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Gazetteers - Amlwch

National Gazetteer (1868)

"AMLWCH, a parish, market town, and parliamentary borough in the hundred of Twrcelyn, in the Isle and county of Anglesey, North Wales, 15 miles to the N.W. of Beaumaris, 20 miles to the N.E. of Holyhead, and 261 miles from London. It is situated on the northern coast of the island, on the Irish Sea, and its port is subordinate to Beaumaris. It includes the two chapelries of Llanwenllwyfo and Llanerchymedd. Its present importance and prosperity are of very recent and rapid growth.

Previous to the year 1768, Amlwch was a mere fishing village, of very inconsiderable extent. In that year the now celebrated copper mines of the Parys mountain were discovered, and the foundation for the future wealth and progress of the town was laid. The native name of this mountain is Trysclwyn, and its more familiar name is said to be derived from Robert Paris, one of the commissioners appointed by Henry IV., on occasion of the insurrection under Owain Glyndwr. In the most favourable years, above 60,000 tons of ore have been taken from these mines, and 1500 hands were employed in them. After a period of decline the works are now carried on again, and give employment to abort 1000 hands.

There are several interesting proofs that the mineral wealth of the Part's mountain and its neighbourhood attracted attention at a remote period. It was probably known to the Romans, and still earlier to the Phoenicians. The Marquis of Anglesey and Lord Dinorben are the proprietors of the mines. A noble harbour has been constructed by the companies who work the mines. It is cut out of the slate cliff; and is large and deep enough to hold thirty vessels, of 200 tons burden. It is protected by a breakwater, erected in 1822, and its bed is dry at low water. There are several dangerous rocks lying near the entrance to the harbour. A lighthouse; 26 feet high, has been erected on the north pier. It has a fixed light, which is visible at a distance of 9 miles. There are several smelting furnaces, employing about 100 persons, and some alum and vitriol works.

The living is a perpetual curacy* in the diocese of Bangor, value £217, in the patronage of the bishop. The church is dedicated to St. Elaeth; it is large enough to hold 2000 persons, and was built in 1800, by the proprietors of the mines. There are chapels belonging to the Baptists Independents, Calvinistic and Wesleyan Methodists. A school was founded and endowed, in 1689, by Edward Kynnier, for poor children. The endowment, since 1821, has been applied in aid of the support of the national school then established. A British school for 400 children, of both sexes, was founded in 1860. Under the Reform Bill, Amlwch was made a contributory borough with Holyhead and Llangefui, to Beaumaris, and with them returns one representative to parliament. A branch of the National Provincial Bank was established here in 1859. A fair for cattle is held on the 12th November. "

"PARYS, a rich copper mine in the mountain of the same name, in the parish of Amlwch, hundred of Twrcelyn, county Anglesey, 15 miles N.W. of Beaumaris. The copper mine, which belongs to the Marquis of Anglesey, was at one time much richer than at present, producing 70,000 tons of copper ore, worth a quarter of a million, a year."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]

 A Topographical Dictionary of Wales
Samuel Lewis, 1833

AMLWCH, a borough, sea-port, and parish, in the hundred of TWRCELYN, County of ANGLESEY, NORTH WALES, 20 miles (N. W.) from Beaumaris, and 266 (N. W. by W.) from London, containing 6285 inhabitants. This place, formerly an inconsiderable hamlet inhabited only by fishermen, has, from the variety and abundance of the mineral treasures contained in the mountainous districts of the parish, become a populous and flourishing town. It derived its name from its situation on a sandy beach, and its importance from the discovery of the copper mines in its vicinity, aided by a small cove between the rocks on the coast, which afforded a facility of shipping their produce, and has been subsequently improved into a safe and commodious harbour.

