary cutter to the‘Roger Beck’.
Formerly owned by Trinity House, the diesel-engined ‘Woodbridge’ had been built at the Aldous boatyard,
Brightlingsea, Essex in 1924. She was 80’ in length with a 21’ beam and a 10’ draft, and had
a service speed of nine knots. A photograph of the ‘Woodbridge’ is shown below:-


Woodbridge along side a cargo ship in the River Tawe.
Many thanks to Dave Williams for the photo..

1959 saw the commissioning of the pilot cutter ‘Seamark’, the yellow, red and white cutter that
was such a familiar sight in Swansea Bay for so many years. An illustrated description
of the ‘Seamark’, together with several photographs, can be seen below:-

Menu of the meal to celebrate the launch of the Seamark at the New Inn Hotel Bideford



The Seamark with the West Pier in the background

Seamark in Swansea Bay



Andrew Moulding on the deck of the Seamark

Seamark in the River Afan

Left to right :- Keith Morgan, Chris Ward, Mike Jones, Garry Lewis, Warren Thomas, Ron Jones,
Brian Thomas, Phil Jones, Robert Williams, Mathew Fisher, Steve Badcup and Frank Martin.


Mike Jones (Engineer), Jeff Manning and Viv Howells

Below is a picture of the Swansea Sea Pilots standing on the steps of the South Dock Pilot House
 in the late 1950’s. Second from top right is Capt. John Evans whose son,
Mr. Rob Evans, kindly provided us with this photo

From the top right:-       Stan Clarke, John Evans, David Aubrey, Don Stewart, Ted Parfitt, John Doyle, Danny Davies,
 Roddie Roderick, Len Hill,
Ieuan Jones, Arthur Rice, Harold Munn, Ted Burns, Jack Clement, Phil Reed, Larry Mitchell,
 Les Bevan, Trevor Jones, Clarry Mock, (??), Alec Geen, York Mcloud Cleeves, Charles Harris, (??), Jim Sydney, (??).

The same group as on the steps in the photo above

Pictured below are the Swansea Sea Pilots in 1975. At that time the pilots were self employed, and were
authorised and licensed by the Swansea Pilotage Authority

From the left :- D Aubrey, H Munn, J Doyle, T Jones, G Geen, H Williams, E Parfitt,
I Evans, L Hill, G Hayes, J Hill, R Griffiths, E Price, J Evans, L Bevan, 
W Moore, J Clement and J Roderick

Left to right :- Mike Phillips, Huw Williams, George Geen, John Hill, Jack Clement, Bill Moore, Len Hill,
 Harrold Munn, Stanley Clarke, Gordon Hayes, John Evans, David Aubrey and John Stewart.
Front Seated :- Alec Geen, Trevor Jones and Clarry Mock
Photo thought to have been taken in 1974 when the new Pilot House was opened on Kings Dock Lock.

Let to right :- John Evans, Terry Abraham (Secretary Swansea Pilots Authority),
Ted Parfitt, Stanley Clarke, Gordon Hayes and David Aubrey

The photograph below is of the Swansea & Port Talbot Sea Pilots in 1988 after the take-over
 of the Swansea Pilotage Authority by Associated British Ports

Front row from left to right :- Captains Mike Talbot, Roy Griffiths,  John Lewis and  Tony Anderson,
Back from left to right :- John Hill, Eric Price, George Geen and Stan Gilbert.

Pilot John Lewis boarding the Herta Maersk from the Seamark
Gareth taking the photo of John Lewis. (Both photos from the Gareth Mills Collection)
Below is a press cutting and photograph from the 1990’s relating to four of Swansea’s sea pilots:-

 The four pilots on the fore deck of the Seamark

Photograph of an outing of docks personnel taken in 1930/1931 at the starting point outside the
 Windsor Hotel. in the front row Bertie Mayne is on the extreem right. Berties
son Jack and grandson John were both Dockers. His great grandson Steven Batcup
is skipper of the pilot boat today (19th February 2011)

Others identified in the photograph are the then Docks Manager, H. W. Morgan, his
assistant Leslie Ford, later to become Sir Leslie Ford, General Manager of the Port of
London Authority, Cargo Foreman Sam Davies and Patsy Perkins, Tom Langley,
 Will Francis, Teddy Morgan, Dai 'Yank’ Thomas, Willie Squires and lvor Glover.


The old Pilot House South Dock.

Pilot Cutter Seamark at Port Talbot

Pilot Cutter Benson in Swansea Bay

Seamark approaching an Ore Carrier to pick up the pilot

Pilot Cutter Benson off the mumbles lighthouse

Pilot Cutter Seamark in Swansea Bay

 Mike Jones, engineer of the Seamark took the 5 photos above from his fishing boat


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