One of the earliest mines in Europe has been identified at Gopa Hill at Cwmystwyth in the Cambrian Mountains, in an area which later became synonymous with silver lead mining. The Cambrian Mountains have been mined by monks and kings and have drawn prospectors in search of riches from as far afield as ancient Rome and 18th century Italy.
Gold, Silver and Lead
The Romans mined for gold - visit their mine at Dolaucothi, in the southern foothills of the Cambrian Mountains, to the east of Lampeter.
The 17th century Royal Mint of Charles I at Aberystwyth Castle used silver from the mines of the Cambrian Mountains for its coins and Lewis Morris, surveyor and lead mine speculator called Cwmsymlog mine ‘the richest in Lead and Silver of any of his Majesty’s Dominions’ as the industry reached its height in the 1800s. In the 17th century Sir Hugh Middleton had the lease on several mines in the area, earning him £18,000 a year. By 1870 there were 10,000 workers associated with the industry in the Cambrian Mountains and workers were attracted from other mining areas such as Cornwall and even as far afield as Italy and Germany. Lewis Morris' account states that there were so many languages being spoken at the Esgair Mwyn mine in 1755 that he dubbed it 'Babel'.
Visit the Silver Mountain Experience at Llywernog and follow the Spirit of the Miners walking routes in the Cambrian Mountains to discover Cwmsymlog, Cwm Ystwyth and other sites associated with the industry. Also see the magnificent waterwheels from this period at Dyfi Furnace and Pontrhydygroes.