Melin Mynach, Gorseinon

We were recently asked by Swansea Council and Mann Williams Civil Engineers to undertake a 3D photogrammetric survey of the Melin Mynach Scheduled Monument (SMGm501), a former mill site in Gorseinon, to inform on conservation management plans.

The site broadly consists of the remains of a medieval and Post-medieval gristmill, an early Post-medieval paper mill and later woollen mill. Cadw note that “…water power has been used at this location for a number of industrial purposes for a long period [of time]. The earliest mill is thought to be of monastic origin, possibly built after Neath Abbey took over the estate of Cwrt-y-carnau in 1150, and was probably a corn mill. The first documentary reference to a mill was in 1578. In 1772 it was converted for paper making, and was one of the first of its kind in Wales, in use for over a century. It was returned to use as a corn mill in the 1830’s, but in 1866 William Lewis converted the mill to woollen manufacture, enlarging it substantially in 1874. From 1888 the site was turned to chemical and tinplate manufacturing, and the mill itself became disused. The main surviving features are the leat, pond, paper mill, woollen mill, two wheel pits, dye-houses and the mill owner’s house” (Cadw).

The survey was undertaken with a high resolution camera equipped UAV (drone) and DSLR camera. The 3D photogrammetric model was produced using proprietary photogrammetry software and aligned using known ground control points (GCPs), which were tied into the Ordnance Survey National Grid and Datum using an RTK GNSS/Glonass (GPS) Receiver. The resulting Ground Sampling Distance (GSD) achieved 0.83cm/pixel. The 3D model produced a dense point cloud of over 171 million points and a high face count mesh (>34m), with a mean RMS error of 6mm. You can view a copy of the 3D photogrammetric model below that has been reduced in size/detail. The finished 3D model was so large (and detailed) we had to reduce it by around 70% to allow us to share online. 

We then produced series of high resolution measured orthographic plans and elevations to inform on the conservation efforts.

Orthographic NE and SW Facing Photogrammetric Wheel Pit Elevations

The Medieval and later Post-medieval Development of the Mill

The historical and archaeological background of Melin Mynach has previously been outlined in great detail by Martin Lawler (1990). So we’ve summarised some of his work below and augmented this where necessary with more recent archaeological developments to provide a little historical background to Melin Mynach.

Medieval and Post-medieval Gristmill

The medieval gristmill, also known as the Monk’s Mill, is understood to be of monastic origin. The site of the mill formed part of a grange attached to the east of Neath Abbey, which was established in around 1150. This monastic grange was known as Cwrt-y-Carnau. At the beginning of the 19th century, a sizeable farmhouse (NPRN18500) was erected on the site of this former grange (Roberts 2014, 228). In terms of extent, the grange spanned an area between Loughor Estuary in the west to Afon Lliw in the east. It has been suggested by Williams (2001, 308) that the grange centred on NGR SS 593 988, which denotes a point on the eastern edge of Gorseinon. In total, the Cwrt-y-Carnau Grange formed part of a collection of seventeen estates over which Neath Abbey had control. The earliest reference to the gristmill at Cwrt-y-Carnau belongs to the sixteenth century and is recorded as occupying an area towards the western banks of Afon Lliw. As this reference was made several centuries after the construction and use of the Cwrt-y-Carnau mill, the process of definitively identifying the Melin Mynach site as its place of origin proves difficult. However, the Melin Mynach site is situated near the western banks of Afon Lliw and is the only site of this kind in the area. It may therefore be approximated that the gristmill at Melin Mynach did indeed form part of the Cwrt-y-Carnau Grange. In terms of its position, the mill would have been isolated from the chapel and grange centre, which were situated further west towards the Loughor Estuary. The chapel to which the mill originally belonged is known as St Michael’s, which today comprises a Scheduled Monument (SMGm363). Yet this was not an unusual situation for the time, as some other monastic granges in Wales were similarly arranged, such as those belonging to Strata Florida Abbey in Ceredigion and Whitland Abbey in Carmarthenshire.

The surviving features associated with the medieval gristmill include a small section of mill race, the mill pond and the earthen platform on which the mill itself was constructed. The mill race was one of the longest of its kind in Wales, measuring over 2.8km in length. The construction of this mill race, moreover, involved the highest engineering expertise that the twelfth and thirteenth centuries had to offer. The head race section diverted water from Afon Lliw towards the western edge of the Lliw Valley to a height of approximately 4m above the river. The tail race section then returned the water to Afon Lliw at a point near King’s Bridge. In terms of structure, little of the original medieval gristmill survives as it was reconstructed in the eighteenth century. Akin to other industrial sites belonging to monastic granges, the gristmill would likely have been managed by lay brethren. Following the Act of Supremacy 1534 and the resulting dissolution of the monasteries in England and Wales, the gristmill, along with the entirety of the Cwrt-y-Carnau Grange, was transferred to private ownership. As a result, the mill at this time formed part of a manorial demesne until as late as the nineteenth century. It was during this time that the mill was reconstructed and enlarged.

