Historic Landscape Characterisation - Amlwch Historical Themes

Introduction

The Amlwch and Mynydd Parys historic landscape forms a compact area extending from the sea-coast of north-eastern Anglesey and the narrow harbour of Porth Amlwch to the hill, by courtesy a mountain, Mynydd Parys, which rises to 147m just over 3km to the south. The significance of this landscape derives from the fact that there is a long, probably intermittent, history of mining for copper on Mynydd Parys stretching back to the Bronze Age, that in the eighteenth and nineteenth century this was exported through Porth Amlwch, and that in this period a remarkable industrial town grew up at Amlwch to accommodate the mine workers and their families.

The discovery of low-grade copper ore near the surface of the mountain in the mid-eighteenth century led to one of the most extraordinary bursts of industrial activity ever seen in the British Isles – in some respects, in its scale and its suddenness, it has more in common with the ‘robber economies' of mining in parts of the Americas or of Australasia.

Although accounts from the first major phase of modern mining (1768 onwards) speak of shafts being sunk to win the ore, Parys is unusual in that from the late eighteenth century it was effectively worked as an open quarry. It is not always clear to what extent the practice of open-casting derives from a policy of deliberately collapsing large tunnel workings and multiple shafts driven into a near-horizontal ore body, but the earliest paintings of the site, dated to 1790, already show open pits which became in time the Great Opencast and Hillside Opencast, which now dominate the landscape. The scale of work here appealed to artists influenced by the fashionable notions of the ‘sublime' and paintings constitute an important form of evidence for this site (Lord 1998). Traces of earlier arrangements perhaps survive here and there, as in an open cavern known as gwaith Robin Ellis (= ‘Robin Ellis' work') at SH 4432 9037.

By the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the alignment of the ore vein required a different approach to mining. The dispersed ore that could be quarried in the pits had largely been worked out; the vein became more concentrated as it went deeper and also turned to the north. It therefore proved necessary to sink further shafts, deeper this time than the ones which had been opened out to form the pits, and for the most part situated immediately to the north of the earlier workings. Some of these were worked by horse-whims, but some required steam engines to wind them. This technology seems to have been introduced by the Cornish mine captains who arrived at this time. Pumping also became a greater challenge and led to the construction of a beam-engine house in the eastern part of the mine (the ‘Pearl engine') and a windmill near the summit, both of which are prominent features in the surviving landscape. An unusual method of extracting the ores, practiced certainly from the late eighteenth century, was by precipitation, in which copper-rich water was allowed to settle in extensive ponds in which the ore was precipitated by the action of items of scrap iron left in them.

These various features transformed the mountain itself into a distinct industrial landscape, and also required the development of harbour facilities nearby, at Porth Amlwch. In turn, the small medieval settlement at Amlwch itself became for a generation a boom town. The landscape history of the last two hundred years is essentially the sorry of managing the decline of this staple industry and of the settlements and infrastructure which it called into being. However, the development of the Octel works from 1950-51 meant that it became once again an industrial community, and it is true to say that the town preserves something of the sense of a frontier settlement. The mountain forms a distinct presence, dominating the area, with its modern steel headgear over the Morris shaft serving as a reminder that its industrial history may not be over. Similarly, plans for the former Octel site may restore it to industrial use. The communities of Amlwch and Porth Amlwch have in recent years been the focus of regeneration initiatives, many of which are managed by Menter Môn, an agency of Isle of Anglesey County Council.

