Memories

Kilvey Hill

Do you remember planting a tree in the valley? (credit: Steve Lavender)

Lower Swansea Valley Project at 50

Did you take part in the Lower Swansea Valley Project? If you planted a tree as a schoolchild or were a Lower Swansea Valley Ranger, we want to hear from you! As part of the anniversary celebrations of LSVP we are keen to hear from anyone who made a difference in the valley. Please leave your memories here.

Hafod Copperworks

Do you remember working in the copperworks? (credit: Graham Humphrys)

Working in the copperworks: 200 years of Hafod

Did you work in the copperworks after the war? Whether you were at the furnaces, rolling machines or in the offices, we want to hear from you! We are particularly interested in the memories of office staff, especially women to come forward and tell us about your days with ICI Landore and Yorkshire Imperial Metals (also QF Upper Bank). Please leave your memories here.

Alternatively, email Dr. Tehmina Goskar on t.goskar@swan.ac.uk

Your contact details will not be published unless indicated by you.

35 Responses to Memories

  1. Neil Saunders says:

    I was an ICI apprentice Fitter/Machinist 1956/1961. The first 2 years were spent in the Apprentice School in the QF Upperbank Works (now Barrett Homes) learning the basics of engineering. Then came a programme of working in the other ICI plants :- Waunarlwydd, Aluminium, Titanium, LF (zip wks) back to the Morfa main copper works on maintenance & repair & then in the Aluminium Evaperator Panel part Aluminium plant in Landore (now National Industial Museum).
    The experience was excellent as it went from from old Vivian works to the modern Titanium plant manufaturing fo the Nuclear age.
    Sadly ALL this has now gone.

    • copperday says:

      Dear Neil,

      Thank you for your memory. You have raised an important point–that the older copperworks gave way to other metallurgical industries such as at QF Upper Bank. Where there are no longer physical remains we are working hard to create information and resources about people’s experiences in their stead.

      Thanks once again for contributing!

      Dr. Tehmina Goskar (Research Officer, ESRC Global and Local Worlds of Welsh Copper Project)

      • Neil Saunders says:

        I have a group photograph of the Apprentices of the school 1957 in the yard below the canteen. ICI had approx 100 Apprentices that cover the 5yrs, all had to attend Technical College one day a week & at least 3 nights a week, studying, HNC, HNC & C&G Finals in Enginering & at the end of the year a prize giving took place where you had a meal, cash voucher, trip to the Empire in Swansea. ICI treated very well & we were the highest paid apprentices in the area. My Indentures were signed by Dr Richard Beeching Chairm who went on to close the railways. To get into ICI Landore (Morfa Cooper Wks) you came past the Offices from Neath Rd opposite the Railway Inn over the canal into the works & then we walked to the QF & the school. We had our own canteen & Welfare facilities. To be known as a “Landore Boy” was important as you had acquired a vast knowledge in metal manufacturing. Yes, Copper,Brass, Aluminium & Titanium.
        The over flow of the Waterfront Museum building was used to produce “Evaporator Panel” used in frigdes which was a satelite factory of ICI Aluminium & later went back to Waunarlwydd (1967 !!) even though it was in Landore. I recall the highlight of week in the Morfa canteen was Friday where they produce the largest Pasties for 6d (old pence) a great treat but was probaly the weeks left overs. The QF factory produced quick Firing shells for guns & the production line was put through its paces each week more than 10 years after the war finished.

        • copperday says:

          Dear Neil,

          What a great testimony of your time with ICI! It would be great to see the photograph one day.

          Who knows, the canteen building may yet serve giant pasties again!

          All the best,
          Tehmina Goskar

  2. Pingback: Leave your memories here | Swansea Copper Day 5 March 2011

  3. Andrew Shapton says:

    As a Scout in 1982, my Scout Troop planted 100’s of trees on Foxhole Road (on the left as you drive away from town). We won a McDonald’s award for our contribution to conservation and urban regeneration in 1982.
    Additionally, my friend and I took part in a week-long project (I think it may have been with Steve Lavendar) where we cleaned up the LSV and planted trees – I thnk that may have been around 1981/82 too.
    Having grown up in Plasmarl, I remember (a little hazily !) the changes that have taken place from the moonscape to what we have today.

    • copperday says:

      Dear Andrew,

      Thank you for your memory of tree planting in the Lower Swansea Valley. Steve Lavender was one of the instrumental people who made the transformation happen and will be coming back to Swansea on 5 March to remember those days.

      Well done for being a part of history!
      All the best,

      Dr. Tehmina Goskar (Research Officer, ESRC Global and Local Worlds of Welsh Copper Project)

  4. Phil O'Mahoney says:

    I was the Assistant Works Accountant for Y.I.M Landore up until it closed. Many attempts were made to keep the factory open,but with hindsight it was an impossible task despite some believing there was a future for the factory.
    It was indeed a sad day when the factory closed.

