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Title: Ysbryd y Mwynwyr - Spirit of the Miners
Ystrad EinionWaterwheel at LlywernogChimney, Taliesin
Miner crawling through tunnel
The history of mining in Ceredigion can be roughly divided into ten stages:
  • Geology
  • Prehistoric Britain 450,000 BC-43 AD
  • The Roman occupation 43 AD-c410
  • The Early Medieval period c410-1066
  • The Middle Ages - medieval era 1066-1485
  • The Tudors 1485-1603
  • The Stuarts 1603-1714
  • The Georgian era 1714-1837
  • Industrial Britain 1837 - early 1900's
  • The 20th century and the future

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Geology-The Central Wales Orefield

• Northern Ceredigion, North West Powys and South West Gwynedd form a district where there are many disused metal mines, this area is referred to as the Central Wales Orefield.
• The veins were formed during earth-movements and the minerals were deposited from hot fluids that flowed through fractures in the rocks
Mineral Lodes

• At least twelve episodes of fracturing and mineralisation have been identified
• The mineralisation is thought to have taken place episodically from the Devonian Period (beginning 408 million years ago) through to the Permo-Triassic (250 million years ago)
• The veins are hosted by Lower Palaeozoic marine sedimentary rocks, about 430 million years old
• The veins primarily contain ores of lead, zinc, silver and copper mixed with quartz (silica) and calcium, magnesium and iron-bearing carbonate minerals
• The veins also contain small amounts of cobalt, nickel, antimony, arsenic, cadmium and traces of gold.
• All metals, except gold, occur in the form of sulphides (minerals containing metals combined with sulphur)
• The main ores sought by the Miners were Galena, Calchopyrite and Sphalerite


Galena (left) is an ore bearing Lead & Silver. It is heavy to hold and when freshly broken has a metallic silver grey appearance which glitters in the light. Galena is lead sulphide, with the chemical formula PbS. Although pure lead sulphide contains 86.6% lead the galena found at these mines typically contains numerous small inclusions of other sulphide minerals and an important "impurity", silver. The mines of Central Wales were an important source of silver, and at the richest mines the galena could yield in excess of 30 ounces of silver to the ton of ore.


Sphalerite (right) was known to the miners as zinc blende or "Black Jack". In its natural state it is most commonly a dark brown colour. The more iron it contains the darker its colour. Sphalerite or zinc-blende, is zinc sulphide with the chemical formula ZnS for the pure form, which contains 66.94% zinc. However, some iron (typically 2-5%) is commonly present, and sphalerite also contains small amounts of cadmium. Although abundant in Central Wales, it was only mined in earnest from the 19th Century onwards, when demand rose for zinc after a practical way to smelt the ore had become well-established. Prior to this time it was tipped with the waste, and at some mines it was later hand-picked from the tips once it became economically viable to do so.


Chalcopyrite (left) is a copper iron sulphide with the chemical formula CuFeS2. It contains 34.63% copper and is the most important ore of that metal worldwide. Its golden yellow colour may mislead inexperienced prospectors to believe they have found gold! Chalcopyrite is widespread throughout Central Wales, but was only present in workable amounts at a relatively small number of mines, for example in the Cwmerfin district and in the area north of Nant-y-Moch Reservoir in Ceredigion and at Dylife in NW Powys.

• The miners worked mineral veins occurring along geological faults. When mined, the mineralised rock was crushed and the heavy ore minerals separated out using water to wash away the lighter waste material
• The ore minerals were collected and bagged as concentrates which were then sold to smelters
• Mineral production was only recorded in detail from 1845 onwards and even then records are unreliable - sometimes being used to encourage investors generosity!
• It is estimated that more than 450,000 tons of lead ore concentrates were produced containing over 2,500,000 ounces of silver
• It is estimated that more than 140,000 tons of zinc ore and over 8,000 tons of copper ore concentrates were produced
• Local production of barite (barium sulphate) and iron pyrites also took place
• Today, the mines are of major scientific importance for their geology, mineralogy and rare, metal-tolerant plants that grow on the spoil-heaps
• There are other orefields elsewhere in Wales that were known for their production of copper and gold.


For more detailed information visit John Mason

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Early Mining

'Primitive mines' were worked in the Early Bronze Age period between 2100 and about 1600 BC (approx 3600-4100 years ago), although most of the activity dates to around 1850-1650 BC.
Most of the early mining sites are shallow opencast trenches or small pits excavated into the surface outcrops of the mineral veins.

The workers appear to have been following lead veins rich in associated copper minerals and seem to have been extracting copper and perhaps lead sulphides. Many of these sites are little more than trials, although some, such as Twll y mwyn (Darren) and Copa Hill (Cwmystwyth) were proper opencast mines with evidence for tools, ore processing and attempts at drainage of the workings.

Copa Hill, Cwmystwyth

• Ceredigion has a larger density of 'primitive mines' than almost anywhere else in the British Isles.
• Four of these 'primitive mine' sites: Lancynfelin Mine - Talybont, Nantyrarian - Ponterwyd, Tyn y fron - Rheidol Valley and Copa Hill - Cwmystwyth have been partially excavated by the Early Mines Research Group.

Hammer stone

• 'Primitive mines' are characterised by the presence of stone cobble mining tools - hammer stones - and evidence for the use of fire-setting.
• The hammer stone (left), found near Talybont, is typical of those found in great quantities at some 'primitive mine' sites in Ceredigion.
• The notch, seen clearly on the left hand side, was chipped into the stone by a mine worker some 4000 years ago to help locate the animal hide and withy handle.
• A 10 pence coin has been placed on the stone to give an idea of scale.

