The end product of the copperworks

Back in the summer I took the opportunity for a trip on the Tawe river cruise, which was fantastic fun.  If you get the chance you should take a ride, it’s a really interesting way to see a different side of the city.

The Tawe river cruiser noses her way up stream.

The Tawe river cruiser noses her way up stream.

On the journey back the crew showed us a number of artifacts associated with the copperworks.  The most interesting of these to my way of thinking was one of the copper ingots, which would have formed the primary output of the Hafod Copperworks from the mid-18th century to the late-19th century, when it was owned by Vivian and Sons.

The ingot is lozenge shaped and divided into three peaks.  The central peak of which is stamped ‘V & S \ A’.  This particular ingot was recovered from the wreck of the Benamain, located some seven miles of Mumbles Head.  The Benamain was a London registered steam powered cargo ship.  Her final voyage took place on 28th March 1890, when she was bound for le Treport with a cargo that included 50 tons of copper ingots from Vivian and Sons.  On the afternoon of the 28th March she was steaming at six knots when she became stranded on the eastern side of Lundy in the fog.  She was refloated the following morning but floundered on her way back to Swansea.  Her crew was recovered by the pilot cutter Rival and the Benamain was left to sink.

A Vivian and Sons copper ingot recovered from the briny deep.

A Vivian and Sons copper ingot recovered from the briny deep.

Happily we didn’t have such an eventful voyage!

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Living history day got hot

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!

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.

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.

Throughout the day volunteers provided guided tours of the Hafod and Morfa sites, including the recently refurbished laboratory building and the Whiterock Copperworks on the opposite bank of the river. To see some of the artefacts we recovered during the restoration work at the laboratory follow this link: https://hafodcommunitydig.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/collecting-a-chemistry-set/

Neil Maylan took groups of interested visitors on a tour of the recently restored lab building.

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.

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.

One of the wind-up history points, crank the handle and listen to a little piece of history.

A view of hafod copperworks

A view of hafod copperworks

I was doing some research in the West Glamorgan Archives when I came across a delightful book by George Grant Francis, published in 1867, called ‘The melting of copper in the Swansea District’. In the book he describes all of the copperworks strung along the Lower Swansea Valley. Included with the description of the Hafod Works was this wonderful engraving. Note the canal bridge in the middle ground, this is what the cobbles we found during the excavation were leading up to!

Harriet’s Grand Tour

Here are a few photographs of Harriet’s tour of the copperworks during the open day. Kindly provided to us by Ivor Williams and Teresa Hillier, thank you both.

Down on the banks of the Tawe Harriet explains the forge building to her tour guests.

Down on the banks of the Tawe Harriet explains the forge building to her tour guests.

 

Opposite Trench 3 Harriet leads her charges into the tree line. You would never know there is canal behind there!

Opposite Trench 3 Harriet leads her charges into the tree line. You would never know there is canal behind there!

 

Harriet explains to her tour that hidden behind this forest of scaffolding is the pretty V & S (Vivian and Sons) engine shed.

Harriet explains to her tour that hidden behind this forest of scaffolding is the pretty V & S (Vivian and Sons) engine shed.

 

Tour guide, tour guests, volunteers and your amiable host discuss the site of the canal bridge.

Tour guide, tour guests, volunteers and your amiable host discuss the site of the canal bridge.

The joy of material culture

Our volunteers cleaned all the artefacts recovered from the excavations at the copperworks in the Swansea Museum’s Collection Centre (the building that was once the rolling mill for the Morfa Copperworks).  We brought all of the cleaned finds back to the office on Tuesday and are now starting to analysis them.

One of our volunteers carfeully washes a sherd of 19th century ceramics.

One of our volunteers carfeully washes a sherd of 19th century ceramics.

However, some of the more modern finds we recovered were recorded on site and left for future archaeologists to find again!

Two late-20th century drinks cans (Tango and Lilt) recovered from Trench 3.

Two late-20th century drinks cans (Tango and Lilt) recovered from Trench 3.

We also found some artefacts from other areas of the site and left them in situ.

This object is a probable crucible, which would have been used to test the quality of the copper being produced on site.  We found this along the line of the Swansea Canal.

This object is a probable crucible, which would have been used to test the quality of the copper being produced on site. We found this along the line of the Swansea Canal.

 

Day 9 – Monday. Almost done

Our cobbles looking wonderfully clean, after some TLC from our volunteers
Our cobbles looking wonderfully clean, after some TLC from our volunteers

Our volunteers have been busy, busy, cleaning the cobbles up so they look extra smart for our report photographs. Then if that wasn’t enough they’ve been recording the drains and the remains of the bridge we uncovered on Saturday.

Johnny, Sophie and Charlotte have been running around taking lots of photographs and making sure that all the indexes and records are up to date. Meanwhile Andy has taken himself of to Birmingham for some well-earned holiday!

Hafod Community Excavation Saturday 8th June- Open Day!!

Its finally arrived! It’s our big day…..our open day!

One and all are welcome to our open day today between 10:00 and 15:00. We have a lot of different activities going on throughout the day today for all ages including;

  • Photographic competitions- Simply take your best ‘shot’ at any of the local Hafod Wildlife, Archaeology/Buildings, the Hafod community or the people of the Copperworks.  Our age categories are Under 14s, 14-18 and 18+
  • Visiting the Swansea Museum’s stores to see all the fantastic collections and array of finds
  • Explore the Hafod site and see the new buildings uncovered and the new trails
  • The hidden treasures roadshow- come and bring along your Copperworks related objects and photographs
  • Walk along our various tours, including the Copperworks and community tour 10:30am- 12:30pm, Useful plants and wild food walks 11:00- 13:00, and our nature walks 11:30- 13:30
  • And finally come and visit our excavation site!

So now you have all the info…..Come on down and see us!