    • copperday says:

      Dear Phil,

      Thank you for your memory. I suppose all things come to an end and while it is always sad when something that has for so long been identified by a place finally goes, hopefully new uses can compensate for the loss in some other way. That of course has been and continues to be a long and difficult road. The Lower Swansea Valley Project did a fabulous job at reclaiming the earth and river and making it live again but we now have the last vestiges of the copper and other works left and there are so many possibilities. Collecting memories like yours are important because they will form an important part of the heritage of the industry that many are working to save.

      Dr. Tehmina Goskar (Research Officer, ESRC Global and Local Worlds of Welsh Copper Project)

  5. Pingback: Click on Wales » Blog Archive » Copper day demonstrates appetite for heritage-led change

  6. Bronwen Holden says:

    It was my father, Robin Huws Jones, who came home one day in 1960 from one of many train journeys back to Swansea through the terrible industrial wasteland of the Valley and asked why no-one had tried to improve it, and whether something could be done. I was 14 years old and well remember the excitement of his ideas- and the feeling that maybe it was an impossible task. Everyone until then seemed to accept that this moonscape of devastation and pollution was Swansea’s inevitable long-term legacy from the vanished copper industry.

    My father, who was then a lecturer at Swansea University, wasn’t easily put off by apathy and scepticism. He got together an informal working group of people from the University, the Council and the Welsh Office- and in 1961 things started to happen with start of the Swansea Valley Project. He knew it would take many years to make the Valley beautiful and useful again. But he would be so pleased to know of the huge progress that has been made and of this anniversary event. He died aged 91 in 2001.

    Bronwen Holden

    • copperday says:

      Dear Bronwen,

      Thank you very much for your memory of the LSVP left on the copper day website.

      I hope that the event is a suitable tribute to the incredible work your father did. We are really in awe of the achievement and hope that the work we are doing again to raise awareness not just of the valley’s industrial past but also of the reclamation project has a similar legacy. Without his drive and energy, so evident in the project’s archives which are still kept at West Glamorgan Archive Service and at the University Archives (now the Richard Burton Archives), none of our work would be possible.

      If you are still based in Swansea or are able to come along we would be delighted to welcome you there. In the meantime, as part of the small slideshows we are broadcasting on Swansea’s Big Screen in Castle Square, you and many others in the city will be able to see a picture story of LSVP and included in it is a quote from your father to remind people of the importance of the valley to people living and visiting Swansea.

      With all our best wishes,

      Dr. Tehmina Goskar (Research Officer ESRC Global and Local Worlds of Welsh Copper Project) and the rest of the Copper Project team.

    • Gwenllian Knighton says:

      Dear Bronwen
      I remember that our father RO Roberts was very involved in this Swansea Valley project and a friend of your father’s.
      I also have happy memories of Saturday afternoons playing in your garden when we were children
      Best wishes
      Gwenllian

  7. I spent my early years in the Hafod but, until the spring of 2007 when I listened to my father’s stories of his life as an apprentice in ICI Landore in the 1940’s, I had no real understanding of the copper industry that had shaped Swansea’s history. Dad was the fifth generation of men in his family to work in what his great-great grandfather would have known as the Morfa works. Our family’s lives, like those of so many others, were shaped by what I always knew as ‘the works’. Until the day he died, Dad was always eager that people should know that there was once a thriving industry on the site where he had learned his trade. He also wanted me to understand that for five generations the men of my family, supported by the women at home, had given their working lives to an industry that was physically more arduous than most of us can even begin to imagine. Copper Day is important because it is a way of celebrating the achievements and the labours of the men and women whose lives have been forgotten for far too long.

  8. Pingback: Copper Day Programme at a Glance | Swansea Copper Day 5 March 2011

  9. Alan Hunt says:

    During a summer vacation whilst studying for an architectural degree at Manchester University I completed a measured drawing of the canteen building at the Vivian copper works (Hafod & Morfa). I still have my complete survey notes and measured drawings at home if they are of interest to anyone within your project. The drawings are so detailed that an accurate reconstruction could easily be undertaken if at all feasible, but failing that, a faithful record exists of the stupendous cast iron structure erected as part of the building.

    Regards
    Alan Hunt

    • copperday says:

      Dear Alan,

      Thank you for your comment. I have emailed you in reply but in short, your record of the building would be invaluable to the researchers involved in the Copper Project, and many more I am sure!

