Copper Business Archives

The Richard Burton Archives looks after Swansea University's collections of unique documents relating to its institutional history and that of its key areas of research. As a consequence of interest in Swansea's global copper industry amongst the university's social and economic historians, particularly Prof. R.O. Roberts, the archives acquired several collections of business records relating to world-renowned copper houses. These include collections relating to Vivian and Sons, Williams, Foster and Company, Pascoe Grenfell and Sons and Yorkshire Imperial Metals. Additional collections of interest include the records of the Lower Swansea Valley Project, a pioneering post-industrial urban land reclamation project which transformed the ecology and landscape of the valley that was for two centuries the heart of the world's historic copper industry. These archives of international importance relating to eighteenth to twentieth century trade, including several documents from the pre-1830 pioneering and maturing period of the industry that are of world significance.

Survey of business archives for research and digitisation

Business archives held in various collections around the country comprise minute books of trade associations, stock books, account books, patents, leases, plans, correspondence, calculations and a host of ephemera that would surprise many of those involved in interpreting an industrial heritage site or writing the history of a company of business person. These archives also hold the potential to unlock many of the more obscure aspects of our industrial past, for example, on the uses of various products, where demand for them came from and how businesses responded to this demand. Local business archives are also an invaluable window into regional, national and global networks. They also give a perspective beyond the mining sector, upon which so much industrial history and heritage interpretation is based.

As a partner in the ESRC-funded Global and Local Worlds of Welsh Copper Project the Richard Burton Archives has been working with the Research Officer to conduct a thorough survey of the business archives relating to Swansea's historic copper industry to identify parts of the collection that would benefit from increased access and research. The survey has also identified items suitable for digitising to make them available online, for use in elearning, by researchers and family and local historians.

The copper archives survey will be published here in the coming weeks. The following table summarises the key collections containing archives relating to the copper industry. 

Catalogue no.



Grenfell (PG&S, Middle & Upper Bank, 1782-1897)


Kirkham Manuscripts (Morfa, 1846-92)


Cecil Lewis (Various, 1910-40)


Lower Swansea Valley Project (1936-67)


Mathias Manuscripts (Thomas Nichols, Briton Ferry works, 1890-1910)


Morris Papers (c1587-1987)


Hugh Vivian (Various, 1824-1942)


White Rock Works (1736-1947)


Yorkshire Imperial Metals (Various, 1740-1956)


Strick and Bellingham (Vivian and Sons, 1841-1918)


Terrill Collection (Bertie Terrill, Morfa, c1870-1953)

Documents from the Yorkshire Imperial Metals collection at the Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

Observations on The Cornish Metal Company (Richard Burton Archives, LAC/126/A/9)

Observations on the Cornish Metal Company by John Vivian, 1786. Vivian Papers LAC/126/A/9


Weekly statement of copper purchased (LAC/126/J/1)

Weekly statement of copper purchased, 1912. Vivian Papers LAC/126/J/1

From Morfa works wage rate book, 1903 (LAC/126/Q/1)

From Morfa works wage rate book, 1903. Papers of Williams, Foster and Co. LAC/126/Q/1