Oystermouth - From 'A Topographical Dictionary of Wales' (1849)
OYSTERMOUTH, a parish, in the union and hundred of Swansea, county of Glamorgan, South Wales, 5 miles (S. W.) from Swansea; containing 1482 inhabitants. This place was anciently called by the Welsh Caer Tawy, and probably derived that name from the erection of its castle, the foundation of which is by some historians ascribed to Henry de Beaumont, who wrested from Caradoc ab lestyn extensive territories in the province of Gower, for the security of which he built several castles; and by others to Richard de Granville, one of the Norman knights that attended Robert Fitz-Hamon, and who materially contributed to his conquest of Glamorgan. The parish, situated in the peninsula of Gower, and bounded on the east by the bay of Swansea, comprises a very large portion of arable and pasture, inclosed and in good cultivation, and a tract of common, which is uninclosed and open to the proprietors and tenants of land. The village is much resorted to by visiters during the summer; but, from its peculiar situation under a high limestone rock, which deprives it of the sun for several months in the winter, is a very dreary residence during the latter season. Lodgings may also be obtained at moderate rates at the adjacent and very healthy hamlet of Norton, and at houses, surrounded by gardens, close to the shore, along the Swansea road. The surrounding scenery is bold and striking, and the high grounds command noble views over the bays of Swansea and Carmarthen, the peninsula of Gower, which separates them, and the Bristol Channel. Woodlands Castle, the seat of the late General Warde, is a handsome modern mansion, situated about a mile and a half to the north of Oystermouth Castle.
There are some quarries of limestone of an excellent quality, which, from its being susceptible of a fine polish, is substituted for marble in the manufacture of mantel-pieces, monumental tablets, and other articles. A considerable number of the inhabitants find employment in these quarries, which are wrought upon an extensive scale, and in the mills that have been erected for sawing and polishing the blocks of stone, which are here manufactured into the various articles above noticed. In working the quarries, human bones have been discovered in immense quantities. A tramroad, constructed from this place to Swansea, along the sea-coast, affords a facility of conveying the limestone from the quarries, and of bringing back coal and manure. In 1845 a valuable vein of iron-ore was discovered, which is worked.
The Mumbles Point, an insulated rock at high water, forms the western extremity of Swansea bay; and the trustees of the harbour have erected a lighthouse upon it, which has been productive of the greatest benefit to vessels navigating this coast, and is supported by a small toll payable by each vessel passing within a certain distance. The Mumbles Roads provide excellent shelter, with good anchorage, for ships navigating the Channel, which frequently put in here during the prevalence of westerly gales; to the number, occasionally, of 400 or 500 sail. In these roads, also, are moored the boats employed in the oyster-fishery off the Gower coast; the beds extend from near the Mumbles Point almost to Worm's Head, at the other extremity of the peninsula of Gower, and in the height of the season about 400 men are engaged in dredging. Immense quantities of the oysters are sent, through factors at Swansea, to London, Liverpool, Bristol, and other markets.
The living is a perpetual curacy, endowed with £200 royal bounty, and £1000 parliamentary grant; net income, £85; patron and impropriator, Colonel Perrott. The tithes have been commuted for a rentcharge of £225. The church, dedicated to All Saints, is a neat and appropriate edifice, though not remarkable for any architectural details of importance; it contains a monument to the memory of Thomas Bowdler, Esq., of Rhydings, in this county, editor of the Family Shakspeare, and of a purified edition of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. There are places of worship for Independents, and Calvinistic and Wesleyan Methodists; some day schools, in connexion with the Established Church; and three Sunday schools, one of them conducted on Church principles. Mrs. Benbow beqeathed a rentcharge of £2 per annum to the poor, to be distributed in bread on Easter and Christmas days; but the late Rev. Thomas Fryer, who possessed a moiety of the lands so charged, made a will in 1834, empowering his executor to transfer to the curate £100 three per cent. consols., to relieve the property, and the dividend to be expended in bread, according to the will of the original donor. The poor also receive benefit from two other gifts of an ancient date, amounting to £4, the interest of which is paid out of the parish rates.
Upon the summit of a picturesque knoll, surrounded by broken cliffs, a little north-westward of the church, and commanding a fine marine prospect, are the majestic remains of Oystermouth Castle, erected by the Normans, and forming one of the most interesting specimens of ancient military architecture now remaining in the principality. Latterly, the ruins were so much overgrown with ivy, and filled up with rubbish, that their outlines could scarcely be distinguished; but in the year 1843, the Duke of Beaufort, to whom the castle belongs, had it restored, and although a larger sum might have been judiciously laid out, still the work of dilapidation has been arrested, and a fine example of Norman architecture has been disclosed. The stately hall, the immense kitchen, and the guard-room, have been rendered accessible; the windows of the chapel have been restored, and a piscina and some frescoes have been brought to light in its interior. The chapel stands at the north-east end, and, though the walls are of great thickness, forms the most elegant feature in the structure; it is of later date than any of the other parts. The restorations were effected at the suggestion of Mr. Francis, of Swansea.