Oil on canvas
James Harris’ painting depicts a bustling stretch of the River Tawe during the Industrial Revolution, when Swansea was known as “Copperopolis”.
In the background, shrouded thickly in smoke, are the Hafod Copperworks – founded in 1809 by the Cornish coppermaster John Vivian – and the White Rocks foundry. The latter was the third oldest of the Swansea copperworks, set up in 1737 by Robert Hoblyn and initially run by Bristol merchant, Thomas Coster, until the Vivians acquired it in 1874.
Copper was linked to slavery as it was often bartered in exchange for African slaves. But, Coster’s wealth had a more direct connection: he co-owned six slaving ships.
Richard Glynn Vivian Bequest, 1911