Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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VIVIAN , HENRY HUSSEY ( 1821 - 1894 ), first baron Swansea , industrialist and patentee of metallurgical processes ;

b. 6 July 1821 at Singleton Park , Swansea (now the nucleus of the Swansea University College buildings), eldest son of JOHN VIVIAN , a merchant engaged in copper smelting , Member of Parliament for Swansea , 1822-55 , by his wife, Sarah , daughter of Arthur Jones , The Priory , Reigate (for further details concerning J. H. Vivian , see W. H. Jones , History of the Port of Swansea , 1922 ).

From Eton , H. H. Vivian went for a time ( 1838-40 ) to study metallurgy in Germany and France before entering Trinity College , Cambridge ( 1840 ). In 1842 he began to manage the Liverpool branch of the firm of Vivian and Sons , afterwards becoming a partner. From 1845 to 1855 he managed the Hafod Smelting Works at Swansea for his father, taking, in 1855 , after the death of his father, full control of the works. Hitherto the main work at Hafod had been the smelting of copper . Equipped with the metallurgical knowledge which he had acquired in Europe , Vivian began to obtain numerous by-products from that mineral. He took out several patents (see details in D.N.B. ) in connection with the manufacture of spelter, gold, silver, nickel, and cobalt . In 1864 he began to obtain sulphuric acid from copper smoke ; in 1871 he erected works at White Rock , near Swansea , to treat poor silver-lead ores . It is no exaggeration to say that under his influence Swansea became ‘the metallurgical centre of the world.’

Vivian became the first chairman of the Glamorgan county council ( 1889 ). After the South Wales coal strike in 1889 he introduced the celebrated ‘sliding scale’ in regard to wages (see also under William Abraham ( Mabon ) and William Thomas Lewis ). He helped to extend the harbour facilities of Swansea and was one of the chief promoters of the Rhondda and Swansea Bay Railway . He was Liberal Member of Parliament for Truro , Cornwall , from 1852-7 , Glamorgan 1857-85 , and Swansea 1885-93 . He was created a baronet , 13 May 1882 , and on 9 June 1893 , became the first baron Swansea . He was the author of Notes of a Tour in America , 1878 . He d. at Singleton Park , 28 Nov. 1894 , and was buried in Sketty churchyard.


  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography , and the sources cited therein;
  • W. H. Jones , History of the Port of Swansea (Carmarthen, 1922) (Carmarthen, 1922 ).


Sir William Llewelyn Davies, M.A., LL.D., F.S.A. (1887-1952), Aberystwyth

Published date: 1959