Nantlle Valley History

Drws y Coed


Copper mining at Drws y Coed

It is uncertain when copper mining at Drws y Coed began. Some believe that the Romans mined there and this was in the time when they would work quicklime into a cleft in the rock, pack it in tightly and leave it there to expand until the rock split away. Historians believe that there were rich copper workings in the area at the time of Edward 1st in 1284.

In 1756, Richard Yarrington, parson of Llangybi, secured a lease from William Smith, owner of the Faenol Estate to mine for copper on his lands at Talmignedd, y Ffridd and Drws y Coed.

In 1761, men came from Cornwall and Scotland to work at Simdde’r Dylluan near Drws y Coed. They were successful and in the period at the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth the work flourished greatly because of the high demand for copper during Napoleon’s war against Britain.

Remains of the old copper workings
Image: Remains of the old copper workings.

Between 1821 and 1840, over six thousand tons of copper ore were conveyed by sea from Caernarfon harbour to Swansea. Before the opening of the tramway from Nantlle to Caernarfon, copper would be transported using mules or ponies, following the old Roman road to Caernarfon (from the Beddgelert direction past Rhyd Ddu, turning to the west on the slopes of Mynydd Mawr in the direction of Y Fron, thence down to Bodaden and across Y Foryd to Dinas Dinlle).

The miners were paid according to the work done – so much a square yard for opening up the workings and so much a ton for the ore, the price of which varied according to the quality of the vein and the percentage of metal in the ore. Labourers, blacksmiths, stonemasons and carpenters were paid when needed. The financial accounts of Cloddfa Ganol show that between 1829 and 1830 copper to the value of £1,428 was won in Drws y Coed, and 114 men and 4 boys worked there. This meant a large profit for the owners.

A man from Penygroes questioned his uncle (Peter Roberts) who worked there in 1896 when he was17 years old. He could remember 350 working there at one time:

"There were two very large mines and another two somewhat smaller ones. The two others were called Benallt and Diffwys Tarw."

But after years of success, the call for copper diminished and the price fell. Nonetheless towards the end of the century a slight revival and a number of miners, including women (The Copper Ladies) came from Parys Mountain on Anglesey to work at Drws y Coed.

The owners of the mine from 1911 to 1918 were the Mining Corporation of Great Britain and the output was transported by steam traction to Talysarn Station. There is not much in the way of records about them. Thereafter the business went into decline and now there are only ruins of industry that once was there.

The old copper works at Drws y Coed
Image: An older photograph of the old copper works.

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