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.
On Friday the renovation work on the Morfa Copperworks laboratory made the news in the Swansea Evening Post. Make sure you watch the cracking computer generated fly-through of the copperworks, it really gives you a feel for how the site would have looked when it is was running.
Last week Charlotte and I started the watching-brief on the clearance of the inside of the Morfa Copperworks laboratory. This is the first of the buildings to be prepared for renovation across the combined copperworks site. Unfortunately, we had to start with the laboratory because it is in a fairly poor state of repair, after a near catastrophic fire and the structural engineers were concerned it might fall down. This means that the debris from inside the building needs to be cleaned out, so that scaffolding can be put up to stop this from happening.
Having said that the Grade II Listed laboratory (LB 11690) is probably the prettiest building, architecturally, still standing at the copperworks. Built in the mid-19th century it has amongst other things a beautiful moulded cornice and frieze band (that’s the part of the wall directly below the eaves) in bath stone. When Taliesin Conservation, the company doing the renovation, looked at the cornices they discovered that blocks of stone were held in place by nothing more than their own weight and the pressure of the eaves above them! No wonder two of them had fallen down.
During the watching-brief we hope to find some of the equipment that the scientists would have used in the laboratory. As well as trying to get an idea of how the inside of the building was decorated.
On the first day we started to get a hint of this when a series of nice white glazed bricks, with rounded edges, were recovered from inside the first room. We think that these formed a partition wall somewhere further into the building. These bricks had a dual purpose as not only did they look nice, they were easy to clean in case of any chemical spills.
This is the remains of the laboratory roof, before Taliesin dismantled it, to give us access to the inside of the building.
This is the roof of the Powerhouse, taken from the scaffolding around the laboratory. This building used to house the steam engines that powered the copperworks and will be renovated soon.
While we’ve been away Jan has been helping the school children of the Dylon Thomas Community School to stitch together the photographs taken during their building survey. This is western side of the Swansea Canal wall, which had been converted into a series of offices and small buildings for the Copperworks. Looks excellent if you ask me!
A total of five photographs were stitched together by the pupils of the Dylon Thomas Community School for this photograph.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!