Maps and Makers
Frongoch mine is situated about 3 kms SW by S of Devils Bridge village/hamlet with its picturesque gorge and rushing stream in a lightly wooded area. The village is the terminus for the light steam railway, which winds its way along the valley of the Afon Rheidol to Aberystwyth on the coast some 16 kms to the west .
A marked contrast to the desolation of a metal mine largely abandoned over a 100 years ago.
Frongoch mine is nestled in a broad shallow upland valley running ENE-WSW between two rounded low ridges, about 0.5 kms apart. The quarry on the southern ridge was used to furnish materials to build the various engine houses etc required for the mining enterprise.
First mentioned in the late 1750's, although no production is recorded from this lease. Major development of the ore body appears to have been from 1790 to about 1818. In 1824 the Williams from Cornwall(the family had major interest in Cornwall not only mining) took a lease, this only lasted until 1834. The mine was then taken over by John Taylor & Sons management (the great 19th century mining firm). This was to be Frongoch finest time, with over all steady increasing output until about 1870, when the mine began to showing signs of vales falling off. Taylor continued to work Frongoch until 1878. When the mine passed to John Kitto and others who largely worked the zinc ore which remained in the mine, and continuing to work Frongoch until 1897. When a new lease was taken by the Belgian company Societe Anonyme Miniere but only until 1903. In the early working of Frongoch galena was the main ore mineral, sphalerite was only produced when the price was right. Being either left standing in the mine or thrown on the dumps, along with poor grade lead ore. Zinc ore was produced sporadically from the 1790 working and on ward. And on a more energetic scale by the 1870s, continuing to be so until the end of the underground mines life in 1903. From 1924 to 1930 the dumps where reworked on a substantial scale. And up to the mid 1950's a small dressing plant was used to reclaim lead and zinc ore from the dumps. Output from these later sporadic relatively small scale dump workings is not recorded. Over the years the dump material has also been used for hardcore. In the mid to late 1990's this had greatly increased, but because of "environmental" concerns it has stopped. Looking at old photographs of the site it would appear that less than 25% of the dumps remain.
Frongoch was largely developed by water wheel until about 1840 when steam engines were introduced by Taylor & Sons, but water wheels where to remain the major power for ore dressing etc.
Maps and Makers:
Creative Responses to The Cartographies of Ceredigion
As an Artist living and working close to the ruins of the Frongoch Lead Mine near Trisant, I have found the old Mine with it’s crumbling buildings, mysterious structures and acres of inhospitable waste both fascinating and repellent.
I have used the mine as a muse and over the last ten years it has been one of the main inspirations for my work.
When I heard about the Maps and Makers project, I thought of it as an opportunity to explore the site in greater depth. From my previous explorations I knew there was a wealth of information, including maps available. So I looked at the maps I had and walked the site, photographing and sketching and trying to map it in my mind, to relate the remains on the ground to those mentioned on the underground and overground maps, to try and understand how the giant machine of the mine functioned, how it affected not only those close by but those far away.
Frongoch was a working mine for a long period of time, it has a national and international past, structures have been covered, uncovered, recovered and uncovered again. It has been a Saw Mill, a course for go carts and bikes, an archaeological dig and has attracted fly tippers as a light attracts a moth. Recently, there have been extensive works on the site to try and reduce it’s legacy of toxic emissions and it has become an SSSI due to the discovery of rare and unique minerals, produced by alchemical processes within the dumps.
I have mined the internet, the academic institutions of Aberystwyth and my own experience and used some of the principles of Deep Mapping (see the Gas Gallery/Oriel Nwy website), to bring you this, my creative response to the mapping of Frongoch.