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British Industrial History

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John Vivian

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John Vivian (1750–1826), mining and copper-smelting entrepreneur

1750 He was born on 9 January 1750 in Cornwood, Devon, the eldest of four sons of Thomas Vivian, vicar of Cornwood, and his wife, Mary, daughter of John Hussey, barrister, and sister of John Hussey, solicitor-general.

Educated at Truro Grammar school and in France.

1774 Married Betsy (d. 1816), daughter of Richard Cranch, vicar of St Clements, near Truro, and granddaughter of Richard Peters, from whom she inherited a part of his considerable estate.

They had three surviving sons, Richard Hussey Vivian, John Henry Vivian, and Thomas Vivian, and a daughter, Lucy.

Vivian was involved in business at an early age. He was a wine and lime merchant in partnership with William McCarmick in Truro until 1777.

He began his involvement in the metal industry acting as agent in Cornwall for the copper smelter Thomas Williams and the Cheadle Brass and Wire Co, purchasing copper ore from the mines in the county on their behalf and arranging for its shipment to their smelting works in south Wales.

Diversified his interests by acquiring shares in a number of mines, and became a partner in a firm supplying mining materials and in the Miners' Bank of Truro.

1785 With Matthew Boulton, Vivian was instrumental in establishing the Cornish Metal Co, which sought to buy the entire output of Cornish mines and break the smelting companies' hold over the market for copper ore. He acted as deputy governor of the company, which proved unsuccessful and was wound up in 1792.

1797 John Vivian owned Pencalenick House, of St Clements near Truro

About 1800 John Vivian of Truro, representing the associated miners of Cornwall, visited Swansea to investigate the conditions of copper-smelting as a profitable occupation[1]

1800 became a partner of the Cheadle Brass and Wire Co, whose copper smelting works were at Penclawdd to the West of Swansea[2]. This marked the beginning of the Vivians' involvement in copper smelting.

1808 He withdrew his interest from the Cheadle company

1809 Established his own smelting works at Hafod, north of Swansea, going into partnership with his sons Richard Hussey and John Henry - the business of Vivian and Sons was soon established as a major manufacturer of copper.

1810 John Henry Vivian and Richard Hussey Vivian purchased land for the Hafod Works between Landore and Swansea, which acquired, and for long maintained, world-wide fame for their products[3]

By 1820 Vivian and Sons was the second largest producer of copper in Britain, accounting for about 17 per cent of national output.

By 1811 Vivian had returned to Cornwall to handle the purchase and sales of copper ore in Truro, corresponding weekly with John Henry, who managed the Hafod works.

1826 Vivian died in Truro on 7 December from injuries sustained eleven weeks earlier in a hunting accident.

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