When Swansea’s streets were paved with copper

The Hafod-Morfa Copperworks

Once a beating heart of the Industrial Revolution, The Hafod-Morfa Copperworks is now a largely barren site. But in its hayday it was entirely covered in a maze of buildings and slag heaps created as a by-product of the copper smelting process.

In its prime you would have experienced the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks as a sequence of huge, incredibly noisy, and overheated industrial buildings. These were filled with powerful machinery and attended by an army of workers who, despite being dwarfed by the scale of the enterprise, were nonetheless vital to the copper-making process.

Nicknamed Copperopolis, Swansea was core to the global copper industry, and by 1823 10,000 of Swansea’s 15,000 residents were supported by the copper industry. By 1883 there were 124 works including 12 copper works in the Lower Swansea Valley. But as raw geological resources had waned in South Wales, it became more economic to produce copper elsewhere. In 1971 the Lower Swansea Valley Project had started to transform the most derelict industrial landscape in Britain, resulting in the closure of the rolling mills in 1980.

The current site comprises twelve listed internationally significant industrial heritage buildings or structures and close to 167 other internationally significant copper-related buildings or structures.

We have been working with Swansea University to provide interpretation and a website for this important historic site.

An important feature of the website are the 18 audio recordings that were recorded in 2014 by volunteers. They can also be heard on wind-up audio devices on the site. All are taken from historical sources researched by a team at Swansea University

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