Minera Lead Mines
Mining is believed to have started in the Minera area in medieval times, with shallow workings. Around 1710, larger scale working of the Main Vein and Red Vein, plus a number of subsidiary veins, was taking place at what was called the “West End”. The workings spread eastwards and in 1732 the City Lands (charity lands bequeathed to the poor of Chester by Owen Jones, a Chester butcher) were leased for mining. In 1757 a lease was granted to three Chester merchants including Richard Richardson, a goldsmith and mayor of the city. Between 1761-1781, 10,363 tons of ore were raised. After this the mines flooded and deep mining was abandoned. Towards the end of the century, new efforts were made, by the ironmaster John Wilkinson and others. In 1784, Wilkinson erected the first steam engine in the area at Maes-y-Ffynnon Wen on the West End mines. This was a 50” (later changed to 52”) pirated Boulton & Watt engine made at Bersham. Eventually 7 pumping engines were in operation, raising 4,000 gallons of water a minute. but the mines were frequently flooded. It is said that 50,000 tons of ore were raised between 1800-1816. Water problems forced the closure of the West End mines in 1816 and of the East End in 1824.
This area consists of a number of shafts on a vein that have been worked both individually and together at various times, they will be treated as one mine. From East to West the main features:
New Minera (aka Burton’s) Shaft (1887-1919)
City (aka Meadow) Shaft (1847-1913)
Roy’s Shaft (1852-1913)
Lead Smelter (1888-1893)
Halvan’s Works (1872-1874)
Taylor’s Shaft (1852-1913)
Speedwell Shaft (1807-still in use for pumping water)
Lloyd’s Shaft (1852-1913)
Reid’s (aka Royles’s) Shaft (1852-1913)
Boundary Shaft (1864-1919)
In 1849, John Taylor & Sons obtained the 11 leases to the mines and consolidated them under the Minera Mining Company. To cope with the water, which had previously been drained by two shallow adits, one of them dating from 1766, the company extended the Deep Day Level to drain first the Eastern and then the Western workings. It eventually intercepted the main feeder of water and drained the mines between 225-240ft lower than before. The mines were then worked profitably for many years. The original share capital was £45,000 and between 1849-1909 some £3,250,000 worth of ore was raised. The average yearly dividend paid up to 1897 was 30% and the highest output of galena was 6,882 tons in 1864 (the most profitable year, when £64,000 was made). Increasing amounts of zinc blende were raised, reaching a peak of 7,462 tons in 1887. A number of smaller companies worked in the area and the New Minera Mining Company was formed in 1889 to work the veins to the south-east. In 1897, it was amalgamated with the main company to form the United Minera Mining Company. With falling production and low ore prices, pumping stopped in 1909 but mining continued above the rising water level until the mine closed in 1914.
City (or Meadow) Shaft was the deepest in the Denbighshire and Flintshire orefield at 1,220ft. One engine house held a 60” pumping engine and another was used for winding, using iron kibbles. There was also a small cage to lower men and in 1901 the main eyebolt holding the cage broke whilst winding and the four men in it were killed. Taylor’s Shaft was the biggest and richest of the Minera mines and dates from the mid-19th century. An 80″ pumping engine worked the shaft until it was sold in 1910 to Wheal Rodney in Cornwall. A Cornish 15″ cylinder engine was on site also, which continued to work until 1908.
There was a standard gauge mineral line connecting with the GWR Wrexham and Minera line near Minera Quarry. This also linked the mines to a smelting works at New Brighton, built in 1888. Most of the spoil dumps have since been removed. In 1990, the City Shaft engine house was rebuilt and the site converted into the Minera Lead Mines Country Park. The site was scheduled in 1997 as a well-preserved group of mining remains of late 19th century date.
New Minera Shaft
Partially excavated remains of a dressing floor and mine. New Minera shaft was operated from 1889 until the early twentieth century and was served by several different steam engines, operating a winder, pumps, compressors, a sawmill, crushers and dressing machinery. The remains include a capped shaft, buddles, jig boxes, engine bases and structures associated with the innovative vanning machinery.
The New Minera Mining Company operated for a short time to the east of Nant Farm (SJ27715085). Work started in 1888 on the veins south-east of Meadowshaft and the mine went into liquidation in 1896. New Minera or Burtons’ Shaft was sunk to a depth of 966ft at SJ27855085 and worked the Red Vein and the Main Vein. In 1897, the Minera and the New Minera Mining Companies amalgamated to form the United Minera Mining Company. The last recorded working for the Burton’s Shaft was 1919. Spoil heaps run eastwards from the shaft at SJ27855085. The adit level at SJ26505508 has a substantial portal and the Park Adit at SJ27105160 also drained the mine. The sett was served by the mineral railway.
The substantial stonework walls of the engine house (SJ279509) and processing buildings remain beneath the debris. A reservoir that fed the processing areas is located at SJ27855082. The foundations of two rectangular buildings remain at SJ27855083. The site was served by several different steam engines, operating a winder, pumps, compressors, a sawmill, crushers and dressing machinery. A vanning machine for separating fine particles of ore and waste was introduced at this site by the company engineer, George Frederick Wynne, and was subsequently used widely overseas. The extensive remains include a capped shaft (SJ27855085), buddles (SJ279509), jig boxes, engine bases, and structures associated with the innovative vanning machinery (SJ279509). Timber structures such as launders and boxes are exceptionally well preserved.
