Cornish Mining in Wales

Dorothea, Dyffryn Nantlle

An impressive 60 inch Cornish design pumping engine, constructed by Holman Brothers of Camborne, survives at Dorothea which was installed in 1906 to dewater the 600 ft (180m) deep slate quarry. This was to work until pumping was switched from steam to electric in 1951.  


This former lead and zinc mine near Pontrhydygroes in mid Wales dates from the late 1750s and by the 1820s the workings were leased by the Williams family of Scorrier, Cornwall. The leases were subsequently acquired by the renowned mining speculators John Taylor & Son and managed by the Francis family of Cornwall. A 60 inch Cornish pumping engine was installed around 1870 and this survives, although in a reduced state, along with a number of other mine buildings.


The discovery of argentiferous galena (silver-lead) at Llywernog was first made in the 1740s but it was not until the 1790s when two adits were driven into the hillside to aid drainage and access. In 1824 the mine lease was taken up by the Williams family of Scorrier, Cornwall, and Cornish mineworkers were recruited to provide much of the labour. Cornish surnames were to become common in the area and Methodist chapels were constructed in many nearby villages. Though the Williams’ association with the mine ended in 1834 the Cornish presence persisted under different owners until the mine finally closed in 1910. Today Llywernog is open as a visitor attraction with surface and underground tours.     

Anglesey, Parys Mountain, Amlwch

Anglesey experienced an explosion of activity in the latter decades of the eighteenth century when readily accessible opencast reserves of copper ore were exploited en masse at the Parys and Mona mines, depressing the world market price of copper. In 1811 the latter mine was reformed under the controlling interest of the Cornish-born John Vivian, of Swansea copper smelting renown, and deep shaft mining was pursued using Cornish methods. James Treweek of Gwennap became manager of the mine and over the next 40 years his sphere of influence was to include the overseeing of copper smelting on site, and at the nearby port of Amlwch, and the shipping interests of Mona. Today the Cornish engine house at Parys (1819) and the wharves at Amlwch are just some of the reminders of the scale of the Cornish influence on Anglesey.   

Minera Mine

Mining for silver-lead at Minera is known to have been taking place by 1296 but the Cornish were not to make their presence felt until 1745 when they formed part of an in-migrant workforce originating from Cornwall, Ireland and elsewhere. Cornish mining technology was also employed extensively at Minera in the nineteenth century and an 80 inch Cornish pumping engine was acquired, probably constructed by Harveys of Hayle, and installed at Taylors Shaft on or around 1845. Another 44 inch Cornish design pumping engine was installed at Meadow Shaft two years later and this has now been preserved for public view.