Post-medieval Paper Mill

The conversion of the former medieval mill into a combined grist and paper mill was commissioned during the early eighteenth century by Thomas Selman, the then proprietor of the mill. At this time, Melin Mynach represented one of the three earliest paper manufacturing sites in Wales. An earlier paper mill situated on the edge of Kidwelly in Carmarthenshire was previously owned by the Selman family. Yet for reasons unknown, the Selmans decided to transfer their paper manufacturing business from Kidwelly to Melin Mynach by 1729. Structurally, the new paper mill at Melin Mynach was composed of sandstone rubble walling.

The manufacture of paper at the mill involved the recycling of old textiles in the form of, for example, rags, cloth and cordage. These textiles were first cleaned and separated into individual fibres, in an operation similar to carding.

Grading Rags – Diderot Encyclopedie 1767

The separated fibres were then chopped and boiled before being transferred to the pulp mill which, it is presumed, would have been located near the water wheel.

Stamping – Diderot Encyclopedie 1767

Within the pulp mill, the fibres would have been pulverised via a series of timber stampers, which were operated via cams attached to the shaft of the water wheel. Moreover, the fibres were placed on a series of stone or timber mortars, meaning they were pulverised between the base of the stamper and the top of the mortar. These mortars were graded, with each grade facilitating a slightly finer texture of fibre.

Machine stamping – Diderot Encyclopedie 1767

The fibres were, therefore, transferred between each grade consecutively, before a desired texture was obtained. The precise nature of this mortar grading and the ways in which it operated in unknown. This process took between twelve and 36 hours to complete, depending on the texture of the type of textile being worked. Once this process was completed, the resulting pulp from the mortars was transfered into a large vat, which was attached to a charcoal heated stove.

Moulding Vat – Diderot Encyclopedie 1767

Once within this vat, the pulp was continually agitated through stirring. A fine sieve was then used in order to mould the portions of the pulp into individual sheets. Each sheet was placed onto a corresponding ‘felt’ (composed of woollen cloth) and a stack of alternating sheets and felts was formed. This stack, or ‘post’, generally consisted of 144 pairs of sheets and felts. Once these posts were formed they were compressed in a screw press, which reduced the thickness of the post from around 600mm to approximately 150mm. The individual sheets could then be separated from their corresponding felts to be hung up and dried. These individual sheets, at this stage of the manufacturing process, took a form that could be described as paper.

Drying -Diderot Encyclopedie 1767

 

Post-medieval Woollen Mill

By the 1860s, the paper mill at Melin Mynach was out of use and was purchased by William Lewis, a woollen manufacturer from Penllergaer to the east of Gorseinon. Lewis had converted the old paper mill into a woollen mill by 1875, a process which involved the construction of a new mill building.

1874 date stone for the new woollen building

The old paper mill was, however, retained rather than demolished and may have been used by Lewis as a weaving shed. The new mill building was three storeys in height with a large waterwheel on its northern end. This waterwheel was reconstructed in the 1990s. In terms of structure, the woollen mill was more robust than the previous paper mill and was constructed using roughly dressed sandstone blocks. Internally, the woollen mill was compartmentalised into four bays and the windows incorporated into its longitudinal east wall were markedly large in size, spanning both the ground and first floors of the building.

Parc Melin Mynach Information Panel with the reconstruction drawing of the mill in 1875

The precise operations being conducted within the woollen mill are difficult to determine, although it is likely, based on information from Lewis’ account books, that the interior was supplied with carding and scribbling machines. These same account books also indicate that William Lewis was supplying woollen flannel manufactured at the mill to the local markets of Swansea, as well as cloth for shirts and underclothing.  Attached to the southern end of the new mill building was the dyehouse, with passage between the two buildings being facilitated by a pair of parallel doorways. Beyond the dyehouse there exists evidence that the woollen mill witnessed further extension during the Lewis family’s proprietorship. These building extensions are presumed to have bee incorporated sometime after 1879. One of these extensions takes the form of a T-shaped building, single storey in height, with narrow sandstone footings. Another extension is situated approximately 13m of here and takes the form of another narrow single storeyed building. The precise function of these buildings has not yet been determined.

Orthomosaic Plan of Melin Mynach

Selected Bibliography

Lawler, M, 1990, Melin Mynach, Gorseinon: Archaeology, History and Future Prospects, GGAT Report No 90/01.

