An outline history of mineral mining in the country and county


With the kind permission of the publisher, these items are based on extracts from " The History of Cardiganshire" by S R Meyrick, 1810, specifically the reprint of the 1907 imprint published by Stephen Collard in July 2000 .


An outline history of mineral mining in the country and county



"For some centuries after the conquest in England the crown asserted its prerogative in the ownership of all mines and minerals. No person could search for ore, unless empowered by the royal grant, the conditions imposed being at the discretion of the reigning monarch."

"Edward the First  [1272-1307] directed that the tithe of the ore, dug out of the Welsh mines, to be paid to the parochial churches in the vicinity."

"The owner of the ground on which the mine was discovered derived no profit from its being worked until the beginning of Henry the Sixth's reign [1422-1461], when the Duke of Bedford, Regent of France, obtained a lease of all the gold and silver mines within the kingdom for ten years, on payment of a tenth part to the church, a fiftieth to the king, and a twentieth to the proprietor of the land."

"In 1452, Henry the Sixth  had engaged three miners from the continent, with their assistants, to work at his mines,.........so profound the ignorance of the English."

" Henry the Seventh  [1485-1509].....appointed...the Duke of Bedford, and other eminent persons, governors of his mines in England and Wales."

"Queen Elizabeth [1558-1603]..............by advice of her council she sent for some experienced Germans to carry on the business of the mines............the Queen by her letters patent granted to Thomas Thurland and Daniel Houghsetter, and their heirs for ever, licence to search for mines of gold, silver, copper, and quicksilver, in the several royalties in the counties of..............and the Principality of Wales, for their sole use and profit, reserving to herself the tenth of all gold, silver, at a lower rate than the current price of those metals..........A year afterwards she made two more grants...the last of which was the most comprehensive.......extended to all parts of England not appropriated by the former grants."

"The patentees before mentioned, by virtue of the powers and privileges annexed to their several grants, divided part of their tenure into shares, which they sold.............they were incorporated by the style of The Governors, Assistants, and Commonalty, of the Mines Royal. William, Earl of Pembroke was appointed Governor. The first court of assistants was selected from among the nobility, the leading citizens, and the most intelligent of those foreigners by whose settlement in the country the plan was carried  into effect. These important measures were begun and completed between the years 1563 and 1568. Thus were the mineral resources of the whole country, instead of being dealt out piecemeal to favourites and courtiers, placed under the direction of such a public body as could remedy.........the baneful effects, without  abandoning the high pretensions of an unlimited prerogative. Thus was the foundation laid for those great manufacturing interests..........fortified against the attacks of arbitrary power.... the attention of the public now being into this channel.... a rational prospect of gain, from labour and ingenuity........flatteringly succeeded the disappointment before occasioned by prejudice.....Hence the discovery of mineral veins became so frequent that the company.........began to farm their exclusive rights to enterprising individuals.

The Cardiganshire mines, among the most abundant in lead and silver, during the whole of the seventeenth century, were precisely in this situation."


"The pre-eminence of this county originates from its extensive mineral productions, many of which seem to be inexaustible. The silver, copper and lead mines particularly, have augmented the royal power, clothed its army [army of Charles I], enriched individuals, and blessed the metropolis of England with one of its most desirable luxuries [ New River brought to London by Sir Hugh Middleton]. "

" Sir Hugh Middleton was the sixth son of Richard Middleton, governor of Denbigh Castle in the reigns of Edward the Sixth, Mary and Elizabeth. His success in trade as a citizen and goldsmith in London enabled him to farm the principal lead and silver mine in Cardiganshire under the governor and company of mines royal, at a yearly rent of four hundred pounds............so judicious was this venture..and so profitable the works under his direction that from one mine yielding one hundred ounces of silver from a ton of lead, he derived a clear profit of two thousand pounds a month.

This immense revenue was expended on a great speculation. He undertook to carry into execution a plan...........the New River...........of supplying London with water. In 1608 he proposed to begin the work within two months and finish it in four years. Despite jealousies and prejudices, he did complete the work within a year of the time specified and  was honoured first with a knighthood and then a baronetage. But his resources were exhausted and he was compelled to help out his shattered finances by exercising the profession of a surveyor. He died in 1631 and his branch of the family declined into narrow circumstances."

" Mr Bushel, the ingenious servant of Sir Francis Bacon, was the successor of Sir Hugh Middleton at the mines. The singular privileges allowed to Mr Bushel by Charles the First [1625-1649] enabled him to render them more productive........than they had been in the most prosperous times of his predecessors...........Mr Bushel set up a mint in Aberystwyth Castle, he was handed the island of Lundy to land his produce......With these advantages, operating on a property of boundless treasure, Mr Bushel had made an immense fortune before the breaking out of the civil wars. ..........He repaid the kindnesses he received with a munificent gratitude.........not only did he cloth the king's whole army but furnished a loan of forty thousand pounds to his necessities........he raised a regiment mong his miners and maintained them at his own expence at a very late period of that unhappy contest."

