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

Victorian Excel: Swansea and Cornwall Ticketing documents

I learned a lot about historical business records from the Richard Burton Archives at Swansea University, largely due to their resident expert in Business Archives, Stacy Capner who has also driven the innovative Wales Powering the World Project. I discussed my approach to business archives, very much that of a material culture historian who is interested in charting the journeys and transformation of materials and objects, at The Bottom Line, a Business Archives workshop held in Swansea in January.

While undertaking a survey of copper archives in Swansea The collection with which I became most familiar was the Grenfell Collection (LAC/45). Pascoe Grenfell and Sons (PG&S) was one of the premier players in the global copper business from 1830 until their liquidation in 1892. As as result of their assiduous record keeping much of their business remains documented in several archives. In addition to Swansea, collections can also be found in Buckinghamshire and Bangor. Bangor University Archives holds a collection of records pertaining to the previous incarnation of PG&S, Williams and Grenfell. This collection contains an exceptional set of documents called Ticketings. Continue reading