Bronze Age launder

• The mine on Copa Hill, Cwmystwyth has been archaeologically excavated over a period of 16 years. It has produced evidence for antler and stone tools and withy handles, plus fragments of withy rope and baskets, a series of wooden drainage launders (gutters for carrying water) plus evidence for the crushing of copper ore (chalcopyrite) on anvil stones.
• The mine is over 10 metres deep and more than 40 metres long.... a hole from which over 5000 tons of rock have been removed. This prehistoric mine may have produced upwards of 1-2 tons of copper metal, and perhaps some lead.

• No evidence for copper or lead smelting of this period has been found anywhere within the vicinity of the mines. It is possible that the hand-picked, crushed and cleaned ore was traded further afield by those who worked the mines; essentially pastoralists who moved inland from the coast during the summer months.
• No Late Bronze Age or Iron Age copper/lead mines have yet been identified within the area, though various contenders for this are currently being examined.
• Evidence for lead mining and smelting during the Roman Period has now been identified at Cwmystwyth, and most recently close to Talybont at Erglodd, along the SE margin of Borth Bog. The lead from these sites were smelted within wind-blown hearths or 'bole furnaces'.
• Lead was mined during the Early Medieval period at Cwmystwyth. Traces of water-courses, hush-channels and lead smelting hearths have been excavated here. Some of this work may have been carried out by the Cistercian monks or lay-brothers from the Abbey at Strata Florida.

With thanks to Simon Timberlake, Early Mines Research Group

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Roman Period

The Roman impact on the county was primarily military, and included the creation of a north-south aligned route - Sarn Helen - linking the port of Carmarthen, the gold mines at Dolaucothi, via the fort of Llanio on the Teifi, to Trawscoed and thence north to a crossing of the Dyfi south of Pennal.

Little is factually known about Roman industrial activity within Ceredigion although it is generally accepted that the aquisition of minerals was a driving factor in the invasion of Britain. It is reasonable to suspect that the Romans would have been more than aware of the mineral wealth of mid-Wales and they certainly possesed the knowledge required to expoloit it.

Lead was a highly valuable commodity to the Romans, it was in effect their "plastic". It was a very useable and malleable material that could be used for roofing, water pipes, guttering etc. When mixed with tin they could also make pewter.

The Romans also knew how to use cupellation to extract the silver from the ore. First, to obtain lead from the ore it was smelted in a furnace. Once the lead was removed if it contained enough of the precious silver it was re-heated in a special shallow kiln. The Romans knew that if they used bellows they could raise the temperature in the kiln sufficiently to separate the silver from the lead.

Archaeological investigations have been undertaken at Cwmystwyth and in the Llangynfelyn/Talybont area which give indication of Roman activity. It is suspected that much archaeological evidence from this period has been destroyed by later workings.

Lead objects excavated from the Roman fort at Trawscoed appear, following testing by gamma-ray spectrometry, to be of local origin which indicate Roman lead mining and processing activity.

• AD48 Roman Army enters Wales
• Early 70's AD It is thought the Roman Army enters Ceredigion from the marching camp at Rhayader via the Cwmystwyth valley
• AD75 Work in progress at Dolaucothi Gold Mines near Lampeter
• AD150 Romans leave Dolaucothi and it becomes a private concern
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The Early Medieval period c410-1066

Early mine woodcut

• Evidence exists for mining during the early medieval period although the documentation suggests the activity was quite small in scale and it was the lead bearing ores, rather than copper, which were being exploited. Whether it was the silver content of the ores which were of interest is, as yet, uncertain.

• Artefacts from the so called "Celtic" era demonstrate an understanding of metal working and therefore by default these early peoples must have known how to mine ore and extract metals from the mineral deposits

• There is little evidence of early medieval mining in Ceredigion, probably due in part to the extent of later workings

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The Middle Ages - medieval era, 1066 - 1485

1164 - Strata Florida Abbey originally established as a Welsh Cistercian house. The monks exploit the mines of Cwmystwyth and the tenancy of those mines is held by the Abbey until 1538.

1184 - The building of Strata Florida Abbey at it's current site begins

1188 - Giraldus Cambrensia and Archbishop Baldwin visit the Abbey. Unfortunately Giraldus does not mention the Ystwyth valley in his work - "Itinery through Wales"
Early  ore launder

1282- A report makes reference to an important mine in Llanbadarn (the Lordship of Llanbadarn Fawr at this time covers most of northern Ceredigion so this reference could be to any mine in that area) where the King's royalty is one ninth of the produce with an option on the remaining eight ninths at the market value, that being 1 shilling and 4 pennies per "fotmell". A fotmell being the measure or weight unit of ore equivalent to 69lbs (pounds). An extended measure is a "cartload" at approximately 1660lbs, this being roughly 24 fotmells.

1285 - Strata Florida Abbey damaged by lightening and fire

1301 – The Minister's Accounts for West Wales make reference to around 3,000lbs of ore being sold in the year 1300. It not recorded exactly which mines produced this ore.

1401 - Owain Glyndwr uprising - Henry IV's army uses Strata Florida Abbey as a stable

1407 - Strata Florida Abbey again used as a barracks for English troops and is finally abandoned by the Monks

1485- King Henry VII grants to Jasper Tudor, the Duke of Bedford and others the privilege of becoming Governor and commissioners to his Welsh mines. They are to pay a royalty of one-fiftieth part of all pure silver and gold and a further one-eleventh to the “Lord of the soil”. They can dig wherever they please except under the houses and castles of the King and his subjects.
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The Tudors 1485 - 1603

1536 - the Act for Laws and Justice to be Minstered in Wales, which introduces English law in Wales. After 1536 the English Crown could claim silver and gold bearing ores along with copper as a right of prerogative. Prior to that date the right to minerals including silver was a function of Lordship.

