CEREDIGION HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Cardiganshire History (page 6)

Cardiganshire Mining

Cardiganshire forms one of the richest and most extensive MINING fields in Britain. The veins generally bear east and west, with a very few exceptions, which run in a transverse direction from north to south. The matrix is chiefly quartz, not unfrequently mixed with blende and spar, and imbedded mostly in grey mountain rock, though sometimes in argillaceous schistus: some veins containing lead-ore have been discovered even in the peat bogs. As the county has been so long celebrated for its produce of silver, as well as of lead, a concise historical description of the working of its mines may not be uninteresting. Among these, the open and oblong trenches of the Roman miners, and the vertical pits or shafts of the Danes, have been recognized by different antiquaries. During a long period subsequent to the Norman conquest of South Britain, the property of all mines was claimed by the reigning monarch, and no private individual could dig for ore, even on his own estate, without especial leave from the crown. A patent, granted by Queen Elizabeth, in 1563, to Thomas Thurland and Daniel Houghsetter, two German adventurers and metallurgists, assigning to them, upon certain terms, “all the mines royal of gold, silver, copper, and quicksilver” within several specified counties of England, and the principality of Wales, became, in 1567, the foundation of a corporate body consisting of twenty-four persons, among whom were several noblemen, called the “Society for the Mines Royal,” within the several districts specified in the above-mentioned patent. The most eligible of the Cardiganshire mines were worked for some time at the expense and for the profit of this company; but it may be presumed, that the latter was hardly a sufficient remuneration for the former, since the society was at length induced to let the whole of them to Hugh (afterwards Sir Hugh) Myddelton, for the low annual rental of £400. This enterprising man acquired by the speculation an immense fortune, which he wholly expended on that arduous undertaking, the construction of the New River, for the supply of London with water. The mine of Cwm-Symlog was the most valuable of those worked by him, its ore producing forty ounces of silver to every ton of lead. After his death, in 1631, the royal mines of Cardiganshire were leased to Sir Francis Godolphin, Bart., of Cornwall, and Thomas Bushel, Esq.; and on the death of the former, the whole management of them devolved to the latter, who worked about six mines. Charles I., in 1637, granted this gentleman a license to coin the produce of his mines of silver, at Aberystwith, into pennies, twopences, sixpences, shillings, and half-crowns, instead of conveying it at great expense and risk, as formerly, to the mint in the Tower of London: this coinage was distinguished by being stamped with the ostrich plume which forms the crest of the Prince of Wales. Lundy Island, in the Bristol Channel, was also granted to Mr. Bushel, as a depôt for the produce of his mines. Favoured by these singular advantages, he rapidly acquired an immense fortune, with which, on the breaking out of the great civil war, he was enabled to render his royal benefactor signal service, by clothing the whole of his army, and advancing him a loan of forty thousand pounds: he afterwards raised a regiment from among his miners, which he maintained to the end of the contest at his own charge. Aberystwith probably not being considered a place of sufficient security, the bullion, after 1642, was conveyed to be minted at Shrewsbury. On the return of peace, Mr. Bushel changed the scene of his mining operations from county Cardigan to the limestone hills of Mendip, in Somersetshire; and from this period the extent of the works in Cardiganshire seems to have gradually declined. Bushel published several small tracts, from 1642 to 1649, in which he enumerates the mines of Darren-Vawr, Bryn-llwyd, Tàl-y-bont, Goginan, and Cwm-Ervin, in this county. It seems probable that he did not live later than the period of the Restoration, for at that time the Cardiganshire mines royal became the property of a company, of which Sir John Pettus, author of Fodinæ Regales, was a member. CwmSymlog, though deserted by the last proprietor for others in the neighbourhood more profitable, now again became a considerable silver-mine, as also did those of Darren-Vawr, Cwm-Ervin, Goginan, Tàl-ybont, Cwm-Ystwith, Tre ‘r Ddôl, Trawscoed, and Rhôs-Vawr. The smelting-houses and refining-mills of this company were situated, conveniently for exportation, on the river Dovey, in the township of Scybor-y-Coed, and parish of Llanvihangel-Geneu’r Glyn; and, from the use to which they were applied, were commonly called silver-mills.

