One of Swansea’s most recognisable residents has a new home as the city celebrates its first 50 years as a city.
The Swansea Devil, whose story dates back more than 100 years, is now being cared for by conservation specialists at Swansea Museum.
The Swansea Council-run venue has been given the unique item – also known as Old Nick – by the owners of the city centre Quadrant Shopping Centre where it has watched over shoppers since the 1980s.
The three foot tall wooden carving remains a quirky part in Swansea folklore.
Robert Francis-Davies, the council’s cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said: “We’re grateful to our friends at the Quadrant Shopping Centre for offering The Swansea Devil to the museum.
“Old Nick is an iconic Swansea object which needs professional care; we’re grateful to the Quadrant Shopping Centre staff for looking after him for so long and for continuing to make him visible to the residents and visitors.
“Staff at the museum have specialist conservation and interpretation skills. They will take great care of him for future generations to enjoy and to learn about is story. He will be displayed prominently for all to see.
“It’s right that, as Swansea marks 50 years of city status, one of its most unusual curiosities is to be made even more accessible to residents and visitors – and given a higher profile than ever.”
Lisa Hartley, Quadrant Shopping Centre manager, said: “The centre has been home to The Devil since the 1980s and it has become quite a well-known and recognisable fixture in the city.
“We are sad to see him go but, as an iconic piece of Swansea heritage dating back over 100 years, Swansea Museum is the perfect environment to ensure his continued preservation.
“We look forward to seeing him settle into his new home where he can be enjoyed by future generations keen to learn his story.”
The story of the Swansea Devil stretches back to the 1890s when it was decided to rebuild the city centre St Mary’s Church.
The job went to acclaimed architect Sir Arthur Blomfield but a competing local designer took the rejection badly and – some years later – put up a red brick building nearby complete with a distinctive feature, a carving of Satan facing the church.
The architect was reputed to have prophesied that the devil would remain laughing “when your church is destroyed and burnt to the ground.”
And, when World War Two bombing wrecked St Mary’s in 1941, the nearby Old Nick and its building escaped the bombs.
Eventually, the building made way for the Quadrant Shopping Centre which opened in the late 1970s – but somewhere along the way, the Swansea Devil went missing.
He was eventually rediscovered in Gloucester and, in the early 1980s, was brought home thanks to contributions from the city’s former C&A store, Swansea Council and the South Wales Evening Post.
The Swansea Devil was brought home even though there was opposition from some church-goers.
He looked down from above the centre’s Whitewalls entrance until last week (note: w/c May 20) when museum staff carefully rehoused him.
He now has evidence of the ageing process, notably some cracks in the wood. Museum staff are determined to care for him and preserve him. They will analyse his needs and prepare a plan of action.
Museum staff have been working with others on another way of telling his story, including a specialist photography project which is in its early stages.