Saturday, 18 July 2015

7 Sir Alfred Mond

7. The Mond Buildings (photos: statue, Sir Alfred Mond, Mond Buildings) – 18 July

A building in Union Street, Swansea, connects a statue in Clydach with both the first MP for Swansea West, and the former owner of the Derwen Fawr estate. 

Ludwig Mond, a German Jew, came to Britain in 1862 and invented the nickel carbonyl process, a technique for converting nickel oxides into pure nickel.  In 1902 along with his two sons he established the Mond Nickel Works in Clydach: by 1910 over 40 percent of the village’s population worked in the refinery.  Supplies of ore were imported from smelting works in Canada, for the Clydach works concentrated on refining, and by 1921 “The Mond” had become the largest nickel works in the world.  Ludwig Mond died at his London home near Regent’s Park in 1909.   

Subsequently a bronze statue of him was erected outside the entrance to Mond House in the Brunner-Mond Works near Northwich in Cheshire.  The life-size figure on a pedestal depicts a bearded Ludwig Mond standing with a stick in his right hand, and papers in his left behind his back, wearing a long heavy overcoat and a large floppy hat.  His statue in Clydach is a full-size copy, standing outside the red-brick entrance to the former Mond Nickel Company, which later became Inco Europe.         

At the corner of Swansea’s Union Street and Park Street are the ornate Mond Buildings, built of Portland stone in 1911 in an Edwardian baroque style, with the motto “Make yourself necessary” above both doors.  The full quote from 19th century American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson is “Make yourself necessary to somebody”.

The three-storey buildings with an attic floor and an open, domed cupola were designed as the local headquarters of the National League of Young Liberals by Swansea architect Sir Charles Tamlin Ruthen, a prominent member of the Liberal party.  Among his other local designs are Pantygwydr Baptist Church in the Uplands 1906-07, the former Exchange Buildings near Swansea Museum, and the former Carlton Cinema (now Waterstone’s bookshop) in Oxford Street 1913-14.  Ruthen purchased the Derwen Fawr estate from J.C. Richardson, with seventeen acres of land.  He laid out the Italian Garden, introducing much stonework from Italy, and entertained Lloyd George and many Liberal cabinet members at Derwen Fawr.  After his death in 1926 the estate was purchased by Rev. Rees Howells for the Bible College of Wales.

The Mond Buildings were named after Ruthen’s mentor Sir Alfred Mond, second son of Ludwig Mond, who from January 1910 was Liberal MP for Swansea Town.  The constituency became Swansea West following the boundary changes with the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which gave the vote to men over 21, and to women for the first time (though initially only those over the age of 30).  Mond went on to serve as Minister for Health under Lloyd George from 1918 until, following divisions among the Liberals, he lost his seat to Labour in 1923.  After disagreeing with Lloyd George’s controversial plan to nationalise agricultural land, he joined the Conservative party, and in 1928 was raised to the peerage as Baron Melchett.  Sir Alfred Mond organised the merger of Britain’s four largest chemical companies to form Imperial Chemical Industries (I.C.I.), at that time one of the world’s largest industrial corporations, and he became its first chairman.   

Following a visit to what was then called Palestine in 1921, Mond became involved with the Zionist movement that worked and campaigned towards a Jewish homeland (eventually secured in 1948).  He became president of the British Zionist Foundation and founded the town of Tel Mond in Israel in 1929. 

Sir Alfred Mond died at his London home the following year, aged 62.  In Tel Aviv Melchett Street is named after the first MP for Swansea West.                                 


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