1556 - Georgius Agricola De Re Metallica is published posthumously, translated into English by Herbert Hoover in the 1920's. This publication gives us a valuable insight into the mining practices of the early period especially European practices which were studied for the book. The detail of the processes described and illustrated by woodcut meant that this book remained a standard textbook on mining and metallurgy for over two hundred years

1568 - The right of Crown prerogative to precious metal bearing ore was tested in the Case of Mines and was found in favour of the Crown who then granted that right in perpetuity to the Society of Mines Royal.

1583 - Thomas "Customer" Smythe is granted the lease of Cornwall, Devon & Wales for mining purposes

1590's - Welsh mines allegedly produce 1 ton of Silver

1591 - Thomas Smythe dies. Mining looses momentum in Wales

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The Stuarts 1603 - 1714

This period sees much activity in the hills and under the ground of Cardiganshire. Characters such as Goldsmith and visionary entrepreneur Sir Hugh Myddelton, Thomas Bushell - a protege of Sir Francis Bacon, Sir Carbery Pryse - the Squire of Gogerddan, Neath coal owner Sir Humphrey Mackworth and mining engineer William Waller come to the fore. Britain sees a Civil War between the Royalists and Parliamentarians.
Most important at this time was the challenge made by Sir Carberry Pryse to the Society of Mines Royal monopoly on precious metal mining with the resulting change in law making way for increased private speculation.

1617- Sir Hugh Myddelton leases Cwmsymlog and other mines from the Crown.
Sir Hugh Myddleton

1625-26- Myddelton returns an estimated half of Silver to the Crown from Cwmsymlog
1631- Sir Hugh Myddelton dies. Thomas Bushell becomes lessee of Cwmsymlog
1631- John Vaughan purchases the lease of Cwmystwyth for £4,300
mid 1630's- Bushell leases Darren & Goginan mines and begins his trademark work of driving deep drainage adits below the flooded bottoms of earlier workings.
1639-1642 - In the late 1630s, Bushell established a mint at Aberystwyth to coin locally mined silver and was active through to the 1640s and the English Civil War. in the region of 2 tons of silver were minted and £36,000 of this wealth was used to provide clothing for the Royalist army of Charles'I.
• Silver coins minted at Aberystwyth Castle for Charles I. can be identified by the three Welsh feathers.
• The Silver came from various mines, in particular Cwmsymlog and Darren.
1642 By September £10,500 in currency had been produced, (equivalent to 2.5 million pennies.) The mint then briefly moved to Furnace.
1646- Bushell returns to England.
1691 - The use of gunpowder for mineral extraction is recorded by William Waller during a visit to Esgair Hir. This is the earliest known date for the use of gunpowder in Ceredigion's Mines.
Goginan workings

1692 - Sir Carbery Pryse engages the services of William Waller who encourages Carbery Pryse to defy the Crown monopoly.
1693 - By the latter part of the 17th century the right of the English Crown to silver bearing ores was challenged by Sir Carbery Pryse, leading to the 'Mines Royal' Acts of 1688 and 1693 which restored mineral rights to the landowners. Carbery Pryse allegedly makes the journey from London to Gogerddan in 48 hours to bring home the good news.
This opens the way for private development and speculation in the mines.
Sir Carbery Pryse formed a mine company but dies before seeing the true worth of this change of law.
1697 - Sir Humphrey Mackworth purchases the lease on Esgair Fraith, which with Esgair Hir and Esgair Hir West End was later to become dubbed the "Welsh Potosi".
1697 - The Governor and Company of Mine Adventurers is formed by buying shares from the partners of Carbery Pryse'a company and raising around £26,000 (around £10 million today)of capital investment by means of a lottery. Waller and Mackworth promote chancy and dubious speculation.
• By now Mackworth has aquired the leases of Cwmsymlog, Bryn Mawr, Craig y Mwyn (Cwmystwyth), Cyneiniog (Hafan)and Ystumtuen.
1699 - Ever glowing reports of rich deposits fail to achieve realisation. Poor returns on capital investment and the ever-present problem of draining the deeper workings of floodwater put a strain on the resources of the Company.
1701-2 - Waller and Mackworth embark on a dubious partnership to further develop Esgair Fraith and develop a landing place and smelting plant in Garreg (Glandyfi)the use of which is made redundant by the leasing of the old Crown smelting mills at Dyfi Furnace.
1704 - Waller's "Description of the Mines in Cardiganshire" is published. See Further Reading
• Returns from Esgair Hir fall, the mine being almost exhausted of ore. Cwmystwyth, Ystumtuen and others become the major productive sites.
1709 - Waller sacked from the Company of Adventurers and commences a long and formidable legal battle against Mackworth leading to a fine of £100,000 against the Mackworth family
1710- Mackworth is declared guilty of fraudulent practices and loses control of the Company of Mine Adventurers

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The Georgian Era 1714 - 1837

This is probably the busiest if not the most productive period of all in Ceredigion's mining history; with documentation being fairly comprehensive and new records coming to light as a result of more interest and research into Industrial heritage, we are learning more about the exploits and achievements of these pioneers.
As mining technologies improve and lead becomes the sought after commodity rather than silver, we see a widening of the mining industry within the county.