 

Land ownership

Within recent centuries the principal landowners of the farm-land of the parish were the Plas Newydd family, owners outright of the large farms of Parys and Trysglwyn Isaf, as well as the smaller tenements of Morfa Du, Tan yr Allt, Foel, Pen y Nant, Pen Mynydd, Bryn Gwyddef, Bryn y Gwynt, and Pen y Bryn, and the Llysdulas (Dinorben) family who owned in moiety with Plas Newydd, Cefn y Gors, Tyddyn Dai, Tros Lon, Pentre Gwian, Cerrig y Bleddiau and Tal y Dyffryn. Within the present built-up areas of the town, the Plas Newydd family were again the principal landowners. However, other parcels of land were owned by the Llysdulas (Dinorben) estate, including the site of the Dinorben Arms in the centre of the town; by the Tresgawen estate, including the site of the smelting works (now the Craig y Don housing estate), the strip of housing along the east side of Salem Street, and the eastern part of Porth Amlwch; by Coed Helen of Caernarfon and by the see of Bangor, owners of the land immediately to the west of Amlwch harbour (Rowlands, opp. 16, Pritchard 1998, 12, NLW Amlwch tithe map and apportionment, BU slate catalogues). It does not seem that the principal landowners commissioned large-scale authoritative maps of their holdings in the nineteenth century (or if they did, they are not in public depositories). Some of the boundaries between the mid-nineteenth century estates remain evident, but there is no clear evidence of controlled leasing in such a way that an estate style is evident.

Historically the mountain was divided between Plas Newydd as the sole owner of the eastern half of the mountain and Plas Newydd and the Llysdulas estates as joint owners of the western half. Anglesey Mining now own one half and the Plas Newydd estate the other.

The town of Amlwch and the settlement of Porth Amlwch are mainly held in freehold. The west side of the port is owned by the Isle of Anglesey Charitable Trust, the east side by the Country Council.

The historic landscape area lies mainly within the present community of Amlwch, though it extends into Llaneilian community.

 

Agriculture

It is likely that part at least of the area would have been heavily wooded in the early part of the Medieval period, as the name Llannerch y Medd (to the south-west of the historic landscape area) suggests (Llannerch = glade or clearing). Whilst it is likely that forest clearance would have been under way even in Neolithic times, the presence of this place-name element suggests that substantial clearance had not taken place locally until the Medieval period (Carr 1982 21). By this stage, documentary evidence confirms intensive exploitation of the agricultural resources of the historic landscape area. The granting of lands within the study area to (or appropriation by) powerful lay and spiritual lords in the medieval period suggests that they were recognised as particularly fruitful even by the standards of Anglesey , traditionally the granary of Wales . Some of the persons who held land in the medieval period laid the foundations of the estates which dominated the area into the Industrial and Modern period. The establishment of the manor Plas yn Amlwch and its associated lands by the see of Bangor indicate that the land was highly prized, and it remained Episcopal property until the 19th century. The descendants of Iorwerth Fychan (floruit 1302-3), rhaglaw (bailiff) of Twrcelyn in time held both the Llwydiarth and Llysdulas estates (Carr 1982 216-7). Llysdulas established the farm Madyn Dysw, in existence by 1549, as one of the dispersed holdings of what was originally a free township whose original nucleus was at Llanwenllwyfo to the east (SH 485 901 – Carr 1982 30). Robert de Parys was granted the farm which now bears his name in 1406; this included part of the mountain (Rowlands 1981).

It is clear from documentary evidence that Amlwch was situated on some of the best soils in Anglesey ; the parish church was rated the third most valuable in the island in 1254 (after Llanfaes and Penmon) on tithes, oblations and income from glebe. Though clearly the Black Death affected the area adversely, the same pattern is evident three centuries later. In 1535 the rectory of Amlwch was the second most valuable on Anglesey , being valued at £33 6s 8d and had been annexed to one of the dignitaries of Bangor cathedral, namely the archdeaconry of Anglesey (Carr 1982 268, 276-7, 305). It is likely that as well as corn-growing, dairying formed a significant part of the economy of the study area; lactuals (tithes of butter, milk and cheese) at Amlwch in 1535 were £5 compared to £1 6s 8d at Llangristiolus and Cerrigceinwen (Carr 1982 104). It is likely that this is reflected in the farm-name Llaethdy, ‘dairy'.

