The Copper Kingdom is made up of Porth Amlwch, a harbour situated between two large rocks and Pary's Mountain old mine workings about 2 miles away. Today it is a heritage site and is run and managed by the Amlwch Industrial Heritage Trust.
Porth Amlwch retains many original buildings to explore, like the Copper Bins, the Watch House and the Workshop chimneys. At the sail loft visitor centre, is the exhibition of Amlwch's copper mining heritage and then it's ship building heritage.
The Sailloft Visitor Centre Photo by Eric Jones
The original Welsh name for Parys Mountain, is Mynydd Trysglwyn, which means "hill topped with a grove of trees covered in scabby lichens". The old mine workings up on Mynydd Parys (Pary's Mountain) are visually stunning, set in a landscape of wonderful red, orange, yellow and purple coloured rocks. The resemblance to the surface of the moon which has led to some science fiction films being made here. Heritage Trails on the mountain allow you to discover the vast man made opencast pits and ruined mine buildings.
A Little Bit of History
Copper was first worked on Parys Mountain by the Bronze Age people, 3500 years ago. The Romans defeated the Druids on the banks of the Menai Straits and had their captors work the mines. The copper they mined was forged into the bronze tools and weapons that fuelled their ambitions of empire. It is reported that the mined for copper here as Roman copper items have been found on this site.
Parys Mountain - The Great Opencast, with the Windmill in the
In 1406 Robert Parys was appointed by the King to collect taxes and fines from the people of Anglesey, who had supported the uprising of Owain Glyndwr, as a reward he was given Mynydd Trysglwyn, which later became named after him. At this time the only known asset on the mountain was a farm.
Over the next 300 years the area passed down generations until in the mid 18th century when it was held by two of Anglesey's largest landowners. The Eastern side by the Bayley family of Plas Newydd, and the western side was jointly owned by them and William Lewis, by 1762 the Bayley family took a lease on the whole of the area.
Prior to the 16th century all gold, copper and other precious minerals mined in Britain were automatically crown property. However during the 16th century brass was required for the woollen industry and cannons, as the Tudor Kings did not want to rely on import of copper for their weapons. So in 1564 Queen Elizabeth gave a patent to work copper ore and via the setting up of the 'Mines Royal' exclusive rights were given to mine for copper. Most of what was being mined in Wales at this time was lead ore and silver. By 1693 a Royal assent was granted which removed Crown ownership of mines containing Silver or Gold, at this time copper mining was a failure. From this time until 1761 when various preliminary searches underground ore were being made, visitors had commented on the colour of the land on the mountain and its outpouring of coloured liquid, but no mining had taken place.
Pearl Engine House on Parys Mountain. A
Cornish beam engine was installed
By 1764 Bayley had almost given up on mining for copper and he entered a 21 year lease with Roe and Company from Macclesfield. This was led by Charles Roe an 18th century industrialist. Over a number of years the mountain was searched for copper but it was always found in difficult to work areas. However in 1768 a rich vein was found by Rowland Puw, a local miner, and his 'find' was to catapult Amlwch, for a short and explosive period during the 18th century, into one of the world’s most important mining sites. Mr Puw was rewarded for his find with a bottle of whisky, and a rent free cottage for life. At this time the mines were visited by Michael Faraday and James Watt, the best scientists and engineers of the time.
The next big player was Thomas Williams, known as 'Tom Fair Play', he was a family lawyer who did legal work on behalf of a Rev Edward Hughes, who was a part owner of Parys Farm on the mountain. By 1770 the vein being worked on and found by Puw extended into land belonging to the farm, and there were many disputes between the two parties over who had rights to both mine and extract the copper. So much so that in 1774 Hughes asked Thomas Williams to untangle the legal disputes on the boundary of the Parys and Mona Lands. This led to the formation of the Parys Mine Company and over the next few years Williams' influence and skills grew, and this led to him gaining control of the Mona mine and between 1787 and 1792 he had complete control of the Anglesey and Cornwall copper production and eventually control of the entire world market in copper from his office in Amlwch.
During the 18th and 19th century it was the largest copper mine in the world, producing at it's peak over 3,000 tonnes of metal per year. During 150 years more than 3.5 million tones of ore was raised, most of it by hand, by some 1,500 men and women who were employed in hazardous conditions. The men mined, and the "Copper Ladies" as they were known, cleaned the ore.
Parys Mountain is about 2 miles south west of Amlwch
From the Viewing Platform Photo by Anne Burgess
They were last mined in the early part of the 20th century. For a more detailed look at the history, see this link.
By the mid 1850's copper mining started to decline and then ship building became the main industry with many people becoming involved in the ship repair and maritime industries.
New Harbour at Porth Amlwch Photo Geograph
From the mountain we move down to the Porth Amlwch. The Port flourished because of the copper trade. In fact by 1793 it became so busy an Act of Parliament had to be passed to both enlarge and regulate it. By the time of the industrial revolution copper was needed everywhere, and Thomas Williams created new markets for its use such as sheathing for the hulls of wooden ships, Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory gained speed and manoeuvrability from using it, and at this time Amlwch also minted its own copper coins. As many as 40 copper cargos and in bound tobacco leaf ships could be anchored at Amlwch, and such was the congestion that an act of Parliament was passed to enlarge Amlwch’s access and berth capacity. It had two shipbuilders and was host to the elegant schooners that plied their trade as far as South America.
Disused Dry Dock left over from copper mining period Photo by Dave Croker
It grew rapidly in the 18th century and by the end of this period had a population of around 10,000 making it the second largest town in Wales after Merthyr Tydfil.
Today it's still a busy fishing port, though the inner harbour has a more tranquil feel, it's ancient walls now home to more leisurely craft. At the end of the outer pier sits a watch tower, Amlwch Lighthouse. Now it is the fourth largest settlement on the island with around 3,500 residents.
The centre of Amlwch is a working town, from its busy supermarket to its smaller speciality shops. It also has buildings connected with it's history, which is part of it's attractions to visitors today.
Harbour Buildings looking across from the
Heritage Centre towards the Mill
The attractions include:-
Our Lady Star of the Sea and St Winefride Church Photo by Russell Trow
Also within the Sail Loft Visitor Centre you can see a copper ingot dating back to the Roman occupation of Wales 2,000 years ago. This was presented to the Heritage Trust as a gift in 2008 from Anne Brennan, a descendent of Thomas Fanning Evans, a former lessee of the Parys Mine. It is said to be one of the most important exhibits of the small museum, as there are only very few bun ingots relating to Anglesey in existence and this is the only one in Amlwch.
The Porth Amlwch Heritage Trail forms part of the Anglesey Coastal Path, and starts in the car park at the Sail Loft, where you can get trail maps, and then you can follow the numbered markers until you get to it's conclusion on the west side of the port opposite the watch tower. It is relatively flat on footpaths and road, and takes about 30mins to an hour to follow, allow the same amount of time to get back to your car.
The Old Port, watch tower and Lighthouse Photo by Bob Abell
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