Records of Tharsis Sulphur & Copper Co Ltd, miners and chemical engineers, Glasgow, Scotland

Scope and Content

This material includes the company's own records and S G Checkland's working papers for his book, The Mines Of Tharsis .

  • Administrative records, 1857-1966;
  • Financial records, 1866-1939;
  • Production records, 1867-1960;
  • Staff records, 1907-1916;
  • Plans, 1935;
  • Photographs, n.d.

Administrative / Biographical History

Copper mines in the Sierra de Tharsis or Sierra de Tarse, north of the port of Huelva in Southern Spain, were rediscovered by a French engineer in  1853  . Ernest Deligny staked his claim in an area which bore the marks of a succession of older copper workings from the sixteenth century, from the period of Roman occupation and, even earlier, from a period of Phoenician colonisation. In  1855  , Deligny managed to persuade a fellow Frenchman, Eugene Duclerc to form a new company known as the  C'ie des Mines de Cuivre d'Huelva and, with Duclerc as general manager and Deligny as engineer, they set about mining for pyrites, from which to extract the copper. Unfortunately Deligny and Duclerc proved to be less than effective as engineer and manager and, in  1860  , the directors of the company replaced them with Victor Mercier. Beset with difficulties, particularly in relation to transport, Mercier came into contact with a group of British alkali makers, headed by Charles Tennant (  1823-1906  ) of Glasgow, Scotland.

The British alkali makers were primarily interested in Mercier's business as a means of obtaining sulphur, a by-product of the process whereby copper is extracted from pyrites. Sulphur was in increasing demand as an important raw material in the manufacture of soap, glassware and in the bleaching and dyeing of textiles. Charles Tennant had become a partner in the family business of  Charles Tennant & Co in  1850  . The firm, by that time, was highly successful and was located at the St. Rollox chemical works in Glasgow. It also had interests in sulphur mines in Sicily and sugar estates in Trinidad. Charles Tennant's father, John (  1796-1878  ), had organised a close alliance between the alkali makers in Britain, which became the basis for the  Tharsis Sulphur & Copper Co Ltd , incorporated in Edinburgh, Scotland, in  1862  , which took over the copper mines in the Sierra de Tharsis.

One of the first activities of the new company was to build a railway from the mines to the port of Huelva, a distance of about 30 miles. The company became a major world trader in sulphur and was even able to make some impact on the markets for copper. A final by-product of the process of copper extraction was iron. Tennant set up the  Steel Company of Scotland in  1872  in the hopes that a means might be discovered for processing the "billy blue" iron ore that was left once copper and sulphur had been removed. Unfortunately this proved too difficult although the  Steel Company of Scotland carried on in to the 1890s, using the more conventional raw material of pig iron and scrap, producing mild steel, particularly for the ship-building industry.

In  1871  ,  Tharsis Sulphur & Copper Co Ltd had works at St Rollox and offices at 136 West George Street, Glasgow. At that date the resident manager at the St Rollox Works was James Dryburgh and the secretary in West George Street was Jonathan Thomson. Tennant resigned from the chairmanship of the company in  1906  . In  1960  , the chairman and managing director of the company was W P Rutherford, and it was supplying sulphur products, essential in the manufacture of man-made fibres, dye-stuffs and fertilisers. Around  1981  , the Company became  Tharsis plc . In  1991  ,  Tharsis plc , still located at 136 West George Street, were describing themselves as pyrites merchants. In  1998  , the company's head offices moved to 48 West Regent Street, Glasgow.


This material is arranged into series, which consist of number of items related by function and/or format. Within series, the items are generally arranged chronologically

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Tharsis Sulphur & Copper Co Ltd: 28 July 1964

Other Finding Aids

Digital file level list available in searchroom.

Manual file level list available at the National Registers of Archives in Edinburgh (NRA(S)1747) and London (NRA21850)

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use & condition of documents

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with normal procedures

Custodial History

Economic History Department, Glasgow University received the collection directly from the company : management of the collection transferred to Glasgow University Archives in 1975


None expected

Related Material

No related material

Material in other repositories:

GB 032 Work plans, leases and papers 1869-1947 (Durham county Record Office)

For contact details of all repositories with a GB code, see the  Archon repository search page


Checkland, S G,The Mines of Tharsis; Roman, French and British Enterprise in Spain(London, Allen & Unwin, 1967)

Additional Information

This material is original

  • Compiled by Jenny Cooknell, Assistant Archivist, 12 November 1999;
  • Updated by Lesley Richmond, Acting Director, 3 March 2000;
  • Catalogue amended and enhanced by Kath Roper-Caldbeck, cataloguing volunteer, 26th June 2018.