Hafod Works interior
Here Richard Porch, Regeneration Officer for the City and County of Swansea, explores the dynamic effects this humble brown metal had on South West Wales. And when you've read this, check out our
slideshow of images
illustrating the city's copper connections.
Hafod Copperworks 1810-1924
The Hafod Copperworks was located between the Swansea Canal on one side and a bend in the River Tawe on the other. It was laid out by John Vivian with expansion in mind from the very outset.
In its day it was one of the largest and most up to date industrial enterprises in Europe and by the 1840s Vivian & Sons were the largest exporters of finished copper in the UK.
Over the course of the 19th century the Vivians' also built an entire settlement for their employees called "Trevivian" or "Vivianstown" and which we now call the "Hafod".
The 'Trevivian' township
A works school built in 1846; a church and numerous terraces of housing can all still be seen.
The survival of "Trevivian" is remarkable and constitutes a complete copperworkers' township of the Victorian period.
By 1823 the Swansea Valley's various copperworks (together with coal and shipping interests) supported 10,000 out of an entire population of approximately 15,000.
Swansea was indeed "Copperopolis". By 1886 Vivian & Sons employed three thousand people, one thousand of them at the Hafod. The Hafod Works produced copper in bars, ingots, sheets, tube, rod, bolts, circles, sulphate of copper, yellow metal and condenser plates.
It also produced naval brass, ferro bronze, lead ingots, spelter, silver, gold, sulphuric acid, zinc chloride and superphosphate fertilisers.
An industrial empire
To the south of the Hafod Works and on the same side of the river, existed a string of industrial enterprises all owned by the Vivian family which included the Hafod Phosphate Works, Hafod Foundry, Hafod Forge and the Hafod Isaf (Isha) Nickel & Cobalt Works.
An excellent coloured Ordnance Survey map dated 1879 shows the Hafod Works and immediate surroundings in some detail and is available from the Archive Service at County Hall.
Other works belonging to the Vivians could be found at Landore, Morriston and White Rock. The latter was founded in 1737 and smelted copper under various owners until 1871 when the Vivian's took it over to smelt silver and lead until 1924.
On the other side of the wall!
The Morfa Copperworks was started in 1834 immediately next door to the Hafod Works with only a high stone wall between the two works to divide them.
Legend has it that workers at Morfa were instructed not to talk to the Hafod workers for fear of giving away trade secrets. Prior to this in 1828 work had begun on building the steam-powered rolling mill that would eventually become the Swansea Museum Collections Centre we see today.
Morfa was operated by Williams Foster & Co. from 1835-80. Between 1880 - 93 it was operated by Williams Foster & Co. and between 1893 - 1924 by Williams Foster & Co. Ltd and Pascoe Grenfell & Co. Ltd.
After 1894 family interest in the Hafod Copperworks dwindled and in 1924 the firm was absorbed into the adjacent Morfa complex. The latter was the largest non-ferrous metal smelter in the world by the mid-19th century.
British Copper Manufacturers owned the combined works until 1928, when they were taken over by ICI, although the refining of copper had ended around 1924.
The site was taken over by Yorkshire Imperial Metals, an amalgamation of I.C.I and Yorkshire Metals in 1957, the two works worked as one until closure in August 1980.