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Work starts on historic Hafod Morfa copperworks site regeneration project

A Swansea firm has moved on-site as is starts to build one of the city’s key regeneration projects.

John Weaver Contractors is the main contractor for the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks powerhouse and outbuildings redevelopment.

The site will include the renovation of the historic Powerhouse building. Wales’ Penderyn Distillery will expand there and fit it out as a new distillery and visitor centre.

The location will be transformed for future generations and construction work is expected to take place through this year and next, with Penderyn Whisky planning to open there in 2022.

The copperworks site dates back to 1809, comprises 12.5 acres on the west bank of the Tawe and is linked to the city centre by the new 1.7km Morfa Distributor Road.

In its heyday, copper ore from as far afield as North America, Cuba, Australia and South America was smelted at the site, putting Swansea at the centre of a global web of copper trading connections.

Plans for the disused site opposite the Liberty Stadium, include a new-build Penderyn Distillery visitor centre with shop, tasting bar, exhibition space and toilets; a new-build covered walkway connecting the refurbished powerhouse, new-build visitor centre and barrel store; landscaping, parking area and restoration of the former work gates, porters lodge and weighbridge offices

The distillery plans to open its Penderyn Experience whisky tour on the site. It would educate visitors about distilling and the site’s history and could attract more than 50,000 people a year.

Swansea Council is overseeing the transformation as part of its plans to regenerate the lower River Tawe corridor.

Robert Francis-Davies, the council’s cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said:

“It’s good to see Weaver’s personnel on-site; it shows that we’re delivering on our plans to regenerate one of the city’s most iconic heritage locations.

“We want to make the riverside corridor a key to unlocking Swansea’s great future potential. The copperworks site will play a powerful role in our future.

“I’m glad that we have local construction expertise to help us do that.”

Terry Edwards, managing director of John Weaver Contractors, added:

“We are delighted to be moving on-site for this prestigious project which is so close to our headquarters in Hafod.

“Our embedded conservation teams are focused on ensuring existing landmarks and heritage buildings such as the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks are brought back to life and enjoyed by future generations for years to come.

“The local knowledge of our in-house craftsmen and artisans means they understand not only the finer technical details when it comes to conserving buildings, but also the heart and soul of the structures that are temporarily in our care.

“We look forward to partnering with Swansea Council and Penderyn Distillery on what will be another landmark for the city for years to come.

“The copperworks was key to Swansea’s great industrial past; we’re glad to be playing a role in ensuring it offers the city big things in the future.”

Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government Hannah Blythyn said:

“Supporting towns continue to be at the heart of our regeneration work and our commitment to the future of our communities.

“I am pleased to see how Welsh Government Transforming Towns funding is breathing new life into an existing landmark that is rich in history and transforming the waterfront location. I look forward to seeing this building transform and benefit generations.”

John Weaver has previously worked on the copperworks site, restoring the iconic Musgrave Engine House and Vivian Engine House in a £700,000 project funded by the council, Cadw, Welsh Government Transforming Towns and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Around four years ago the firm completed a £6.7m refurbishment of Swansea’s Grade II listed Glynn Vivian Art Gallery complete with new extensions.

The Lower Swansea Valley became the world-leading centre for copper smelting in the 18th century. The Hafod-Morfa Copperworks site is of international importance, becoming the world’s largest copperworks in the latter part of the 19th century and early 20th century.

The council secured a £3.75m National Lottery Heritage Fund grant for the expansive Hafod-Morfa site’s transformation work, with additional works to other historical buildings in the vicinity funded by Welsh Government Transforming Towns funding.

The council worked with partners – including Penderyn Whisky and Swansea University – to create the National Lottery Heritage Fund bid.


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