Kilvey Hill, Swansea

button-theme-slavesbutton_lang_welshKilvey Hill, Swansea

From this hilltop there’s a grandstand view over the city and docks. If you’ve just scanned the QR codes, a short distance to the east is a seat built by Quakers, and beyond it the circular foundations of a windmill erected in the 17th century for grinding corn.

Photo of Maesteg House, on Kilvey HillOn the south-western slope was Maesteg House, pictured here in the 1920s (with Kilvey Hill in the background) courtesy of West Glamorgan Archive Service. Maesteg House was built by slave-owner Pascoe St Leger Grenfell (1798-1879), whose father had established the Swansea copper firm Pascoe Grenfell & Sons in the 1820s. After Britain abolished slavery in 1833, he was forced to release 216 slaves on the St James estate in Jamaica. The government gave him £4,122 compensation, about £500,000 in today’s money. The slaves received no money.

Having worked in banking in London, he settled in Swansea c.1840 and developed the company’s copper works. He built model housing for workers and All Saints Church, Kilvey (closed in 2015). He was also involved in the rapid growth of Swansea’s docks. He is pictured here courtesy of Swansea Council: Swansea Museum Collection.

swansea_pascoe_st_leger_grenfellOne of his sons, who became Field Marshall Lord Grenfell of Kilvey, had a distinguished military career before becoming president of the Royal Horticultural Society. His niece Katherine lived at Maesteg House and ran a school there, before the mansion accommodated Belgian refugees in the First World War. Maesteg House was later demolished to enable new homes to be built on its grounds.

Industrial activity took its toll on Kilvey Hill’s flora and fauna. In the 1870s a flue was built up the side of the hill to take gases from a lead and silver smelting plant at Hafod. In 1886 the newspaper The Cambrian remarked that the industrial pollution had killed the hill’s foliage, leaving “one great mass of soft, loose brown earth”. It blamed the absence of plants and roots for the deluge of mud and rocks, some weighing about half a ton, which slid down the hillside during a storm in September 1886. Some people living in terraced housing in Foxhole (on the hill’s eastern slope) suffered injuries and many families were temporarily homeless.

With thanks to West Glamorgan Archive Service and the Swansea Museum Collection. Sources include the Centre for the Study of Legacies of British Slave-ownership

View Location Map