The explosive growth of mining in the eighteenth century did not mean that the entire area ceased also to be agriculturally productive, since farmers benefited from the presence of a large landless industrial proletariat swarming into the area, as well as, in the case of Madyn Dysw, from the rich profits to be made from hiring out horses to cart ore to the port. However, this period did result in fundamental changes to the agricultural landscape. Apart from the fact that much of it disappeared under mining and processing sites – for instance the establishment of substantial precipitation pits on Llaethdy land – it was also a period of conscious agricultural improvement, with the opportunity to reinvest surplus in rebuilding farmhouses, improving boundaries, field-drains and road access. However, other than the Corris maps of Parys farm (1791, 1792), few detailed maps have emerged to enable a detailed picture of changes in farming practice in this period. The farmhouses themselves – Llaethdy Mawr, Parys, Parys Bach, Bod Ednyfed – are largely late eighteenth century or nineteenth century in design and construction, substantial estate-sponsored dwellings, with associated agricultural buildings of similar date. Part of Madyn Dysw dates from the seventeenth century, part is a Regency farmhouse. They confirm the active involvement of the estates in their agricultural properties and the continued prosperity of the farming sector.

 

Settlement

Medieval background

There is evidence of settlement in the area of Amlwch from the Medieval period. The Medieval core of the settlement is represented by the site of the medieval church (where the present church now stands) and by the site of Plas yn Amlwch, on the north edge of the present town.

Nucleated settlements

There are effectively two nucleated settlements within the study area, though since 1951 they have more or less merged into one continuous semi-urban area. These are Amlwch itself and Porth Amlwch.

The growth in mining from the 1760s onwards transformed the existing Medieval settlement at Amlwch into a significant industrial community – one of the classic Welsh industrial settlements, along with Blaenavon, Merthyr Tydfil , Swansea , Bethesda and Blaenau Ffestiniog. The origins of the industrial settlement lay around the church and along the Queen Street/Salem Street axis, and on the whole Amlwch seems to have expanded in a very piecemeal and unplanned fashion along existing roads and lanes connecting Amlwch with Llaneilian to the east and with Cemaes to the west. The end result is that buildings that are early or mid-nineteenth century in date are to be seen alongside substantial late-nineteenth century houses and other buildings which were built on previously unallotted land, and ‘infill' housing estates, many of which it may be surmised were constructed when the Octel works opened in 1951. The building of the school near the south-western extremity of the built up area provided a strong visual focus, as it overlooks the town, but the sense of the historic centre was greatly dissipated by the construction of a bypass road immediately to the west of Salem Street/Queen Street .

The oldest houses which survive at Amlwch now are nineteenth century in date, even along Queen Street/Salem Street , though the laying out of this road is thought to be the work of the eighteenth century entrepreneur Methusalem Jones. References in the parish records for 1780 confirm that the new houses were typically thatched, only a few were slated, and that they measured no more than 12' by 15' (Rowlands 131-4). No pictorial, cartographic or archaeological evidence has so far emerged for any of them, and lack of understanding of the early development of Amlwch is hampered by the fact that there are few reliable maps of the area before the 25” ordnance. The tithe map does not show any significant development outside the Medieval nucleus, but it is possible that this document, effectively a record of who was obliged to pay a particular kind of tax (great tithes of corn and hay, small tithes of livestock) does not depict the houses of the very poor built without legal sanction. As noted below, the tithe map shows little development at Porth Amlwch but the Francis map of 1828 shows that it was already becoming built up.

Some of the nineteenth century houses are understood to contain slag blocks in the fabric, after the manner of a number of early industrial houses in Swansea , though the extensive use of rendered surfaces and pebbledash has obscured much of the evidence for construction and age. Size and proportions are better guides than external finish; Barclay's Bank on Queen Street (SH 4426 9276) preserves the contours of an early nineteenth century dwelling but has seen much adaptation.

Despite the decline of Amlwch in the 19th century, there are many attractive buildings from the Victorian period and the early twentieth century, including the HSBC bank and the Post-Office. Later nineteenth century buildings are distinguishable from buildings constructed during Amlwch's heyday (1760-1830) by their proportions, which conform more to standard industrial housing found elsewhere in the United Kingdom , and by the use of imported material such as brick.