Meadow (City) Shaft
Meadow Shaft or City Shaft mine prospered in the eighteenth century and again in the mid-nineteenth, later becoming a dumping ground for the nearby Roy’s shaft. The dressing floors became buried but the shaft remained in use for pumping until 1914. Remains include the engine house and chimney (both restored), boiler house, buddles and ore house; now all are part of Minera Lead Mines Country Park.
The site worked the Main Vein and Red Vein to the south-eastern extremity of the Minera Mines sett until 1909. The shaft was used for pumping and raising ore. The site has now been opened as an open-air museum. The mineral railway ran from 1851 linking Meadows Shaft and the New Brighton processing areas with all the main shafts. The private railway was GWR gauge, ensuring that coal, timber etc could be brought into the area directly by interchanging engines only. The line is clearly visible and forms a public footpath. Tramways moved materials about on the site itself. Meadows Shaft (aka City Shaft) is capped at SJ27515093 and at 1220ft is the deepest shaft in Clwyd. Its 44″ Cornish Engine House (SJ27505094) stands to full height, together with its chimney and the foundations of the boiler house, which contained two Cornish boilers 7ft x 30ft long. The stonework survives that housed the balance box, which counterbalanced the weight of the pump rods. The new 44″ pumping engine at Meadows Shaft was installed in 1847, when new company was formed. A compressor engine at Meadows Shaft piped compressed air to all the main shafts, forcing foul air up from the workings. It also served the compressed air tools and the pneumatic rock drill invented by G F Wynne, the mine manager. In 1858, a 20″ steam engine with horizontal cylinder was installed to power the rope winder and rock crusher. The housing for this and its boiler house (SJ27525092) stand alongside the crusher house to the north-east of the Meadows Engine House.
To the front of the Meadows Shaft, the line of a tramway can be seen that carried the ore to the fine pair of semi-circular ore bins with their picking grates in situ. An inclined tramway carried the ore to the crusher house (SJ27535093). To the front of the open-air museum on its north-eastern perimeter, a fine example of a circular buddle (SJ27585094) has been excavated and consolidated. There is an Ore House at SJ27565091.
The shaft and the sandstone foundations of the winding Engine House are to the north-west of Meadow Shaft, between the mineral railway line and beneath the road to New Brighton. The shaft (SJ27275105) is capped and has a surrounding square stone wall. The area remains amid spoil and dense vegetation. The 1850s mineral railway serviced the site. A 16″ horizontal cylinder winding engine also pumped and powered the crusher for the dressing floors. The dressing floors were on site and a new Smelt Works was built at New Brighton by the New Minera Lead Mining Company in 1888. An old magazine is supposedly located in the woodland in the vicinity of SJ27005110.
Minera Lead Smelter
The remains of the brick-built chimney are up to 3.5m high. The east face of the structure has a water outlet in the form of an arched sluice channel. There is a leat/water culvert running downslope from this towards the Meadow Shaft workings. Internally the structure has a cylindrical brick opening supported by large limestone masonry blocks. Some of these blocks are displaced around the structure suggesting that there could have been a masonry upper level.
In 1888, the Minera Lead Mining Co built their own lead processing plant at New Brighton (SJ27605050), previously the lead was being shipped to smelt works at Swansea. The smelting works only operated for about three years; too much lead was lost in the waste and its recovery proved uneconomical. The later smelting works on the New Brighton site were an improvement on the old methods. Men worked undercover attending washing tables, which processed slimes. Dressing machinery foundations remain (SJ274508), together with the base of the chimney (SJ272508). There is also a Leat at SJ27335079.
Remains of a lead mine halvans plant at SJ27085146. The Minera halvans plant was built by the Taylors mining company between 1872 and 1874 to extract lead ore from existing low grade waste (or ‘halvans’) heaps in the area. The plant included a beam engine, primary and secondary Cornish crushers, jigs, ore bin, boiler house and six buddles.
The Halvan’s Recycling Plant stands to the east of the road from New Brighton to Minera. Following excavation in 1988 by Wrexham Maelor Borough Council and recording by CPAT in 1989, the site has been back-filled to protect the structural remains. The foundations of the engine, boiler house and chimney that powered the crushing machinery remain. The Plant was built for the treatment of low grade ore and lead waste. The crusher house and good examples of circular buddles and jig bases remain in situ for consolidation at a later date. Scheduled in 1997. The Minera Havans plant was built by the Taylors mining company between 1872 and 1874 to extract lead ore from existing low grade waste (or halvans) heaps in the area. The plant included a beam engine, primary and secondary Cornish crushers, jigs and six buddles.
After the re-opening of the Minera mine in 1849, Taylor’s Shaft was the main shaft in use. The mine site, excavated in 1993 and 1994, is divided into two by the line of the former mineral railway. To the South of this is the substantial base of the winding engine house, the shaft, a capstan base, boiler house, a chimney base and an ash tunnel.
