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Swansea in the 19th Century saw a phenomenal growth in the population from around 2000, in 1809 to over 120,000 by 1895. During this period the town, which occupies a sheltered position at the mouth of the River Tawe, developed into one of the major seaports of the United Kingdom. The growth was related to the abundant local supplies of coal, with the local landowners, who held mineral rights, opening collieries and exporting vast amounts of coal (1,652,414 tons in 1894).
The town was also at the centre of the world’s copper trade. The first smelter opened in 1809 with copper and other ores being brought to the town, via the port. A chemical industry also developed locally. In addition, the manufacture of tinplate, as carried out within a radius of 12 miles of the port, was estimated to be three quarters of the total UK production.
The area had many wealthy industrialists, who lived in large houses. There was a flourishing export and import trade, with shipping offices and shipping agents.
A few families were involved with the building of large ships in considerable numbers. Many countries had consulates in the town. The affairs of the port were managed by a Harbour Trust.
Pilot boats, from Swansea and Neath, have raced in Swansea Bay since the late 18th century, and are depicted in paintings by local artists. Prizes were donated by local businessmen and the Harbour Trust. The earliest reference of a regatta in Swansea Bay is for the year 1823, although there is a reference to a sailing match in 1819.
Local oyster skiffs raced for special prizes. By 1828 there were sailing matches for all boats not exceeding 30 foot in length. In the early 1830’s several yachts came from Milford Haven and the Bristol Channel ports to compete at the Swansea Bay regattas.