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Powerful link with the industrial north is revitalised

A powerful Swansea link with a northern industrial heartland has been revitalised.

FriendsBolton

Volunteers at the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks site have been researching a key link with Lancashire manufacturing pioneer Bolton.

And their efforts to fashion a future for an historic steam engine on the copperworks site have been recognised by the proud mill town's chief archivist.

Swansea Council, in partnership with volunteers and others such as Swansea University, has started restoration of the site's Musgrave Engine House.

In a blog Bolton chief archivist Caroline Furey writes: "We're looking forward to watching the progress of this incredible project.

"There's a sense of pride that this old Bolton-built Musgrave Engine had such a significant role in the Welsh copper industry that it is deemed worthy of restoration.

"A group of volunteers from The Friends of Hafod-Morfa Copperworks made several visits to the archive.

"They were exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers who trawled through thousands upon thousands of drawings.

"It was hard, physical and grubby work but it paid off. They found, and were able to photograph, over 100 drawings that could potentially help them with their restoration project."

Her blog outlines the history of Swansea's copper industry.

Robert Francis-Davies, the council's cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said: "The work by the Friends is helping tell the story of Swansea's great copper making heritage - and it's good that our powerful link with a northern industrial cousin has been revitalised. The engine was manufactured in Bolton by John Musgrave & Sons.

"The copperworks is a major part of our history and this site will play a powerful role in our future.

"We want to make the riverside corridor a key to unlocking Swansea's great future potential."

The Musgrave Engine House building and machinery inside it are listed by Cadw as a scheduled ancient monument. The engine allowed Swansea to continue producing copper through the 20th century - and the very last copper to be rolled in Swansea was powered by the Musgrave Engine.

Tom Henderson, of the Friends, said: "As it stands, Swansea's Musgrave engine is in a sorry state after decades of vandalism and neglect.

"As a rare and utterly unique survivor with a 110-year association with the copper industry, it begs to be restored."

Professor John Spurr, head of the College of Arts and Humanities at Swansea University, said: "This is a wonderful example of how volunteer groups can play a vital role in advancing our shared ambitions for Swansea's future.

"We are delighted to support this kind of professional-level research because it enhances partnerships across the region and because it places volunteer activity at the heart of the heritage-led regeneration of the city."

The Lower Swansea Valley became the world leading centre for copper smelting in the 18th century. The Hafod-Morfa Copperworks site is of international importance, becoming the world's largest copperworks in the latter part of the 19th century and early 20th century.

John Musgrave & Sons were commissioned by Swansea industrialists to manufacture an engine that was cutting edge for its time in 1910; it was installed in the engine house close to the River Tawe.

Now, thanks to the work of the Friends, original engineering records from the Bolton business may help with the engine's potential restoration.

Future work planned for nearby areas of the wider copperworks site includes the creation of a Penderyn Whisky visitor centre with shop, tasting bar, exhibition space and distillery.

The transformation would be home to the Penderyn Experience whisky tour that would educate people about the site's rich industrial history.

The restoration of the Musgrave Engine House building is being led by the council with the restoration of a gantry crane there carried out in partnership with Swansea University and the Friends.

Funding for the Musgrave Engine House project has come from sources such as the Welsh Government Targeted Regeneration Investment (TRI) funding, Cadw, National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) and the council. Swansea University has supported the Friends of Hafod Morfa Copperworks archive visits by allocating resources from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (Hefcw).

Work to other historical buildings - the Vivian Engine House, a former porter's lodge and a weighbridge office - are being supported by the TRI funding.

Image: Members of the Friends of Hafod-Morfa Copperworks with items from Bolton's John Musgrave & Sons Archive.

 

 

 

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