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Industrial Wales - Monmouthshire's Rhymney Valley
Draethen mines and quarries
Roman lead mines and Victorian adventurers
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The Industrial History and Archaeology of the Draethen lead mines and quarries

The lead mines at Draethen are probably the oldest mines and industrial sites in Monmouthshire, dating back to pre-Roman times. It's known that in 1665 William Morgan of Tredegar House leased Machen Silver-Lead mines to Robert Standfield of Pentyrch and William Sawer of Llantrisant (though there were lead mines on the Northern side of Machen). The various mines have been worked on and off until the mid-19th century when, finally, worthwhile mining became impossible. The whole of the hillside between Draethen and Machen is a complete jumble of old pits, levels and shafts and well worth exploring.

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The North-Eastern mines

Draethen Mine - ST 2152 8764

The North-Eastern string of very old pits run up the hillside from Rhyd-y-Gwern on the lane between Draethen and Machen. These are probably the oldest of the Draethen mines, dating back to Roman times (I'm told they've found Roman credit card receipts down there). Most fenced off as they are quite dangerous to the unwary but at least one is used by a caving club so carefully cross the stile to peer in to the depths, complete with access ladder.

Draethen Little Mine - ST 2156 8766

Draethen Roman Mine - ST 2173 8770





The Central mines

Central mines - ST 2128 8739

The Central mines are a small group of mines on it's own beyond the top of the North-Eastern mines and above the South-Western group. It appears to be more substantial than the other workings and have had two shafts, marked 'old' in 1875.





The South-Western mines

South-Western mines - ST 2130 8743

The South-Western string of mines have mostly collapsed into shallow depressions. Some may have been worked in Victorian times as there appears to be the route of a watercourse or track leading down to the small quarry and limekilns at Primrose Cottage, ST 2183 8728.





The Clive Mines

Clive Mine, Clive United Mine and West Clive Mine

Clive Mine, Clive United Mine and West Clive Mine were the three named mines, starting work quite successfully in 1850 and, not surprisingly, owned by the Hon. Mr Clive. A tramroad ran from the mines to the dressing floor in Cwm Leyshon where a horse-whim and water wheel were installed. Flooding and ventilation were serious problems and the venture failed in 1854 having only produced about 36 tons of ore that year. Other companies were also reported to be working in the general area, 'The South Wales Mining Co', 'Withers and Co', 'John Edmunds' and 'The Caerphilly and Carfunin Co'.

In 1871 they were re-opened by the Glamorganshire Mining Co. but closed almost at once. Over time, which name belonged to which location has become very obscure. This has not been helped by the quarrying activites which has removed a number of the mine sites and the 1875 OS map simply marks them all as 'old'. The Clive Mine in Coed Llwyn Hir is the only one definitely identified. It can be assumed that the West Clive mine was near Penhow Farm. However the NMRS article believes the Draethen Mine in the North-East group to be the Clive Mine with the Coed Llwyn Hir workings being the Clive United Mine.

According to the Grassington Mines “Merchants Ledger 1849 – 1862” of the Grassington Mines near Skipton, North Yorkshire, on September 24th 1854 the Clive United Mines sold a waterwheel, roller crusher etc to the Grassington Lead Mines. If anyone has more info, please drop me a line.

Cwm Leyshon mines - ST 2112 8712

Lots of remains in the undergrowth around here. Just after the quarry entrance and the lower limkilns, the tramway from the Clive mines to the washery comes in from the left on a low embankment as it reaches the upper limekilns and an adit beside the path. On the right are the walls and foundations of a couple of buildings. Another small adit is off on the left further up the hill and an open adit is at the bottom of a pit where the paths split. Further up the left hand path the site of a rectangular airshaft is fenced off and another collapsed airshaft can be seen behind the quarry fence. There are lots of other earthworks dotted all over this area that need more exploration.

Clive Mine - ST 2080 8701

The mines in Coed Llwyn Hir were part of the Clive Mines complex, Clive Mine itself is now right on the edge of Cwm Leyshon Quarry so don't step back for a photo! However, they are well worth a careful look. At the Northern end of a narrow, deep canyon are a shaft or steep level to the left and another blocked level in the end face. The canyon was the start of the tramway down to the washery at Cwm Leyshon Cottage, the route has now been quarried away. From the Clive Mine, the possible route of a tramway leads to mines below Penhow Farm, due to its location this is possibly Clive West Mine.
A large number of very old lead mines and collapses are dotted around Coed Llwyn Hir, some again dating back to Roman times, but re-worked in the 19th Century.

Clive West Mine - ST 2069 8710





Maen Llwyd mines

Maen Llwyd mines - ST 2054 8697

Once thought to be Roman, these haphazard small workings are more likely to be from the 18th century. They are about 10ft deep, up to 7ft high and 10ft long.





Cwm Leyshon Quarry

Cwm Leyshon Quarry - ST 2100 8685

A small quarry was in operation here by 1875 but today's massive quarry stems from the roadbuilding of the 1920s. The quarry is dormant rather than closed, leaving the very solid remains of tipping docks, storage bins and buildings, a playground for mountain bikers. Opposite the entrance are two large limekilns which ceased work when the quarry expanded around 1927. Cwm Leyshon Cottage was the site of the Clive mines washery and also the Ruperra Estates Police Station. The cottage is private but a tunnel and other earthworks are believed to still exist.

The 1829 Iron Bridge - ST 2300 8725

The Iron Bridge across the River Rhymney at Draethen was part of a carriage drive between Ruperra Castle and Machen church. It is cast-iron, dated 1829, and the wrought iron railings were believed to have been made at Rhymney Ironworks.





Acknowledgments, sources and further reading.

Thanks to the Northern Mine Research Society for further information on the Clive United Mines.

The Lead mines of Glamorgan and Gwent, D Gordon Tucker, Glamorgan Local History Society 1976
Bristol Exploration Club, Caving Report No 15, N W and J P Tuck, c1965
South Wales Caving Club, Newsletters Nos 19, 49 and 63
Peak District Mines Historical Society, Bulletin Vol 6 No1, The lead mines of SouthEast Wales, M & G Tucker, May 1975
Northern Mines Research Society, British Mining No 18, The Non-ferrous mines of South Wales, J R Foster-Smith, 1981


All rights reserved - Phil Jenkins