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Swansea, a revolution on the horizon.


On a ridge high above the suburb called Landore in the south Wales city of Swansea stand the remains of two of the original four towers of Morris Castle, a true architectural landmark. It was built in the period 1768 - 1774 for Sir John Morris to house the families of workers at his industrial enterprises and has been referred to as "possibly the first block of worker's flats in the modern world". 

In 1815, Walter Davies wrote a survey of the economy of south Wales and says of Sir John that "he seems to have been the most extensive individual builder of comfortable habitations for the labouring class. He first erected a kind of castellated lofty mansion, of a collegiate appearance, with an interior quadrangle, containing the dwellings for forty families, all colliers, excepting one tailor, and one shoemaker, who are considered as useful appendages to the fraternity."

Morris Castle appears not to have been popular with its residents and was not much imitated in Wales. Relatively low population densities mean that high rise blocks are still quite unusual in Wales. However, the Morris family's interest in worker accommodation seems to stimulated other Swansea businessmen and developers. Many communities in south Wales enjoyed explosive growth in the 19th. century and the terraced housing provided for them generally shows little evidence of an interest in design. Swansea is quite different. Although large areas of old Swansea were destroyed by World War II German bombing raids, much 19th. century housing remains and this shows a far greater diversity of design than is usual in the towns which grew as a result of Britain's industrial revolution. 


    ©  John Weston / Data Wales, 2002
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