Hafod-Morfa Copperworks Redevelopment, Swansea

Civil and structural design for the first phase of a high-profile regeneration project, creating a new distillery for Penderyn Whisky on the complex and historically significant site of the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks.

Hafod Copperworks CGI - credit GWP Architecture

Our Cardiff-based civil and structural engineering team were appointed at RIBA Stage 4 to the multi-disciplinary design team responsible for the development of a new distillery, barrel store and visitor centre for Penderyn Whisky at the historically significant site of the former Hafod-Morfa Copperworks.

Taking the £5.5m scheme through to its completion in October 2021, we’re working alongside Swansea Council, GWP Architecture, main contractor John Weaver and project and cost managers TC Consult to deliver this catalyst project, which marks the start of a long-term plan to regenerate the wider site.

Historical significance

Cornish entrepreneur, John Vivian built the Hafod works in 1808-09 and by 1900 they were the world’s largest copperworks. The Hafod works later joined with Williams Foster & Co’s Morfa works, before copper production in south Wales waned and the rolling mills eventually closed in 1980. Much of the then derelict industrial halls, chimneys and buildings were demolished, leaving a few structures as a reminder of Swansea’s industrial heritage. The 12.5 acre site now has 12 listed internationally significant industrial heritage buildings or structures across it.

Penderyn development the catalyst for a new beginning

Led by Swansea Council, and with Heritage Lottery Funding and input from SPECIFIC (a sustainability initiative between the Council and Swansea University), this initial redevelopment work is aimed at attracting further investment into the overall site. As an anchor tenant on a long-term lease, the world-renowned Penderyn Whisky is key to the plan, using the site for modern-day production and also as a tourist attraction with a Visitor Centre providing a tasting bar, exhibition space and a shop.

Engineering solutions on a complex site

The design of the development has been heavily influenced by the complexity of the ground conditions, archaeology and effective use of a number of existing, listed buildings and structures.

Our team has worked tirelessly since our commission to facilitate the vision for this important site, including de-risking the ground conditions through a series of investigations, assessing the historic structures for refurbishment and re-use, and adapting to the changing nature of the site as archaeological works have progressed.

Archaeological discoveries have been a particular challenge, with the industrial heritage revealing itself in tandem with the commencement of building works. To date, a previously unknown tunnel passing through the site and under the Rolling Mill, unknown drainage and services, a natural spring, buried revetement walls, archways and former furnace pits have all been discovered, requiring alterations to design that has been matched only by our team’s dedication to keep the project on track.

Our design has accounted for the repair, restoration and enhancement works to the Grade II listed Powerhouse building - which will house Penderyn’s distillery and tasting room - and includes the repair of the decorative timber and iron-trussed roof, re-building of the former clocktower and consolidating the existing fabric. Our structural team in Cardiff were assisted by the expertise of Hydrock’s resident CARE (Conservation Accreditation Register for Engineers) specialist, Roger Bareham in the sympathetic delivery of this work.

The barrel store will be housed in a modified section of the Grade II listed Rolling Mill, which currently houses Swansea Museum’s offsite collections, whilst between these buildings a contemporary new-build Visitors Centre and inter-connecting walkway will nestle within the imposing revetment walls, with burnt wood cladding, whisky coloured glass, green roofs, and the creation of a “learning walk”, with glass floors and panels providing glimpses and interpretation of the tunnels and furnace pits.


Speaking about our work, Tracy Nichols, External Funding Programme Officer at Swansea Council said: “Hydrock joined the project later on and stepped up to the challenge, got up to speed quickly and got the project moving. They listen, take the time to understand the scope, work through your ideas and build it up to a workable solution.”

Richard Townend, Director at GWP Architecture also commented: “I thoroughly enjoyed working with the Hydrock team in Cardiff. The team get stuff sorted. They are sensible, passionate and get it right first time.”

Image courtesy of GWP Architecture