Roberts, R, 2014, Cistercian Granges in Glamorgan and Gwent, GGAT Report No 2014/023.

Williams, DH, 2001, The Welsh Cistercians, Bodmin, MPG Books.

The Encyclopaedia of Diderot & d’Alembert, https://quod.lib.umich.edu/d/did/ 

 

Former Tyla Cartshed, Gilwern Hill

We recently carried out a survey on a small stone outbuilding adjacent to Lilac Cottage on Gilwern Hill. You can view the 3D photogrammetric model here and download the full building record here ‘213 Lilac Cottage Stable Building Survey Report’.
The outbuilding is recorded by the RCAHMW (NPRN270200) as Tyla Cottage Stable. Although the partial archway in NE facing elevation would suggest that it was in fact a much larger cart shed, with later phases reducing the size of the building and the infilling of the arch. They note anecdotal evidence to suggest that Lilac Cottage is said to have been the former Quarryman’s Arms public house (NPRN270203). The Ordnance Survey 1st Edition map (1888) records the cottages here as ‘Tyla’, perhaps referring to a hamlet name for the quarry workers houses.
Ordnance Survey 1st Edition historic map (1888)
The Tyla settlement is named for the limestone quarry to the south and west. The Tyla quarries were the first limestone quarries opened up for the fledgling ironworks at Blaenavon after 1787. The limestone was used as a flux to stick slag together in the furnaces as well as mortar to build. The Hanburys of Pontypool had been extracting ore from the mountains around Blaenavon since Tudor times using scouring methods on the mountain top, and this was continued by the Blaenavon partners after 1787 to feed the ironworks. In 1787 Thomas Hill and Benjamin Pratt from Stourbridge successfully negotiated a 21 year lease of some 12,000 acres, formally leased by the Hanburys, from Lord Abergavenny. They were then joined by Thomas Hopkins, a Welshman who had managed forges at Rugeley, Staffordshire. Together they constructed three purpose-built furnaces and cast houses and were producing pig iron by 1790, some 3,600 tons by 1792. By 1806 furnaces 5 and 6 had been built and then later Hill’s Tramroad and Garnddyrys Forge were operational by 1817.
Garnddyrys Forge and Hill’s Tramroad in the early 19th century. Reconstruction by Michael Blackmore.
The additional furnaces at Blaenavon and the growing lime trade on the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal created further demand for limestone. With large limekilns built on the canal at Llangattock, Gilwern, Llanfoist and Goytre. Tyla quarry had been opened up after 1787 and initially limestone was hauled by horse on tracks over the mountains to Blaenavon. By around 1800 a tramroad had been constructed from the quarry to Pen-ffordd-goch (Keepers Pond) and down to the ironworks at Blaenavon. This route was abandoned when Hill’s Tramroad and the Pwll Du Tunnel (and quarries) was operation in around 1817.
The Reverend William Coxe during his Historical Tour of Monmouthshire (1801) marvelled at a new ‘rail road’ being built from the Tyla Quarries and his description is a useful insight to industrial activity at Tyla:
In the vicinity of Blaenavon we observed the process of making a rail road, so called because it is formed by a kind of frame with iron rails, or bars, laid length ways, and fastened or cramped by means of cross bars. The ground being excavated, about fix feet in breadth, and two in depth, is strewed over with broken pieces of stone, and the frame laid down, it is composed of rails, sleepers, or cross bars, and under sleepers. The rail is a bar of cast iron, four feet in length, three inches thick, and one and a half broad; its extremities are respectively concave and convex, or in other words are morticed and tenanted into each other, and fastened at the ends by two wooden pegs to a cross bar called the sleeper. This sleeper was originally of iron, but experience having shewn that iron was liable to snap or bend, it is now made of wood, which is considerably cheaper, and requires less repair. Under each extremity of the sleeper is a square piece of wood, called the under sleeper, to which it Is attached by a peg. The frame being thus laid down and filled with stones, gravel, and earth, the iron rails form a ridge above the surface, over which the wheels of the cars glide by means of iron grooved rims three inches and a half broad.”

Copperworks Discovery Project 2021

We are excited to announce a new community archaeology project at the world-renowned Hafod-Morfa copperworks, made possible by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. We are on the hunt for volunteers! No experience or equipment is necessary, just come along and enjoy digging a piece of Swansea history. To register your interest please email Abbi at abbi@bmarchaeology.com

If you missed the virtual launch event on Tuesday 26th October 2021 then you can catch up with a recording of the event on our YouTube channel here.

Don’t forget, the deadline for registering your interest for the archaeological dig is 10am Friday 29th October 2021.

