Mining at Talargoch

Graig Fawr Talargoch - Thomas Pennant
A watercolour illustration by Moses Griffiths for Pennant's 'Tours of Wales' of 1784. Only one working is shown on the lower slopes of Graig Fawr. In the foreground can be seen some details of the mine centre: a launder for the watercourse and some tent-like structures, possible covering the entrances of small shafts. (The National Library of Wales).

Talargoch translates to red strip of field – which most probably related to the red copper seam that runs North Westerly from Graig Fawr. (?)

This mine has a very interesting history, being probably the oldest in the country. It was, according to local tradition, opened by the Romans, and has been worked ever since. It had once been considered the richest lead mine in Wales.

Mine levels and spoil heaps, many now obscured by vegetation, provide evidence of a history of mining activity in the locality where lead and zinc were mined extensively.

Cae Llys dressing floors (where the Old Peoples housing is today). The waste (or smyddan) on the dressing floors are conspicuous.

Rich mineral intrusions occurred in the limestone around Graig Fawr. These veins ran predominantly from south west to north east and were mined extensively. The Talargoch mines were probably first dug by the Romans to extract silver or possibly lead. Silver continued to be mined during the Middle Ages and up to the mid-18th century when lead and zinc extraction became more profitable. Talargoch was one of the most important lead mines in the area, reaching its peak in the 1850s.

Talargoch Mine
Talargoch ca. 1900: This is the nearest to a photograph of the mine in its working heyday. The view looks north-east from a point near the 80 inch Engine Shaft. On the left is the 80 inch Engine House; in the centre is the No.1 Engine House and its chimney with the roof of the mine office between them; to the right are the mine stables and Talargoch Cottages. (Clwyd Record Office).

At least ten shafts were sunk around Meliden, all connected underground by horizontal ‘levels’ following the ore veins. The main shaft was over 330m deep, but with the sea so near and the mine’s low lying position, water seeping through the porous limestone became a major problem. The engine house at the Clive Shaft was built in the 1860s to house a massive steam engine for pumping water from the southern end of the mine workings. It is still visible today, adjacent to the Dyserth Falls Resort (formerly Graig Park Hotel & Country Club). Unfortunately, the increasing costs of keeping the mine dry meant that the company was unable to compete against cheap imported ores, so in 1884 the mine closed.

The development of the mines and quarries was the main reason behind the growth of the villages of Meliden and Dyserth. The former Prestatyn-Dyserth railway line, along which a recreational footpath now runs, was originally built to serve the two industries. The opening of the railway in 1869 made transporting the ore far easier than the previous method of shipping it from the tiny ports of Rhuddlan or Prestatyn.

Talargoch Mine – Click here

Clive Engine House
The Clive Engine House

Clive Engine House
The Clive Engine House was constructed as part of the Talargoch Lead Mine, which occupied an extensive area extending north to Meliden. It is thought likely that lead was worked in this area from the prehistoric period and several Roman artefacts have also been discovered. These early workings are most likely to have exploited shallow outcrops on Graig Fawr and deeper mining did not really occur until later. By the 17th century mining was already well established in the area, although drainage was always a major problem. Initially the solution was to install several waterwheels to drive pumping machinery, but as the mine workings became ever deeper the need for better drainage became more acute.

The Clive Shaft was sunk between 1842-45 and was originally equipped with a hydraulic pumping engine. This was installed in a stone-lined underground engine house. This was later replaced by a steam engine with a massive 100 inch cylinder and 10ft stroke, housed in a new stone-built engine house constructed on the surface next to the shaft. The adjacent boiler house contained seven boilers, which also powered a horizontal steam engine, used for the capstan and winding at the nearby Drawing Shaft. The engine house remained in operation until the Talargoch Mine closed in 1884.

Gallery OldeGALLERY
Clive Engine House Restoration 2012 – Click here

Survey Results
The engine house itself is the only structure still standing on the site and is the last surviving example of a Cornish style engine house in North Wales. The engine house is surrounded by the remains of other structures and mine workings and represents an important relict mining landscape which evolved during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The archaeological surveys have identified the main structures associated with the engine house, including the boiler house, flue, chimney, drainage culvert and bob-pit, as well as revealing other mine workings and structures. Some of these were contemporary with the engine house, such as the base of the steam engine winding at the Drawing Shaft, while others, such as a whim circle and numerous shafts, are likely to belong to earlier phases of activity.

Nigel Jones, May 2002 Talargoch Mine Book

Further reading:
British mining No.31
by J.A Thorburn

>> NEXT: History of Lead, Tin and Iron mining

The Miners Memorial
Memorial for the Miners of Meliden, Point of Ayr and other local sites

A mine of historical information
A VILLAGE’s mining heritage has become a gateway landmark. Meliden has a history of lead mining and at one time hundreds of miners worked in the village.
The village is also near the last deep mine pit in North Wales at Point of Ayr, and Meliden Residents’ Action Group wanted to do something to acknowledge the importance of these industries. Now a pit wheel and mining carts have been set at the entrance to the village in the first phase of the group’s heritage project for Meliden.

Denbighshire Countryside Warden Gary Davies and local artist and blacksmith Richard Jones, who is based at Dyserth Industrial Estate, have been working on the project, along with local painter and decorator Gwyn Thomas, who has agreed to paint the artefacts free of charge now they are in place.

Residents living near the gateway to the village will also be closely involved in the design of the site. The action group is now working with other residents interested in the history of the village on a number of other similar heritage projects, including local leaflets, a book, and interpretation boards explaining the history of the mining industry.

Cllr Rhiannon Hughes said: “The residents’ group is keen to develop a number of projects celebrating the important history of the village. We see these projects as helping to attract visitors to the village, which we hope will help enahnce the good name of Meliden and support the local businesses.”

(Journal, 8th June, 2004)

Clwyd Metal Mines Survey
Graig Fawr lies in the community of Dyserth in the county of Denbighshire. It is located at Ordnance Survey national grid reference SJ06008050. The mine is recorded in the CPAT Historic Environment Record as number 18084 and this number should be quoted in all correspondence.
Lead/copper (Early-19th century)
Geology: Carboniferous Limestone.
Workings: The limestone hill of Graig Fawr is probably the site of very early mining. Earthworks appear as open workings on a vein and runs of small shafts, which follow north-east to south-west veins. One shaft appears concrete capped at SJ06108040. The numerous opencuts that appear on the hillslopes indicate 18th century activity or earlier. Smith (1921) illustrates a haematite and copper lode cutting the hillside. The opencuts at SJ06408040 are stone quarrying. Along the line of the Mineral Railway, several adits have been blocked off, which cut into the northern and western slopes of the hill. Further series of levels can be identified up the western slopes in the area behind the main Talargoch Mine site (SJ05908060). The south-west side of Graig Bach is also covered with open-cut workings, the most distinct being the China Rake, which crosses the hill in an east to west direction. The rake is early and probably hand worked.
Transport: The Mineral Railway follows the contours of the 1750s leat around the foot of Graig Fawr.
Power: The 1750s leat contours the lower slopes of Graig Fawr on its western side.