The marina occupies the former South Dock, opened in 1859 as Swansea experienced an industrial boom. Copper smelting had become a major activity in the lower Tawe Valley in the 18th century, thanks to the abundant supplies of high-quality coal. Copper was brought in by ships from Cornwall, Anglesey and other places.
Swansea’s coal export trade also outgrew the basic riverside dock facilities. A North Dock was created, quickly followed by the South Dock, designed by Scottish engineer James Abernethy. These facilities were boosted by the arrival of the South Wales Railway at Swansea High Street station and a branch line to the North Dock, extended to the South Dock in 1863.
In 1905, a French sailing ship called St Patrick exploded and sank in the South Dock while its captain and crew slept on board before setting out to sea with a cargo of coal for La Rochelle. No lives were lost but three sailors with burned faces were taken to Swansea Hospital.
Bigger port facilities were later developed east of the Tawe, and the South Dock closed in 1969. It lay derelict until the local authority redeveloped the area. The old dock reopened as a marina in 1982, with light industrial units on Fishmarket Quay for companies to provide services for boat owners. Today the marina has 550 berths, 185 of which were added in 2006 by extending the marina into the dock’s western end, near the Marriott Hotel.
For the first decade, boats couldn't access the marina at low tide. In 1992 the Tawe Barrage was completed, with a sea lock. This allows marina access at all states of tide.
In 1982 the city council completed 49 flats near Arethusa Quay to re-house residents of Paxton Street. The marina’s first privately built flats were completed in 1985. The Victoria Quay development of 1986 included 72 flats, a restaurant and shops. More flats were later provided at Mannheim Quay and Pockett’s Wharf.
An industrial and maritime museum was established in a former South Dock warehouse, once used by shipping company Coast Lines. The building is now part of the National Waterfront Museum, which opened alongside the marina in 2005.
Postcode: SA1 1WG
Other SHIPWRECK HiPoints in this region:
Mumbles lifeboat – eight crew lost and 39 sailors on the freighter Samtampa in 1947
Samtampa memorial, Sker Point – 47 died when Mumbles lifeboat tried to rescue ship’s crew