RAISE A GLASS TO £3.5M FUND
LOTTERY SUPPORT FOR DISTILLERY PLAN AT OLD COPPERWORKS SITE
A VISITOR centre and whisky distillery at Swansea’s Hafod-morfa Copperworks have taken a major step forward thanks to a £3.5 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The money will help transform a derelict site which was once a centrepiece of the city’s global copper industry.
And having a commercial partner on board is important to its success, according to Heritage Lottery Fund’s head of heritage, Richard Bellamy.
“I came here in 2015 when the council was first thinking of the idea (for the site), and it has been quite a journey,” said Mr Bellamy.
“The council has been very committed and I think having the partner – Penderyn – is what convinced us.
“These buildings are a symbol of Welsh industrial history. We need to save them, but without sustainable, long-term use that’s going to be very difficult.”
The grade two-listed powerhouse at the Hafod-morfa Copperworks will be turned into a whisky distillery, bar and offices.
A new visitor centre with a shop, exhibition space and tasting bar will be built next door. And beyond that, a quarter of the grade two-listed rolling mill will be used as whisky barrel store.
The buildings will be linked by a covered walkway – and further developments could follow.
Swansea Council leader Rob Stewart said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, this exciting scheme will create jobs, attract visitors and boost the ongoing regeneration of the River Tawe corridor.”
He said he hoped it would be the start of a wider regeneration of the 12.5-acre copperworks, which also comprises a laboratory – where the scientist Michael Faraday once lectured – and engine house. Penderyn owner Nigel Short described the plans for the site as incredibly exciting.
He said: “Penderyn wants to be a part of the regeneration of the copperworks and to repeat the success we already have with our Welsh single malt whisky and other products.”
His colleague, Jon Tregenna, said the company would be investing “a lot” in the project but still needed to finalise its plans with the Welsh Government.
“This has been a great idea from the start,” he said.
“You make whisky using copper, and this grant is very exciting.”
The council is to invest £1.7 million in the project, and a bid for Welsh Government money for infrastructure upgrades has been submitted.
The copperworks date back to 1808.
In its 19th Century heyday, copper ore from Chile, Australia and North America was smelted at the site, putting Swansea – or Copperopolis, as it was known – at the centre of an international web of copper trading.
Archeologist Dr Alexander Langlands has been researching the site as part of a long-standing Swansea University involvement in the regeneration project.
He said the Copperopolis era signified a shift from the days when Wales was just mining and processing its own materials, and that it was important for people in the area to be aware of the site’s importance.
Dr Langlands added that the copperworks had changed over time.
“It is a palimpsest of different phases of development,” he said.
Meanwhile, work to restore the walls and the roof of the nearby Musgrove Engine House – a scheduled ancient monument made of copper slag and ash bricks – is ongoing, thanks to Cadw and council funding.
The old gantry crane inside the building has been removed and is being restored by the Friends of Hafod-morfa Copperworks.
Baroness Kay Andrews, chairwoman of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Wales, said: “This will be a monumental change for this historic site. The Hafod-morfa copperworks, once a thriving industrial centre, will be given a chance to return to its former glory thanks to National Lottery players.”
Landore councillor Mike White used to work at the site when it was occupied by Yorkshire Imperial Metals.
The powerhouse was used as a canteen. Asked what the food was like there, Mr White said: “Wonderful.”
These buildings are a symbol of Welsh industrial history. We need to save them, but without sustainable, long-term use that’s going to be very difficult - Heritage Lottery Fund’s head of heritage, Richard Bellamy
How Swansea’s historic Hafod-morfa Copperworks site could look.