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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.

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1840 Cast House (view N)
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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

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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

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

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.

The Copperworks Discovery Project

We are very pleased to announce a programme of events and workshops for our new history and archaeology project at the world renowned Hafod-Morfa Copperworks, once the largest copperworks in the world.

We are looking for Volunteers to become a part of this exciting new project. No prior experience required, just come along and have fun!

Our programme of events is below and you can also get further information from the events calendar (scroll down the page to view calendar https://blackmountainsarchaeology.com/copperworks-discovery-project/).

PROGRAMME

Booking is essential, to book a place contact Richard Lewis on info@bmarchaeology.com.

Thursday, January 25, 7pm to 9pm – Final Launch Event – Speakers include Dr Tim Young on ‘Copper Smelting through the Ages’. Hafod Community Centre, Odo St, Swansea SA1 2LS.

Saturday 27th January, 9.30am to 1.30pm – How to be an armchair archaeologist! A workshop to teach research skills including map regression, LiDAR and Aerial Photography. Access to online archives, such as Archwilio and Coflein and using local and national libraries and archives. Swansea University, Vivian Tower, Singleton Park Campus, Sketty, Swansea SA2 8PP.

Saturday 3rd February, 9.30am to 1.30pm – How to be an armchair archaeologist! A workshop to teach research skills including map regression, LiDAR and Aerial Photography. Access to online archives, such as Archwilio and Coflein and using local and national libraries and archives (repeat event). Swansea University, Vivian Tower, Singleton Park Campus, Sketty, Swansea SA2 8PP.

Monday 5th February, 10am to 12pm – A fantastic opportunity to visit the West Glamorgan Archives and learn how to access the wealth of information this incredible archive holds. West Glamorgan Archive Service, Civic Centre, Oystermouth Road, Swansea SA1 3SN.

Tuesday 6th February, 5pm to 7pm – A fantastic opportunity to visit the West Glamorgan Archives and learn how to access the wealth of information this incredible archive holds (repeat event). West Glamorgan Archive Service, Civic Centre, Oystermouth Road, Swansea SA1 3SN.

Thursday 8th February, 6.30pm to 9.30pm – Introduction to Historic Buildings and Building Recording. Come along to this workshop to learn all about what makes historic buildings important and how to go about recording them. This session will provide the foundation for the building surveys programmed in for February and March at the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks. Hafod Community Centre, Odo St, Swansea SA1 2LS.

Saturday 10th February, 9.30am to 1.30pm – How to be an armchair archaeologist! A workshop to teach research skills including map regression, LiDAR and Aerial Photography. Access to online archives, such as Archwilio and Coflein and using local and national libraries and archives (recap session and repeat event). Swansea University, Vivian Tower, Singleton Park Campus, Sketty, Swansea SA2 8PP.

Saturday 17th February, 10am to 4pm – Historic Building Recording Practical. Fantastic opportunity to learn about historic building recording at the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks using various recording methodologies, including tape, total station and photogrammetry. Hafod-Morfa Copperworks, Plasmarl, Swansea SA1 2LE.

Saturday 24th February, 10am to 4pm – Historic Building Recording Practical. Fantastic opportunity to learn about historic building recording at the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks using various recording methodologies, including tape, total station and photogrammetry. Hafod-Morfa Copperworks, Plasmarl, Swansea SA1 2LE.

Saturday 3rd March, 10am to 4pm – Historic Building Recording Practical. Fantastic opportunity to learn about historic building recording at the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks using various recording methodologies, including tape, total station and photogrammetry. Hafod-Morfa Copperworks, Plasmarl, Swansea SA1 2LE.

Saturday 10th March, 9.30am to 1.30pm – Post Building Survey Workshop. Following the building recording practical workshops on-site at the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks this workshop introduces participants to the processing of survey data and presentation of the results in CAD (computer aided design). Swansea University, Vivian Tower, Singleton Park Campus, Sketty, Swansea SA2 8PP.