#HeritageFund #NationalLottery #heritageforeveryone #communityarchaeology #industrialarchaeology Swansea Council

Rydym yn gyffroes i gyhoeddi prosiect archeoleg gymunedol newydd yng ngweithiau copr byd-enwog Hafod-Morfa, yn bosibl trwy grant gan The National Lottery Heritage Fund. Rydym yn hela am gwirfoddolwyr! Nid oes angen profiad nac offer, jest dewch draw i fwynhau cloddio darn o hanes Abertawe. I gofrestru’ch diddordeb e-bostiwch Abbi ar abbi@bmarchaeology.com

#HeritageFund #NationalLottery #treftadaethibawb #archeoleggymunedol #archeolegddiwydiannol Cyngor Abertawe

 

Brief history of the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks

Hafod-Works-bridge-1810-engraving
View of the Hafod Copperworks – from George Grant Francis (1881), The Smelting of Copper in the Swansea District, from the time of Elizabeth to the present day

During the mid-19th Century the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks employed over 1000 people. Situated in the Lower Swansea Valley, this area at that time accounted for 90% of the world’s copper production. This was made possible by a abundant supply of coal in the Swansea Valley, brought down via the late 18th century canals, and the excellent facilities for shipping, which allowed the import of copper ore from Cornwall, North Wales, South America, South Africa and Australia.

Copperworks in Lower Swansea Valley 1865 Le Tour du Monde
Copperworks in the Lower Swansea Valley 1865 – Le Tour Du Monde

The Hafod Copperworks was established in 1808-9 by the Cornish entrepreneur John Vivian. In 1828 a Cornish firm, Williams, Foster & Co., opened the Morfa works on adjacent land. The works was initially a rolling plant for making bars and plates from copper ingots brought from the nearby Rose Works but smelting is believed to have started by 1835. Both the Hafod and Morfa works amalgamated in 1924 and was subsequently operated by Yorkshire Imperial Metals until it closed in 1980, when it was the last operating copperworks in Swansea.

At least fifteen significant structures, in varying degrees of condition, survive across the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks site. These include the rolling mill (LB 16878) now used as the museum stores, the laboratory building (LB 11690) and the former Morfa Powerhouse and later Yorkshire Imperial Metals canteen (LB 11691). The Hafod Limekiln (11694), Copper Slag Abutment, Pier and Canal Boundary Walls (LB 11692 and 11693). The Vivian Engine House (LB 11695), the Chimney (LB 11696) west of the Vivian Engine House and the Boundary wall for the Hafod Copperworks Canal Docks (LB16881). Finally, the in-situ Musgrave Engine and Rolls (SAMGm483) in the Musgrave Engine House and Chimney (LB 11697).

You can check out some our previous investigations at the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks here!

3D Photogrammetric Survey of Alina’s Chapel, Oystermouth Castle

We were recently asked by Taliesin Conservation to undertake a high resolution, metrically accurate 3D photogrammetric survey of Alina’s Chapel, Oystermouth Castle (SAMGm007) ahead of conservation work. The survey was undertaken with a camera equipped UAV (drone) and tied into the Ordnance Survey National Grid and Datum using an RTK GN55/ Glonass (GPS) Receiver.
Oystermouth Castle Plan (c) RCAHMW
Oystermouth Castle is located on a high carboniferous knoll overlooking the town and Swansea Bay. The castle dates to the 12th century, probably built by William de Londres after Henry de Beaumont of Warwick’s conquest of Gower in 1107. The RCAHMW (2000, 249) note at least six phases of masonry development at Oystermouth (RCAHMW 2000, 245-272).
Aerial view of Oystermouth Castle

The castle most likely started as ringwork before being replaced by stone keep by Maurice de Londres (1138-41) (Period I).

John de Braose (1220-32) constructed the central block, a two-storeyed structure over a vaulted cellar set against the north wall of the keep (Period II).

Period III may post-date the Welsh attack on Gower in 1256. The northwest block and west range being added.

William de Braose II (1241-90) likely built the gatehouse and curtain walls, finished by the time Edward I visited the castle in 1284 (Period IV).

The chapel block (Period V) consists of the finest masonry in the castle and likely dates to the 14thcentury. Before construction it was necessary to demolish part of east curtain wall. The chapel consisted of a basement, used as a kitchen, first floor apartment and second floor chapel lighted by five decorated windows. The largest eastern window divided by two chamfered mullions and cusped and interlaced tracery (RCAHMW 2000, 245-272). The roof of the chapel forming a crenelated parapet. The chapel may have been built by Alina de Braose (1327-31), daughter of William de Braose III and widow of John de Mowbray.