Porth Amlwch, like Amlwch itself, is a largely unplanned community. The earliest houses are the two- storey eighteenth century terraced dwellings along Pen Cei, and there is evidence that it was being built up by 1828, when it is depicted on the Francis map of the harbour - the later tithe map shows practically no development here. Whereas Amlwch grew up around pre-existing roads of some description, Porth Amlwch grew up in part around the industrial roads of the late eighteenth century that led from the mines to the smelters where the Craig y Don housing estate now stands. The street-name Stryd y Glorian/Machine Street commemorates the weighing machine for the carts that was formerly situated around SH 4472 9312. Another focus was the (presumably pre-Industrial) road that leads east to Llaneilian. However, a third focus was the settlement that grew up to the east of the harbour around what appear to be winding footpaths. Dwellings here are of every date from the early nineteenth century to the late twentieth, and the area seems to have grown up in the interstices of fields, gardens, paths, lane-ways, a brick-field and water-courses.

The Craig y Don housing estate is a good example of a social housing initiative built around a geometric street pattern. This was erected in response to the need for workers' housing when the Octel plant opened.

 

Non-nucleated settlements

Though there is little evidence of a dual economy settlement of small-holders and miners comparable to the slate quarry settlements of Arfon, there are a number of isolated landless dwellings which at one time will have accommodated miners and their families. Some ruined dwellings have been identified on the mountain itself. At Mynydd Llwyd a row of untypical cottages survives, a ribbon development on the side of the Llanerchymedd road, though vernacular character beyond the basic outline has been effaced here my recent alterations (SH 4412 9170). The farms are mainly large Victorian buildings, though smaller nineteenth century farm buildings survive e.g. Pentre Gwian at SH4429 9117, a double-fronted two storey building with brickwork chimneys.

 

Building types and material

Though the majority of buildings surviving within the historic landscape from before the 1860s are strongly vernacular in character, making use of locally-obtained stone, there is considerable early use of brick, as well as more extensive use of non-local brick and other materials including dressed stone from after this period, suggesting that the opening of the railway significantly altered local building custom. There is some use of copper-ore slag as a building material, though this is not extensive. The use of slate is practically universal as a roofing material, though the tiled roof of the Craig y Don housing estate makes a bold statement amidst the Merioneth grey slates and Arfon blue.

A brick-field operated at Porth Amlwch in the early nineteenth century, and possibly earlier, as the late-eighteenth century Mona Lodge (SH 4389 92823 [stables at SH 4391 9286]) is brick-built and it is unlikely at that stage that bricks would have been brought in by sea. Melin Mona of 1816 is also brick-built. A distinctive green-coloured Precambrian stone is also used in many of the earlier buildings; it is possible that this was obtained from opening-out work in the mines, though the principal outcrops lie along the coast. Buildings within the mines are for the most part stone-built and extremely dilapidated. One exception is the conserved Pearl engine-house of 1817, constructed of locally-obtained stone and with wooden lintels.

The smaller vernacular houses often use small pitched dormer windows to light the first floor, thereby obviating the need for a full two storeyed dwelling. An example can be seen in Amlwch at ‘Riverside' (SH 4433 9292), where two attached dwellings, of one and a half storeys, have the upper floor lit by four dormer pitched roof windows. Attached to the dwellings in a continuous row are two agricultural buildings, one of them a former slaughter-house – incidentally also illustrating how industrialisation was closely tied in with vernacular traditions of agricultural life. As the nineteenth century progressed, this style mutates into more conventional two-storey double- or single-fronted terraced housing throughout the study area. Terraces are short and follow the course of pre-urban lanes.

