Pumsaint, Llanwrda, Carmarthenshire, SA19 8US.
At Pumsaint just east of the A482 trunk road 10 km north west of Llandovery, Carmarthenshire. Between Lampeter and Llanwrda.
15-MAR to 02-NOV Wed-Sun 10-17.
Mining Through The Ages: 13, 15:30.
Roman Tour: 10:30, 14.
Level Tour: 12.
Online booking mandatory.
Adults GBP 12, Children (5-17) GBP 6, Family (2+3) GBP 30, Family (1+3) GBP 18, National Trust Member free.
Site entry only: Adults GBP 5, Children (5-17) GBP 2.50, Family (2+3) GBP 12.50, Family (1+3) GBP 7.50, National Trust Member free.
|Light:||helmet with headlamp provided.|
Mining Through The Ages:
D=60 min, L=1,200 m, Max=15.
Roman Tour: D=75 min, L=1,000 m, Max=15.
Level Tour: D=30 min, Max=6, MinSize=1 m, St=0.
A Annels, B C Burnham (1986):
The Dolaucothi Gold Mines,
Geology and Mining History 2nd edition 62 pp illus.
Jones, Lewis (1971): The Roman Gold Mines at Dolaucothi, reprinted 1974, 24 pp illus.
(1986): Llyfryn Coffa Mwyngloddiau Aur Dolaucothi Gold Mines Souvenir Booklet, 20 pp illus 1986
(1991): Dolaucothi Gold Mines, leaflet 1991; ditto ND
|Address:||The National Trust, Dolaucothi Estate, The Coach Hose, Pumsaint, Llanwrda, Carmarthenshire SA19 8US, Tel: +44-1558-650177, Infoline +44-1556-825146. E-mail:|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|70||exploited by the Romans.|
|1797||farmer ploughing his field discovers a cache of gold decorative items.|
|1941 to 1943||given to the National Trust.|
|1988||surface installation and surface equipment from the Olwyn Goch site in North Wales, including a spectacular head frame with winding gear, moved here.|
The origin of the gold ore is the Cothi Anticline. The rocks are of Ordovician-Silurian age and were deposited about 438 million years ago. The shales were deposited in a marine environment. The sediments were folded, sheared and thrusted during the Caledonide Orogeny. The tectonic movement opened cracks, which were filled by the deposition of minerals from hydrothermal convection. The ores form thin discontinuous veins or lenses in the apex of the folds. They contain basically quartz, but also pyrite (FeS2). The veins extend over an area less than a square kilometer. The Roman Lode, a saddle reef deposit, was the most lucrative deposit and was mined during the last period of mining between 1935 and 1938.
Dolaucothi Estate is located in Wales, in the valley of the Cothi River or Cothi Valley. On the estate are several gold mines, which includes mines operated by the Romans. Between 70 and 80 the Romans began the first extensive open-cast mining, and they also started some underground tunnels. Actually, they had trade routes into Wales before, obviously had heard about the gold and invaded Wales in 70 for the gold. They first established a fort in the area of the village of Pumsaint. Shortly after, they started mining. The Roman military fort was abandoned in 125, and it became a civilian fort. But it seems mining continued. Roman coins dating to the late 4th century were found, so the archaeologists guess the mining continued to this time. But it seems with the collapse of the Roman Empire, and after the Romans had left the area, the mining also ended.
There was no mining during the Middle Ages. It was revived finally in the Victorian/Edwardian age, around the turn of the 20th century. This is the same time as the first South African gold mines and the famous Klondike Gold Rush. Mining resumed in 1888 with the founding of the South Wales Gold Mining Company by a lead miner. He was not successful though, the gold content in the ore was too low to be profitable. The estate was owned by Edward Jones, who leased the mine to the South Wales Gold Mining Company. After they stopped mining, he employed James Mitchell in 1905 to reopen the mines. He made a profit in the first year, and founded the Ogofau Proprietary Gold Mining Company. But after initial success, there were no further discoveries, and the venture ceased in 1909. This is the Mitchell Mine, which is one of the guided underground tours.
Another mine was opened, Cothy Mines, which took on the lease. They re-employed James Mitchell as mine manager. Cothy Mines was better funded, they sunk the first major shaft and erected a wooden headframe on top. The miners were lowered in barrels though. The effort was ended by the remains of Roman workings, which were flooded 1,500 years earlier. Pumping out the water was too expensive, and Cothy Mines shut down operations in 1912.
There was a gap, until in the 1930s Roman Deep Ltd was formed, which continued at the Cothy Mines. They used advances in mining technology, drained the mine and deepened the shaft to 146 m. They again rediscovered the Roman workings including wooden ladders, scaffolding and a wooden water drainage wheel. The amount of gold they mined was substantial, but nevertheless, the mine was again not profitable. But they supplied a small amount of gold for the royal wedding of Prince George, Duke of Kent to Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark.
In 1937 the mining company was renamed British Goldfields (No 1) Ltd. They dramatically increased the labour force to around 150-200 miners and produced several hundred tonnes of ore each week. Its unclear why they did this, the mine was actually never profitable, and it seems they soon realized this, and in October 1938 the mine was finally closed. Probably the political situation right before World War II had some influence. However, this time the closure was final, the mine flooded and the buildings were removed.
The estate has an open air exhibition with heavy mining machinery and a steel headframe called the Mine Yard. Most of those items were relocated from another mine in northern Wales. The tour underground and the visit must be booked online, most likely a result of the Covid pandemic. It's essential to be there 15 minutes before the tour, but we actually recommend to be there much earlier and spend the time exploring the open air part first. The Field Centre has visitor information, an exhibition, and offers light refreshments. There is also the estate with 25 km of footpaths, which is an Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
There are actually three different underground tours. The Mining Through The Ages tour explores the history from ancient times to the final closure of Dolaucothi as a working gold mine in 1938. It is a guided tour with hard hat and headlamp through Mitchell Mine. The Roman Tour shows the Upper Roman Adit and archaeological excavations on the surface concentrating on the Roman history of the mine. The Level Tour is intended for disabled, as it is actually level and starts directly off the mine yard. It shows the Long Adit, which as a Victorian drainage tunnel is actually level and shows some interesting mining features. It is suitable for everyone, requires nevertheless hard hat and headlamp, and is rather short. Children must be at least 1 m big for any underground tour, which normally equals an age of 5 years. Smaller children are not allowed underground.
You can spend a day exploring the Dolaucothi Gold Mines where you can experience a wealth of surface and underground activities that span a period from the Roman occupation to the present day. Today the mines form part of an extensive estate which was given to the National Trust between 1941 and 1943. The present car park occupies the Ogofau Pit, the main focus of mining operations. Underground and surface tours are available to the public. In 1988, virtually all the surface installation and surface equipment was moved here from the Olwyn Goch site in North Wales, including a spectacular head frame with winding gear.
The mine hosts the usual facilities for visitors: Information centre, cafe, museum, gift shop, 1930's mining machinery, Roman tours, Waymarked Estate walks, Cycle Hire etc, etc. Parking is free and there is plenty of space for a picnic. It can be muddy under foot, so wear stout shoes or boots.
The Cardiff University Field Studies Centre is located in the mine yard.
Text by Tony Oldham (2001). With kind permission.