      Tehmina Goskar

  10. Pingback: What did Copper Day mean to you? | Swansea Copper Day 5 March 2011

  11. Gareth Beynon says:

    I was employed by YIM on October 1960 as a Laboratory Assistant in one of the few still remaining buildings on the Copper Works site. Eventually qualifying as a metallurgist I became responsible for the ultrasonic testing of materials used as part of the construction of nuclear submarines in the 1960s. [Graduate Member of the Non Destructive Testing Society of Great Britain] – sounds good! Having then been encouraged to join the Civil Service in the Ministry of Defence, I was eventually posted to the Ministry of Transport – now known as Ministry for Transport ending up in what is now known as DVLA with final retirement just 3 years ago.

    What still concerns me is the long delay in getting the listed buildings sorted especially those in which I worked – the laboratory, the remains of the rolling mill and of course the canteen (but as a member of staff I was told to eat in the “restaurant” the door of which can still be seen on the corner of the building which once had the clock tower). What a shame to see it in such a terrible condition these days.

    Anyway, that’s all for now and let’s hope Swansea will eventually decide to make the site more historical and a tourist attraction instead of just a “Park and Ride”.

    Best regards,

    Gareth (Beynon)
    [Address removed]
    20 July 2011

    • copperday says:

      Dear Gareth,

      My apologies for the long delay in a reply and approving the comment. Thank you for contributing to the Copper Day site and for your valuable memories of working there. Things are slowly changing for the future heritage of the Hafod-Morfa site as a partnership between the university and council is seeking to secure the structures and put them to new uses, including significant heritage interpretation. There is also a legacy website related to the ESRC-funded Copper Project (ended in Dec 2011) which has more wide-ranging information: http://www.welshcopper.org.uk/

      All the best,
      Tehmina Goskar
      (Research Associate, Swansea University)

      • Gareth Beynon says:

        My apologies also for not checking to read your reply to my earlier comments about the copper works sites in the Morfa and Hafod areas. I have been in touch with Professor Huw Bowen a few times and told that work will start either later this year or next year to “bring the copper work sites back to life”. As mentioned to Huw, I have been on several tours around the sites and everyone who joined me were amazed to find out the history of the Swansea Copperopolis. Each time, something came back to my memory of working there and one such item was so exciting that I took a photograph of that particular area
        to match a photograph that I took in 1970!

        Anyway thanks again and good luck with the future work in bringing the area back to a tourist attraction.

        Gareth Beynon
        Pontardawe
        Swansea

        10 September 2012

  12. Robert Brown says:

    Regarding the Lower Swansea Valley Project:
    I have fond memories of planting trees on the west side of Kilvey Hill during the mid seventies. I suspect that I / we were more enthusiastic than helpful.

    I must say that Steve Lavender was a huge energy and force behind engaging the youth of St Thomas, Port Tennant, and Danygraig in what we hoped would become “The largest urban forest west of Moscow”. Tomy generation his name was synomynous with conservation and regeneration long before it was fashionable, and I am sure every 45 – 55 year old who attended school in the area whould remember his name and vitality.

    I rarely return to Swansea these days, when I do, I always look for the trees, though, I confess, I prefer the trees to the modern, urban valley floor.

    I’m not sure if the City ever honoured Stephen Lavender, and if it hasn’t then it should, for all those hours getting schoolchildren to look at their environment, taking a pride in their history andf future, and volunteering to make a difference.

    Well done Steve!, Well done LSVP, Floreat Swansea!

    Bob Brown

    • copperday says:

      Dear Bob,

      My apologies for the long delay in a reply and approving the comment. Thank you for contributing to the Copper Day site and for your memories of Steve Lavendar and LSVP. We honoured Steve’s contribution to LSVP during Copper Day where we marked 50 years since its inception. There was a further event at the university in November last year which was attended by another LSVP stalwart from the earlier years, Franklin Cardy who took colour cine footage of the valley which you may find interesting:

      http://www.youtube.com/user/fcardy?feature=results_main

      All the best,
      Tehmina Goskar
      (Research Associate, Swansea University)

  13. Brian Perrins says:

    A small group of us got together some years ago to try and raise interest in this part of Swansea,s industrial history,we started giving guided walks arround the various sites we had no way of letting people know other than by word of mouth.This project ,a project and partnership,between the University and the City and County of Swansea is the last hope of saving our heritage.

    • Esther Noot says:

      Loved this ! Just in to my Fam. Hist……my maternal grandfather was a copperman, working at Williams, Foster & Co and Pascoe Grenfell & Sons Ltd. …. I have his War Service Badge (1915). Would love to know more about way of life for the families as well as the men at the’Works’. Any more Copper Days (which I missed)?

      • copperday says:

        Dear Esther,

        Thank you for your comment. My apologies for the long delay in a reply. I am very interested to learn more about your grandfather’s work for WF&Co and PG&S. Williams, Foster and Co. took over the ailing works of Pascoe Grenfell and Sons in 1892 (at Upper and Middle Bank on the opp side of the Tawe from their Morfa works). By the 1920s the last remaining copper companies merged to form British Copper Manufacturers – the other major player having been Vivian and Sons. No more Copper Days planned to the best of my knowledge but there is a more wide-ranging community project afoot called Connected Communities which looks at all aspects of Swansea Valley history and may be of help:

        http://swanseavalleyhistory.com/

        All the best,
        Tehmina Goskar
        (Research Associate, Swansea University)

    • copperday says:

      With luck, Brian! Keep the pressure on.

