Previously this area was occupied by the town’s most important building after the castle – the Plas, or Plas House. Its construction was commenced in 1383 by John de Horton of
Leicester on a plot within the
castle’s outer ward. With enlargement
and extensions the mansion was not completed until the end of the 15th
century, by his descendant Captain Sir Mathew Cradock, who died there in 1531: his
splendid tomb in old St Mary’s Church was a casualty of the 1941 bombardment.
Through his daughter, the mansion passed to the Herbert family, and the Plas became the residence of stewards of the absentee Lords of Gower. Glamorgan’s first High Sheriff, Sir George Herbert, resided there until his death in 1570. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries he was given St David’s Hospital (part of which was on the site of the Cross Keys Inn) as a reward for military services in
After his grandson Sir William Herbert died, the Plas passed through
maternal heirs to Calvert Richard Jones from Cornwall .
He permitted Rev. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, to preach in
the courtyard during his visits to Gloucester
and Gower in the 1760s. Calvert Jones
lived there for about 15 years until his death in 1781. His son and namesake gave the Ropewalk Field for
the site of a new market (on present- day Swansea Oxford Street), and in turn his son – the
third Calvert Richard Jones - was the notable painter and pioneer photographer.
The Plas gradually fell into ruin, as illustrated in Stockdale’s print of 1826 which shows the mansion from
Goat Street –
today’s lower Princess Way. After much of it was demolished in 1840, some
of the materials, such as the windows, were incorporated in the home farm on
John Henry Vivian’s Singleton estate.
Coins dating from the fourteenth century reign of Edward II were found -
significant since some of the King’s equipment and possessions were purloined
from nearby in 1326 after the
fugitive King was captured; his marriage certificate and the Oxwich brooch
The draper Ben Evans began with two of the shops that were built on the site of the Plas during the nineteenth century, and as his business expanded he bought up more neighbouring properties, before massively enlarging his premises in 1893-94 at a cost of £30,000 into the Ben Evans Department Store, with entrances on Castle Bailey Street, Temple Street and Caer Street. It occupied virtually all of present-day
Castle Square, apart from the Three Lamps
in Temple Street
and the Swansea Gas Light Company at the corner of Temple Street and Castle Bailey Street.
Following destruction from the massive aerial bombardment of February 1941, the store was not permitted to rebuild on the same site because of plans to lay out gardens in the town centre as a memorial to those killed in the Blitz. It relocated to
finally going out of business around 1960.
With the installation of the Big Screen,
has become a venue for outdoor screenings of sporting and cultural events, but
whatever changes future plans may implement, it remains a notable historical
part of the city.