History

Swansea Market has a long and colourful history which began almost a thousand years ago, when local people gathered in the shadow of Swansea Castle to sell their wares and trade crops and livestock.

In 1652 a market house with a roof was built in Castle Square. Within a few years this market house proved to be too small with stalls starting to spill out into the streets.

It wasn’t until 1830 that the market was re-sited to Oxford Street. Again this proved too small for the ever expanding Swansea town and plans were made to improve the market. A new purpose built Market was opened in 1897 on Oxford Street and for the first time the market was completely enclosed. Its roof was the largest structure of glass and wrought iron works in the UK. Later on that year electricity was introduced into the market.

The Market continued to expand and by 1920’s it had over 670 stalls. During the Second World War, the market was devastated by German bombs. As the market was a vital food supply to the 23,000 people of Swansea a makeshift market was soon built whilst the site was cleared. An open air market continued on the Oxford Street site throughout the 1940s and 50s wiltst a £1.25 million was raised for a new Market to be built.

The current Swansea Market building was opened in 1961 and has been an important part of Swansea life ever since.

Swansea Market c1799
Swansea Market c1799
Swansea Market Square with the Market House of 1652. Lithograph by John Nixon, 1799.

Oxford Street – Swansea Market 1830
Oxford Street – Swansea Market 1830
A very early view of Oxford Street looking towards the Castle. On the left is the Globe Inn. The market is on the right and is seen as a low wall with a series of chimneys atop. The stalls were enclosed by this. Butchers stalls ran along this wall. A note on the original photograph tells us that the ‘Market [was] Erected [in] 1830’.

Orange Street – The Market Entrance
Orange Street – The Market Entrance
Orange Street runs between the market and the Quadrant shopping centre and nowadays provides loading and access to both these premises. This picture was taken around 1860-1880. The sign above the market entrance says “New Market – opened Sept.25th, 1830”. Next door, number 36, is ‘The Royal Albert Inn’ and number 35 is ‘The Orange Street Brewery’.

Oxford Street/Union Street Corner
Oxford Street/Union Street Corner
A view of Oxford Street about 1870. We are looking towards Mumbles. The street at the junction in the centre of the picture is Union Street. The market is on the left of the picture.

Swansea Market – An Early ViewThe first Oxford Street market c.1880.
Swansea Market - An Early ViewThe first Oxford Street market c.1880.
The stalls are all under slate roofs and open on to a central courtyard. Kilvey Hill is in the background behind the imposing clock tower.

Oxford Street – Swansea Market 1900
Oxford Street - Swansea Market 1900
Oxford Street about 1900, looking west. The Market, on the left, was built with a frontage of red Ruabon bricks dressed with Bath stone. The two towers surmounting the Market rose 60′ high. It was the second market to stand on this site. Horse power provides the main mode of transport at this time.

Oxford Street
Oxford Street
View of Oxford Street in 1910, looking towards the castle. The market designed by Messrs. Buckley Wilson & Moxham is on the right with its imposing entrance way and facade. Rows of shops line the left and number 258, ‘Dent Jones’ stands nearest the camera. Trams, bicycles and horse-drawn carts were the most common modes of transport.

Oxford Street – Swansea Market in the 1920s
Oxford Street - Swansea Market in the 1920s
We are standing near the corner of Union Street looking along Oxford Street towards the castle. The grand facade of the market entrance is on the right.

Oxford Street – Swansea Market in the 1930s
Oxford Street - Swansea Market in the 1930s
View of the Market on Oxford Street before the war. Note the traffic lights on the corner. This building opened in 1897 and was destroyed by bombing in February 1941; the current market is on the same site.

Aerial View of Swansea Including The Market
Aerial View of Swansea Including The Market
Swansea Town centre before the blitz of 1941. The market is in the lower right corner (looks like a football stadium with another building inside it).

Oxford Street – Swansea Market
Oxford Street – Swansea Marke
Swansea Market – Oxford Street, on the right, with the Exeter Hotel opposite on the junction with Union Street. We are looking up the street towards ‘David Evans’.

Swansea Market Site Ready For Construction
Swansea Market Site Ready For Construction
This view is taken from the site of the market before it was built about 1959. Looking along Oxford Street towards Marks and Spencer with Whitewalls on the right.

Union Street – Halfords’ Corner
Union Street - Halfords' Corner
A view of Halford’s store on the corner of Union Street and Oxford Street taken around 1960 from the area where the market was about to be built! The distinctive frontage of the ‘No. 10’ building (once a public house and a favourite haunt of Dylan Thomas and today a health food store) stands next to Halford’s on Union Street.

Swansea Market – Bombed Interior
Swansea Market - Bombed Interior
All that remained of the two acres of glass and iron roof on Swansea’s Oxford Street Market. The market was not rebuilt until 1961.

St Mary’s Church & The Market
St Mary's Church & The Market
A view of St. Mary’s Church and the Market in 1970. This picture was taken from Oldway House before the Quadrant was built. The white building in the centre is the Buccaneer Bar, at the Dolphin Hotel.

Orange Street
Orange Street
This picture was taken in the early 1970s when site clearance was underway ready for the construction of the Quadrant Shopping Centre. Looking westwards from the C&A (now HMV) building along Orange Street. Nowadays, Orange Street lies between the back of Swansea market (right bottom corner) and the Quadrant, and is primarily used for deliveries to these buildings. The Quadrant Gate public house can be seen to the left of the picture and in the centre is Nelson Street leading to Singleton Street.

Oxford Street In The 1970s

Oxford Street In The 1970s
This picture was taken soon after Oxford Street was pedestrianised and near Christmas time judging from the decorations. With Marks & Spencer (opened December 1957) and British Home Stores on the left and the Co-op. on the right.

Union Street
Union Street
At the junction of Union Street and Oxford Street in 1978. This area is now pedestrianised and tree lined.

Oxford Street & The Market Entrance
Oxford Street & The Market Entrance
A view of present-day Oxford Street with the Market entrance. Recently made a pedestrianised zone, shoppers meander safely from shop to shop.

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