The exercise of the prerogative of the crown, in claiming as mines royal all those of which the ores yielded silver sufficient to pay the expense of extracting it, and the loss of lead experienced in this process, occasioned several expensive and vexatious lawsuits between the proprietors of the mines and the patentees of the crown, the last of which was concerning a very rich vein, discovered in 1690, at Bwlch yr Esgair Hîr, the property of Sir Carbery Pryse, and since commonly called the Welsh Potosi. Sir Carbery engaged the Duke of Leeds and other powerful noblemen as partners in his newly-opened mine; and by their interest was procured the celebrated act of the 6th of William and Mary, entitled, “An Act to prevent Disputes and Controversies concerning Royal Mines,” which vested the mineral treasures in the proprietors of the soil, reserving to the crown the right of pre-emption at fixed prices, according to the value of the ores. Waller, agent to the company of mine-adventurers of England, about the close of the seventeenth century, published a pamphlet for the information of his employers, containing a very favourable estimate of the mineral treasures of this county; a subject which he further illustrated, in the year 1700, by publishing an account of the Cardiganshire mines, with a map of the mining tract, and plans of nine different works; followed in the same year, by an “Abstract of the present state of the mines in Bwlch yr Esgair Hîr, &c.” After the death of Sir Carbery Pryse, his mining estates, through a female heir, became the property of Sir Humphrey Mackworth, who, in the year 1700, in conjunction with the other members of the company formed by Sir Carbery, took a lease for ninety-nine years, of certain places, called Bwlch Cwm-Ervin, Pwll-yr-Ynad, and Goginan, and afterwards carried on, at these and other places, numerous and extensive mining-works. About the year 1709, however, discords arose among the partners, which eventually ruined the mining interest in this district. In 1744, Esgair Hîr, Tàl-y-bont, Cwm-Symlog, and most other leases in the county, were abandoned; Goginan, Cwm-Ervin, and Bryn-pica were retained, but not worked; while the four mines of Pencraig ddû, Grogwynion, Cwm-Ystwith, and Eurglawdd only were worked. From that time merely partial, temporary, and frequently ineffectual, trials were made in search of ores by different adventurers, except for a short period under the direction of Mr. Lewis Morris, the Welsh antiquary, who in 1750 was appointed agent and superintendent of the king’s mines in Wales.

About twenty years ago, however, a revival took place; and at present, from the great returns which are being made from such lead-mines as are wrought with spirit, public attention is very justly awakened to the value of the mines. Those now worked are numerous, and some of them produce silver as well as lead: several of them are conducted on an extensive scale. Together with others that are abandoned, they amount to about seventy: the greater number are situated in a district extending nearly from the shores of the Dovey, south-eastward across the Rheidiol and Ystwith, to the source of the Teivy; and most of the remainder in a line along the eastern bank of the latter river. In the year 1847, the following quantities of lead-ore were produced from the chief mines in Cardiganshire: the Lisburne mines, 2028 tons; the Goginan mine, 1446 tons; CwmYstwith, 439; Llanvair-Clydogau, 291; Cwm-Sebon, 205; Gogerddan, Bog, and Darren mines, 194; &c. The whole produce of Wales was 18,000 tons. The mine of Llanvair-Clydogau yields a greater proportion of silver per ton than any other mine in the county, every ton of lead from it containing 80 ounces of silver. This mine, too, produces a small quantity of copper-ore, as also does that of Eurglawdd, near Tàly-bont. On a waste in the manor of Creuddyn, near Cwm-Ystwith lead-mine, much copper-ore was formerly raised, but very little has been procured of late years. Sulphate of zinc, blende, or black-jack, is obtained in vast quantities in the mining districts, and is generally worked with the lead: in some mines the latter is in the greater proportion, as at Penbank, &c.; but in others the ores of zinc predominate, as at Gwaith Côch, Nant-y-Meirch, Nant-y-Crair, and Llwyn Unhwch: some mines, indeed, are worked exclusively for the zinc. The quality, as well as the quantity, of lead-ore obtained from the different mines is very various; and it is likely that there are valuable mineral veins yet unexplored. Some historical and other notices of the mines are given in the second volume of the Memoirs of the Geological Survey of Great Britain, published in 1848.

The chief manufacture is that of coarse stockings and flannels, almost wholly for home consumption; and, though of a domestic nature, it is expedited by carding machines scattered over the country at convenient distances, and by spinning-jennies in the farmers’ and cottagers’ houses. The Cardiganshire wool has long been noted for its felting quality, owing to which, and to the cheapness and abundance of peat fuel, the hat-manufactories are very numerous: in these are made most of the common hats worn in South Wales, which are strong and durable: the wool of the Michaelmas shearing is the best for the purpose. The above manufactures consume the greater part of the wool produced in the county. The fisheries are tolerably extensive, Cardigan bay affording a variety of fish, chiefly whiting, cod, brill, soles, mackerel, and herring. Herrings generally make their appearance in the bay from the middle to the end of September. The salmon-fishery in the Teivy is very considerable, a hundred of the coracles described below being sometimes seen busily employed within the space of two miles in the navigable part of its course. The right of fishery, as far as the tide flows, is claimed by the crown; and a lease of the river was granted on that ground, but to no purpose, the peasant fishermen claiming it by immemorial prescriptive right.