Dwellings that are more polite in conception are to be found scattered within Amlwch and Porth Amlwch – again, suggestive of an unplanned development and later infill. Graig y Mor (SH 4440 9308), a rectangular-plan house of early nineteenth-century, is stone-built with distinctive limestone quoins and window reveals, and a hipped slate roof with an ornamental chimney stack. The Dinorben Hotel (SH4418 9290), a building of early 19th century construction, built under the patronage of the Kinmel estate, is a double pile building of two-storey with attics and porch in Georgian style, and was in existence by 1817, at the time of the Amlwch riots. Solid late nineteenth century houses like Ael y Bryn (SH 4523 9316) sit a little incongruously amidst much smaller vernacular dwellings. At SH 4518 9308, opposite Capel Peniel is an attractive but intrusive style of house with a stucco front and ornamented pattern of window detailing.

 

Relict archaeology

There is evidence for Prehistoric activity on Mynydd Parys itself, but not elsewhere within the historic landscape area. In 1796 Christopher Sykes referred to cobblestones and fire-set drift workings on the mines, which had been recently quarried away by opencast workings. He considered these to be pre-Roman.

Oliver Davies investigated the mines in 1937 when he concentrated on an area near to Oxen Quarry on the northern side of the mountain near the windmill. Several trenches were dug and 24 hammer stones were discovered, together with charcoal and other artefacts, which he considered to be ‘Old Celtic' or Roman period. The Early Mines Research Group reinvestigated the area in 1988 and found further hammer stones. Charcoal recovered from new trenches has been dated to 2000 -1500 BC.

Exploration of the underground workings since 1995 has found a number of sites containing hammer stones where modern workings, being driven upwards on lodes, have cut the base of earlier workings driven down, presumably from the surface. Sites discovered so far are choked with spoil and sediment containing hammer stones. Charcoal samples have been recovered and dated to 1650 –1290 BC. It is apparent from the distribution of hammer stones on the surface and underground, together with the account by Sykes, that prehistoric mining was distributed across several lodes.

 

Parks and gardens

There are no significant parks and gardens within the historic landscape area.

Industrial

This historic landscape area constitutes one of the industrial landscapes par excellence of Wales .

As noted above, archaeological evidence confirms mining in the Bronze Age. No direct evidence of Roman mining is known, although finds of copper ingots of Roman date, including two on or near Mynydd Parys, suggest that there may have been mining and smelting during the Roman period, though the precise locations are unknown.

Documentary evidence for mining in the Medieval period is sparse. However, the grant in 1406 to Robert Parys of the farm which bears his name – which included the mountain as well as lower-lying lands to the north – suggests that its mineral wealth was acknowledged even then. A Tudor map shows mines ‘one mile distant' from Porth Amlwch, and Sir John Wynn suggests obliquely that work was going on in the 1570s (NLW Calendar of Wynn Papers).

The eastern end of the mountain, later known as the Mona Mine, was worked from 1761, but the first significant discovery of ore was not made until 2 March 1768 in a shaft at Golden Venture. By 1770 mining had also begun at the opposite end of the mountain (Parys Mine). Between 1773 and 1785 output exceeded 3000 tons per year, providing a serious threat to Cornish copper mining and the trade in smelted copper controlled by the Swansea smelters. Not only did this transform the economy and society of north-eastern Anglesey, but it exerted a profound effect on the copper trade internationally, ensuring that for two generations the mines dictated the terms of trade and forcing the established Cornish mines to work ever deeper (indirectly paving the way for Trevithick's development of high-pressure steam pumping).


The Great Opencast in 1790 (John Warwick Smith)

Three principal methods of extraction were employed – shaft mining, opencast pits and precipitation in ponds. The first two techniques were confined to two distinct areas. Along the south eastern edge of the mountain the Great Opencast and Hillside Opencast now dominate the landscape, whereas along the north western side are mainly shafts. Precipitation ponds are visible both on the mountain itself and – on a bigger scale – around its periphery.

