At one time, visitors to Swansea's Quadrant Shopping Centre were greeted by a devilish wood effigy fondly known by locals as 'Old Nick'. The history behind this carving harks back to the 1890's when the church of St. Mary's underwent substantial structural plans. A few architects had submitted their ambitious plans to replace the poorly maintained religious building, but one architect in particular was fervently enraged when his designs were rejected in favour of fellow architect, Sir Arthur Blomfield's.
Unwilling to let church life continue without his discontent publicly expressed, the architect decided to invest in the land standing opposite St. Mary's. He demolished the existing cottages on the land and rebuilt an ugly structure that became the lofty host to 'Old Nick' the devil. He delighted in his plan to submit the church to its consant evil gaze.
With glee, he intimated that:
"My devil will be able to leer and laugh, for at some time in the future he will see St. Mary's burn to the ground."
In a bizarre turn of fate, the devil finally had the last laugh, during the blitz of February 1941, when St. Mary's Church and most of Swansea's centre was razed to the ground by the firey incendiary bombs of the German Luftwaffe. Unbelievably, the devil was one of the few artifacts left standing the following morning.
A dramatic clean up and rebuilding programme was needed in the 50's and 60's in order to restore war-beaten Swansea - St. Mary's was deemed a priority and 'Old Nick' endured watching the object of his hex rebuilt, following Blomfield's original design. Finally, in 1962, the disgraced 'Old Nick' was removed so that his purpose built watch post could be demolished.
Mysteriously, 'Old Nick' disappeared for many years until a determined local historian managed to trace the location of the evil one. Found residing in a Gloucester garage, the historian returned the devil back to Swansea to continue his watch over St. Mary's. Unfortunately, his old perch was long gone and in its place stood the newly built Quadrant Centre. For historical authenticity, permission was gained to install Swansea's most loved and hated curiousity within the Quadrant's Whitewall entrance.
Although, the Swansea Devil has been frowned upon by many people over the years, public opinion continues to fuel the latest controversy. 'Old Nick' was moved into storage during an upgrade to the Quadrant building and locals became concerned that its familiar face would be lost forever. The Evening Post, on behalf of the questioning public, campaigned for the statue to be reinstated, until the management at the Quadrant eventually placed the devil, once more, keeping watch over St. Mary's Church.
However, criticism still ensues, as Swansea's famous historic devil is virtually hidden from view, encased high within the glass roof of the Quadrant and partially obscured by the shelter of the Whitewalls entrance.
Regardless, 'Old Nick' continues to watch St. Mary's and some might say is responsible for current plague of pigeons found here!