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Plynlimon Lead Mine

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Map ReferenceSN78NE
Grid ReferenceSN7950085600
Unitary (Local) AuthorityCeredigion
Old CountyCardiganshire
PeriodPost Medieval
1. Remote mine, discovered 1865; wheel pits, shafts, dressing floors etc. NMR, Undated.

2. Lead mine, at work in 1854, 1860-64, 1866-78, 1887-91 and 1895. There are extensive, though fragmentary surface remains, including tips, a tramway, leats, level, adit and shaft entrances and four wheelpits.
J.Wiles 12.06.02

3. Lead ore output-3500 tons (DAT SMR, 1998).

4. The following extract is from David Bick's early survey in the 1970's of Plynlimon Lead Mine: " The first to attract our attention is PLYNLIMMON (795856) to which a long and rough cart track ascends from Eisteddfa Gurig. Within the shadow of the highest mountain in Mid-Wales, its situation at 1800 ft above sea level is bleak in the extreme, with shocking weather for much of the year. Even so, drought often brought the water-powered machinery to a stand, so that one way or another the elements played havoc with operations both above ground and below. Under such conditions a considerable output of lead ore (3270 tons) was nevertheless achieved.*
The mine commenced production in 1866, after a working miner found solid galena about 3 inches wide in the stream. Results were immediate and highly promising ; the adit penetrated 155 fathoms in good ore and when a new company took possession in 1870, about 1000 tons had already been sold, with one foot of galena still showing in the 12 fathom level. A new 50 ft diameter water wheel started work on 26th October 1870 and the old 40 ft wheel thenceforth served for crushing and drawing. But water supplies proved so unreliable that within a year an 18 inch horizontal steam engine costing £700 was installed and connected by gearing to the pumping wheel.
Captain John Garland succeeded John Paul as manager in February 1873'a position which the latter was no doubt glad enough to relinquish. In addition to the shortage of power, great difficulty persisted in attracting labour to so desolate a spot, where the lack of a nearby public house presented ' a grievous fault in the eyes of the miners '.
At the 1875 A.G.M. it was admitted that the steam engine had proved totally useless, having almost shaken the pumping wheel to pieces, and in the October a breakage occurred in the line of flat rods to the new shaft (sunk on rising ground to the east). Hardly was this repaired when the balance bob broke in two. However these setbacks were minor compared to lack of water for pumping, and for long periods flooding rendered the bottoms unworkable.
Although £38,000 of ore had been raised by the end of 1876, Plynlimmon still failed to pay costs and a new concern took over in the following year. Previously the winzes below the 24 fathom level were drained by the primitive expedient of man power, which was soon replaced by a system of wire ropes from the 50 ft wheel to pumps via the adit. Further troubles included the bursting of the reservoir in December 1876. But by now, lead prices were on the verge of decline, and twelve years of struggle ended in 1878 when the 36 fathom level turned out poorer than expected, The new company sank both shafts to the 46 fathom level but results proved very disappointing; in 1878 the mine was again sold though for only £2,050. Production continued intermittently until 1892 and in the last couple of years 30 or 40 men were employed.
From an output point of view, Esgairlle's earlier years were best, amounting to 1255 tons of lead ore before the Great West Van swindle and only 813 tons after (David Bicks 1973).

5. Today the remains of Plynlimon Lead Mine are still fairly extensive and much is still preserved, including two former wheel pits, launders, shafts with accompanying spoil heaps, the big dam and sluice. The former leat network can also be traced along the east facing slope of Plynlimon. An old 2m diameter winding wheel for a bob pit is also still present as is some of the gearing. R.S. Jones, Cambrian Archaeological Projects, 2004.