An account of the first stage of mining written in the early nineteenth century, is included in the report by Gwynedd Archaeological Trust (Gwyn 1998). This suggests that the mining method employed was to sink pits or shafts 30 yards deep before reaching ore on the Mona mine. It is suggested that on the Parys Mine the ore was nearer the surface and so whilst they used the same technique they also stripped off the surface and by this method had created a vast chasm. An examination of available map evidence and illustrations, together with field evidence suggests a scenario where the areas now represented by the Hillside Opencast and Great Opencast, were first worked by multiple shafts onto a fairly horizontal ore body. Ore was mined by driving galleries from the shafts therefore using a form of pillar and stall mining. The next stage involved removing the pillars, which caused the collapse of the ground, thus forming the opencasts. It is probably that overburden from both sites was stripped and removed before this stage. Several cave-like openings surviving in the opencast workings appear to be fragments of this stage of working. No evidence of pre-gunpowder working was found in these areas.

To the north of the Hillside Opencast towards the windmill are a group of deep fissures running at an angle to the opencast. These are up to 20m deep and average 1m wide. Geologists examining the site have suggested that these are natural fissures formed by the collapse of the sides of the Hillside Opencast, but the GAT report suggests that these may be mine workings from the mid eighteenth century. On close examination it is apparent that there are no tooling marks on the sides of the fissures, or socket holes for timber, and no evidence of explosive use in the form of drill holes or shattered surfaces. The complete lack of mineral on the wall further supports the conclusion that these are indeed natural features and not a result of mining.

Underground mining may have been pursued more vigorously with the arrival of Cornish management on the mountain, when Lord Uxbridge (as he then was – the future Marquis of Anglesey) leased out the Mona mine to the Cornish Vivian family in 1811, and James Treweek was appointed as Mine Captain. The organisation of the underground workings suggests Cornish influence.

Shafts have been sunk through the lodes and the ground has been blocked out from levels driven along the lodes at regular intervals down to a depth of 150 fathoms (approximately 300m). The ground between these levels has been explored by rises up the lodes, which were favourable have been opened out to form work chambers and stopes. In several places these rises have been equipped with ladders or have had steps cut into the floor to act as footways, routes for miners to get from one level to another. It appears that both the Parys and Mona Mines had footways extending from the surface, which suggest that they were intended as routes for the miners to take to and from their working places. Many original ladders still survive.

Drainage has been achieved by several adit levels driven from the flanks of the mountain. Initially these served each mine independently, but as the mines deepened a joint level draining both the Parys and Mona mines was developed, the Dyffryn Adda adit (also known as the 45 fathom level). All workings below this level required pumping and are now flooded. Until 2003 the adit had been dammed for around 60 years which had raised the water level in the mine up to the 25 fathom level. Due to safety concerns the dam had now been removed, which has dewatered another 40m of mine greatly increasing the amount of accessible workings. Many of the underground areas now revealed contain large amounts of timber, some supporting plies of waste rock, known as deads. As this timber has been waterlogged for 60 years and that water has now been removed there is a great danger that timberwork will fail rendering large parts of the mine inaccessible, which may prevent access to historically significant workings. There is also a danger that unintentional damage may be caused by visitors to the newly accessible areas, which have until recently been a sealed context.

At the present time it is difficult to discuss in any detail how the mine developed and worked underground. The only detailed underground mapping of the mine dates from 1856, and was deposited as an abandonment plan when the mines ceased working, as the most recent survey then available (pers com D.Jenkins). Historic plans are often unreliable sources of information, and as with most maps, they only provide a snap shot of the mine at that time, and it is common to find that plans exclude areas that are no longer being worked or were simply not of interest at that time. This plan is simply a centre line survey of the underground levels, marking the position of shafts. It contains no details of where the ground has been stopped, and it is therefore not possible to discuss how ore was moved from the stopes to the shafts, and therefore where it arrived on the surface. This is all key information that can help in the understanding of activities on the surface.

Some localised survey work has been recently carried out at the prehistoric mining sites; it is likely that detailed survey will add much detail to the understanding of the working of the mines. The large number of hammer stones seen underground indicates that bronze-age mining was considerably more extensive than might be assumed from surface evidence.

As access to the underground workings has been restricted, particularly the areas that were until recently flooded, a remarkable amount of archaeological information survives. Objects such as wooden pump rods, a balance box, air ducts, and wheel barrows have been found.