The high table land of Trysclwyn, otherwise called Parys mountain, rises at a short distance from the town into enormous rugged masses of coarse aluminous shale and whitish quartz, naturally assuming a very rude and striking appearance ; while the rugged grandeur of its exterior is further heightened by the mining operations to which it has been subjected. This mountain is stated to have derived its latter name from Robert Paris, the younger, who is named as one of the commissioners on an inquisition, in the reign of Henry IV., to fine the Anglesey insurgents in the cause of Owain Glyndwr. From the discovery of certain works formed by the ancient process of mining, previously to the invention of gunpowder, it is evident that copper-ore has been worked here at a very early period; and as the ancient Britons were known to import all their brass utensils, it is equally probable that that period was during the occupation of their country by the Romans. Traces of the ancient mode of operation, by heating the rock to an intense degree, and pouring water on the surface, in order to make it split, are discernible in several places ; and at Llanvaethlu, a few miles from this place, a cake of copper was found, weighing fifty lb., and bearing a mark resembling the Roman letter L ; from which circumstance it is more than probable that that people had smelting-works in the neighbourhood. But the existence of the immense treasures which since that time had lain concealed or neglected was not thought of till the year 1762, when Mr. Alexander Frazier, a native of Scotland, visiting Anglesey in search of mines, and being struck with the promising appearance of the Parys mountain, in this parish, induced Sir Nicholas Bayley, the proprietor, to make some experiments, and, on sinking shafts in the mountain, copper-ore was discovered ; but before a sufficient quantity of it could be obtained to defray the expenses of the work, the mine was inundated with water, and the operations were consequently suspended. About two years after, Messrs. Roe and Co., of Macclesfield, applying to Sir Nicholas Bayley for a lease of the mine of Penrhyn du, in the county of Carnarvon, obtained it only upon condition of their taking also a lease of part of the Parys mountain, and carrying on a level for the purpose of continuing the works which had been previously abandoned. With this condition they reluctantly complied, and, upon making a fair trial, ore was discovered ; but the expense of procuring it far exceeding the profits, they, after carrying on their works at a great loss for some time, resolved to discontinue operations. Their agent, however, previously to abandoning an enterprise upon which so much labour had been bestowed, and so much money expended, resolved upon making another and final effort. For this purpose he divided his men into several small companies, and having observed, near that part of the mountain which is called the Golden Venture, a spring of water which, from its appearance, he conceived must issue from a mineral bed, he ordered his men to sink shafts in several places, Within seven or eight hundred yards of the spot, and in less than two days they discovered, at the depth only of seven feet from the surface, that vast body of mineral ore which has been subsequently worked with so much advantage to the proprietors. This important discovery was made on the 2nd of March, 1768, and the anniversary of that day was for many years celebrated as a festival by the miners of this district, and St. Chad considered their patron saint.

In 1775, the Rev. Edward. Hughes, who in right of his wife was proprietor of another part of the Parys mountain, commenced a series of operations, and discovered a still larger body of mineral ore, the successful working of which laid the foundation of the immense wealth possessed by his only son, the present Lord Dinorben. The Parys mine, soon after its discovery, became the property of the Earl of Uxbridge, by whom and Mr. Hughes the management of their joint property in this mountain was committed to Mr. Thomas Williams, a native of Anglesey, who was subsequently admitted to a considerable share in the concern with Mr. Hughes, and by his unremitting labours realised a large fortune. Under the superintendence of Mr. Williams the works began to flourish, and, in the course of a few years, several subordinate companies of melters, refiners, and manufacturers were formed at Holywell, Swansea, Ravenhead, Birmingham, Marlow, and Wraysbury; and warehouses for the sale of the copper were opened at London, Liverpool, and Bristol: these various establishments, all under the direction of Mr. Williams, formed collectively a business of almost unexampled magnitude, involving a fluctuating property of at least one million sterling, and in which numerous opulent individuals had a direct interest, and several thousand persons obtained employment. Towards the close of the last century, the immense produce of the Parys mountain exceeded the aggregate produce of all the other copper mines in the kingdom, and had such an effect upon the market, that, for some years, a severe competition existed between the Anglesey and Cornish companies, which at length ended in a coalition, advantageous to themselves, but injurious to those manufacturers to whom the use of copper was essential. The inhabitants of Birmingham, Liverpool, Wolverhampton, and other towns interested in the trade, having made an unsuccessful application to parliament, for relief against this monopoly, an association of spirited individuals, called the "Birmingham Copper Mining Company," purchased mines in Cornwall, and, erecting smelting-houses in the neighbour-hood of Swansea, were enabled to supply the manufacturers at a more moderate price, and thus completely destroyed the effect of the coalition. These mines, however, continued to flourish, until about the year 1811, in which, owing to the want of employment, arising from the great depression of the trade, numerous families emigrated from Amlwch to Liverpool and other places, and left that town in a declining state of poverty and distress, from which it recovered with the extended operation of the mines, a few years afterwards, and, in connexion with the latter, has since continued prosperous and flourishing.

