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Morgannwg

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Vol. 31 1987

Paternalism on trial : The Morfa colliery strike and the Cornish disaster,1869-1872.

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Paternalism on Trial: The Morfa
Colliery Strike and the Cornish
Disaster, 1869-72
Gareth Phillips
Early in the nineteenth century, John Henry Vivian, a native of Cornwall,
built up a copper business in Swansea. In time, he acquired a world-wide
reputation, and the business expanded to such a degree that his company
purchased the Taibach Copper Works from the English Copper Company
in 1838 and started producing copper in Port Talbot as well as Swansea;
To obtain coal for smelting purposes, Vivian operated a number of pits.
Among them was Morfa Colliery, situated 2.5 miles from the Taibach
Copper works. This was one of the most extensive and modern mines in
nineteenth-century Glamorganshire, and represented a considerable amount
of Vivian and Sons' capital.
However, in February 1855, at the height of his prosperity and fame,
John Henry Vivian, the 'Copper King' died. He had done much to put
Swansea and the surrounding area 'on the map' as a major centre of
industry. His eldest son, Henry Hussey Vivian, together with three younger
sons, succeeded to John Henry's possessions and responsibilities and proved
to be capable of running the family firm as successfully as their late father.
Henry Hussey Vivian took control and, with the assistance of his three
brothers particularly the third eldest, Arthur Pendarvis Vivian the
company continued to prosper. Henry Hussey became an M.P. for the
Swansea area, and by 1892 was ennobled as the first Lord Swansea. He
has sometimes been described as the 'Champion of Welsh Steam Coal'
for, in conjunction with Richard Fothergill (M.P. for Merthyr), he
displayed great energy in promoting the cause of Welsh steam coal in
Parliament, and both were constantly involved in contributing to legislation
concerning mine regulations and safety aspects. Henry Hussey Vivian took
an ardent interest in many aspects of mining, which led him to speak on
numerous occasions in Parliament and outside it.4
On his father's death, Arthur Pendarvis Vivian came to Taibach as co-
director of the firm of Vivian and Sons, his eldest brother having taken
over the Hafod Works in Swansea as Managing Director. Arthur
Pendarvis also became Liberal M.P. for West Cornwall, a seat which he
held from 1868 to 1885. Like his brother, Henry Hussey, he too introduced
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