Sir Humphrey Mackworth's removal from the Company of Mine Adventurers did not stop its activities although production was reduced. After a period of rather lacklustre production, two significant discoveries reawaken interest in the Cardiganshire hills – and attract attention from the Crown.

Thus begins the period of Lewis Morris, Chauncey Townsend, Thomas Bonsall and John Probert.

1715Cwmsymlog and Ceiniog (Havan) are the only remaining sites being worked by the Company
1720Mackworth regains control of the Company and pursues legalities against Waller once more
1721William Waller dies and his son Charles takes on and once more removes Mackworth from control of the Company
1722 –The Company are selling off most of their sites with the exception of the Gogerddan Estate Mines.

Over the next few years mining continues on a small scale with the mines at Pengraig Ddu, Cwmystwyth, Goginan, Strata Florida and Ystumtuen by Thomas Pryse(Gogerddan), the Stedman family and Lady Campbell amongst others.
Pengraig Ddu

Some smaller sites were being worked on an ad-hoc basis by local farmer/miners and some were granted permissions to rework waste dumps at Cwmsymlog . These workings were permitted on the agreement of the miners to sell the ore to the Landowners at £4 a ton, when the market rate was more like £7 or £8 a ton. The documentation for these ad-hoc workings is very poor and our knowledge of exact production for this time is sketchy.

1730's - Events take a new turn when the Old Darren mine - which had lain to all intents idle since the mid 1600's - produces a new and substantial vein that is extremely rich in silver with the ore being worth around £20 a ton. A discovery of this nature rekindled the interest of the speculators and companies from Flintshire and Shropshire began working the mines.
1737 – The Admiralty accepts Lewis Morris'sproposal to produce a survey of the coast of Wales, a work that was completed in 1744 and published in 1748 as “Plans of Harbours, Bars, Bays and Roads in St. George's-Channel”
1742 - Another substantial discovery occurs at Bwlch-Gwyn mine near Ystumtuen, a mine worked by the influential Powell family of Nanteos.
Bwlch Gwyn

The downside of these discoveries was that the Treasury began to take renewed interest in the wealth of ore being removed from mines on their land – Old Darren being one of them. To back up this claim the Treasury appoint an Edmund Mooreas lessee of “the mines of the Crown Manor of Cwmwd y Perfedd”, including Old Darren and also Bwlch-Gwyn. The reclaiming of royalties from the Crown land mines was, unsurprisingly, very unpopular with Welsh landowners and a number of disputes arose.

1744 - In response to these disputes the Crown issues a warrant to the Welsh speaking and highly experienced surveyor and mine engineer Lewis Morristo produce a correct survey and plan of the “Crown manor of Cwmwyd y Perfedd” to demarcate the boundaries of Crown and Landowner.
1744 - Lewis Morris makes the first recorded reference to the mines of Nantglas and Rhiwrugos. These mines were to become the Rheidol United Mines some 100 years later.
1745Morris complains in a letter that Thomas Powell of Nanteos and Thomas Pryse of Goggerddan, two of the highly influential local landowners, were being most obstructive to his survey,
1746William Corbett(the steward of the Crown manors in Cardiganshire) appoints Lewis Morrisas “Deputy Steward of the Crown Mines of Cardiganshire”. Corbett by now also owns the lease for all mines in the “wastes of the manor of Cwmwd y Perfedd” which meant that Lewis Morriswas serving both the Crown and Corbett in different capacities.
1747 - Lead ore is mined at New Quayon the coast of Cardiganshire. This mine eventually became known as the “Wheal Neptune Mining Company”
1748John Paynter, manager of Cwmsymlog under William Corbettdiscovers a new silver-rich vein by reopening an earlier shaft. Worthy of note is the fact that although lying within Crown land the whole royalty was paid to the Gogerddan Estate
1750'sHenry Bowdlertakes over the smelting works at Garreg and works the mines at Allt y Crib (Talybont), Esgair Hir and The Island (Llancynfelin)
1751Lewis Morrissub lets Esgair-y-Mwyn in nearby manor of Mefenydd to a group of miners after a discovery of ore there. He becomes a partner himself.
Esgair Mwyn

1752Morris is appointed as agent and Superintendent of Esgair-y-Mwyn and any other mines that he can find in the wastes and commons of the Crown manors. The Reverend Dr. William Powell of Nanteos (Brother of Thomas Powell, above) counter claims that Esgair-y-Mwyn is on private land and not that of the Crown.
1753 – 15 July, it is documented that two Magistrates (one being the rather notorious and pistol wielding Herbert Lloyd of Peterwell) accompanied by Rev'd Dr. William Powell, Lord Lisburne (of the Lisburne Estates) and a small army of labourers successfully take Esgair-y-Mwyn by force. Lewis Morris is arrested and placed in Cardigan Gaol but is later released on bail.
1754 – Disputes continue over Esgair-y-Mwyn, which raise questions about the integrity of Lewis Morris's accounts and records during his period as agent and superintendent of the Crown mines.
1756Morris is dismissed from his official duties and retires from mining, spending his time writing an antiquarian work.
1757 – The dispute over Esgair-y-Mwyn is resolved and the Crown appoints the Earl of Powys as lessee.
1759 – The first known lease of the Frongoch mine is held by the Williams family of Cornwall and is worked by John Probert & Company
1760'sChauncey Townsend discovers a valuable silver-rich ore deposit in the Clydogau river and opens a mine at Lanfair Clydogau. This ore is of high value returning some 80oz of silver per ton of lead. Townsend exports this ore via the port of Aberaeron
1765Lewis Morris dies and is buried in Llanbadarn Fawr Church. A memorial plaque to him can be seen in the chancel.
1769John Probert, in association with Lord Powys and Thomas Johnnes (of Hafod) begins mining operations at Faichance mine (Ffair-Rhos)
1774 – Many mines in the north of the county are currently unproductive
1785Thomas Bonsall - a mining engineer from Bakewell, Derbyshire – is rapidly becoming a leading figure in the mining industry of Cardiganshire and is currently working over 15 mines in the southern part of the mining district
* 1785 - Thomas Bonsall unusually for the time raises and sells a large quantity of Zinc Ore for the sum of £4 a ton. This comes from the Nanteos mines at Dyffryn Castell, Tyn y fron, Ffrwd-ddu and the Rheidol valley mines of Nantglas and Rhiwrugos
1785John Probert begins work on the Level Fawr Pontrhydygroes which eventually was to become the longest adit in the county linking the mines at Glog Fawr, Glog Fach, Penigist and Logaulas.
Level Fawr Pontrhydygroes

