Striking new images show how Swansea’s historic Hafod Morfa Copperworks site could soon be transformed into a centrepiece for the production of iconic Welsh whisky.
The images, designed by GWP Architecture, will form part of a Swansea Council application to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a £3.75 million grant that could see Penderyn Distillery expand their business onto the site with a new distillery and visitor centre.
Earmarked for construction between the powerhouse and rolling mill buildings, the visitor centre would give access to different site levels, using materials appropriate to the historic setting.
Since being awarded a £189,600 HLF development grant to progress the plans last summer, the council has been working with partners including Penderyn Distillery and Swansea University to put a more detailed bid together.
Expected to be submitted by the end of May next year, the plans also include a new Penderyn visitor experience that could attract more than 50,000 visitors a year, with the visitor centre also educating people about the site’s rich history.
Featuring Penderyn brand colours and copper-based equipment forming part of the whisky-making process, the plans are aimed at celebrating the site’s heritage and supporting local businesses.
Cllr Rob Stewart, Swansea Council Leader, said: “This plan will further conserve the Hafod Morfa Copperworks site by making use of historically significant buildings in a sensitive and sustainable way, while also incorporating the world famous Penderyn whisky brand in Swansea. It will open up jobs, attract many thousands of visitors a year and boost on-going regeneration of Swansea’s River Tawe corridor as a whole.
“We’re also welcoming representatives from a major company this weekend who are in the city for the second time this year to explore the opportunity to introduce a cable car and a high-speed zip wire ride on Kilfey Hill. Featuring a visitor centre, a restaurant and a viewing platform on top of Kilfey Hill as well, these plans, if realised, would be entirely funded by private money – not by the council.
“Building on the conditional sale of Pipehouse Wharf and the recent opening of the Morfa distributor road, this plan, along with the regeneration of the copperworks site, shows how determined we are to work with partners in both the public and private sector to maximise the river’s potential to develop housing, riverside walks, restaurants, water-based activities, landing stations and boat trips between the city centre and the Liberty Stadium. The river has been dormant for too long, so we’re committed to placing it at the heart of Swansea life once again.”
Nigel Short, Penderyn owner, said: “Swansea used to export copper all over the world, so Penderyn is excited to be a part of the regeneration of the copperworks and repeat that export success with Welsh single malt whisky.”
The Penderyn scheme would build on preservation and interpretation work that’s already on-going at the Hafod Morfa Copperworks site, thanks to the Cu@Swansea project being led by Swansea Council and Swansea University.
The site, which dates back to 1810, is made up of 12.5 acres of land on the west bank of the River Tawe in the Lower Swansea Valley. 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.
Professor Huw Bowen, of Swansea University, said: “The international significance of this site cannot be overstated because it played a key role in the development of Swansea as the world’s leading centre of copper production. This project represents a major step forward because it enables us to draw on a unique historical legacy to create an exciting and sustainable future for the site.”
Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Tourism and Major Projects, said: “Working alongside Swansea University and community volunteers, work on site in recent years has included clearing vegetation, stabilising buildings at risk, improving access for visitors, archaeology fieldwork, new pathways, an audio visual trail and new information panels.
“We’re proud of our heritage in Swansea, with the celebration of our rich history very much part of the city’s culture that we’re looking to share with the world if our shortlisted bid for the UK City of Culture 2021 title is successful.
“Supply chain opportunities will be available at the Hafod Morfa Copperworks site, sustainable materials and energy efficiency technology will be used, and targeted recruitment and training opportunities will be included in any construction contracts to benefit the disadvantaged in our communities, if our bid to the HLF is successful.”
Other plans include a heritage skills development package during restoration works in areas like lime mortaring, stone masonry and blacksmithing. The original Morfa Works gate could be restored and reinstated as the primary gateway and visitor entrance.
People can find out more about the plans and how they can get involved at the Friends of Hafod Morfa Copperworks Annual General Meeting, which takes place from 6.30pm on Monday October 23 at the Landore Social Club on Neath Road.