  14. Mr.J.Leighton Jones. says:

    My Grandfather worked in the ICI Copper Works ,his House over looked the Pub called the “Rissing Sun” and from what I can remember .We use to visit during the WW2 travelling from LLandudno Junction over night. He was in the Merchant Navy during WW1 and he had a pair of binnoculars reputed to be off a U-boat Captain and I had them one day and saw a Spitfire over the ICI works and could see the Pilot very plainly.
    Hope this is of some interest to someone .I can not believe the whole works has gone looking at the photographes. Leighton

    • copperday says:

      Dear Mr Jones,

      Thank you for your comment. My apologies for the long delay in a reply. I was interested to read about your grandfather’s experiences. The copperworks, although in their last decade of profitability by the time WW2 broke were a major target during and after the Blitz. What wasn’t destroyed then was largely ‘cleared’ in the 1960s by the Territorial Army as part of a major land reclamation project as the area has become unusuable owing to the toxicity of the soil and polluted rivers and decaying buildings. Now we want to save what is left and hope that the new partnership between the University and Council will achieve it over time.

      All the best,
      Tehmina Goskar
      (Research Associate, Swansea University)

  15. Really interesting stories and photos!

    In the 1980s as a schoolboy we used to use Morfa Stadium for various sporting events. I was particularly fascinated by the ruins in this area, the narrow winding road through Foxhole afforded us a truly superb view.

    The crumbling remains of Siemens Works on Neath Road hung round for a few more years. Nantong Way in those days was just a muddy track, once another stem of the Midland Railway. At this time the level crossing at the old Upper Bank station could still just about be seen.

    Sadly the building of the A4217 has robbed us of so many wonderful historical sites. If anyone is interested, my geograph page has other views of this area from the late 1990s including the now demolished red brick Morfa Copper Works head office building.

    All the best, R

    • copperday says:

      Dear Robert,

      Thank you so much for sharing your memories of the area. Unfortunately modern road building is never sensitive to the historical pathways that have evolved over many centuries and decades. Thank you also for the link to your site. There is also a flickr group dedicated to Copper Industrial Heritage you may find of interest:

      http://www.flickr.com/groups/copperheritage/

      Best wishes,
      Tehmina Goskar.

  16. Paul H Price says:

    My Dad Frank Price was resonsible for the redevelopment of the QF Factory as a Plastic and Brush manufacuring Unit for Addis Ltd.
    I was involved to a small degree as I had just finished my apprentiship at the Fforestfach Factory, known as Henderson Bros, it was a subsidery of Addis Ltd.
    Was employed at the QF for just over a year before leaving in order to widen my engineering knowledge.
    I also purchased a house in Jersey road which overlooked the Lower Swansea Valley scheme and was a ranger for fire watching duties, we sold the house and moved to Linconshire in 1972.
    The Electric Arc furnaces used in the QF manufacturing process though removed many years previously had vast lumps of copper underneath the cast iron tiles, the whole works was full of heavy duty copper cables etc, in fact, the sale of such ment that Addis Ltd had quite a bargain!
    My Father in Law, Dowel (David Howel) John who had worked in ICI and later the Titanioum works was employed for a few years (as a pensioner part time) at Upper Bank, he had been during the recesion in the 1930s unemployed when the Mannesman works made its workers redundant.
    Hope this helps with your research.
    Paul H Price M.I.Diag,E

    • copperday says:

      Dear Paul,

      How fascinating! I had no idea about the copper still contained in the QF Factory. It just goes to show how important archaeology is to unearth the history of such complex industrial sites.

      Thank you for sharing your members and the information about your father.

      All the best,
      Tehmina Goskar
      Researcher, Swansea University

  17. ceinwen Finniear nee johnson says:

    I was born in Plasmarl. My great grandfather came over from Belgium in the 1860’s. He first lived with his parents and siblings in Neath Road in the Hafod. He worked as a spelter man and married a welsh girl in 1872. He died in 1888 of gastro enteritis ,recorded on his death certificate. To keep the family in in their house my grandfather had to work as a young man ,become a spelter man or loose their home. In later years my elder sister worked as a secretary in the then ICI. Later my husband who studied metallurgy at Swansea university ,was paid to do vacational work in the labs. To get to Swansea we had to pass on Neath Road. Memories still remain strong ,I saw my first badminton match in their social club. The dereliction was always seen and health was affected but jobs were needed .At last something is being done in later years to retain memories but also to clean up. .

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