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Objects falling from above

The article entitled 'The Cutting' at Mumbles Head is a reminder of the dangers of things that fall from above, especially on Southend.

'The Cutting' was blasted through the side of Mumbles Hill in 1888 to make a new road linking Southend with Bracelet Common. Such work inevitably meant pieces of stone falling from the cliff onto the beach below. This stretch of the shoreline was already littered with rocks and boulders [from earlier limestone quarrying] which could make launching The Mumbles Lifeboat at low tide very difficult. Falling stones from the 1888 roadworks damaged the lifeboat house itself and the road contractor, Mr Dickson, had to pay the RNLI for repairs to the boathouse roof. [Mumbles Pier is under construction in the distance in M.A. Clare's photo of The New Road.]

Before the building of the new road Mumbles Hill was not only quarried for limestone but also for iron ore from a mine belonging to the Libby family. The Lifeboat Organising Committee frequently complained about rocks falling on the boathouse. In June 1874 one particularly large and heavy 'stone' weighing a hundredweight [51 kilograms] went right through the roof, missing the lifeboat but damaging several oars. A very stiff letter was sent to the Duke of Beaufort's London Agent!

Quarrying ceased, the new road was opened and for a while life was quieter. But in the early 1930s there were more major construction works. The Swansea Main Drainage Scheme involved the creation of four huge storage tanks and a sewage treatment works were built inside Mumbles Hill. For many months Southend reverberated to the sound of explosions. Dust, dirt and debris descended as the hill was subjected to blasting again. In May 1932 a portion of the cliff face 'sliced off by the explosions went 'sky high', and the wooden safety shield in use failed to prevent rocks falling onto buildings near the Bristol Channel Yacht Club. The houses in Southend Villas belonging to Mrs Libby and Mrs Thomas were the worst hit with one 5Ib (21/4 kilograms) stone crashing through the roof of the latter onto a bed in the back bedroom. Luckily, no one was in the room at the time. Swansea's Borough Engineer asked for a full report and hastened to assure residents that 'he had every hope such an event would not be repeated.' One can only imagine the headlines if such an accident happened today! Fortunately, by July 1933 surface blasting work was finished and the residents of Southend heaved a collective sigh of relief.

This relief was short lived for the Luftwaffe had other ideas. During the night of 6 August 1940 a series of terrific bangs, which lifted beds off floors, woke not only the inhabitants of Southend but many folk for miles around. Twelve High Explosive bombs had been dropped into the sea off Mumbles Lighthouse. The next day the bays around Mumbles Head were full of water-logged wood bobbing on the surface, apparently thrown up from the sea bed by the explosions.

 No one was hurt, but nerves were somewhat shaken and there was a renewed enthusiasm for air raid shelters!


But it was not only enemy missiles that rained down