"In a letter to Charles I, Mr Bushel said ; 'nothing doubting but that in process of time, I shall be able, with the assistance of my co-adventurers, and help of their greater purse and fortunes, to make these British hills as in situation, so in esteeme too, resemble the West Indies, or at least wise those renowned mines of Saxony'."

" In one of his publications he says; ' in the mountains of Broomflyd, Tal-y-bont, Goginan, Cwm-erven and Daran, there were great quantities of silver and lead'. And that he bought these mines which had been granted to Lady Middleton by King James for £400 down and £400 per annum during the continuation of her interest therein."

" After the restoration the mines returned again to the company of mine adventurers.........the mines were worked with less spirit....until Mr A Sheppard undertook to manage the affairs of the patentees. In 1649, other mines, not inferior to those which were beginning to fail, were discovered on the estate of Gogerthan, belonging to Sir Carberry Pryse. The ore was so near the surface of the earth that the moss and grass did not barely cover it. These mines in their time were not exceeded by any in the kingdom for riches, and obtained the appellation of the Welsh Potosi."

"By virtue of the act of parliament passed in the first of William and Mary, Sir Carbery in the year 1690 took in several partners, and divided his waste into four thousand shares, and got Mr Waller, a miner from the north, to be his agent........and began to work mines in his own lands.

The society of miners royal finding them rich, laid claim to them by their patents, the act not being sufficiently clear. The ensuing lawsuit between Sir Carbery and Mr Sheppard, on behalf of the company, resulted in the procurement in 1693 of 'a  most glorious act' which empowered all the subjects of the Crown of England to enjoy and work their own mines in England and Wales, notwithstanding they contained gold or silver, provided the king, and those that claimed under him, may have the ore, paying the proprietors for it................

On his success, Sir Carbery is said to have rode on horseback [having relays of horses on the road] from London to Escair-hir within forty-eight hours; so that in so short a time the happy news was spread among the inhabitants of that part of Cardiganshire."

" The mines were worked by the proprietor of the Gogerthan estate during his lifetime, but he died without issue, and the mines came into the hands of Sir Humphrey Mackworth, who purchased Mr Edward Pryse's interest and share for fifteen thousand pounds, though the Gogerthan property still continued in possession of a branch of the Pryses."

"In 1698, a pamphlet was issued by Mr William Waller, steward of these mines, entitled 'An Essay on the value of the mines, late of Sir Carbery Price, writ for the satisfaction of all the partners'. The purpose being to set forth the advantages of these mines to sell the shares profitably. In this pamphlet he referred to a paper he had written in 1693 showing that ' with sufficient stock he would be able in a few years , with six hundred men, to bring in a dear profit from one of the said veins of seventy thousand five hundred pounds per annum'. "

"William Waller published about 1700, an account of the Cardiganshire mines, in which he gives a map of that part of Cardiganshire, wherein the mines belonging to the governor and company of mine adventureres of England. He gives in it a plan of Blwch yr Escair, of Bwlch Caninog, of Cwmsymlog, of Goginan, of Brinpica, of Cwmarvin, of Pencraggddu, of Ystum tuen, of Cwmystwyth, the new lead mines at Cwmystwyth."

" In 1700, Sir H Mackworth took a lease of Margaret Lewis of Gallt-vadog, and of her son R Lewis, of the mines upon certain hills, moors or places, called Pwll yr Enaid, Bwlch cwm Ervin, and Ryginan, for 99 years."

"In 1704, Queen Anne granted to this company of which the Duke of Leeds was governor, and Sir Humphrey deputy-governor, a charter of incorporation. In 1709 Sir Humphrey and Waller quarrelled in a dispute over alleged  unfair dealings, Waller was discharged following which  he petitioned the House of Commons from that time until 1720. This quarrell much injured the company and the works were almost at a stop.

In the year 1744, they only had the following mines in work and but a few hands employed.............Pencraigddu, Grogwynion, Cwm Ysytwyth, and Eurglawdd."

They retained, but did not then work, the following old mines, viz., Cyginan, Brin Picca and Blwch Cwm Ervin."

"Besides this company many private adventurers carried on works in this county at this time. The following old works were in lease to a company from Flintshire ; Darren [rented from Mr Griffith/Penypontperen], Ynys hir, Tal-y-bont [or Gallt y Crub], Escair hir, Caneinog, Bryn Llwyd, and Cwm Sebon [belonging to Mr Pryse]."