Period VI consisted of the construction of several ranges set against the southwest and east curtain walls. The east range being a kitchen of some kind with excavations in 2009 (Sherman 2012, 6) recovering stone and slate roof tiles and a shell midden containing large quantities of oyster, periwinkle, muscle, limpet whelk and pod razor shell all potentially dating to the 13th/14th centuries.

The survey generated a dense point cloud over 97 million points with a mean RMS error of 0.013m. Six GCPs were used and surveyed with an EMLID Reach GN55/ Glonass (GPS) Receiver and data logger with a sub-20mm error margin to OSGB36 (National Grid). The Ground Sampling Distance (GSD) achieved was a great 0.84cm/pixel.

You can view the 3D photogrammetric survey of Alina’s Chapel here. A high resolution still from the 3D model is below.

3D Photogrammetric Orthographic of Alina’s Chapel, Oystermouth Castle

With thanks to:

We are very grateful to Taliesin Conservation, Swansea Council and Cadw for help and support during the project.
References

Newman, J, 2001, The Buildings of Wales, Glamorgan. Second Edition. University of Wales Press.

RCAHMW, 2000, An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Glamorgan Vol III – Part lb Medieval Secular Monuments The Later Castle From 1217 to the Present. Aberystwyth.

Sherman, A, 2012, Recent archaeological works at Oystermouth Castle: Archaeological evaluation, community excavation, watching brief and window recording. GGAT Report 2012/071.

Tintern Abbey 3D Photogrammetric Survey

 

We are pleased to be able to share some of our recent work in Monmouthshire. We were asked by Cadw to undertake a photogrammetric survey at Tintern Abbey (SAMMm102). The aim of the survey was to produce accurate, measured 3D photogrammetric modelling of the east wall of the Chapter House and east facing elevation of the Monk’s Dortor/Day Room. The survey areas were situated adjacent (east) to the mid-12th century cloister and forms part of challenging restoration work being carried out by IBEX Technical Access LTD. We also had time to take a quick drone video during lunch, you can view the video here.
Aerial view of Tintern Abbey
The Monk’s Day Room survey created a dense point cloud of over 18 million points with a mean RMS error of 0.8cm. The Ground Sampling Distance (GSD) achieved was a great 0.43cm/pixel. The 3D model of the Monk’s Day Room can be viewed here.
Monk’s Day Room 3D photogrammetric orthofacade
The Chapter House survey created a dense point cloud of over 36 million points with a mean RMS error of 0.8cm. The Ground Sampling Distance (GSD) achieved was a great 0.38cm/pixel. The 3D model of the Chapter House can be viewed here.
Chapter House 3D photogrammetric orthofacade
Aerial view of Tintern Abbey

The excavation of a 19th century cottage in Pontsticill

We recently carried out an excavation in the lovely village of Pontsticill. We were initially asked to undertake an archaeological watching brief during groundworks for a new build house. Historic maps showed the presence of several houses dating from the 19th century in the area of the proposed new house, which was just a garden at the time of the investigations. During the course of the archaeological watching brief we revealed the remains of a 19th century cottage known locally as Bryn Teg. The remains of the house were fully excavated and recorded in 3D using photogrammetry.

1842 Tithe Map

The 1842 Tithe Map (Plan of the Parish of Vaynor in the County of Brecon) records the area of the new build house occupied by a pair of small rectangular houses, now demolished, and associated gardens. These buildings were situated within Land Parcel 582, which is recorded in the 1842 apportionment as being a meadow belonging to William Jenkins and Phillip Watkins. The northernmost house was situated in an area now occupied by the Dolgaer Houses, which first appears on the 1885 Ordnance Survey (OS) Map (Brecknockshire XLVI.NW). The southern house also appears to have been replaced at this time by the new Bryn Teg cottage, located in the north-west corner of Land Parcel 582.

1885 OS Historic Map

We were thrilled to have been given a photograph by a local resident that shows the 19th century cottage Bryn Teg in the years prior to its demolition. A precise date for this photograph is unclear but the small field situated to the east of Dolgaer Houses is being used for cultivation, which marries well with another aerial photograph dated to 1972. Therefore, the demolition of the cottage must have happed around this time.

Aerial photograph of Bryn Teg cottage before demolition

The aerial photograph clearly shows a three storey house with chimneys on each gable end wall. Two local residents of Pontsticill, Graham Williams and Mike Burns kindly shared their memories of Bryn Teg with us. Graham remembered that he used to deliver newspapers to the house as a child.  Graham and Mike also remembered that during the mid-20th century the house was being rented by a roofer named Jack Andrews and his family, who came to Pontsticill from East London.

