In early November Charlotte carried out a watching-brief on the restoration work being carried out at the copperworks, in the area around the original entrance to the site. During the watching-brief she uncovered a short section of cobbles which would have lead down from the bridge crossing the Swansea Canal, in front of the works main gate, to the tow path running along the edge of the canal.
The cobbles looking from the canal tow path up towards the bridge.
The cobbles viewed from the southeast, looking down towards the canal.
The cobbles can be seen clearly in this superb photograph of the canal and entrance to the works taken in the 1920s.
Swansea canal and the entrance to the copperworks in the 1920s. (Copyright Swansea Museum.)
At the living history day Dr Tim Young (an archaeometallurgist and experimental archaeologist) brought along his portable furnace, to demonstrate how copper would have been produced in earlier periods. Throughout the day he was helped by our resident glass expert Rowena, this is her working the bellows to pass more oxygen over the furnace.
Working the bellows on a copper furnace is hard work!
As well as melting copper ore to produce copper ingots Tim and Rowena had a go at producing glass, using sand as their base ingredient.
As well as producing copper Tim and Rowena produced this white hot glass.
Once the glass had cooled slightly (but was still pliable) it could have been worked into any number of objects including small bottles and little window panes.
Neil Maylan took groups of interested visitors on a tour of the recently restored lab building.
Volunteers also took tours around the Whiterock Copperworks across the river. This is the view from on top of the charging ramp.
Perhaps my favorite part of the tour were the demonstrations of the new history points. At these stations you can wind-up a battery and listen to what copperworkers and ships captains might have said at the time the Hafod and Morfa works were open. They look and sound brilliant. Over 7000 people came and enjoyed the living history, I hope that you are one of them and that you had as much fun as I did. If not come down next year and have some fun!
One of the wind-up history points, crank the handle and listen to a little piece of history.
A big thank you to everybody who came to our launch of CuSP (that’s the Copper Slag Project) on Monday night and showed so much enthusiasm for the project.
The evening started of with a cup of tea (as all good evenings should) and then Sophie spoke about last years community excavation at the Hafod Copperworks and the on going post-excavation work for the site. We hope to able to post the full report here on the blog in the next week or two, so keep your eyes peeled. After Sophie’s talk a number of people asked some interesting questions about the project and Jan was able to impart the exciting news of a new sculpture for the area around Trench 3. (This was the original entrance to the works by the Landore Social Club.) Councillor White was also able to tell use a little bit about Swansea Council’s plan for the restoration of it’s historic buildings. See the news story here: http://swansea.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=57242
After the questions Jan talked about our latest community project, the recording of copper slag which has been used as a construction material. There was huge interest from the audience in the project and we signed up lots of new volunteers, who will soon be out recording the history of Swansea.
Jan talks about our latest community project at the launch of CuSP.
Chris James, one of our volunteers in the Heritage Environment Record, was in the audience for the launch. So when he was busy working away in the HER and saw some photographs of copper slag coping blocks he knew we’d be interested. He wasn’t wrong! This a photograph of a section of wall on the Tennant Canal:
Copper slag coping blocks topping a section of wall on the Tennant Canal
So, the photographs have started to come in, but there are still lots of sites out there. If you know of more or would like the chance to record some of Swansea’s fascinating history why not contact Jan and get involved.
A selction of industrial glassware including two watch glasses (far left and upper right). These are used as a surface to evaporate liquids, hold solids for weighing and cover beakers.
Two of the many thermometers recovered from site.
Sulphur dioxide is a versatile inert solvent widely used for dissolving high oxidizing salts amongst other industrial applications.
A glass separatory funnel, the tap was found seperatley but appears to fit.
A pair of safety glasses.
Two of the many plastic containers found within the laboratory.
A plastic graduated beaker used for measuring exact quinties of liquids.
A selection of distillation tubing, taps and bungs.
A small pair of crucible tongs.
One of the glass storage jars found inside the building. We can’t quite make out the writing, what do you think it says?
During the course of the watching-brief at the Hafod laboratory we’ve collected a cornucopia of chemistry equipment, so we thought you might like to see some of them. Unfortuantley we haven’t been able to bring any of them back to the office because of the potential contamination. The scale in some of the photographs is 10cm long.
One of the internal walls of the laboratory partially collasped during the reccent high winds.
Unfortuantley the reccent storms and strong winds have meant that we’ve not been able to do much work during the last couple of weeks. When Charlotte went into the laboratory today, she discovered that one of the walls had partially fallen down during the weekends bad weather.
Good job there was nobody under it when it did! We hope that Mother Nature will be kind in the next few days and enable us to do more work.
Yesterday Professor Huw Bowen gave an excellent paper at the Where Waters Meet conference in Swansea on the copperworks. His two most salient points were:
1) Swansea was, in his opinion, the first industrialised town in the world. Where more people worked in manufacturing and associated industries than in agriculture.
2) Swansea’s copper industry was the first globally integrated industry in the word with raw materials being imported into Swansea from Spain, Cuba, Chile, Venezuela, South Africa, Australia and North America. While finished products where exported as far a field as India.
Hopefully the copperworking area can be regenerated soon to show just how important and outward looking it really was.
Yesterday Neil carried out a watching-brief on the excavation of some trial-pits along side the Morfa Copperworks Laboratory building. A very grandiose building just up the road from where we were digging. During the course of the watching-brief Neil came across a floor surface constructed from copper slag floor tiles, with a depth of 10cm.
A floor surface made out of unusual copper slag tiles.
A close-up of one of the slag floor tiles found by Neil.
This is fairly unusual and we’ve never seen it at the Morfa Copperworks before. More usually we see copper slag blocks used as decorative copping blocks on top off stone built walls or as building blocks in more hastily constructed walls. This can be seen in the walls that line the route of the Swansea Canal, where both copper slag copping blocks and specifically squared slag blocks have been used in the fabric of the walls.
Slag blocks outlined in red within the fabric of the Swansea Canal walls. The copping blocks have slopping tops.
What else will the watching-brief turn up? Hopefull more exciting and unusual archaeology will be discovered by Neil.