Driving south from Machynlleth on the A487, the amateur mine archaeologist becomes preoccupied -the practised eye picks out feint, telltale signs of mining in the lovely wooded slopes either side of the road. It's a dangerous business as the road is a busy one and the tankers of a certain milk contractor don't take prisoners. After Furnace (there's a clue there...) toward the old mining village of Taliesin, it becomes ever more difficult to keep eyes on the road- this was quite a place back in the day, with mines actually in the village and a tramway running through it.
The area is part of what is known (by geologists, at any rate) as the Glandyfi tract, a zone of mineralisation caused by faulting in sedimentary Ordovician rock systems and the resultant deposits of ores- firstly in liquid form, latterly as solid deposits of lead and copper ore, notably in "pipes" in the rock.
Sadly, the remains of these mines are ever more difficult to spot in the field due to "landscaping" and the filling of shafts for safety reasons. They are rather shy and retiring places at the best of times- sometimes our mine senses are telling us there are mines nearby, and it's not until we check the old maps that we realise that we were quite close to an interesting feature.
One of the most intact mines is Bryndyfi. It's in a beautiful situation, on private land where permission has to be sought to gain access. It has been a contraversial mine, as it was opened in a great fanfare of publicity in 1880, with much expenditure on a mill at surface, only to close a couple of years later. There are tales of skulduggery, with ore being brought in to dupe investors. Claims that adits had been driven through "a hundred fathoms of continuous ore" and "120 tons of dressed ore at surface"...yet the mine only sold 24 tons of lead in it's short life. The ground was good, there was little pumping needed, nor was transport a problem, with the Cambrian Railway only a couple of miles away...there was no excuse for the failure.
You would have thought that in the latter part of the C19, after so many deluded mining schemes, people would have become wise to the ways of speculators, but it seems that there were still many greedy folk keen to make some easy "folding". The scheme was mistakenly endorsed by the eminent mine engineer David Davies of Oswestry and, in fairness, it was not far from other mines in the Glandyfi tract such as the Alltycrib, or the Brynarian which did produce returns on investment. Sadly, the mine failed just as the machinery was being installed in the new crusher houses and mill. I guess it employed some local men for a while (over a hundred were engaged) and even now, the remains are impressive.
There's a fine crusher house, with a 45 foot wheelpit and some well-preserved buddles and flotation pits - and the remains of a 22 foot wheelpit beside them. The office and manager's house is a fine range, and the tramway is evident throughout most of it's length. We failed to locate the adits, although the mine adjoins some rough hillside and we were sidetracked by some features that we thought were mining related up there...they weren't! There are two reservoirs for the waterwheels which are a very attractive feature- the tramway runs through a stand of fine oaks, their tortuous branches lending a gothic air on wintry days.
The mine is located at SN684935
Another mine, with similar remains on the ground is not far away in the Artist's Valley near Furnace. Ystrad Einion was featured on my original blog here and here but we returned recently for a wander underground with better cameras and found it pretty much the way we originally encountered it in 2010.
It's just off the Furnace turning, about 3km up a narrow road with few passing places. On our way up, I joked to Petra that we might see Robert Plant, since he has a house at the end of the remote valley here. Almost as soon as I had said it, we encountered a very expensive car coming the other way, cautiously towards us. Seeing our very disreputable looking truck, and after the customary polite hesitation, the car gingerly started to reverse for fifty yards or so to a passing place. When we passed the car and exchanged smiles and waves, of course, we saw it was Robert Plant! I've never been keen on "Dad Rock" but I have to say that he's a very pleasant chap.
Ystrad Einion produced some lead, zinc and copper. It was first worked about 1700, and again in 1745 to maybe 1760. The next recorded working was in 1853 but this only lasted a year. In 1855 the mine was again taken up, and continued to work occasionally to 1901.
Recorded output is very incomplete, only recorded after 1845:
9 tons of lead ore
79 oz of silver ( from 4 tons of lead ore)
10 tons of zinc ore
45 tons of copper ore
Incidentally, the correct local pronunciation of the mine is not what you would at first imagine. It sounds like "Ustra-dayneon"
Grid Reference: SN707938
Sources and further information:
"The Old Metal Mines of Mid Wales" Part 3, North of Goginan- David Bick, Pound House Press 1976
British Mining No.93, "Mines, Trials and Lodes of the Glandyfi Tract" by David M. D. James. Page 74 onwards.
"A Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of Mid-Wales", Association for Industrial Archaeology: 1984. Link here
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