For the inhabitants of Swansea being part of the Industrial Revolution was something of a mixed blessing. The working environment was harsh despite copper-masters, like the Vivians and the Grenfells, having a social conscience. A twelve-year-old boy could expect to work a fourteen-hour day. Furnace-men would work twenty-four hour shifts.
Women and girls undertook unsavoury jobs, like collecting urine from neighbouring houses to clean the copper sheets. In conditions like these health problems were rife, consumption, typhus, bronchitis and asthma were endemic, the average life expectancy of a Swansea inhabitant in 1883 was twenty-four years.
While the copper-smoke generated by the smelting process gave off toxic fumes containing arsenic and sulphur that killed trees and crops and poisoned pastureland.
However the copper-masters, aware that a literate and numerate workforce would increase efficiency, provided schools, Sunday schools, reading-rooms and mechanics institutes. The expanding number of industries was accompanied by a comparative number of breweries as the workforce sought relief from the daily grind.
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Read more about industry in Swansea… Ceramics