Orthographic oblique photogrammetric 3D survey of Bryn Teg

The archaeological investigations consisted of the full excavation and preservation by record of the remains of Bryn Teg cottage, formally a three storey house. The 19th century house was recorded with a blend of RTK GPS survey, 3D photogrammetry (derived from both aerial and terrestrial cameras) and a descriptive account and phasing of the visible internal and external elevations, as well as its flooring and associated internal features.

Bryn Teg cottage phase plan

The remains of the 19th century house included the front (west) retaining wall; the southern gable end wall; the northern gable end wall, which included an in situ chimney breast, spiral staircase and cast iron range (complete with a kettle!!); the rear (east) wall; and a pair of internal partition walls. The north-facing elevation of an exterior retaining wall, which supported a rear yard to the south of the house, was also recorded.

South facing gable wall with in-situ cast iron range and chimney staircase

The full 3D photogrammetric model of the 19th century house can be viewed here: https://p3d.in/UBYkb. You can also download the full archaeological watching brief report here 206 Land to Rear of Dolgaer, Pontsticill WB Report.

The 3D photogrammetric model produced a dense point cloud of over 31 million points with a mean RMS error of 0.7cm. The Ground Sampling Distance (GSD) achieved was a great 0.15cm/pixel. High resolution orthographic renders (orthoplanes and orthomosaics) were also produced (see plan and elevation above).

Acknowledgements

We are very grateful for all of the help we received from the residents of Pontsticill during the course of the investigations.

We are especially grateful to Alison and Steve Cox for being so supportive throughout the project. 

Thank You!

 

Excavations at the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks

We are currently working at the incredible Hafod-Morfa Copperworks, Swansea. We are excavating part of the site in advance of the refurbishment of the former Morfa Powerhouse and later Yorkshire Imperial Metals canteen (LB 11691) building into a distillery and visitor centre by Penderyn Whisky (our favourite whiskey!).

The principle discoveries found include the remains of a large pond noted on early maps (labelled number 46 in the map below) thought to have provided water power to early  mills on the site, possibly for ore crushing, before steam power was widely adopted in the mid-19th century.

Ordnance Survey 1st Edition Map 1879
Ordnance Survey Map of the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks in 1879

We have uncovered the remains of what we believe is one of the early Morfa Rolling Mill buildings built in 1828 to principally roll copper brought in from the Rose Copperworks. The rolling mill is known to have burnt down in the 1840s. Following the fire, the present rolling mill building was extended and is now the home of Swansea Museum stores.

Aerial
View SE of Rolling Mill (bottom right of picture), Cast House (centre left of picture) and gable end of Laboratory Building (centre top of picture)

The gable end of the original Morfa Laboratory building was found on the western edge of our excavations. The laboratory was used to test the metal mixtures during smelting and alloying and dozens of small ceramic assaying cupels were found in demolition rubble; the building had been apparently demolished sometime after 1926. The aerial photograph below shows the building at this time standing in front of the great Silverstack Chimney.

1920s Copperworks in the lower swansea valley. Surrey flying services NMW 75.64I_14
1926 Copperworks in the lower swansea valley. Surrey flying services NMW 75.64I_14

The west and north walls belonging to the Yellow Metals Mill Cast House were found to have survived very well, indeed both walls have survived to second storey. Beneath the later 20th century floors, several furnaces were identified dating to the construction of the building in 1840. High levels of copper and zinc residues confirm the manufacture of Yellow Metal, a copper alloy of 60% copper and 40% zinc developed by George Frederick Muntz. This alloy largely replaced sheet copper used to clad the hulls of timber ships. Muntz later became a shareholder in the Upper and Middle Bank Copperworks, Swansea, which were later sold to Williams, Foster and Co.

Hafod site - 1951
ICI Plan of the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks in the 1950s

A WWII air-raid shelter was found tucked away in the west wall of the cast house, made of prefabricated concrete lintels. The shelter appears to have been used as a store room after the war.

DSCF4357
1840 Cast House (view N)

DSCF4353
1840 Cast House (view S) showing yellow brick furnace and chimney bases. The air-raid shelter doorway is located centre right of picture in the cast house wall

In the centre of the site, where once drams carried off coal from the Swansea Canal into the works, we found the well-preserved remains of an early 20th century bathhouse, complete with 12 ceramic shower trays, quarry tiled floors, urinals, toilets and a large boiler bay. The bathhouse has been subjected to detailed recording including the generation of scaled 3D models.

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Quarry tiled Bathhouse (centre)

Bath House
3D Model of Bathhouse

You can view the 3D model here

One of the more recent discoveries made on-site is a large culverted filtration system for taking dirty water from the Swansea Canal into the works. The culvert was located on the northern end of the Weigh Bridge building and consisted of four concrete and brick-built chambers with inserted steel mesh filter curtains. Two large pipes brought the canal water into the filtration system, controlled by two large valves. You can view the 3D model here

Screenshot 2020-01-20 at 14.27.11
3D Model of Culverted Canal Filtration System

An old photograph taken of the Silverstack Chimney may show that this filtration culvert was roofed at this point in time.

