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Newsletter 122, Autumn 2018   © Hampshire Mills Group



North Wales Study Tour, May 2018 - Part 1



Ruth Andrews

Pictures by Ruth Andrews and Ashok Vaidya


First, lots of thanks to Andy Fish who not only arranged the visits and accommodation, but also did all of the driving.  As you will see, it was a very varied and educational tour.  


Pontcysyllte Aqueduct by Ashok Vaidya


This is the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal, 1000 feet in length, and supported by metal arches on 18 masonry piers as it crosses the deep valley of the river Dee.  Designed by civil engineers Thomas Telford and William Jessop, it opened in 1805 and was used by commercial traffic up until it was formally closed in 1944. 

The aqueduct survived and is now a thriving UNESCO World Heritage site popular with canal boaters and tourists alike.


Our group boarded a narrow boat from the aptly named “Jones the Boats” yard and spent a glorious hour cruising gently in warm sunshine across the aqueduct and back again.


 The bare facts do not prepare you for the surreal feeling of being on a boat, afloat on a strip of water barely wider than your craft, and looking over the edge to the valley floor over a hundred feet below.With the edge of the cast iron trough just a few inches above the water level, and well  below the freeboard of the boat it felt like being suspended in mid-air, flying – or should it be sailing – high above the verdant valley far below.

Ruth:  I once walked across and that is not an experience I wish to repeat.


Ynys Y Pandy Slate Mill

Our first ‘wild’ visit was to the water-powered Ynys-y-Pandy slate saw mill of 1856, which is up a minor road beyond Portmadoc.  (Andy is a very trusting driver and was relying on my map reading as the satnav coverage was inadequate.)



The mill was built around 1856 by Evan Jones of Garndolbenmaen and probably designed by the Scottish civil engineer Sir James Brunlees.  It is ingeniously planned so that the natural slope of the site assisted the manufacturing process.  A deep wheel pit inside the building accommodated a large overshot water wheel (26ft in diameter), and on the south side a long curving ramp brought branches of the tramway from Gorseddau Quarry into the mill at two different levels, serving the middle and upper floors.


The mill specialised in the production of slate slabs for floors, dairies, troughs, and urinals. In 1860 its heyday, it was producing over 2000 tons of finished slate goods per annum, but seven years later that was down to 25 tons per year, due to the poor quality of the quarried slate.  The business struggled on but went into liquidation four years later in 1871.  The building then provided a venue for the Eisteddfodau until the roof was removed around 1906.

Of Gorseddau Quarry, it has been said that everything was available on site to make a successful quarry apart from decent slate, and that it exemplifies how not to spend money on a slate quarry.


We then drove on to Bangor and checked in to Travelodge, our home for the next 3 nights.



Llynnon Windmill by Ashok Vaidya

On Friday, we ventured on to Anglesey, starting with a visit to Melin Llynnon, now owned by Anglesey County Council. Built in 1775-6 for a cost of £529 11s, or about £50,000 today, it ran until 1918 when a storm damaged the cap so that it could no longer turn. Then it could be operated only when the wind was from the south west (fortunately the prevailing direction).


It became increasingly dilapidated and finally a storm in 1954 ripped the cap off.  Ideas to restore a windmill on Anglesey emerged soon after but it was not until 1978 that the Council purchased the mill and restored it to life again in 1984, at a cost of around £120,000. 



The fully restored Llynnon windmill was particularly impressive on a bright sunny morning as we arrived.  Our guide (left in this group photo) was a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable county council employee who escaped the office to show us round, a task he clearly relished.  


It is now a popular tourist attraction with a thriving tea room and shop, which we patronised, of course.The mill is in first class condition and operates to show visitors how a flour mill works. These photos show the tentering gear for one of the 3 sets of stones, the stones floor, and the brake wheel and windshaft.


Ruth:  It seems a pity that funding cuts may be going to make the windmill’s future uncertain.  It is the only restored windmill on Anglesey which at one time had some 50 windmills, including one which also had an integral water wheel (for calm days?).




Copper Kingdom


Next we drove to the tiny port of Amlwch to visit Copper Kingdom, the visitor centre for Mynydd Parys and its famous copper mine.  The centre has been built inside one of the massive ore bins on the quayside.





Keith Andrews 2009



It is very hard to believe that when the mine was in use the port had huge conical calcining kilns for extracting sulphur (a valuable by-product)as well as smelters, a lime kiln, and a prominent windmill.  The port was once filled with the many ships used to bring in coal and ship out ore and copper.

After a snack lunch (we had had a large breakfast) we drove up the mountain to view the world famous opencast copper mine.



from the Copper Kingdom exhibition

Parys Mountain


Some of us had visited here many years ago on an IA field trip.  The windmill  was used for pumping or to assist a steam engine;  it was built in 1878 and had 5 sails.

A lake in the great opencast was drained in 2003, making a lot of the underground workings accessible, but spoiling the well-known view of the partly-flooded mine.



It was a glorious day and the sunshine picked out the amazing range of colours in the spoil heaps – caused by iron, not copper.  The mine still causes a lot of mineral pollution and any standing water quickly becomes very acidic.  40% of the Irish Sea’s heavy metal content derives from Mynydd Parys run-off.  This sampling pond is full of minerals.


In 1988, Anglesey Mining Company opened a 300m shaft to the west of the old workings;  its headgear is a local landmark but at present it is not in use.


Part II  
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