It is now of considerable size, and is principally provided with excellent water from a spring called Fynnon Elaeth. The body of copper-ore contained in this mountain is of unknown extent ; and, instead of the usual process of mining, it is in some parts quarried out from the mountain in solid masses, which are afterwards broken into small pieces, previously to its undergoing the necessary process of separating the ore from the matrix of stone in which it is contained. The Parys and the Mona mines are both in the same grand vein, which in many instances exceeds one hundred yards in breadth, descending to a depth not yet explored, and have been worked to a very great extent in a direct line, with numerous ramifications in various directions, from which, including open cast excavations and subterraneous workings, of which several are upon a scale of great extent and grandeur, besides shafts, levels, &c., many hundred thousand cubic yards of earth and ore have been removed. The principal vein contains ore, in what the workmen term " bellies," which afterwards constitute what they likewise denominate " Stock works."

Some idea of the quantity of ore contained in the Mona mine may be formed from the result of two contracts for three months each, made in the year 1787, exclusively of other smaller contracts during the same period : from one of these were obtained, within that time, two thousand nine hundred and thirty-one tons of good copper-ore, and only ninety-two tons of waste; and from the other, four hundred and eighty-eight tons of good ore, and two hundred and sixty-seven tons of waste. Divers other ores have here been discovered, and a bed of yellowish greasy clay, varying from one to four yards in thickness, lying above the copper ore, and not more than two feet below the surface, contains lead in the proportion of from six hundred to a thousand lb. per ton, each ton of metal yielding no less than fifty-seven ounces of silver. Mixed with this earth are frequently found portions of the colour of cinnabar, probably indicating the presence of sulphureous arsenic silver ores, or of quicksilver. On the temporary decline of the copper trade, works for the smelting of this ore were erected on a large scale ; but, owing to the high price of coal, and the decreasing demand for lead, the undertaking was ultimately abandoned. The smelting of this ore in the mass did not realise the promise held out by the assays made of it in the crucible ; but probably, the mode recently adopted by the Germans, in separating the silver-ore, may excite the attention of the proprietors to the improvement, and render productive of future profit the great mass of refuse at present lying around the Parys mountain. The various other ores also discovered in this tract have been disregarded, in comparison with the procuring of copper-ore, which appears hitherto to have engrossed all the attention of the proprietors. The ore is generally the yellow copper-ore, and contains pyrites, sulphur, and from four to fifteen per cent. of copper. Some black ore has been raised, containing from fifteen to twenty per cent. of copper ; and some parts of the vein produce fine specimens of native copper, adhering, in a foliated form, to the sides of the intervening rock, and probably once held in solution and precipitated by the ferruginous quality of the sub-stance to which it adhered.

The ore, after being quarried in large masses, is broken into small lumps, and separated as much as possible from the waste: it is afterwards conveyed to kilns, differing in shape and dimensions, in which it is exposed for a period of nine or ten months to the action of a gentle fire, by means of which the sulphur is separated from the copper, which, after being dressed and washed, is sent to the smelting-houses. The kilns contain in general from four hundred to thirteen hundred tons of ore, and attached to them are chambers, into which the sulphur, instead of evaporating, is conducted, by means of flues connected with the kilns, and afterwards condensed : the walls of the kilns, generally about four or five feet in height, and of sufficient strength to bear the lateral pressure of the ore, vary in length in proportion to the quantity they are intended to contain. The ore is heaped up to the height of four or five feet above the walls, in a long convex pile, and closely covered with stones and other matter, luted with clay, to prevent evaporation. Along the ridge of the summit are placed horizontal flues, to receive the sulphur which sublimes to the top of the kiln, and conduct it into the sulphur chamber at the extremity. The ore, when it is once lighted, continues to burn for the period assigned, during which the chamber is cleared out three or four times ; and the sulphur, after having been refined, is cast into cubes and cones, principally used in the manufacture of gunpowder and vitriolic acid, and into small rolls, which are chiefly sent to London, and form the stone brimstone exposed for sale in the shops. Prior to the year 1784, the whole of the ore was calcined in open kilns on the top of the hill, the sulphureous vapour exhaling from which, being condensed in the atmosphere, for some time shed a malignant influence on the soil, and converted several hundred acres of land adjoining into a barren waste, especially between the mountain and the sea. But the fumes having since that period been carefully condensed in the chambers appropriated for their reception, this land has assumed its former appearance of comparative fertility,