Silverstack Chimney (C) West Glamorgan Archives D3451
Silverstack Chimney and Yellow Metals Mill Cast House. Note the small hipped roof inside the works boundary wall, opposite the large boiler (bottom right of picture) (C) West Glamorgan Archives D3451

Finally, we discovered a long forgotten memorial garden to the servicemen and civilians from the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks who died during World War II. The memorial garden was located on the gable end of the surviving rolling mill.

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ICI WWII Memorial Garden

A funnelled pathway with flower beds either side lead to several steps and a small a memorial finished in cement render on the gable wall. No plaque survived on-site but a quick search of the Landore Social Club found that the plaque had been removed when the Copperworks was closed in the 1980s and consequently placed in the club.

Memorial
ICI Landore Works Memorial now in Landore Social Club

Brief history of the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks

Hafod-Works-bridge-1810-engraving
View of the Hafod Copperworks – from George Grant Francis (1881), The Smelting of Copper in the Swansea District, from the time of Elizabeth to the present day

During the mid-19th Century the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks employed over 1000 people. Situated in the Lower Swansea Valley, this area at that time accounted for 90% of the world’s copper production. This was made possible by a abundant supply of coal in the Swansea Valley, brought down via the late 18th century canals, and the excellent facilities for shipping, which allowed the import of copper ore from Cornwall, North Wales, South America, South Africa and Australia.

Copperworks in Lower Swansea Valley 1865 Le Tour du Monde
Copperworks in the Lower Swansea Valley 1865 – Le Tour Du Monde

The Hafod Copperworks was established in 1808-9 by the Cornish entrepreneur John Vivian. In 1828 a Cornish firm, Williams, Foster & Co., opened the Morfa works on adjacent land. The works was initially a rolling plant for making bars and plates from copper ingots brought from the nearby Rose Works but smelting is believed to have started by 1835. Both the Hafod and Morfa works amalgamated in 1924 and was subsequently operated by Yorkshire Imperial Metals until it closed in 1980, when it was the last operating copperworks in Swansea.

At least fifteen significant structures, in varying degrees of condition, survive across the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks site. These include the rolling mill (LB 16878) now used as the museum stores, the laboratory building (LB 11690) and the former Morfa Powerhouse and later Yorkshire Imperial Metals canteen (LB 11691). The Hafod Limekiln (11694), Copper Slag Abutment, Pier and Canal Boundary Walls (LB 11692 and 11693). The Vivian Engine House (LB 11695), the Chimney (LB 11696) west of the Vivian Engine House and the Boundary wall for the Hafod Copperworks Canal Docks (LB16881). Finally, the in-situ Musgrave Engine and Rolls (SAMGm483) in the Musgrave Engine House and Chimney (LB 11697).

Previous work at the copperworks

We have been supporting C&CS on the site of the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks for the past few years. A selection of these reports are available to download and read below:

Copperworks Discovery Project

In the spring of 2018 we delivered a very successful community history and archaeology project at the world renowned Hafod-Morfa Copperworks. We provided opportunities to get involved with historical and archaeological research workshops to explore the copperwork’s past and on-site building survey workshops. Our community project formed part of the wider regeneration project that aims to turn the renowned copperwork site into a world class heritage, innovation and education destination.

Read all about the project here Copperworks Discovery Project

Hafod-Morfa Copperworks Field Evaluation

In February 2018, Black Mountains Archaeology Ltd undertook an archaeological evaluation on behalf of the City and County of Swansea in advance of proposals to convert the site of the former Hafod-Morfa Copperworks into a world class heritage, innovation and education destination.

Twelve 20-metre-long evaluation trenches were strategically excavated across the site of the former copperworks, in three defined areas, in order to achieve the most comprehensive understanding of the archaeological potential of the site. The results of the evaluation revealed a deep layer of waste and debris overlying extensive archaeological remains of the former copperworks. These remains included: the floors and walls of various buildings, culverts, reverberatory furnace bases, machine bases and various foundation layers. The overlying debris and waste were the result of copper production and the demolition of the copperworks.

Read all about the project here Hafod-Morfa Copperworks Field Evaluation Report

Powerhouse Design Pattern Recording Project

Black Mountains Archaeology Ltd, in partnership with ArchaeoDomus – leading historic building specialists, were commissioned by the City and County of Swansea (C&CS) to undertake a photogrammetric and photographic record of a significant number of timber design patterns, many in very poor water condition, located in the basement of the Powerhouse (Canteen) building (LB11691), Hafod-Morfa Copperworks, Swansea. The survey work was carried out to produce a comprehensive record of the timber design patterns for archival purposes and provide for further study and research. The survey was undertaken between the 3rd December 2018 and 14th December 2018 in particularly challenging site conditions.

