Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Pompren Barytes Mine


Earlier this year, we had a wander along the Llŷn peninsula. Not really looking for anything special, but with the hope that we might encounter a mine, a quarry or at the very least, some forgotten bit of rusty machinery. After lunch in Aberdaron, we wandered along the beach; at which point my mine senses began to tell me that the game might be on.

The remains of a jetty stretched out over the west end of the beach at a place called Porth Simdde. The geology just here was very interesting, with evidence of great folding and disturbance within the igneous rock.

Looking landward from the beach really gave the game away. There were the unmistakeable signs of spoil tips in the little creek above, with what looked like a couple of small quarry pits. Nearer the shore a ruined building was just about hanging on at the end of what looked like a tramway run. Of course, this needed the famous mine-spotters eye of faith to recognise, but with the aid of a handy set of steps put in by those coastal path folk, we gained a little height to try and see more. There was evidence of two small pits, possibly containing run-in adits, but access was guarded ferociously by thick gorse.

Photo: Petra Brown
Further up the little valley a modern house had been built, with an almost choked adit in front of it. I wonder if they had commissioned a mineral workings survey before building had started? Although a friend recently told me that he had a copper mine underneath his house, so the answer is probably not!  Back at Porth Simdde, low tips fanned from the adit portal, such as it was. A little way further down there was a collapsed tunnel in between the tips. There had obviously been a fair bit of activity here connected with the mine.


Back home I discovered that the mine was actually the Pompren Barytes mine, managed by one James Crighton in 1912. It was then operated by Lleyn Mines until 1914. The mine seems to have been first driven in 1883 and closed in 1917 although there is no information as to the ownership between 1914 and closure. There is also information that the quarry pit above the mine (Dwrhos Quarry perhaps) is something different and was an attempt to extract granite. Some sources say that the jetty was built for this quarry, others that it belonged to the mine. Strangely, the jetty only appears on the 1914 OS sheet XLIII.SE, yet the quarry is marked on the first edition. The photo above, from Rhiw.com, shows the pier in existence, probably in the early part of the C20th. The house on the cliff top would probably be Dwrhos farm, just above the granite workings.

The last mystery is what exactly did they need the Barytes for? Nowadays it is used in oil drilling and as a filler in plastics and resins. It also has medical uses as in the dreaded barium meal, but I can't see any of these uses being important at the turn of the century. Perhaps one of my knowledgeable correspondents will know.

Oh yes, the name.  Porth Simdde means "Harbour (of the) chimney" -in case you were wondering. Despite the cloudy history, the place is well worth a visit to soak up the views and enjoy the magic of this part of North Wales.

Thanks, as always, to the Hendre Coed mining database and to Rhiw.com for information.
Also of interest is this document, commissioned by CADW

Some more photos...


The ruins of Ty Tanyrallt, above and to the west of the mine. Aberdaron in the distance.

6 comments:

adcochrane said...

Well tracked down sir! I like the detective work to elicit this article. Looks a lovely piece of coastline as well.

Iain Robinson said...

Hi Alex! Thanks...the detective work is as much fun as finding the place, really - as you know yourself with your urban investigations. Yes, it's such a beautiful coastline and still relatively unspoilt, apart from the occasional carbuncular rash of static homes.

workbike said...

Must have been a heck of a mess when the mining happened: it gives me hope that no matter what damage we manage to cause, nature seems to repair most of it.

I recall my dad telling me about a section of railway line that ran next to a colliery in the Midlands. The last time he went past there was a housing estate built right where the main engines and main shaft had been located before, so someone was living directly over a former mine shaft. I wonder if they know?

geotopoi said...

Yes, nice detective work indeed. And the top shot is lovely.

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks very much, Graham!

Iain Robinson said...

Andy, thanks very much for your comment. It is heartening how nature reclaims our efforts to ransack the landscape, even in towns. When I was a child, our landlord sold part of our farm to a property developer and eventually we had to move on as there wasn't enough land to viably farm. A housing estate was built on the land, where a coal pit had been...two of the houses virtually disappeared overnight before they were finished!

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