The ore in the mine abounds with sulphureous acid, which, uniting with the water, flows through the fissures of the vein, and combining with the copper, holds it in solution. The water, thus impregnated, is raised into reservoirs, or pits, ranged in regular series at different elevations, according to the declivity of the ground ; and iron being put into it, the acid, having a stronger affinity to that metal, detaches itself from the copper, which is precipitated to the bottom in a congeries of small granulae. In order to expedite the process of precipitation, the iron is frequently scraped, and a fresh surface is thus exposed to the action of the acid ; but by this means certain portions of the decomposed iron mixing With the precipitated copper, the quality of the latter is impaired and rendered less valuable. The proportion of copper contained in the mass thus precipitated varies from ten to twenty-five per cent. ; but if wrought iron be used, and suffered to remain without scraping, till it is completely decomposed by the acid, it will precipitate nearly its own weight of sediment ; and a ton of sediment thus precipitated will generally produce, when dried and smelted, about twelve hundred-weight of pure copper, which is more malleable and of a finer quality than that produced from the ore. After the precipitation has taken effect in the reservoirs of the upper series, the water is drawn off into those on the next lower level, and from those again into the next lower, till all the copper held in solution has subsided. The copper is taken from the emptied reservoirs in the form of mud, and after being dried is sent to the smelting-houses.

Formerly, after the mineral water had been drawn off into the last receptacle for it, the iron was extracted from its solution in the acid in the form of green vitriol, or copperas ; but this plan not proving sufficiently profitable, it was abandoned for the manufacture of alum, which also not realising the gains anticipated, was in its turn relinquished, and the only value of the sulphate of iron in the lower pits is at present derived from its depositing a yellow ochre, which is refined, dried, and shipped for the use of painters. The better sort of ore was formerly smelted in furnaces in South Wales and Lancashire, and only the poorer at Amlwch ; but the whole is now smelted at this place. About twenty vessels, of from one hundred to one hundred and fifty tons' burden, were employed in conveying it thither, bringing back from those places coal and culm for the furnaces at Amlwch. These smelting-houses are upon a very extensive scale, and contain a vast number of reverberating furnaces, the chimneys of which are more than. forty feet high : the furnaces are charged, every five or six hours, with about twelve hundred-weight of ore, producing about half a hundred-weight of rough copper, from which, by refinement, nearly one-half of pure metal is obtained. The best unroasted ore contains, on an average, about eight per cent, of metal, and the inferior about four per cent. ; and the best roasted ore contains about ten per cent., and the inferior, on an average, about four and a half. The strikingly rugged and barren aspect of the Parys mountain is rendered still more wild and terrific by the immense heaps of burning ore which are piled up on various parts of its surface : the continual noise of the workmen employed in breaking the masses of ore which have been detached from the mountain, and the reverberated roar of frequent explosions of gunpowder used in blasting the rock, add to the dismal scene an effect truly appalling. Great numbers of the workmen are seen at different elevations on the edges of tremendous precipices, drawing up the broken ore in baskets ; while others, suspended by ropes about half-way down, are working, apparently at the imminent hazard of their lives, in perforating the steep sides of the mountain, in which, after having secured a resting-place for their feet, they open a wide chasm, by detaching large masses of ore, that fall with prodigious noise to the bottom. Towards the close of the last century, when the Parys and Mona mines were very prosperous and in vigorous operation, their produce amounted to thirty thousand tons of available ore annually, and fifteen hundred men were employed in them ; but when, about the year 1809, the works declined, and many of the workmen were obliged to seek employment in other places, not more than six hundred tons were obtained. In the year 1829, sixteen thousand four hundred tons, and in 1830, fifteen thousand six hundred and fifty tons, of copper-ore were produced from these works, which, in the several processes of quarrying, dressing, smelting, and refining, afford employment to more than one thousand five hundred persons. An extensive brewery has been established ; but no other trade or manufacture is carried on, except such as are immediately connected with the mining operations and the works dependent on them.

