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, once the largest copperworks in the world.

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 1835 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 at the same time. 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.

1919Ordnance Survey 3rd Edition 1919 (West Glamorgan Archives)

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).

What we did…

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.

Vivian Engine House
Vivian Engine House – historical guided walk

We provided a series of public talks by leading experts on the copper industry and then provided taught practical workshops on how to undertake archaeological research both online and at the record office, how to carry out building surveys (without expensive equipment) and how to process and prepare building survey reports culminating in the Man Engine Event at the copperworks. With over 80 volunteers the project was hugely successful.

You can check out  the Copperworks website here for more information and project updates .

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.


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