'The Cutting' at Mumbles Head
The main road around Mumbles head passes through what locals often refer to as 'The Cutting'.
Cut through the dramatic limestone cliffs, it connects Oystermouth and Southend to Bracelet Bay and beyond. For the last hundred or so years it has been one of the gateways into the Gower peninsula.
For much of the history of Mumbles the headland was a virtually impassable wall of rock. The sheer cliff faces, quarried for centuries for their lime, made it impossible to build a road around it. Bracelet and Limeslade bays were only accessible by sea or by foot over Mumbles Hill. The coming of the Mumbles train, in 1807, opened up the village to day trippers and holidaymakers, but not the bays beyond. By the end of the nineteenth century Oystermouth had become one of the most popular destinations for holidaymakers in Wales, who flocked to the area on our iconic train.
It was the late Victorians who decided that, if it was impossible to build a road around the headland one should be built through it instead.
During the 1880s the 'Oystermouth Local Board' committed itself to extend the road from Southend towards Bracelet and Limeslade Bays. It was originally hoped that it could be completed in time to celebrate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887. It was to be part of a major development on the headland, similar to one planned at the pier today.
The local landowner, the Duke of Beaufort, had already consented to the construction of a pier for landing passengers, 'somewhere near the Lifeboat house,' and to the building of a road through the headland and out as far as Limeslade Bay. So in May 1888, the Council asked its Engineer to prepare an estimate for a cutting through the rock and took out a loan for £8,000 for the project. This cutting was completed by October 1888, but shortly afterwards there was a major rock fall which cost the princely sum of £18 to clear. Falling debris has been a constant problem over the last 130 years, leading to the walls of the cutting being recently covered with strong mesh.
So the cutting many of us drive through daily is, like Mumbles pier, a local example of Victorian ingenuity and engineering.
The above photograph was taken sometime in 1890 and shows people walking through it, safe perhaps from cars but not entirely safe from falling boulders!