COP­PER IN­DUS­TRY BUILT UP SUC­CESS ON BACKS OF SLAVES

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS - CAITLIN O’SUL­LI­VAN Re­porter caitlin.osul­li­van@waleson­line.co.uk

WHILE the legacy of slaves runs in­deli­bly through the his­tory of many Bri­tish ports, the na­ture of the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion meant that while cities like Bris­tol and Liver­pool grew wealthy from the slave trade, it was largely the prof­its of coal and iron ore that made Wales rich.

But in Wales’ boom­ing 19th cen­tury cop­per­works, the story wasn’t quite so clear cut.

An ex­plo­sion in de­mand for cop­per meant busi­ness own­ers strug­gled to meet de­mand.

Our boom­ing age of in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion may have been a source of pride, but it also was at the core of Wales’ re­la­tion­ship with slav­ery.

Ac­cord­ing to Chris Evans’ book, Slave Wales, there was a mas­sive in­crease in Wales’ de­mand for cop­per. Raw ma­te­ri­als were brought from around the world. And that meant turn­ing to the mines of Cuba, worked by slaves.

The El Co­bre mines were hugely prof­itable for Welsh cop­per­works, as all ore was shipped to the Swansea cop­per­works of the Tawe and Neath Val­leys. How­ever, they were no­to­ri­ously cruel mines, and it was the al­most cease­less de­mands of Welsh in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion that forced slaves into them dur­ing the 1830s.

An ac­count by James Whit­burn, a Cor­nish en­gine man who worked in the mines, reads as fol­lows: “The flog­ging of the Ne­groes in this coun­try is most cruel. I have seen them laid on the ground, some­times tied to a lad­der, and at other times held by one man at the foot and an­other at the head, while an­other Ne­gro with a whip 10 or 12 ft long from the end of the stick to the point of the lash, gives the Ne­gro con­fined 25 blows or I may say, cuts . . .ev­ery blow rat­tles al­most as loud as a gun. I have seen I think from 15 blows out of 25 to make cuts in the flesh from eight to 12 inches long and open as if done with a knife.”

Mary Glas­cott and her sons, who owned the Cam­brian cop­per works at Llanelli, and so­lic­i­tor Alexan­der Druce, a part­ner in the Llanelly Cop­per­works Com­pany, tol­er­ated slaves in their Cuban mines.

As did Pas­coe St Leger Gren­fell and his broth­ers, who in­her­ited their cop­per com­pany from their fa­ther, Pas­coe Gren­fell.

The firm dom­i­nated cop­per smelt­ing in the Swansea Val­ley from the 1820s-1890s, and Pas­coe St Leger Gren­fell be­came a prime mover in the firm’s de­vel­op­ment from the 1840s on­wards.

When slav­ery was brought to an end, he was awarded, with his part­ners, the com­pen­sa­tion for the enslaved peo­ple on Haze­lymph in St James, Ja­maica, re­ceiv­ing £4,121 and 19 shillings.

As he did not tech­ni­cally own the slaves in Cuba, he could not be com­pen­sated for their free­dom.

He was mar­ried twice and had nine chil­dren by his first wife.

Thomas Wil­liams, also known as Tom Fair Play, was from An­gle­sey. He owned cop­per mines in Parys Moun­tain, man­u­fac­tur­ing their own cop­per goods, and devel­oped cop­per shield­ing to cover the hulls of slave ships to en­sure they were not worm eaten.

Mr Wil­liams pro­duced his own goods to trade in Africa for slaves, such as cop­per manilla bracelets, pots, pans and bowls. He would then sell the slaves to earn more money, there­fore sav­ing him­self costs.

He ac­tively fought against the abo­li­tion of slav­ery, and at the time of his death in 1802 was the rich­est man in Wales.

Ed­ward Ham­lin Adams was a sup­plier of enslaved labour to the Bri­tish state in Ja­maica in part­ner­ship with Robert Robert­son.

Adams Robin­son and Co sup­plied slaves to work in mil­i­tary camps in Ja­maica.

He was born in Ja­maica, but later set­tled in Wales, and be­came and MP for Car­marthen­shire in 1833.

He pur­chased Mid­dle­ton Hall, de­signed by SP Cock­erell for the East In­dia nabob, Sir Wil­liam Pax­ton, in 1824, and died there in 1842.

John Foster Barham lived from 1799 to May 22, 1838.

He was the el­dest son of Joseph Foster Barham, Whig MP for Stock­bridge, and Lady Caro­line Tufton, daugh­ter of Sackvill Tufton the 8th Earl of Thanet.

In Septem­ber 1832 he suc­ceeded his fa­ther to es­tates in Trecwn Pem­brokeshire, Stock­bridge and the West Indies.

The Barham fam­ily had owned and op­er­ated the Me­sopotamia es­tate for more than a cen­tury and “took a spe­cial in­ter­est in their slaves” by invit­ing mis­sion­ar­ies to ed­u­cate them. How­ever, John Barham “never vis­ited Ja­maica and took lit­tle in­ter­est in his prop­erty there”.

By 1836 he was un­der med­i­cal su­per­in­ten­dence and in March 1837 he was cer­ti­fied by a com­mis­sion of “lu­nacy as of un­sound mind”. He died in March 1838.

His widow ad­min­is­tered his es­tate, while those in Pem­brokeshire and the West Indies were en­tailed on his brother Charles.

Sa­muel Bosan­quet III of Dingestow Court, Mon­mouthshire, was born in 1768 and died in 1843.

His fa­ther’s cousin, Ja­cob Bosan­quet, was a chair­man of the East In­dia Com­pany.

A Lon­don banker, he and other part­ners of the bank were awarded com­pen­sa­tion for three es­tates in Ne­vis, in two cases as as­signees and in the third as “par­ties in­ter­ested in the com­pen­sa­tion”.

They re­ceived £3,655, 18 shillings and five pence for slaves in Clifton’s, Paynes and Mor­ton’s Bay, £2,018, 0 shillings and eight pen­nies for an­other es­tate in Ne­vis, and £297, 11 shillings and seven pence for an es­tate in Meales.

Sa­muel Bosan­quet re­tired from the bank in 1836.

Richard Pen­nant is a well-recorded sup­porter of the slave trade. He lived just out­side Ban­gor in Pen­rhyn Cas­tle, with more than 300 rooms. The cas­tle was built to show off his for­tunes. He held six plan­ta­tions in Ja­maica.

Thomas Clark­son, of the So­ci­ety for the mit­i­ga­tion and Grad­ual Abo­li­tion of Slav­ery, stated that: “Mr Pen­nant, the Heir of Lord Pen­rhyn, a man of £50,000 a year in the neigh­bour­hood, is quite against us in con­se­quence of be­ing a very large West In­dia Pro­pri­etor.”

He was in fact a chair­man of the West In­dia Com­mit­tee.

Mr Pen­nant wrote let­ters to man­agers about the run­ning of his plan­ta­tions, in­clud­ing the breed­ing of slaves. He strongly felt that the ban­ning of slave traf­fick­ing in Africa would be an eco­nomic disas­ter.

The for­tune he made in the slave in­dus­try meant that he was able to de­velop slate pro­duc­tion and ship­ment in Wales. He took back leases in the slate in­dus­try and built a uni­fied quarry on an in­dus­trial scale.

He built a port, roads and rail­way to con­nect the quarry, and was able to ship slate to any­where in the world.

HUL­TON AR­CHIVE/GETTY IM­AGES

A draw­ing shows the crowded deck of a slave ship full of un­clothed slaves in the 1700s

Cop­per­works in Wales re­lied on the work of slaves

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