Landscape, environment and archives – History Day 2021

This year’s theme is environmental history so, along with other archives, museums and libraries participating in this year’s History Day on 4 November, we’re discovering how our collections can be used to research the impact of industry on nature, landscape, climate change and much more.

The Lower Swansea Valley Project

In the 1960s an innovative project was created to remove industrial dereliction and pollution from the Lower Swansea Valley. The majority of funding came from the Nuffield Foundation, the Welsh Office, Swansea Council and the former Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the aim was to return the area to active use. The University College of Swansea (now Swansea University) undertook surveys of the valley floor, where all the industry had been located, and the valley sides, which are mainly residential, to get an accurate picture and analysis of the physical, social and economic environments of the valley. The landscape of industrial decay – derelict works and mills, spoil heaps and severe pollution – was transformed with extensive planting and is still undergoing research and renewal today.

We are trying to improve the appearance of this valley. These experiments are to find out what plants will grow here. Please help us by ensuring that they remain undamaged’

Notice at the site of the Lower Swansea Valley Project, 1960s

The Archives holds a substantial collection of papers for the project (Ref. LAC/69):

  • minutes of project committees, working groups and meetings with individuals and societies, 1961-1966
  • reports and papers, 1958-1966
  • financial records, 1961-c.1965
  • personnel records, 1961-1966
  • correspondence, 1936-1967
  • press and public relations, 1961-1966

Discover more about the project and the collection in an archival guide put together by History MA students at Swansea University, as well as a blog – ‘Sprucing up the place: Reintroducing nature to the Lower Swansea Valley’ – by one of our assistant archivists, Stephanie Basford-Morris.

Cu@Swansea and the Continued Renewal of the Lower Swansea Valley

In the last decade there has been significant renewed interest in the industrial history of Swansea, in particular the copper processing and its legacy. Following on from the work undertaken as part of the Lower Swansea Valley Project, academics at Swansea University in conjunction with City and County of Swansea have been involved in Cu@Swansea – ‘a partnership … which aims to breathe life back into the site of the former Hafod-Morfa Copperworks.’ Various groups have undertaken research using the collections in the Archives and have been involved in work to enable people to visit and reconnect with the site. Find out more about the work going on via the Friends of Hafod-Morfa Copperworks and Friends of White Rock.

Archive collections of potential relevance include Yorkshire Imperial Metals (LAC/126), White Rock Works (LAC/122) and Grenfell Family Papers and Business Records (LAC/45). These can be used to explore the social, cultural and economic history of the area and researchers have used the collections in projects to preserve the historic topography and surviving sections of the historic built environment. Find out more about collections in our copper industry section in the business history subject guide.

The South Wales Coalfield

Views of collieries and associated industrial buildings sited in a broader landscape are among the striking images in the South Wales Coalfield Collection. As with the metal industries, the juxtaposition of industrial and natural as well as the impact of the former on the latter raises many questions and these visual sources complement the written record. In an earlier blog – ‘Industrial Landscapes’ – these connections and how they appear in the collections are explored.

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