"Of late years, Mr Lewis Morris, the famous antiquary, worked many of these mines in Cardiganshire, and he was of the opinion that if he could have raised money for carrying on the works it was in his power to have drawn from them a clear annual profit of £12,000. In a letter to his brother about the year 1757, he speaks of Cardiganshire as the richest county he ever knew , with the fewest people in it of ingenuity and talent.

Sir Thomas Bonsal, Knt, now of Vronvraith, in this county, owes the whole of his accumulated wealth to his success in these mines , and they promise still to enrich the several individuals who have shares in them.

There follows the names of the principal mine works now carried on in Cardiganshire."

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Mines named in the book

Where the names of owners/tenants are given they are shown here, also the earliest related date indicated in the book

Silver Mines

  • Cwmsymlog ; Sir Hugh Middleton, then Mr.Pryse/Gogerthan & others ; 1750
  • Daren Vawr ; Mr Griffiths/Pen-y-bontpren, then Mr Pryse ; 1720
  • Goginan ; Mr Townsend/London ; c 1760
  • Daren Vach ; Gogerthan estate
  • Cwm Ervyn ; Townsend, Smith & Co, then Lewis Jones/Cwmrheidol ; late C18 ?
  • Llanvair ; Mr Townsend/Swansea, then his son, then Hodges of Trelech/Monmouthshire,  then Thomas Johnes/Havod, then John Beadnell/London, then Mr J Williams/Llwyn y Berthlan,Carmarthenshire ; 'very old'
  • Mynydd bach ; on Crownland in parish of Llanvair Clydogan ; late C18

Copper Mines

  • Escair vraith ; Pryse Pryse/Gogerthan ; 1773
  • Ynys Cynvelin ; Pryse Pryse ; 1760

Lead Mines

  • Escair hir ;  a company formed by 'gentlemen of property' ; 1750
  • Allt y crub ; the Shrewsbury company ; 1750
  • Llewerneg  1 ; Sir Thomas Bonsal ; 1770 ?
  • Llewerneg 2 ; Mr William Poole-tenant of Gogerthan ; 1770 ?
  • Ystym tuen ; Powel  family/Nanteos ; 'an old mine'
  • Hen vwlch ; Pryse Pryse, worked by  J Sheldon and company ; 'an old work'
  • Aur glawdd [ near Allt y crub] ; worked by Mr J Sheldon, owned by Mr Lloyd/Abertrinant ; 1750
  • Moel goch ; the Shrewsbury company, then Griffiths/Penbontpren, then Herbert Lloyd/Carmarthen, then worked by Mr J Williams/Llwyn y Berthlan ; 1750
  • Pen y banch ; Pryse Pryse/Gogerthan, worked by Mr Sheldon  ; ' an old work '
  • Nant y Crier ; Crown grant to Lord Powis, on leased to  Mr Sheldon ; ' an old work'
  • Gellau Erin ; Mr Jones/Aberystwyth, then Sir Thomas Bonsal ; late C18 ?
  • Rhiw yr agos ; Mr Lloyd/Abertrinant ; ' an old mine'
  • Bron y goch ; Earl of Lisburne, leased to J Probert Esq /Shrewsbury ; late C18 ?
  • Llwyn wnwch ; Earl of Lisburne, leased to J Probert Esq/Shrewsbury ; c 1800?
  • Grogwnion ; part owned by Lovedon Lovedon Esq/Buscot Park, part owned by the earl of Lisburne, leased to J probert Esq ; ' an old work'
  • Log y las ; Earl of Lisburne, let to J Probert Esq ; 'an old work '
  • Escair y Mwn ; Crown grant to Lord Powis, worked by Mr Lewis Morris ; 1751
  • Cwmystwyth ; Sir Thomas Bonsal ; c1770
  • Nant y meirch ; Crown grant to Lord Powis, discovered by James Low /Dol gors, leased to Mr J Sheldon ; c 1700
  • Cwm yr anner ddu, Nant y cagl , Pen a fordd goch, Pen y sarn ; none of these had been worked for several years and 'were then of no consequence'
  • Rhysgog in parish of Llanddewi Brevi ; lies in the manors of the Bishops of St David's and  -Smith Esq/Voelallt, worked by Thomas Johnes Esq ; ' an old work'
  • Esgair gad-fach in same parish, in the bishop's manor ; c 1775
  • Cwm trinant in the same parish, on same manor, worked by Saunders/Perth y berthlan and Humphreys/Ivy-bush Inn, Carmarthen ; c 1800
  • Tan y gaer in parish of Cellan ; Jenkin Davies ; 1807
  • Vach ddu, in same parish ; Rev Lewis Turnor ; 1806

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[Gareth Hicks: 26 March 2001 ]