Voices from the copper kingdom
Rowland Puw, a miner from Amlwch, thought himself a lucky man back in 1768 when he discovered a rich vein of copper ore on Parys Mountain. He was given a bottle of whisky for his trouble and a lifetime’s free rent on a local cottage.
Not a bad day’s work. But then the big boys took over. Under the inspired management of entrepreneur Thomas Williams, the mines became the biggest producer of copper in the world.
Amwlch grew from “a hamlet of six houses” into the busiest port in Wales with a wide new quay where vast quantities of copper ore were smelted and shipped around the globe.
And nearby Parys Mountain had its heart ripped out by thousands of men armed only with picks, shovels and gunpowder. Today it’s an incredible landscape of giant craters and rocks stained red, orange and purple by the weathering of ore deposits. A place so otherworldly that science fiction films are made here.
Thanks to a new £3 million project, the remarkable story of “The Copper Kingdom”
can now be experienced more vividly than ever. An iconic heritage centre is being created in the former copper bins on the quayside.
Due to open in summer 2012, it will contain fascinating artefacts from Amwlch’s mining and shipbuilding history. Including a piece of copper sheathing from HMS Victory, Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar.
“It will be a tactile, hands-on experience for the whole family,” says heritage development officer Alison Price. “And without taking people underground, we hope to be able to replicate what it was like to look down a mineshaft, how dark and horrible it was.”
The project has helped the whole town to get back in touch with its roots. Teams of researchers have been out interviewing locals and gathering a rich oral history. You’ll be able to hear their voices as you travel round the exhibitions.
Up on Parys Mountain, the Cornish beam engine house is being repaired. A wet weather shelter is being placed in the summit windmill. A spectacular bridge will help to shorten the heritage trail around the mountain from a three-hour trek to a more manageable 90 minutes.
More than long enough to imagine when this strange lunar landscape was a hell of sulphur, noise and danger and when the little port down the road was world-famous for making Nelson’s ship copper-bottomed.
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