Most of the shafts on the mountain have been capped and are marked by a concrete post. Unusually the shafts are rarely surrounded by a defined spoil heap. This means that evidence of the method of shaft haulage used, which normally survives on top of a shaft mound, is in most cases absent. It is apparent that there were localised transport systems moving waste and ore using roads, railed tramways and possibly wheel barrows.

In addition to the mines themselves, there is landscape evidence of the ancillary industries which were carried out within the register area. The site of the main smelters has been covered by a housing estate, but there are traces of smelters and slag-runs to the north, on the west side of the harbour. The Octel works, established to extract bromide from sea-water, was built in 1950-51, and perpetuated the local tradition of chemical working up to its recent closure. Some of its buildings and plant survive, including the distinctive concrete water-tower. The shell of the corn wind-mill, Mona mill/Melin y Borth of 1816, at Porth Amlwch at SH 4485 9346 is an impressive feature.

 

Military

There is no attested military site within the historic landscape area.

 

Communications

Amlwch and the Parys mines historically looked to the sea. Though the area was served by a road system and from 1866 by a branch line railway, the whole of this historic landscape area effectively formed a compact export sump focussed on the harbour at Porth Amlwch, which was for a while one of the busiest in Wales.


Map of Amlwch in the late 16th century (PRO SP 46/36 MPF 11)

 

The sixteenth century map printed in Hope (Hope 1994, 16) indicates interest at government level in the resources of Mynydd Parys and a concern for their efficient movement by sea but also confirms that Porth Amlwch was in no way built up or developed as a harbour at that time. The available evidence suggests that there may have been small-scale development in the 1750s followed by a very rapid development from the 1760s onwards, including the construction of substantial smelters for processing the ore on the west side of the harbour, that by the late 1820s the greater part of the present harbour landscape was in existence, but that ship-building and ancillary industries were added later on in the nineteenth century. There is little visible evidence for smelting on the site at the time of writing, in part because a housing estate was constructed in the 1950s on the main bank of smelters, but the harbour area remains comparatively undisturbed. As such the present landscape effectively dates from the period 1750-1900, and there is some evidence for phases of development within that time-span.

 


Amlwch Port in 1815 (William Daniel)

Cartographic materials, unfortunately, do not make it possible to build up a more detailed picture of the development of the harbour and industrial facilities. During the early part of the Industrial and Modern period (1750 onwards), the west side of the harbour, the tenement known historically as Cae'r Pandy belonged to the see of Bangor, for which there are very few relevant documents in any of the Welsh archives. The lack of surviving map evidence for the Bishop of Bangor's estate makes it impossible to build up a picture of how the processing areas at the port developed.

During the same period, the eastern side belonged to the Bod Ednyfed estate, of which the papers are to be found in the Llwydiarth Esgob collection at UWB. Pritchard refers to ‘many kilns smelting copper ore from Mynydd Parys' from 1762, even before the harbour was cut, in 1767, according to his dating (Pritchard 1866, 15). A lease of 1770 permitted Sir Nicholas Bayly to erect ‘a Quay and also bins (ore-bins), Storehouses and Warehouses', and makes it clear that there were existing cottages and ore-bins at the port (UWB Plas Newydd VII 151). The 1780 map in Llwydiarth Esgob (UWB Ll.E. 638) shows the site in its infancy, and in any case follows an already obsolete convention of showing buildings in elevation rather than in plan, which makes it difficult to locate them accurately. One, however, approximates to the site of the Newhaven public house. The Francis map of 1828 shows the Bod Ednyfed side of the harbour only, and confirms that the present inner harbour, at least on the eastern bank, has changed remarkably little since then (UWB Ll.E. 639, 640, 641). It includes the projecting quay on to which the present lighthouse was later (1853) constructed. Facilities included warehouses and six bins, some of them roofed, some open. It is likely that much of this work will have been undertaken in the immediate aftermath of the passage of the Act of 1793, which permitted the ‘enlargement, deepening, cleansing, improvement and regulation of the harbour (Hope 1994 98-9). The Francis map shows the culverted Afon Goch emerging below the site of the bank of smelters and also shows a shipwrights' yard on the west side, Treweek's Iard Ochor Draw, in existence since 1825 (Hope 1994 101).

