History Industrial Heritage

Reconstructing the historic global copper industry from business archives

Upper Thames Street, site of 27
Upper Thames Street, site of 27, at Paul's Walk, previously Paul's Wharf, headquarters of major copper firms in the 19th century (Tehmina Goskar)

On 9 November I will be participating in the Historical Metallurgy Society‘s Research in Progress meeting in Sheffield. The day promises to be extremely varied where experimental archaeologists, historians, scientists and others will be getting together to share various aspects of their work. Subjects will range from the excavation of a medieval smithy in Oxfordshire to the lead and copper ‘isotope signatures’ of North American native copper.

Read the draft programme for information on all the contributors (opens or downloads PDF).

My contribution to the day will focus on recent work I have been conducting on the business archives relating to major copper concerns that operated smelting and refining works in Swansea. These copper archives add essential information and colour to a broad picture historians have been building up of the global copper industry, predominantly in the 18th and 19th centuries, since the 1950s. However many of these histories have been reliant on runs of statistics from mining and geological journals, import and export information from mercantile shipping records and occasionally, official records government records and occasionally, correspondence and letter collections of prominent figures such as Thomas Williams of Anglesey and the Vivians.

Business archives are found in many county and special collections all over the country. Their content often relates to more than one firm and more than just local activity. For example, the Grenfell Collection held by the Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University, comprises records relating to their head quarters at 27 Upper Thames Street, London and many of their dealings abroad, including with Spain, in addition to important detail about their major smelting works at Upper and Middle Bank in Swansea.

My Research in Progress paper aims to give an outline and a few examples of the way in which these archives can be used and linked together to reconstruct the elements of the historic global copper industry that remain obscured in mainstream histories that have not delved into these records in any great detail.

Curators History Industrial Heritage

My Top 5 for Promoting Industrial History and Heritage

Aberfulais Falls, near Neath, Wales, site of early copperworking, then tinplate industry (Tehmina Goskar)
Aberfulais Falls, near Neath, Wales, site of early copperworking, then tinplate industry (Tehmina Goskar)

Having had the opportunity to work on various industrial heritage projects over the years and now focusing both my research and professional work in this area, I am publishing what I consider to be five key areas that should be addressed as part of any industrial heritage project. They are particularly aimed at groups and organisations that want to think about promoting their site or collections beyond the locality and beyond immediate interest groups and traditional audiences. They are also aimed at any knowledge exchange collaboration or project that wish to raise awareness of a particular historic industry and its impact on people and societies.

It makes reference to examples based on Welsh copper industrial heritage as that is the project on which I have most recently worked. The Top 5 was originally written in July 2010.

You may freely make use of this guide provided you ensure full attribution is made to me, Tehmina Goskar, and its source on this website.