|The Lordship of Gower (Wikimedia)|
|Sweyn Forkbeard |
in Swansea Guildhall
Spelling didn't begin to be standardised until dictionaries were introduced in the 17th century. Scribes would spell things according to their own fancy. So Sweynesse was spelled Sueinesea in 1190, and Swanesey in 1322. Today it's called Swansea. The city's logo is a swan, but the name has nothing to do with swans or the sea.
|Llywelyn ap Gruffydd statue |
The area was part of the old Welsh kingdom of Ystrad Tywi, meaning valley of the Tywi (could be the River Tawe, which flows through Swansea, or the River Towy which flows through Carmarthen!). The kingdom was divided into areas of about one hundred villages or settlements, called cantref, which literally means cant, one hundred, and tref, village or settlement. The cantref in this area was called Eginog, and was divided into three cymwd (commotes) called Gŵyr, Carnwyllion, and Cedweli.
Gŵyr comes from the old Welsh word gwhyr, meaning curved, which refers to the shape of the peninsular. When the Norman baron Henry de Neubourgh seized Gŵyr in 1138 he 'anglicised' the name as Gower and changed his name to Henry de Gower.
There was another Welsh kingdom to the east of the Tawe, called gwlad Morgan (the land of Morgan). It stretched from the Tawe to the River Wye. In the Acts of Union, 1536-42, Gower became part of the new county of Glamorgan. Gŵyr had always been associated with lands to the west, but the government took no notice of this. Today Swansea has its own county, but still incorporating lands to the east, rather than the west.
So which do you prefer today – Swansea or Abertawe? Or should it really be called Sweynesse?