This county not only produces sufficient grain for the supply of its own inhabitants, but also exports considerable quantities of barley and oats to the western and southern coasts of England. Its commerce is increasing: among the exports are, its mineral produce of lead, sulphate of zinc, and argillaceous roofing-slates; cattle, sheep, and hogs, to England; butter, as above mentioned; wool, chiefly for the manufactures of the North of England; hats, to other Welsh counties; and leather, to Bristol. The chief extraordinary imports are coal and limestone. The trade of Cardiganshire is greatly facilitated by the number of its ports, which are chiefly frequented by small coasting-vessels. The most southern of these, namely that of Cardigan, is formed by the lower reaches of the Teivy, the entrance of which river is, however, much obstructed by a bar, covered at high water of neap tides by from ten and a half to eleven feet of water, and at ordinary spring tides by from fifteen to sixteen feet. Aberporth, two leagues eastward, has a secure road; and NewQuay, north-east of Aberporth, an excellent sheltered road, with a pier. Aberaëron, at the mouth of the Aëron, possesses a small harbour, which has two piers, and the bar of which is dry at low water. The little port of Aberarth, almost contiguous to the latter, has likewise a bar, dry at low water. The port of Aberystwith, being exposed to the south-west winds, was until lately so much choked with sand as to prevent the entrance of ships of any considerable burthen, except at spring tides, when the bar had about fourteen feet of water: it is now accessible to much larger vessels than formerly, an excellent pier having been constructed. This improving place, besides the articles above mentioned, exports oak timber and poles, and other produce noticed under the head of Aberystwith. The mouth of the Dovey forms a harbour for small vessels.

The rivers, taking each an independent course to the sea, are numerous in proportion to the size of the county: the principal are the Teivy, the Ystwith, and the Rheidiol, or Rheidol. The Teivy issues in a very insignificant stream from the lake called Llyn Teivy, situated near the highest summit of the mountains in the eastern part of the county, and flows immediately southward, over a rocky bed, to the vicinity of the ruined abbey of Strata Florida. Hence it winds first westward and then southward to Trêgaron, receiving in this part of its course the Meirig, the Marchnant, Camddwr, and other small streams. Flowing south-south-westward from Trêgaron to Lampeter, a little above the latter town, and at the distance of eleven miles from its source, it becomes the southern boundary of Cardiganshire, which it continues to form throughout the rest of its course, separating it first for twenty-seven miles from Carmarthenshire, and afterwards from Pembrokeshire. A little below Trêgaron the Teivy is joined from the east by the romantic mountain stream called the Berwyn, descending from a lake of the same name, five miles distant; and afterwards, before reaching Lampeter, it receives from the same side the Brevi and the Clywedog. Below Lampeter it runs for the most part westward, until, after being joined successively from the north by the streams of the Croyddyn, Crannell, Clettwr, Cerdyn, and Cerri, and by another small stream at Cardigan, it turns nearly northward, a little below the latter town, and flows in a majestic stream into that expanse of St. George’s Channel called Cardigan bay, after a course of fifty-three miles. The Teivy is navigable up to Cardigan, for vessels of rather more than 200 tons’ burthen, and up to Llêchrhŷd bridge, to which place the tide flows, for barges: its tributaries are more numerous than copious, and the greater part of its course is through narrow mountainous defiles. The salmon of the Teivy are esteemed particularly fine and delicious, and have a peculiar marbled appearance: great quantities are annually caught, dried, and sent to the London and other English markets. The Teivy is also remarkable for its trout, and is the most northern of the Welsh rivers in which the fish called the sewin is found. Giraldus states, that in his time the river was inhabited by the beaver; and on this, more than most other rivers of Wales, is used a small fishing-boat of singular construction, called by the Welsh corgw, and by the English corruptly coracle, which is not adapted to carry conveniently more than one person. In form the coracle is nearly oval, but flattened at one end like the stern of a common ship’s-boat, its length being usually from five to six feet, and its breadth about four. The frame is formed of split rods, which are platted like basket-work, and covered on the outside, sometimes with a raw hide, but more commonly with strong coarse flannel, which is made water-proof by a thick coating of pitch and tar. A narrow board is fastened across the middle, on which the fisherman sits and guides his little bark with a paddle. When proceeding to their employment, or returning from it, the fishermen fasten these boats, the weight of which is generally from forty to fifty lb., on their backs, by means of a leathern strap attached to the seat, which they pass round their bodies.