All timber fragments were painstakingly sifted and analysed for suitability for recording, both photographic and to produce at least five measurable 3D photogrammetric models. Many hundreds of pieces were either too fragmentary, unidentifiable or in such degraded state that survey was impracticable. However, despite the challenges a total of 97 timber objects including 39 design patterns were recorded together with five fully measurable 3D photogrammetric models.

Download the report here 1037 Powerhouse Design Pattern Record Report

Vivian Engine House – Archaeological Watching Brief

The City and County of Swansea requested Black Mountains Archaeology Ltd to carry out an archaeological watching brief at the Vivian Engine House (LB11695/NPRN33743), on the former Hafod-Morfa Copperworks site, Swansea, during ground contamination mitigation works.

Download the report here Vivian Engine House WB Report

Smith’s Canal, White Rock Copperworks and Silverstack Canal Bridge, Hafod-Morfa Copperworks

Black Mountains Archaeology Ltd were commissioned by City and County of Swansea to carry out an archaeological field evaluation to inform on the nature and extent of any archaeological remains at the old Smith’s Canal, White Rock Copperworks and the Silverstack Canal Bridge, Hafod-Morfa Copperworks on the Swansea Canal.

An open excavation (clearance) was carried out around the base of the demolished Silverstack Canal Bridge and five trenches were machine excavated along the Smith’s Canal followed by hand cleaning and recording. The investigations identified the remains of the Silverstack Canal Bridge abutments and the canal walls belonging to the Smith’s Canal.

Download the report here Smith’s Canal and Silverstack Canal Bridge FE Report

Powerhouse Site Investigation – Archaeological Watching Brief 

Black Mountains Archaeology Ltd were commissioned by the City & County of Swansea to carry out an archaeological watching brief during ground investigation works by Hydrock of a derelict area in between the Powerhouse (LB11691) and Rolling Mill (LB16878) buildings on the former site of the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks.

Download the report here 1045 Powerhouse SI WB Report

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Big Black Mountains Challenge 2020

CANCELLED

This year’s Big Black Mountains Challenge has been cancelled due to COVID-19. While extremely disappointed we totally understand. We have donated our entry fee to the Longtown Mountain Rescue Team who are all volunteers and hope that all who have sponsored us so far would consider doing the same.

Stay safe and well from us all at Black Mountains Archaeology.

 

We are raising money for the Longtown Mountain Rescue Team by attempting to complete the Big Black Mountains Challenge 2020 in May!! http://www.longtownmrt.org.uk/bbmc.html

The challenge is 45km taking in 15 summits over 660m around the breathtaking scenery of the Black Mountains. The event starts and finishes at Llanthony Priory located in the Honddu Valley in the Vale of Ewyas. There’s a new set of routes this year so we are preparing for the burn!!

Our team name is Fatty’s Leg (a nod to Twin Town) as we are sure that’s the state we will be in at the end! Our team members are Rich Lewis, Digger Lewis, Andy Lewis and Dave Barton.

Please help us support the great work of the Longtown Mountain Rescue Team! Longtown MRT provides an emergency rescue service for anyone who is lost or injured in the mountains, rural or urban environment for whatever reason. They are self funding and operate 24/7 in all weather conditions, staffed entirely by unpaid volunteers.

If you would like to donate then our Just Giving page is here https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/teamfattyslegdoesbbmc2020

Discovering the Archaeology of Gower

Saving Gower for all its Worth!

Hand auguring Trench 3 - Warren Deserted Medieval Village
Hand auguring Trench 3 – Warren Deserted Medieval Village

In the summer of 2018 Black Mountains Archaeology and ArchaeoDomus completed several very successful community archaeology projects at Rhossili, Gower. We were funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s (HLF) Gower Landscape Partnership Project. Working with the National Trust, Swansea Council, Swansea University, West Glamorgan Archives and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales we provided training and support in archaeological/historical research, historic building recording and archaeological excavation. We delivered a very successful ‘TimeTeam’ style archaeological excavation on the Warren Deserted Medieval Settlement together with palaeoenvironmental hand auguring of the Vile Medieval Field System with volunteers. One of the most exciting activities was the experimental archaeology project where a medieval corn drying kiln (oven) was built and fired by the volunteers.

Read all about the project here.

Reconstruction medieval corn drying oven during firing.
Reconstruction medieval corn drying oven during firing.