Penclawdd cockle fishery, Gower

button-theme-womenbutton_lang_frenchPenclawdd cockle fishery, Gower

penclawdd_cockle_fisherCrofty is one of several locations on this stretch of coastline where generations of women brought ashore cockles, using donkeys to transport the harvest. Photos of them are shown here courtesy of West Glamorgan Archive Service. Laverbread, a traditional accompaniment to cockles, is still made in Crofty, although the main ingredient – seaweed – is no longer harvested locally.

Cockles (small shellfish) live under the surface of the estuary beaches. At low tide, women would gather them using rakes and sieves. They harvested different “beds” (areas of beach) in rotation, leaving young cockles to mature.

Once ashore, the cockles were washed and boiled on rudimentary stone fireplaces, at the shore or outside homes. The meat was then removed. Mounds of empty cockle shells were a distinctive feature of the area.

Some of the local women walked to Swansea Market – a journey of about 12km (8 miles) each way – with cockles loaded onto donkeys. You can read more about their journey and the selling of cockles on this page.

The opening of the railway to Penclawdd in 1867 enabled fresh cockles to be sold over a much wider area. The branch line from Gowerton was nicknamed the “Cockle Line”, despite mainly carrying locally-mined coal. Trains took Penclawdd cockles as far away as Birmingham. In the South Wales Valleys, they were sold by women who went from house to house with cockle baskets.

A reportpenclawdd_cockle_fishers for the South Wales Sea Fisheries Association in 1916 estimated that almost 320 tonnes of cockles were harvested in the Penclawdd area each month. On one typical day, c.50 women were observed at work on the beaches. Each of their donkeys carried c.150kg of cockles in sacks.

Horses and carts replaced the donkeys along the shore in the 1960s. Now the cockles are carried ashore in road vehicles and boats.

North of Crofty you can see a causeway which was commandeered by the military during the Second World War to form part of a firing range. Artillery shells were fired westwards towards targets near Whiteford Point.

With thanks to Carol Watts and West Glamorgan Archive Service

Postcode: SA4 3RS    View Location Map

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