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British Industrial History

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Henry Hussey Vivian

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Henry Hussey Vivian, first Baron Swansea (1821–1894), industrialist and politician

1821 Born at Singleton Abbey, Swansea, the eldest son of industrialist and MP John Henry Vivian. His uncle was Sir Richard Hussey Vivian, first baron Vivian.

Educated at Eton

1838 studied metallurgy in Germany and France from 1838 before entering Trinity College, Cambridge in 1839

1841 Became manager of the Liverpool branch of the copper-smelting business founded by his grandfather, Vivian and Sons.

1844 Became a partner of the firm before moving to Swansea to manage the Hafod Works during the last ten years of his father’s life (1845-1855). He developed a range of by-products from copper-smelting and diversified into other metallurgical activities.

Henry Hussey Vivian introduced zinc-smelting early in the nineteenth century at Morriston Works (Swansea), which had originally dealt with copper. He brought the process and workmen from Germany[1].

c.1889 He is credited with originating the "sliding scale" of miners' wages after the strike of 1889, though other authorities attribute the idea to William Thomas Lewis, afterwards Lord Merthyr.

He was one of the chief promoters of the Rhondda and Swansea Bay Railway, helped to further extend the harbour facilities of Swansea and championed the merits of Welsh coal in Parliamentary debates. It was largely due to his efforts that Swansea became a major industrial centre.

He served as a Member of Parliament for Truro 1852–7, Glamorganshire 1857–85 and Swansea District 1885–93. In 1889 he became the first chairman of the Glamorgan County Council. He was also a Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant for Glamorgan and for some years first Lieutenant-Colonel of the 4th Glamorgan Rifle Volunteers.

He was created a baronet on 13 May 1882 and Baron Swansea on 9 June, 1893.

Obituary (1821-1894)[2]

"...Bessemer and Siemens were, in a. sense, his contemporaries; Tyndal and Huxley were his social friends, and sometimes his friendly critics. Lord Swansea had not the gift, perhaps not the opportunity, of discovery as in the one case; and be certainly lacked the talent of literary expression with which Huxley and Tyndal have been enabled to make science seductive with a grace of style entirely new to our generation. There must be two orders of genius recognisable in the modern work-a-day world. There is the man who invents or discovers, and there is the man who discovers what the invention or discovery is worth. It will scarcely be claimed for Lord Swansea that be was a gratuitous propounder of fruitful ideas. Everyone would rather give him praise for his quickness of appreciation of..."

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Basic Industries of Great Britain by Aberconway: Chapter IXX
  2. The Engineer 1894/12/14, p532.