Copper Kingdom in Final Five of Guardian heritage award

Copper Kingdom in Amlwch, Anglesey has made it into the Final Five (of over 500 nominations) of the Guardian newspaper’s museums and heritage awards for innovation in engaging volunteers.

Doors to the Copper Kingdom, Amlwch, Anglesey.

Doors to the Copper Kingdom, Amlwch, Anglesey.

It is the only representation of industrial heritage and the only one from Wales–or indeed anywhere outside of London and South East England.

Public voting is now open and closes on 12 April. Vote Now!

The award is for the “UK’s most inspiring museum or heritage visitor attraction of the past year.”

Copper Kingdom, situated in Amlwch’s old copper bins in the harbour, is a refreshing example of a new heritage attraction that has bags of substance as well as style. It takes its history seriously and presents it wonderfully. If you have not yet visited, I could not recommend it more. I was one of the nominators for Copper Kingdom and this was my nomination pitch:

“Copper Kingdom is the most original, informative and immersive new heritage centre in Wales. A beautiful example of industrial regeneration, the old copper bins now house an inspirational story of how a tiny village port was for a while in the 18th century the centre of the world’s copper industry.”

Mining Exchange, Redruth

Built c. 1880 for the brokers who traded in metals coming from Cornish mines. By this time copper ore production had decreased significantly but it hadn’t disappeared altogether. However there was still a lively trade in tin and other metals. Metal trading was mainly taking place at the London Metal Exchange (LME) by this time. Redruth had been the business centre for Cornish copper trading, particularly the selling and purchasing of ores at fortnightly ‘ticketing’ events since the early eighteenth century.

Copper field trip to North Wales

The windmill is of particular interest as it makes plain why, for a period of about 15-20 years, Anglesey’s copper mining eclipsed that of Cornwall as they didn’t have to spend quite so much time and money pumping water out of the ground to get at the ore.

I have finally completed my itinerary to visit North Wales to kick start a new phase of my copper research.

It is a long way from west Cornwall to north-west Wales. I lament that the once regular costal shipping serving the western Atlantic ports of the Celtic Sea and Irish Sea would have provided a much more atmospheric arrival into Bangor or Amlwch. Then again, I may have ended up ship-wrecked, like so many did, often close to home port.

Railing through industrial heartlands

Instead I will be travelling via mid-nineteenth century routes on the railways. Starting at the end of the Great Western line in Penzance, up to Birmingham (synonymous with copper mogul Matthew Boulton), thence to Crewe and Bangor. My return trip wends me to Wolverhampton, home of art metalware and the famous Bilston enamels.

I will be spending a few days in Bangor University Archives thoroughly going through the records of Williams and Grenfell’s Copper Smelting Firm, 1829-1834. It is in this collection that the rare Ticketing documents are found, and on which I have been conducing some preliminary research. Continue reading

A new future for Swansea copperworks site

Vivian engine house, Hafod

Vivian engine house, Hafod (credit: Tehmina Goskar)

Yesterday Swansea Council and Swansea University signed a significant agreement to work together to give a future to the endangered copperworks sites still left in the lower Swansea valley, particularly those around the historic Hafod Works whose bicentenary is being celebrated this year. The story is covered here on BBC online.

Prof. Huw Bowen with whom I am working on the ESRC Global and Local Worlds of Welsh Copper project is leading efforts for a heritage-led regeneration of these sites of international significance. There is a long way to go but we hope that the project will raise much needed awareness amongst people in politics, business, culture, heritage, education and beyond of the importance of the heritage in copper in Wales, and more importantly, the connections it has with other industrial regions in Cornwall/West Devon, Anglesey, Ireland, south Australia, south Africa, Chile, Cuba and beyond with similarly rich copper histories. Continue reading

History, heritage and urban regeneration

Panel discussion on heritage-led regeneration

Panel discussion on heritage-led regeneration

On 14 October 2010, scholars, planners, heritage professionals, media, local authority representatives, volunteers from local community groups and others gathered to hear and discuss the subject of how heritage can make a positive impact on regeneration, especially the heritage of our industrial past.

History, heritage and urban regeneration was a symposium held at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea, itself a result of the regeneration of the old dockyards, a long but immensely stimulating day was had by all. It also marked the official launch of the Global and Local Worlds of Welsh Copper project. This was an appropriate place and time to launch as crucial decisions are currently being made about the future of the old copperworks sites in the Swansea valley that once produced around half the world’s refined copper.

Read a review of the symposium on the IWA’s Click on Wales. Here is a wordle of the day.

Wordle: History, Heritage and Urban Regeneration