Esgair Mwyn Mine

Esgair Mwyn Mine
Grid Reference: 


52° 18' 23.0184" N, 3° 49' 34.6044" W

Esgair Mwyn Mine, is situated on the high ground north east of Ffair Rhos.  It had been abandoned for centuries when very profitably re-discovered by Lewis Morris for the Crown soon after his appointment as deputy steward of the Crown Manors of Cardiganshire in 1746. He set three miners to reopen the old workings but they were defeated by the great amount of static water which had accumulated there. In June 1751 an attempt was made to sink a shaft to drain off the excess water. Heavy rain prevented this from being done, but on driving a few yards parallel to the old workings the men found a vein which, though only an inch thick at the surface, thickened to seven inches of solid ore at a depth of only a few feet. This they proceeded to work at a royalty to the Crown of ten shillings a ton, the bargain to last for twelve months.

The work became very profitable, and wishing to extract as much as possible in the time at their disposal, the miners sought assistance. To prevent the mine from falling into the hands of the king's enemies, Lewis Morris joined in the venture three months from its start. A total of 1,000 tons of ore was raised during the first year. For nine months after the first bargain had expired, Morris worked the mine himself with considerable success. Then on 23 February 1753, two of the county's magistrates with the sheriff and his deputy, backed by John Ball - the local agent of Company of Mine Adventurers - at the head of a small army composed of the miners from the Grogwynion mine and several hundred tenants, marched on Esgair mwn and threatened the lives of Lewis Morris and his workmen if they refused to surrender the mine. One of the ringleaders, Herbert Lloyd of Peterwell, a magistrate, actually presented a cocked pistol at Morris's head and had him arrested and taken to Cardigan gaol where he was kept in close confinement until 4 April.

John Ball now tookover the management of the mine and proceeded to carry away a considerable quantity of ore, worth £3,000, that was lying on the mine bank.

When news of the outrage reached London, Morris was at first given every support and promised that he would be defended to the last by his government. Orders were given for his release and, after an inquiry, the names of the offending magistrates were struck out of the commission. Also, despite much opposition, a detachment of the Scots Grays was sent down to guard the mine. When the time came for the case to be heard, Lewis Morris went to London accompanied by some eighty witnesses all of whom were ready to swear to the mine having always been on Crown land, but they were none of them required to give evidence. The case ended in a compromise, the king kept the land and the mine but did not prosecute the ringleaders of the opposition.

Esgair Mwyn in the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century

The mine was then let to Lord Powis in 1756 but at the enormous royalty of 50 per cent which was demanded. This was later reduced as the mine was making a large loss. The results were disappointing until 1766, when after driving 350 yards in the direction of the lode (mineralized ground containing ore) the adit (tunnel driven for access and drainage) reached the old workings and drained off an immense accumulation of water, making it possible to cut out the ore in opencast fashion.

In 1788 the mine was in the charge of John Probert; women raised the ore to surface and the miners received ten pence or a shilling a day. But by then some £150,000 of lead had been removed and fortunes were declining.

Esgair Mwyn in the Ninteenth Century

During the 19th century Esgair Mwyn continued spasmodically and with little success.

John Morris was a lead miner in 1841 and probably worked at Esgair Mwyn as well as looking after the small farm, Pantyfynon by Fair Rhos, where he and his family lived. By 1851 the family were living at Gwarffynon.

The Cardiganshire Crown Mines held the lease of the mine in 1850. Little work had been done for many years apart from the sinking of an engine shaft (Penmynydd Shaft) 35 fathoms from surface.

A little later the Esgair Mwyn Mining Co. came into possession with Matthew Francis as consulting engineer. In June 1854 he informed the directors that the shaft was down 40 fathoms under adit and still in 'old men's' workings. The discovery was claimed to be very encouraging but expenses had exceeded income from the beginning and although output of ore improved Francis and two other senior men were dismissed. The shaft reached its ultimate depth of 75 fathoms under adit in 1857. A waterwheel (the pit is still visible) drove the pumps from just above the shaft by water borrowed from Llyn Fyrddon leat. At dressing floors close by, were 30 in. diameter crushing rolls supplied by Green's of Aberystwyth for £80 and set at work in April, 1852.

By 1861 John Morris and his family were back at Pantyfynnon. John was now joined by his wife, Elizabeth, his daughters, Winifred 22 and Margaret 15 and younger son William 13, all lead mining. His son David continued to be a miner though now married and living locally but his son John died in 1859 just 29 years old. In 1869 John died leaving his widow, Elizabeth, living at Pantyffynon. By 1871 she and her daughter, Margaret, were stocking knitters though her sons Evan and William were lead mining.

About 1878 Penmor or Western Shaft was commenced near the adit entrance and a tramway laid to convey ore up to the dressing floors. Good ore was found 30 fathoms from the surface but little was removed. When the mine closed in the mid 1890's, lead had sunk to its lowest price for well over a century and there seemed little prospects for the future.