Hafod Copper Works River Tawy, c.1840s
This oil on canvas painted by James Harris Snr. (1810 – 1887) depicts a stretch of the River Tawe during the Industrial Revolution, which impacted so dramatically on the environment of the Lower Swansea Valley. In the background, shrouded in smoke is the Hafod Copperworks, founded by John Vivian, the first Cornish coppermaster to settle in the valley (1808-9). This copper-smelting works was to continue for 115 years, until 1924. In the foreground , men go about their work on land and water, observed by a gentleman in frock coat and tall hat, who has perched himself on one of the rowing boats pulled up onshore.
In Stephen Hughes’ book, Copperopolis, this painting is captioned, ‘Painting of Smith’s Canal Tipping Staithes [OED: a waterside coal depot equipped for loading vessels] on the east bank of the River Tawe at Foxhole’.
Foxhole was a popular workers’ settlement, the rows of two-storey houses can be seen at the base of Kilvey Hill. John Smith’s canal (1784) was a short, private canal for carrying coal and water to the White Rock Copperworks, the first copper smelting works to be built on the east side of the river.