28. The Bush Hotel (photos: The Bush , Dylan and Leon Atkin) - 12 December 2015
The 1851 Swansea Guide describes one prominent building as follows: ‘This old-established house, in High-street, is kept by Mr and Mrs Sayer, who from its convenient position, its commodious stabling, and superior entertainment, continue to maintain its wonted reputation’. Those proprietors have been long gone, as more recently has the establishment itself, notwithstanding being a Grade II listed building. Like such well-known pubs as the No 10 in
Street, the Three Lamps in Temple Street, and the Antelope in
Mumbles, the Bush Hotel is no more.
The Bush used to stand on the east side of High Street; it was a Georgian building with a porch and a railed balcony, supported by cast-iron columns. Such was the importance of this hostelry that
historian W.H. Jones of the Royal
Institution of South Wales brought out a booklet about it in 1915. A notable visitor after the Civil War was
Oliver Cromwell, described as ‘Lorde of this Towne’ when he first came to Swansea in May 1648. Swansea
In the course of visiting
in August 1802
Admiral Lord Nelson, along with Lord William and Lady Hamilton, dined at the
Bush. The Portreeve gave a banquet at
which both Nelson and Sir William were awarded the freedom of the town. Swansea
In the early nineteenth century landlord William Jones added a ballroom where Grand Dances were held, especially during Race Week on Crymlyn Burrows, and the Bush became an important meeting place.
Sir John Morris chaired the meeting at the Bush in July 1804 that facilitated the building of the Mumbles Railway. Initially a mineral line, three years later it began carrying fare-paying passengers to a regular timetable – so becoming the oldest passenger railway in the world.
In 1905 the Bush Hotel was acquired by Mr and Mrs D.J. Thomas, and was patronised at times by a Grammar School teacher of the same name and initials – the father of Dylan Thomas.
During the Second World War, when three consecutive nights of aerial bombardment during February 1941 exhausted water supplies, draught beer was used to combat fires from the incendiary bombs; so the building survived - unlike the Thee Lamps.
After Dylan Thomas had moved from
stayed at the Bush on occasions when visiting the town. Jeff Towns’ fine book ‘Dylan Thomas: The
Pubs’ reproduces two telegrams sent by Dylan from Laugharne to composer Dr
Daniel Jones, then living at 22 Rosehill Terrace. The second one in October 1953 asks ‘Can you
meet Bush 1.30 today on my way to Swansea – Dylan.’ This was before Dylan took the train to America London for his fateful fourth visit to North America, for
of Under Milk Wood. So the Bush became
the final New York Swansea pub patronised by Dylan
Thomas; among those who joined him that afternoon along with Dan Jones were
fellow poet Vernon Watkins and Rev. Leon Atkin, the unconventional minister of ’s Congregational
Church in St Helen’s Road. St Paul
The terracotta-coloured Bush Hotel had a brief resurgence in the early years of the twenty-first century as ‘Certainly such aspects as the seventeenth century visit of the future Lord Protector, the meeting that led to the first passenger-carrying railway in the world, and the departure of the town’s most famous poet, all merit some form of retention.
premier Gay Destination’. But then it
stood empty for some years, and during this time of neglect it suffered from
severe weather damage and vandalism. An
inspection in 2013 by structural engineers and Swansea Council's building
control surveyor concluded that the building was a dangerous structure, and
ordered its demolition. The owners of
the site, Coastal Housing, claim that some aspects of the hostelry will be
retained in what is erected in its place.