Saturday 17th March, 9.30am to 1.30pm – How to give an archaeological talk and public speaking for beginners. This workshop introduces the presentation programmes PowerPoint/Keynote and guidance is given on how to present archaeological themes and data recorded during the Copperworks Discovery Project in a talk. Guidance on public speaking will be given and while not for everyone participants will be encouraged to make and give their own presentations. Swansea University, Vivian Tower, Singleton Park Campus, Sketty, Swansea SA2 8PP.

Booking is essential, to book a place contact Richard Lewis on info@bmarchaeology.com.

 

The Copperworks Discovery Project

We are very pleased to announce that we will be delivering a new history and archaeology project at the world renowned Hafod-Morfa Copperworks, once the largest copperworks in the world.

We are looking for Volunteers to become a part of this exciting new project. No prior experience required, just come along and have fun!

In the New Year there will be opportunities to get involved with historical and archaeological research workshops to explore the copperwork’s past. Some of the themes we will be covering include the history of the copperworks and copper working, the historic environment sector in Wales and archaeological and historical investigative techniques.

To kick things off we will be holding two Launch Events at the Hafod Community Centre on the 18th and 25th January 2018, 6.30pm to 9.30pm. We have a number of leading experts speaking and everyone is welcome!

We will then be offering the history and archaeology workshops throughout January, February and March at Swansea University, West Glamorgan Archives, Hafod Community Centre and on-site at the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks.

For further information please download the flyer here Copperworks Discovery Project Flyer Welsh / Copperworks Discovery Project Flyer English or check back in here or on the Copperworks website (http://hafodmorfacopperworks.com/) for regular updates to the programme.

To register your interest and find out more please email Richard Lewis at info@bmarchaeology.com (please write The Copperworks Discovery Project in the subject field) or ring 07834 715033.

This project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the City and County of Swansea as part of the wider regeneration at the Copperworks.

Hafod-Works-bridge-1810-engraving

 

St Fagans National Museum of History Treasure Hunt

We were very pleased to help Torfaen County Borough Council with a staff team building day on Friday 6th October 2017 at the National Museum of History at St Fagans. We were asked if we would design a treasure hunt as one of the team building activities for the day. We had fun putting the treasure hunt together and made sure there were a few question to raise eyebrows and a few giggles! The 28 questions were challenging and fun but also educational.

If you would like help with a heritage based treasure hunt or want ideas for team building, community activities or events please drop us a line. We’re happy to help.

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If you would like a copy of the St Fagans National Museum of History Treasure Hunt (and the answers of course!) then please drop us a line. Please let us know if its intended for children or adults.

Links:

https://museum.wales/stfagans/

Torfaen County Borough Council

Welcome

Welcome to the new website of Black Mountains Archaeology Ltd / Archaeoleg Mynydd Du Cyf. We are offering a wide range of archaeological services so please do get in touch if you need an archaeologist or just want some advice.

The company was set up by Richard Lewis in 2017 in the lovely setting of the Brecon Beacons National Park and the Blaenavon UNESCO World Heritage Site. Looking for a new challenge Richard decided to form the company after many years working in the industry.

What’s in a name? The company is named for the archaeologically rich Eastern Black Mountains, part of the beautiful Brecon Beacons upland massif.  The sharp eyed will have noticed the Welsh translation of Black Mountains Archaeology is not literal in a modern sense.

Modern translations such as Y Mynyddoedd Duon have no historical basis so we opted to refer to the more traditional name for the area. As early as the 13th century the Brecon Beacons were known as ymynydd du and by the 15th century Blak Montayne and Y Mynydh duy. By the time of the 16th and 17th centuries the area was known as Black-mountaine and Mynyd Du; and later in the Victorian period the Black Mountains of Talgarth and Y Mynydd Du (Owen & Morgan 2007, p33-34).

Thanks for reading!

Reference

Owen, H W, and Morgan, R, 2007, Dictionary of the Place-Names of Wales. Gomer Press, Ceredigion.