Swansea’s copper-bottomed regeneration project

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Swansea University is leading an exciting project to regenerate one of the most important industrial heritage sites in the world, and is providing learning opportunities for students in the process.

The Hafod and Morfa Copper Works stand on the banks of the River Tawe not far from the Liberty Stadium. They were a crucible of the international copper industry and a rare monument to this important history.

Work to bring this neglected site back to life is well under way. Vegetation has been cleared, paths and walkways constructed and the site is more welcoming to visitors. Interpretation and art features and building consolidation works start soon.

Six Swansea University students were involved in an archaeological dig and helped to uncover more features at the entrance to the Hafod Works.

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Picture: Hafod and Morfa Copperworks from the White Rock side of the river

Swansea was once the centre of the global copper industry importing copper ore from around the world and shipping copper products back out.

Professor Huw Bowen, of Swansea University, said: “This is one of the most important industrial heritage sites in Britain, yet it lies neglected. We’re delighted to be taking the next step in this exciting and ambitious project which will provide an opportunity for more people to learn about Swansea’s leading role in the industrial revolution.”

‌“Because of its copper production, Swansea’s impact on the development of the world economy can’t be understated. This is why we’re also looking, through the project, to generate links with places like Chile, Cuba and South Australia which supplied large quantities of ore to the smelting works in Swansea.”

Hafod - trio of workersPicture:  representatives from Swansea University, Groundwork and Glamorgan and Gwent Archaeological Trust on site.

More about the history in this short animated film

Google Earth image of the site

More pictures

Hafod - students washing artefactsThis site has provided work and activity in Swansea for over 200 years and we want to continue this tradition now and in the future.

It is important the local community and university students benefit from the process of development as well as the end result, and this is why we would like to hear from anybody who would like to contribute their ideas, skills or time.

Get in touch with Stuart Griffin on s.m.griffin@swansea.ac.uk for further information or to get involved.

 Pictures:  students and other volunteers washing archaeological ‘finds’ (left) and receiving orientation (below) .

Hafod - group being briefed

Copper facts:

1.    Modern Swansea was built on the copper industry and was known as ‘Copperopolis’

2.    Copper was the first globally integrated heavy industry, and Swansea the centre of that industry.

3.    In 1824, two-thirds of Swansea's population of 15,000 were supported by the copper industry.

4.    Nelson's victory at Trafalgar in 1805 was due to the Navy having copper-bottomed ships, which were barnacle-free and more manoeuvrable.

5.    Swansea’s copper networks stretched from Anglesey to Australia and from Cornwall to Chile. Welsh mariners (Cape Horners) circled the globe bringing back copper ore. Welsh copper was exported to markets across the continents.

6.    All but one of the 124 metal works that operated in the lower Swansea valley in the 1880s were demolished in the 1960s. The now derelict Hafod and Morfa Copper Works is the last remaining monument to the copper industry.

7.    The university is leading  efforts to rescue the crumbling site and ensure that it is once again a place of industrious, creative and world shaping activity.

8.    A bold vision is being defined for a cutting edge development as a laboratory for innovative research and links  between the university, the community, schools and visitors from all over the world.

9.    You can get involved, through research, work placements, volunteering days. We’d love you to help convert this idea into a reality.

10.    The project is called Cu @ Swansea , watch out for more details, go to www.welshcopper.org.uk, contact Stuart on s.m.griffin@swansea.ac.uk and/or come to visit the site.