1785John Probert and his mining manager James Lowe install the first water pressure-pumping engine in Cardiganshire at Fairchance mine (nr Pontrhydfendigaid). Bult by W.M.Cole of Lambeth it proved notoriously unreliable and took 5 years and full rebuild to function reliably. The mine ceased trading in 1791!
1790'sJohn Probert is now managing most of the productive mines including Logau-Las, Esgair Mwyn, and Grogwynion. He opens two new mines at Frongoch /Llwynwnwch but poor ore prices prevent exploitation of good ore deposits. The future success of Probert & Co is much indebted to Job Sheldon
1799 – 1815– the Napoleonic Wars cause a dramatic fluctuation in ore prices and a general downturn in the fortunes of mining. Ore prices vary from £10 a ton in 1800 to £20 a ton in 1813 but with great increases in production and transport costs.
1800 - Job Sheldon takes over management of the Probert Company, which remains profitable in otherwise hard times. He retains his workforce by mining for Zinc ore (Black Jack or Blende).
1811Cwmystwyth becomes one of the more productive mines following a rich discovery at Copa Hill
1813Cwmsymlog is reported to be employing 300 miners under the direction of Sheldon
1822Cwmystwyth and other Nanteos mines are leased to Yorkshire brothers Sir George and Thomas Aldersonwho bring with them their own Yorkshire miners and smelters. They discover a rich vein at Cwmystwyth worth over 5000 tons of ore a year]
Rheidol Valley

1824 - James Raw becomes Mine Captain at Cwmystwyth under the instruction of the Alderson Brothers. He remains Captain there until his death in 1864
1824 – Cornish miners are working at the mines on the Trawscoed and Gogerddan estates
1825Britain is the leading producer of lead in the world at this time. Unfortunately this success causes other countries to prospect for lead – the new material in demand and the plastic of the time. Large ore reserves are found and in Spain, North America and Australia large mining industries start. This competition, complicated by other factors will ultimately sound the death knell of the British lead mining industry.
1825Lead ore is worth £25 a ton
1826 – Between November 1826 and March 1827 the Aldersons reportedly raise over 13,000 tons of ore from Cwmystwyth. They open a smelting works at Devils Bridgewhich was to become last large scale attempt at commercial smelting in the county.
1831Lead ore is now only worth £13 a tondue to imported lead flooding the market
1833 – In his "Topgraphical Dictionary of Wales" Samuel Morris describes Cwm Rheidol as ".. having extensive lead mines employing most of the 649 inhabitants."
1834Lewis Pugh, an Aberystwyth businessman, buys the lease at Cwmystwyth after the Alderson brothers are declared bankrupt as a result of their perilous business dealings. This deal brings him great wealth as he buys a large quantity of unsold ore for £5 a ton. This and a fortuitous increase in the price of ore gives him the luxury of being able to sell when the price is high. He raises more than 11,000 tons of ore over the next 10 years and he pays in excess of £20,000 of royalties alone to the Powells of Nanteos. It is estimated that Pugh made a fortune of £250,000 from his mining enterprises.
1834John Taylor, the Cornish mining engineer comes to Cardiganshire to take over the leases of the Gogerddan, Trawscoed & forms the Lisburne Mines company.
1837 - Galvanized Iron or Corrugated Galvanised Iron sheeting is patented. This is made by placing sheets of iron into very hot zinc. The large demand for this new material prompts miners to seek out previously unexplored Zinc ore (also known as Blende or Black Jack)which gives the industry a new lease of life.
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The Industrial age

1837 – early 1900's

This period sees the heyday of mining in Ceredigion. This “golden” period is generally accepted to be around the mid 1870's although various mines peaked in their production at different times.

The period also sees the end of commercially viable metal mining in this part of Wales.

The keeping of better records and reports in the Mining Journal and other publications provides us with much detailed information on the industry during this period. Such information can make very interesting reading for those with an interest in the subject and provides far too much detail to be reproduced here.
See Further Reading section for a list of suggested sources of information.

