Friday 9 June 2017

114 Henry Hussey Vivian

114 Henry Hussey Vivian
This person is hardly “hidden history”, for the statue of the first Lord Swansea stands prominently outside St Mary’s Church, by the entrance to the Quadrant.  Henry Hussey Vivian had much to do with Swansea becoming “Copperopolis” in the nineteenth century, but his life demonstrates that even privilege and wealth cannot shield a person from what Shakespeare calls “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”.
Henry Hussey was the eldest of the four sons of John Henry Vivian MP, whose statue stands in the Marina looking across to the Waterfront Museum.  His middle name Hussey was the surname of his Cornish grandmother, and a name of his uncle.  Born in 1821 at the octagon-shaped Marino, which was later extended and altered into Singleton Abbey, he followed his father to study in Germany at the University of Freiburg’s mining institute.  Henry Hussey became manager of the Hafod copper works at the age of 24, and in time diversified into smelting other non-ferrous metals such as zinc, gold and nickel, and established a works at White Rock to treat silver-lead ores.  He combated the problem of the copper smoke, which polluted the landscape and harmed livestock, by adopting the German Gerstenhöffer process at the Hafod works in the 1860s.  This had the bonus of producing chemical by-products such as sulphuric acid from the fumes of the copper smoke.
Like his father, Henry Hussey became a Liberal member of parliament, initially representing Truro, though after J.H. Vivian’s death he succeeded his father as M.P. for Glamorgan (and later for Swansea District).  He was a Fellow of the Geological Society, and particularly interested when in 1869 a Neolithic burial chamber was discovered at Parc Cwm, which was then on land he owned in Gower. 
But there were tragedies in his personal life, sadly all too frequent with childbirth in those days.  Henry Hussey had married in 1847 Jessie Goddard, the daughter of the M.P. for Swindon, and they lived at Verandah, of which part remains by the Botanical Gardens in Singleton Park.  However within a year she died after giving birth to a son, Ernest Ambrose.  In her memory St Paul’s Church in Sketty was erected, built of stone imported from Cornwall, with its eight bells being cast at the Hafod works.  In 1854 he married Flora Cholmeley, also the daughter of an M.P., and they moved to Parc Wern (which later became Parc Beck nurses’ home).  Although Flora gave birth to a son John Aubrey the following year, she became an invalid and died in 1868. 
In 1870 Henry Hussey married Averil Beaumont, twenty years younger than him; she bore him six children, including twin daughters.  Besides living at their London house, 27 Belgrave Square, they lived happily at Parc Wern until the death of John Henry’s widow in 1886, which enabled them to move into Singleton Abbey.  They had temporarily moved into Singleton in 1881 in order to host Prince Edward and Princess Alexandra, who visited Swansea to open the Prince of Wales Dock, and by the time Prime Minister W.E. Gladstone visited in 1887 to open the Public Library in Alexandra Road, Singleton Abbey was Henry Hussey’s Swansea residence.
He was created a baronet in May 1882, and honoured locally in March 1886 with a statue created by Italian sculptor Mario Raggi, which was unveiled by Lord Aberdare at what was then called Castle Square, at the top of Wind Street.  This was later moved to Victoria Park, and now stands outside St Mary’s Church.  When Glamorgan County Council was created in 1889, Henry Hussey was elected chairman, a position he occupied until his death. 
Elevated to the House of Lords in June 1893 as first Baron Swansea, Henry Hussey Vivian died in November 1894, aged 73.  The man who along with his father had contributed so much to Swansea’s prosperity was buried in the Vivian vault beneath Sketty Church.

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