The Ystwith has its source among the hills on the borders of Montgomeryshire and Radnorshire, and, rushing westward in an impetuous torrent past the mines of Cwm-Ystwith, and through a deep precipitous gulf, afterwards flows over a more level bed amidst the rich scenes of Havod, and, still further, pursues a picturesque but less romantic course to Aberystwith, to which place it gives name. The Rheidiol, or Rheidol, rises in a small lake, called Llygad Rheidiol, or “the Eye of Rheidiol,” on the western side of the Plinlimmon group of mountains, near the sources of the Severn and the Wye. The early part of its course, which is south-westward, is distinguished by no remarkable feature; but its bed as it approaches Yspytty-Cynvyn lies along the rocky bottom of a deep, precipitous, and woody gulf, where it is repeatedly thrown, with prodigious violence, and in foaming torrents, from a great height, into natural basins, which foam like vast boiling cauldrons. Immediately below the inn called the Havod Arms, it receives from the east the smaller river Mynach, which, darting along the deep cleft in the rocks that is crossed by the Devil’s Bridge, throws itself into the Rheidiol, over a succession of precipices, and in an almost unbroken cataract. Thus augmented the Rheidiol flows westward by Llanbadarn-Vawr, a little below which it turns southward by Aberystwith, and falls into the sea. The town of Aberystwith is situated at the junction of the Ystwith with the Rheidiol: these two rivers, which entered the bay of Cardigan in separate places, were, some years ago, artificially united, by a cut made in order that the land-floods of both might more effectually keep open the mouth of the harbour.

The Dyvi, or Dovey, a Merionethshire and Montgomeryshire river, forms the northern boundary of the county for about seven miles, from Llyvnant to the mouth of its small estuary, and is navigable the whole distance. Between the Dovey and the Rheidiol the principal streams which discharge their waters separately into the sea are the Clarach and the Leri. Southward of the Ystwith occur successively, the Gwyre, or Gwyrai, which rises near LlanvihangelLledrod, and, flowing south-westward through the Cardiganshire barley tract, falls into the sea at Llanrhŷstid; the Arth, which issues from a small lake in the upper part of the hundred of Penarth, and running due west, falls into the sea at Aberarth; and the Aëron, a considerable river that waters the rich valley to which it gives name. This last stream has its source in a small lake called Llŷn Aedwen, in the parish of Llanrhŷstid, whence it flows southward to Llangeitho, and thence in a very devious course by Tàlsarn and Tŷglyn, to the sea at Aberaëron. Various smaller streams also take each a distinct course to Cardigan bay. The celebrated river Tywi, or Towy, most of the course of which is in the county of Carmarthen, has its source in an extensive morass in the alpine valley of Berwyn, in this county, near Lly/?n Teivy: thence it takes its course southward, at first through a rugged, dreary, and inhospitable region, and afterwards through a more romantic and sometimes wooded scene, until it enters Carmarthenshire near Ystrad-Fin, about eleven miles from its source. The principal streams that join the Towy from county Cardigan are the Camddwr, the Dethia, and the Pyscottwr. The small river Claerwen, which issues from a lake called Llyn Rhuddon Vâch, among the mountains on the eastern border of the county, after separating it from Brecknockshire for a few miles, enters the latter county in its course to the Irvon. The Elain, rising near the summit of the mountains a little south of Cwm-Ystwith, flows eastward to the Wye, which it joins a few miles below Rhaiadr in Radnorshire.

The roads are now in general pretty good, although the communication between the different towns was formerly attended with considerable difficulty: the materials used in making and repairing them are the grey mountain rock and the more indurated of the slate strata. The passage over the Teivy has been more facilitated by the erection of bridges than that over most Welsh rivers, for it is crossed by thirteen above Cardigan: in those parts of the county where the grey mountain rock is not found, many of the old bridges are of timber. Cardiganshire is traversed from east to west by two principal lines of road from England. The road from London to Cardigan, continued to St. David’s, enters across the Teivy from Llandovery, in Carmarthenshire, and passes through Lampeter, and down the valley of the river to Cardigan, whence it re-crosses the Teivy into Pembrokeshire. That from London to Aberystwith enters from Rhaiadr, in Radnorshire, and runs immediately westward: the road from London to Trêgaron, in this county, branches from the Aberystwith line at Presteign, in Radnorshire, passing through Radnor and Builth. A line of road extends from Aberystwith to Shrewsbury, by way of the Devil’s Bridge, or Pont-arVynach; but it has not been so much used since the formation of a more level line up the Rheidiol valley to Eisteddva Gurig, where it joins the old road to the Devil’s Bridge. Another improved line of road, from Aberystwith to Machynlleth, is much wanted.