Llangunnor Lead Mines
Two miles east of
Carmarthen, in the Hills south of the B4300 to Llandeilo lie the disused
Llangunnor lead mines. The rich lodes of the hill were claimed to have
been discovered in the 18th century, but there is evidence of earlier
workings; including the discovery of boreholes filled with lime (that may
predate the use of gunpowder in the district). In 1852 Thomas Field formed
the Vale of Towy Silver-Lead Mining Company, which sank four shafts -
Bonvilles', Clays', Fields', and Nant, of which Clays' was the deepest
(124 fathoms) though all have been filled in by today. In 1853-4, old
workings south of Nant farm were re-explored under the name South Towy.
Little of value was discovered, but in 1861, due to failure of the main
lode, the Vale of Towy took a lease on part of the property and dug an
unsuccessful adit beneath 'an ancient mine' (pre-dating the 19th century
workings) known as Pwll y Plwm ('the Pit of Lead').
Further east, the North Towy and Cystanog United Lead Mines Company began
work on Allt Cystanog Hill. Two adits and two shafts were dug in 1853, in
a line south from the road. The finding of good ore led the Company to
sink a shaft on the north side of the road. By 1856 this shaft had reached
a depth of 28 fathoms, with levels extending beneath the river, but
disappointing results ended in the auction and eventual sale of the mine
to Thomas Field. Field restarted the mine in 1859, but what little work
was carried out ceased the following year.
A decade later, when the rich lode was discovered in old workings near the
hilltop, the property was acquired by Matthew Smith of Hexham, who formed
the Grand Duchess Silver-Lead & Barytes Mining Company. But for some
unclear reason (possibly because the company did not have the funds to
extract ore at a greater depth once the shallow ores were exhausted), the
property was ordered by the High Court to be sold at auction.
In 1889 the discovery of good ore by local people, led to the formation of
the Carmarthen Lead Mining Syndicate which held the mines until closure in
During this successful venture a deep shaft was sunk (52 fathoms) linking
with a level and adit. At this time the company employed around 50 men, as
opposed to 150 during the heyday of the Vale of Towy.
In order to work the lode below adit level in Clays' shaft, the Vale of
Towy management erected a Cornish engine to pump water out of the mine.
The engine had a steam cylinder of 50 inch diameter, which transmitted the
slow power of the piston rod, to a pump rod in the shaft by means of a
huge rocking beam (known in Cornwall as a Bob). By the action of the vast
'see-saw', water was drawn up the shaft through a series of hollow plunges
to adit level.
The structures built to contain these engines are an unmistakable and
distinctive feature of the Cornish landscape, and Clays' engine house is a
typical (though overgrown) example. The long tapering chimney is the most
striking feature of the site, and it served' a boiler house that provided
steam for the pumping engine. The adjoining three storey block contained
the engine, and from the top floor a wooden platform extended out around
the bob, from which the mechanism and shaft could be inspected. In order
to cope with the stresses of pumping, these engine houses were solidly
built - the wall on which the bob rested was 41 feet thick - and it is an
inherently massive construction that has enabled these buildings to
Of all the shafts, levels and adits dug, few remain open today. The most
accessible level is situated next to the main road, opposite the lay-by
(grid reference SN441202), and the 200 feet long passage contains examples
of winze, rises, shills and crosscuts.
On the numerous spoil heaps in the vicinity can be found specimens of
copper ore, galena, pyrites and quartz; while the ivy grown ruins of the
engine house remains as a suitable monument to the past industry.
From THE FRIEND May 2000
A big thank you to Dilys Parry Williams
for bringing the brochure, from which this article is taken, to my
attention. The original, long since out of print, was designed and
illustrated by Paul R. Davis and Printed at Dyfed College of Art. References
for the brochure were taken from 'Metal Mines of South Wales G.W Hall and
'Geology of the South Wales Coalfield' Volume 10.- Ed.
The Engine House (grid reference SN437197)
The engine house was demolished in 1999 to make way for a chalet park.
Why was permission given?
Was permission given?? (jd)