The mineral produce is shipped at Amlwch, which is considered a creek to the port of Beaumaris, and the harbour of which has been much enlarged by the proprietors of the mines. In 1793, an act of parliament was obtained for the improvement of the port and the formation of a harbour, under the provisions of which a pier was erected, in 1814 ; and in 1822 a breakwater was constructed, by which means it has been rendered one of the most secure and commodious harbours on the coast of North Wales : there are two lighthouses with steady lights at the entrance to it. It is accessible to vessels of three hundred tons' burden at all states of the tide, and numerous vessels are employed in conveying the mineral produce of this district to its several destinations, and in bringing the articles requisite for the carrying on of these extensive works, and the supply of the inhabitants. The principal exports are copper, limestone, and ale, the produce of this parish, and a very fine kind of marble, resembling the verd antique, of which there are quarries in the adjoining parish : the principal imports are coal, old iron, and tin, the two last used in the precipitation of copper; and shops goods of various kinds.

A customary market, which is abundantly supplied with provisions of all kinds, is held weekly ; and there is a fair for the sale of cattle on. November 12th. By the act for amending the representation of the people in England and Wales, recently passed, Amlwch has been constituted a borough, in conjunction with Holyhead and Llangevni, contributory to Beaumaris, and sharing in the return of one member to parliament : the right of election is vested in every male person of full age occupying, either as owner or as tenant under the same landlord, a house or other premises of the annual value of not less than ten pounds, provided he be capable of registering as the act directs : the present number of houses worth ten pounds per annum and upwards is fifty-two : the mayor of Beaumaris is the returning officer.

This parish is divided into three parts, viz., Amlwch, Pwllcoch; Llechog, Bodynod, with Gorddwr ; and Llawr y Ilan; to which, in levying the county rate, the adjoining parishes of Bodewryd and Gwredog are considered a fourth division.

The living is a perpetual curacy, with that of Llanwenllwyvo annexed, in the archdeaconry of Anglesey, and diocese of Bangor, endowed with £ 200 private benefaction, £200 royal bounty, and £ 1100 parliamentary grant, and in the patronage of the Bishop of Bangor, to whom the great tithes were appropriated in the reign of James I. The church, dedicated to St. Elaeth, a spacious and handsome structure, with a lofty square embattled tower crowned with pinnacles, was erected in 1800, at an expense of £2500, defrayed by the Earl of Uxbridge and the Rev. Edward Hughes, at that time proprietors of the mines, and by Mr. Thomas Williams, who was a great benefactor to the parish. There were formerly two chapels of ease, both of which are now in ruins ; one four miles to the west of Amlwch, called Llan Lleianau, or the cell of the Nuns, and the other about the same distance to the south, called St. Cadog. There are three places of worship each for Calvinistic and Wesleyan Methodists, and one each for Baptists and Independents. Edward Kynnier, in 1689, gave by deed £311, directing the interest to be appropriated to the payment of a master to teach poor children of this parish to read : this school was regularly kept up till the year 1821, when a National school was established, and a building erected at an expense of £ 1200, defrayed by subscription, to the support of which, in aid of the subscriptions, the interest of Mr. Kynnier's donation has, since that time, been applied. In this school, which is adapted to the reception of three hundred children, one hundred and twenty boys, and the same number of girls, receive gratuitous instruction. The interest of several charitable donations and bequests by various benefactors, amounting in the aggregate to £44 per annum, is distributed among the poor, at Christmas, by the minister and church-wardens of the parish. Near the extremity of the parish, and bordering upon that of Llanbadrig, are the remains of the monastery of Llan Lleianau, situated near the sea-shore, consisting principally of some traces of the foundation, and ruins of sepulchral memorials scattered over the extensive cemetery. Near this spot are the remains of a British fortress, called Dinas. The ancient well, called Fynnon Elaeth, was formerly in high estimation for the efficacy of its waters in the cure of various diseases, and is still held in some degree of repute. The average annual expenditure for the support of the poor amounts to £ 1043. 5.

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