The rate of royalty demanded by the Powell's of Nanteos– one seventh of the value of the ore – was one of the highest in the county and had made Cwmystwyth and other Nanteos held mines unpopular with promoters. This resulted in extended periods of inactivity that caused dire problems for the families' dependant on mining for an income, especially those living in the village of Cwmystwyth. In 1845 the royalty was reduced making the mines more attractive to promoters again.
John Taylor

The impact of John Taylor & sons and his mine Captains on the mines of Cardiganshire – especially Cwmystwyth & the Lisburne mines was quite significant. They are famous for investing heavily in their mines, driving long levels to drain workings and to gain access to new ore veins. They built new reservoirs and extended leat systems to power the waterwheels at his mines. They understood the need for rational planning and the detailed surveying of a mine prior to commencing work. They also understood the economics of scale and were one of the first to build ore-dressing plants using the most up to date technology of the time at strategic locations rather than at each mine. They invested in good barracks for their workers so that they could stay in reasonable conditions when away from home working at the remote mine sites. John Taylor's companies tried to be good to their employees providing regular pay, and by clever planning, provided regular work.

In spite of this they were not without criticism however, a contemporary report in the mining journal states:

“…. Witness Cwmystwyth, a mine which in the time of Mr Lewis Pugh with the then machinery was able to dress 120 tons of ore a month and make a profit of £10,000 per annum. But with the present and additional outlay of £3,000 in machinery and sundry expenses dresses now only 70 tons a month and gives a profit of very limited description.”

It is estimated that between 1834 and 1893 the Taylor's raised over 107,000 tons of lead ore and 50,000 tons of Zinc ore (blende) with a value of over £1.1 million at that time.

The rapid growth of manufacturing during the industrial era created a high demand for lead. The new ships, vehicles & machines being invented needed bearings, houses needed drainpipes, towns needed sanitation and lead was the plastic of the day.

A brief chronology of the period:

1840John Taylor & Sons acquire the lease of Erglodd and Penybontpren mines in Talybont but with little commercial results – the “old men” (earlier miners) had been there before!
1840Matthew Francis, mine captain and employee of John Taylor, receives a letter from the Llanelli smelter Robert Dunkin proposing the amalgamation of Nantglas and Rhiwrugos mines in the Rheidol valley with nearby the Llywernog mine in Ponterwyd. Thus begins the saga of the Rheidol United Mines.
mid 1840's – Around this time demand for lead is at a peak and most of the mid-Wales mines are very active. This brings increased speculation and prospecting and an influx of miners from other areas – especially Cornwall, Derbyshire and Yorkshire.
1843 – Independent investor John Horridge is persuaded to invest in a significant ore deposit at the Cwmsebon (later to become the South Darren) mine. He invests in a new leat system and a 60ft waterwheel. Between 1845 and 1895 this mine - under various owners - produced 2888 tons of copper (the largest return in Mid-Wales), 9248 tons of lead and 173,527oz of silver
1843, 44J.H.Shiers, the original lessee of Llywernog now controls the Rheidol United Minesand they begin trading as the Llywernog Mining Company
1844Abel Gower & Gregory Walters take over the lease of Cwmystwyth and appoint the experienced Cornish mining engineer Matthew Francis as manager to join James Raw. The company starts work on the “New Engine Shaft” and progress is slow.
1845 – After little success J.H Shierssells the Nantglas and Rhiwrugos leases to Abel Gower.
1845Cwmsebon is reported to be employing 100 men and is raising rich ore. Landowner disputes, possibly fuelled by local jealousy, ensue eventually leading to Horridge becoming an insolvent debtor.
1847Cwmsebon advertised for sale and production falls over the next few years due to lack of investment.
1848John Taylor & Sons with James Rawas a partner take over the Cwmystwyth lease from Gower & Seale. The New Engine Shaft is becoming to be known as “Francis's shaft”. As Francis had fallen out of favour with the Taylor's the shaft was renamed as the “Kings Side Shaft” (possibly due to its location near the Crown owned land) and was later known just as “Kingside” shaft. Abel Gower remains a shareholder until his death in 1861.
1848Abel Gower loses control of his interests, the majority of which pass to John Taylor. Nantglas and Rhiwrugos are not included and become independant.
1848Lisburne mines valued at £45,000 and show a profit of over £7,000
1850 – To give an indication of the (false?)confidence in mining at this time the former £5 shares in the Goginan mines (under the control of the Taylors) are valued at £250 each. The £75 shares of the Lisburne mines are now valued at £600 each. The Lisburne mines are recorded as paying over £90,000 in mine workers wages and tradesmen & sub-contractors.
1850John Taylor & sons extend the road from Pontrhydygroes to join the main Tregaron-Aberystwyth road. This eases the carriage of ore and supplies to and from the town and port of Aberystwyth.
Pontrhydygroes road in spring

Although reports from the big mining concerns looked healthy, in reality things were slightly different, as shown above by the fortunes of the smaller Rheidol United Mines

