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 1902.

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 survive.

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

Acknowledgements

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)