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The Global and Local Worlds of Welsh Copper

By 1851 Wales had become the world’s first industrial nation and the copper industry was at its heart. Copper was at the heart of important scientific innovations. The industrialisation of this product changed the fabric of communities and landscapes during, and since, the industry’s heyday. This is an intriguing story of how Welsh businesses led the global copper trade for almost two centuries.
Copperworks at Morfa, Hafod, Swansea.

In September 2010 Swansea University and its partners were awarded £95,000 by the ESRC to raise awareness of the rich heritage of the area and to explore ways of regnerating the site of the former Hafod-Copperworks. embarked on the ESRC-funded project ‘History, Heritage and Urban Regeneration: The Global and Local Worlds of Welsh Copper’ to raise much needed awareness of this forgotten industry. This partnership embraced academia, the heritage sector and local and global communities.

Through high-quality research, the Copper Project explored and communicated the development of Welsh copper as the first fully integrated global industry. It examined its role in multiple aspects including technological innovations, international trade and Atlantic slavery, cultural and social consequences, and its aftermath in reclamation and regeneration. Situated in the region that was at the heart of the industry, the project sought to have a positive impact on local policy making in urban regeneration, heritage and education. This placed particular emphasis on contextualising the interpretation and care of the extensive industrial archaeological sites of world significance that are located in the Lower Swansea Valley, and contributed to the ongoing development of the knowledge economy in the local area and more broadly across Wales. The story of Welsh copper was also told through a national travelling exhibition, websites, social media, 3D animations and a host of events. The team developed a feasibilty plan for the site and in December 2011 were awarded a further funding package of £521,000 by Cadw-Welsh Government as part of the Heritage Tourism Project.

Impact factors

  • Interdisciplinary academic-heritage collaborations
  • Influencing public policy on the heritage-led regeneration of Swansea copperworks sites of world significance
  • Powerful knowledge exchange initiatives through exhibitions, free events and online publishing
  • Creation of high-quality, free to use resources for teaching, learning and continuing professional development

Project lead: Huw Bowen. Project member: Tehmina Goskar

Project duration: 2010-2011