1852 - Correspondance begins between Matthew Francis and a William Phillips with regard to reuniting the Rheidol mines
1852 – The fortunes of John Horridge take a down turn and production comes to a halt. The giant 60ft wheel at Cwmsebon/South Darren collapses.
1853 - The new Rheidol United Mines Company begins reworking the Nantglas and Rhiwrugos mines under the supervision of Matthew Francis with a Mr William Grieves as Mine captain
1853 - Cwmsebon passes to Absalon Francis and partners including London businessman T.P.Thomas. the mine reopens briefly as Thomas' United but has poor fortune
1854 - Mr Williams Grieves meets the writer George Borrow who is undertaking his historic tour of Wales. The encounter is recalled in Borrow's seminal work "Wild Wales"
1855Cwmsebon/South Darren described as “Worn Out” but further investment sees work continue.
1855 - The Rheidol United Mines Company now obtains the lease of the Allt ddu, Gwaithgoch and Llwybrllwynog mines from the Nanteos estate and along with Nantglas and Rhiwrugoscontinues production under the Rheidol United Mines Company. The royalty to be paid to the Nanteos Estate was set at one tenth of the value of the ore, which had reduced to one twenty-fifth 10 years later due to poor returns.
1855 – Work begins on a new 60ft wheel at Cwmsebon after a further investment drive
1857 – Of the 60 officially worked mines and numerous smaller workings only around 10 sites were producing over 200 tons of ore including: Logau-Las, Cwmsymlog/East Darren, Frongoch, Glogfach and Cwmystwyth
1860Cwmsebon changes its name to South Darren and with an ongoing programme of investment and good fortune remains productive over the next 30 years
1864Captain James Raw dies after 40 years of working in the Cwmystwyth mines and is replaced by Samuel Kendall
1864 - The Rheidol United Mines Company now operating at a loss
1871 - After a period of uncertainty the Rheidol United Mines Company leases are taken up by a new company the "Silver Hill Consols Mine" combining a number of mines in the area under many different ownerships. A programme of speculation and fundraising is underwritten by Absalon Francis and others.
1872- Agreements are made to let 17 Gogerddan mines to working miners.
1872 – 1874 – Initial trials at Bwlch Glas mine nr Talybont begin
1873 – The "Silver Hill Consols Mine"changes its name again to "Rheidol Lead Mines" although the same individuals are involved. John Ridge is the local manager and holds this position until 1877.
1876 – Production from the mines at Cwmystwyth now very poor.
John Kitto

1878Frongoch mine has to this time succesfully returned over £500,000 of lead ore but is now struggling to remain profitable. The lease is taken up by The Frongoch Mining Company with John Kitto as manager. During the next 20 years the mine was to reward further investment with many thousands of tons of both Lead ore (Galena) and Zinc ore (Blend)
1879 – The only Ceredigion mines in the dividend list are the Lisburne mines and Grogwynion
1880 – A new lease, with a certain Arthur Vere Archer Powys amongst others is drawn up for the Rheidol mines that is subject to some conflict over the next four years
1880J B Rowse becomes Captain at Cwmystwyth during which time the “Graigfawr” workings collapse into “Bonsalls Old Stope”
1884E.V. Powys now has control of the Rheidol leases and in 1885 adds Ystumtuen, Penrhiw, Tynyfron and Bwlchgwyn to the portfolio
1885Taylor's & Co announce the closure of the mine at Cwmystwyth, although it continues working under The Cwmystwyth Company (still with the Taylor's in charge) – again with J B Rowse as Captain
1886 - Cwmystwyth struggles through a period of mechanical and construction failures with low return. The Taylor's form a second company “ The Kingside Mining Company” and trade under both company names for the next 10 years. The highly mechanised “Taylor's Shaft” is sunk to reopen older workings with some success.
1886 - A dispute over water rights breaks out between the Rheidol United Mines and its independant neighbour at the Gothic mine. The dispute was to fester for the next 5 years
1888 – activity increases at Bwlch Glas mine, Talybont. Edward Evans employs the services of prospectors. Proposals are sent to eminent Mine Captains of the area.
1890's – Lead ore drops to around £6 a ton in value and many mines now concentrate on Zinc ore which although lower in price (around £4 a ton) is easier to mine in larger quantities.
1890's – After over a hundred years of ore production the Esgair Mwyn mine is acquired by Thomas Ward of Sheffield for dismantling. However, instead of dismantling the site, Ward begins working the mine and succesfully raises many thousands of tons of ore before the mine closes again in 1927
1893 – The Cwmystwyth Company is liquidated and production at the site is halted until 1900
1893 – The Taylors finally withdraw from Ceredigion after successfully running the Lisburne mines between 1839 & 1893.
1897Henry Gammon begins negotiations with the Nanteos Estates for a new lease on the Cwmystwyth mines
1899The Societe Anonyme Matallurgique of Liege, Belgium take over the lease of Frongoch. They begin a massive investment and development programme which sees the employment of over 250 miners - many of whom are brought in from Italy - and the building of the power house at Pont Ceunant and the dressing mill at Wemyss. The remains of these buildings are still impressive today and can be seen from the road from Pontrydygroes to Abermagwr.

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The 20th century and the future

By the turn of the century the metal mining industry in Ceredigion was in decline.
Factors such as reducing lead prices and better and cheaper lead from foreign orefields were making the local mines uneconomical.

Increases in the wages for agricultural workers during the 1920's meant that mine captains would have to make higher payments to miners, as traditionally the miners were paid a higher wage than their agricultural counterparts and had enjoyed a miners subsidy during the Great War period.

Mines were still operational though, and many people were still working in or for the mine companies - the last of the Cardiganshire miners.
It is the memory of these people, those working at the turn of the century, that can still be found today – albeit through the recollections of their families.

