LAC/126/D/1 – Extract from the brief for the defendants in an indictment for a nuisance [copper smoke] – J H and Sir R H Vivian on the prosecution of Thomas David, and ten others, in 1833. The extract describes some of the processes in the copper industry and possible effects on those involved. It is asserted that ‘common coal smoke offensive only to the Eye and not injurious to vegetation’ and the witness declares that ‘he never experienced any illness or nausea from Copper Smoke. That he is of the opinion that persons employed in Copper Works are as healthy as other people.’
The document is from the Yorkshire Imperial Metals Records, which mainly relate to the Vivian family’s business interests, the activities of Williams Foster and Company, as well as office papers of Yorkshire Imperial Metals.
This brief was part of perhaps ‘the best known of the south Wales nuisance cases’ – ‘the “Great Copper Trial” of David v Vivian at the Carmarthen Assizes in 1834. Thomas David represented a group of eleven tenant farmers from the village of Llansamlet who, with the help of Merthyr Tydfil solicitor William Meyrick, had formed a club to indict Vivian and Sons for public nuisance. It was decided to bring the action in Carmarthen, as it was felt that no jury in Glamorgan would return a verdict against a copper smelter. In his summing up, the judge stated that the distress of a handful of farmers did not constitute the public nuisance required for an indictment against the company, and the jury returned a verdict of not guilty.’ (Newell, Edmund. “Atmospheric Pollution and the British Copper Industry, 1690-1920.” Technology and Culture 38, no. 3 (1997): 655–89. https://doi.org/10.2307/3106858)
Courtesy of the Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University