The next available map is the first edition ordnance survey of 1889, which shows the limekiln, Iard Newydd and the old shipyard, Iard Ochor Draw, more developed than it is shown on the 1828 map, together with other buildings on Turkey Shore which, whilst they are not shown on the 1828 map, may already have been in existence, since the map's purpose is to show Bod Ednyfed landholdings, and these formed part of the see of Bangor's land. Iard Newydd was under construction from 1870 and had been bought by Captain William Thomas in 1871 or 1872. Hill's chemical works at Llam Carw was established in 1840 and lasted into the early years of the 20th century (Hope 1994 88-91).

As well as the important archaeological landscape of Porth Amlwch, the movement of substantial amounts of copper ore, coal and other products called for the development of industrial transport corridors between the mines, smelters and harbour on a scale which significantly exceeded whatever arrangements had been in force in earlier periods. However, and very unusually in a Welsh context, these consisted of roads, rather than railways and they remained dependent on animal traction throughout their period of operation. The mines themselves made a little use of internal railways, though a short length of railway was used to transport coal from the harbour to the smelter.

The principal source for the development of the network of industrial roads within the study area is a map of 1780 preserved in the Quarter Sessions papers at Llangefni Record Office (WQS/1780/E/12). This confirms the existence of one major industrial road, the present-day Stryd y Glorian and Lôn Goch, presumably a creation of the previous twelve years. This and the other roads within the study area, however have remained in use and have been upgraded for motor vehicles, and as archaeological features cannot compare with the Lôn Gopar, believed to date from 1788, an outstanding example of an industrial road in a national (Welsh) context.

The study area also has an intact railway system, now disused, which never had a direct connection to the mines. The construction of the Anglesea (sic) Central Railway from Gaerwen on the main Chester to Holyhead main line to Amlwch, completed in 1867, connected the area to the national railway network, though the line failed to revive the flagging industrial fortunes of the town. Passenger and public services came to an end in December 1964, and thereafter only Octel traffic used the line until this traffic also ceased in the 1990s, making use for the first ¾ miles of the journey of an extension constructed from Amlwch station in 1951 (Bradley 1996, 106-7). The rails remain in situ, together with a loop at the site of the former Amlwch station. Amlwch goods shed, a typical late-19th century example of its type, survives in re-use. The railway has been the focus of sporadic but unsuccessful preservation attempts.

 

 

Cultural associations

The mines form a significant cultural/associative landscape of their own. Amongst the names associated with the mines are the impresario Llew Llwyfo, the preacher John Williams ‘Brynsiencyn', and Thomas Williams ‘Twm Chwarae Teg'. The use of the druid motif on the mines' currency, adopted by the Amlwch Industrial Heritage Trust as their logo, is an instance of the interest shown in the island's ancient past in the wake of the publication of Henry Rowlands' Antiquitates Parochiales in 1710.

 

Bibliography

 

Bradley WJ 1996, Industrial Locomotives and Railways of North Wales ( Birmingham )

Carr A 1982, Medieval Anglesey (Llangefni)

Gwyn, D., 1998, Mynydd Parys Copper Mine: Archaeological Assessment, unpublished GAT report 292

Hope B 1994, A Curious Place: The Industrial History of Amlwch (1550-1950) (Wrexham)

Lord P 1998, Industrial Society ( Cardiff : University of Wales Press)

Pritchard T 1866, Hanes Amlwch, Fel y Bu, Fel y Mae, ac Fel y Dylai Fod (Amlwch)

Rowlands EW 2000, Masts and Shafts/Mastiau a Siafftiau ( Amlwch)

Rowlands J 1981, Copper Mountain (Llangefni)

 

 

 

 

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