1900 – The Rheidol Unit Mines are sold off by the Nanteos Estate as individual lots. The Estate retains the minerals rights.
1900 – The Cwmystwyth Mining Company limited takes over the Cwmystwyth mines under the management of Henry Gamman following successful negotiations that began in 1897. Gamman was a flamboyant person and was known for sharing his successes by throwing parties for staff when good ore was found, for holding Christmas parties for the families of his staff – and for the building of a tennis court for his daughter Isabell on the King-side dumps.
1901 – land is purchased from mine owners for the new Vale of Rheidol railway, which is to breath new life into some of the former Rheidol United mines. 1902 – The Vale of Rheidol Railway Company opens to serve the mines in the Rheidol valley as well as the mines at Cwmystwyth, Ystumtuen and Dyffryn Castell
1905 – The Cwmystwyth Mining Company reforms under the Kingside Zinc Blende Co. Ltd, still with Gamman at the helm.
Cwmerfin mine circa 1909

1907 – The lease of Glogfawr passes to the Lisburne Development Syndicate which with R.R. Nantcarrow as Manager raises many tons of ore before closing in 1920.
1909 – Henry Gamman has used all of his available capital to fund work at Cwmystwyth. Brunner Mond & Co work the mine until 1911 with Gamman as partner.
1910 – Mining has now almost ceased at Frongoch.
1911 – after reworking previously abandoned sections of the mine Brunner, Mond & Co relinquish the lease to a newly formed King Side Mining Co Ltd.
1912 – following poor fortune the lease for Pugh's mine passes from the King Side Mining Co Ltd to the newly formed May Mining Company.
1914-1918 – the Great War increases demand for lead and some mines are productive again.

1914-1920's – Money from the Government is used to begin a scheme to rework the waste dumps near Pontrhydygroes. The crushing mill at Gwaithgoch was built and the intention was to convey waste by means of an aerial ropeway nearly two miles from Frongoch. The ropeway was to be driven by a Pelton wheel situated at Frongoch mine. After the war the Welsh Mines Corporation completed the scheme and processed many tons of waste before falling metal prices made the scheme uneconomical.
1915 - King Side Mining Co Ltd closes.
1916 – May Mining Company but a new company, the Cwm Ystwyth Mines Ltd sees Howell Evans as manager.
1919 - The Welsh Mines Corporation is formed to work the Lisburne mines.
1922 – Cwm Ystwyth Mines ceases trading and the mine works spasmodically under the British Metal Corporation and again under Craig & Herbert until 1927.
1927 – After many years of successful ore production, latterly under Thomas Ward, Esgairmwyn closes.
1927 – the Gallois Lead & Zinc Mines Ltd take over the leases and continue to explore the Cwmystwyth mines.
1933 - Rufus Brown becomes Manager for the Gallois company and Howell Evans remains on site, living in the old mine captain's house.
1939 – Rufus Brown ceases to work for the Gallois company but remains living at the site.
1939 – an underground fire closes the Tre'r Ddol mines, possibly the last underground workings in the County.
1941 – Rufus Brown and Hywell Evans die in separate circumstances. Winifred Brown, Rufus' widow remains at the site as caretaker until moving away in the 1950's.
1947 – A modern waste processing plant is installed at Esgairmwyn to treat and rework the waste dumps.
1949 - Elenith Mining Co. are working at Esgairmwyn.
1953 – The 50ft waterwheel at Llywernog is dynamited for scrap.
Late 1960's/early 1970's – exploratory and mapping work is carried out by the Anglo-Celtic company of Vancouver (later to become Cambrian Explorations), Andex Mines and Shannon Mining and Manufacturing who sink 10 boreholes at various sites in the orefield.
Late 1960's – Cwmsymlog dumps reworked.
Olwyn yn Amgueddfa Arian-Blwm Llywernog

1974Llywernog Silver-Lead Mine Museum opens in Ponterwyd.
1976 -1980 - Further investment and a final attempt to rework the waste dumps is made by the Elenith Mining Co. at Esgairmwyn.
1980's – Aber Resources undertake a modelling exercise in the region.
1981 – Reclamation work to prevent wind blown contamination is carried out at Cwmsymlog.
1987 – Brynyrafr Mine is swallowed up by the Nant yr Moch reservoir development.
1990's – Elenith Mining carry out salvage at Esgairmwyn.
1992 –Dyfed County Council begins work to develop the Ystrad Einion lead mine site, which involves purchasing land from the former Led Zeppelin singer, Robert Plant.
2002 – Environment Agency publish the Metal Mines Strategy for Wales and begin investigations at Cwm Rheidol.
2004 – Spirit of the Miners project begins.

Activity at abandoned mine sites continues to this day.
The Environment Agency are monitoring a number of sites for pollution as a result of their Metal Mines Strategy for Wales, the Countryside Council for Wales continue to monitor sites that are designated as Sites of Specific Scientific Interest and CADW have designated some sites as Historic Monuments. Organisations such as the Welsh Mines Society and the Welsh Mines Preservation Trust take an interest in the old mines of Ceredigion and archaeologists continue to investigate the mines and associated industries to establish how they fit with the early development of the county and Wales as a whole.
From time to time market values awaken commercial interest in the orefield and visits are made, surveys and reports written. Increasing metal prices may see this interest renewed in the future although it is highly unlikely that any large scale mining would be permitted in this time of increased planning restrictions and environmental concern.

Not all activity at mine sites is positive though. The remote nature of many of the sites means that they are often abused by recreational vehicles, often without the landowner's permission and regardless of whether the site carries an SSSI or Historic designation. There is a culture of neglect and destruction by some landowners – partly due to mine sites serving no apparent commercial purpose. Increasing land values tend to encourage the levelling and redeveloping of former mine sites irrespective of their historic or environmental value.

Illegal fly tipping

There are those that see remote mine sites as an ideal dumping group for old cars and fly tipping is common at many sites thus causing an additional problems for the resident landowners that find themselves responsible for the removal of this waste and the financial burden it brings.

The Spirit of the Miners project hopes to remind people of the importance of these sites to the culture and heritage of the people of Ceredigion and in that reminder instil a renewed pride in these sites rather than them being solely seen as a nuisance.

View from Hafan Quarry

Cwmsymlog Chapel

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