Hafod and the Lower Swansea Valley

Hafod and the Lower Swansea Valley

Hafod and the Lower Swansea Valley © Amgueddfa Cymru/National Museum of Wales

Hafod and the lower Swansea Valley are justly celebrated as the home of the copper industry in the UK and the site of what were once works of world significance. The industries themselves were intimately linked with historic transport systems and routes, which provided a web of local and more distant connections. They were also closely associated with settlements planned and built for their workers, with schools, churches and chapels alongside a full complement of housing. Together, these components added up to a remarkable integrated industrial landscape which provided powerful testimony to an industrial economy and way of life.

Decay and dereliction in the twentieth century took their toll. All that is left of the copperworks are isolated and sometimes fragmentary remains, their immediate context lost and their connections severed by new roads and redevelopment. However, amongst the survivors are individual structures of considerable importance which, together, are capable of interpreting many aspects of the story of copper production in Swansea. The associated settlements have lost relatively little of their historical integrity. Although little historical detail has survived, housing renewal work has helped ensure a sustainable future for the housing stock. On both sides of the river, the surviving settlements are still a valuable repository of social history which is an important counterpart to the technological and industrial history of the works.

Historically, the area was tightly organized: industrial sites were laid out for specific processes, precisely connected by road, rail and water transport for supply and despatch. They were closely linked to settlements which were themselves coherently planned. The principles of this organization have been damaged, but not entirely lost in post-industrial regeneration, and there are opportunities to ensure that future planning and redevelopment activity repairs and reinforces them. These underlying principles were part of the distinctive character of the area — the powerful physical impression of an industrial history of global importance.

The study can be used to inform plans for regeneration and development in the area so that they can be securely based on an understanding of its wider physical and historical context, and relate well to it.

There is also much of interest for anyone who simply wants to find out more about the history and historic character of Hafod and the lower Swansea Valley.