The Taylor’s shaft area formed the main centre of mining activity for the Minera Mines from the mid-19th century. The shaft area lies to the south-western side of the mineral railway track. Uphill and to the north-west, the Bryn Heulwen Shaft is capped at SJ26835125 with a stone wall surround. The line of the 1850s mineral railway, which served the lead mines, is clearly visible and forms a public footpath which links all the main shafts to the smelting area at New Brighton. Taylor’s shaft (SJ27025121) is capped with concrete. The foundations of the Taylor’s Shaft engine house, old and new boiler houses and chimney have been partly excavated in 1993 by Wrexham Maelor Borough Council. The ashlar base of the 80″ cylinder is visible, being the largest engine on the Minera sett. The balance-box, the capstan-pit, rope trench and the concrete base of the winding engine have all been revealed. The 80″ pumping engine worked the shaft until it was sold in 1910 to Wheal Rodney in Cornwall. A Cornish 15″ cylinder engine was on site also, which continued to work until 1908. The two reservoirs visible along the roadside up to Esclusham Mountain at SJ26205150 supplied water power for the machinery and served the dressing floors of the Minera Mines. The channels and sluices that conducted the water downhill are visible along the roadside. A lower reservoir remains as earthworks to the west of the Taylor’s Shaft area; its leat is dried up.
The Manager’s Office, main workshops, saw mill, blacksmith’ shop, joiner’s shop, fitter’s shop and stores were all on the main site. The dressing floor (SJ27015125) was on the north-western side of the mineral railway track and includes a battery of ore bins (SJ27015123) that await excavation and consolidation. The foundations of the Ore Shed (SJ26985128) can also be seen. Most of the tips were removed in recent years for reclamation of zinc. The smithy remains in a poor state of repair at SJ27025116 and was apparently also used as a mortuary. The foundations remain at basal level of the cottage and enclosed garden at Pant-y-naf, the house built for the workman who was in charge of the reservoirs.
Speedwell Shaft remains at SJ26905133 on the Main Vein to the south-west of Lloyd’s Shaft. In 1920, the Wrexham and East Denbighshire Water Company re-opened the shaft, which remains on their property and is still in use for pumping within a modern red brick building. Speedwell Shaft Engine House was built in 1807 to house the 54″ cylinder pumping engine but there are no visible remians.
Lloyd’s Shaft has been made safe at SJ26825138 in an area that has been cleared of all mining waste. Andrews Shaft remains capped with a low stone wall at SJ26755143. Ellertons Shaft lies to the north-west at SJ266514 and has been filled. A shaft is located to the south-west of Tan-y-Graig Issa, capped at SJ26595146 and a further mound to the forefront of the house being immediately alongside the mineral railway, could be a second shaft filled in. The area was the site of intense mining activity in the late 19th century. The dressing floors that lay to the north-east of Lloyd’s Shaft have been cleared of waste and debris as part of the land reclamation scheme being carried out by Wrexham Maelor Borough Council.
The 1850s mineral railway connects all the main sites. The locomotive engine shed foundations remain near to Andrew’s Shaft.
The substantial stonework remains of the 1860s Engine House at Lloyds Shaft survives to apprx 5m high at SJ26805138. It has been consolidated as part of the Reclamation Programme. The house retains its fine architectural features of arched doorway and windows. The foundations of the boiler house and the base of the masonry engine remain under the earthworks. Lloyd’s Engine House with its 14″ horizontal engine powered a cage for winding the men. Adjacent to it are the remains of the Boiler House and a mine building. Andrew’s Engine House foundations and chimney base may remain under the earthworks at basal level in the wooded area along the railway track at SJ26705146. Andrews and Ellertons worked in close proximity and one 14″ horizontal engine raised ore from both shafts. The same engine worked the crusher for the dressing floors. To the south-west of Andrews, on the other side of the railway track, the reservoirs and feeder leats that supplied the site remain at SJ26725141.
Royle’s Shaft remains as a grassed mound at SJ26525158 with a horse whim circle, to the west of the mineral railway in an area of grassed-over spoil heaps. A line of old workings to the south-west of Royle’s Shaft mark the line of the White Vein. Reid’s Shaft, sunk to 750ft was the centre of mining operations on the Red Vein at SJ26535168. It was originally pumped by a waterwheel before the Darlington’s water pressure engine was installed. The shaft remains capped to the north of the railway track. To the west of Royle’s, a collapsed shaft remains fenced off and full of rubbish. The day level ran from the River Clywedog at SJ26605180, being to the north of Reid’s Shaft. The track of the mineral railway runs between the two shafts and is clearly visible as a public footpath. The stonework remains of Reid’s engine house (SJ26535168) with some mounting bolts in situ remains in undergrowth in an area of considerable mining evidence. A 14″ horizontal winding engine raised ore at both Reid’s and Royle’s Shafts.
The area contains evidence of early mining and quarrying on the wooded slopes of Esclusham Mountain. Boundary shaft is located at SJ26125182 with its horse whim circle in an area of woodland much disturbed by mining, on the south side of the disused Mineral Railway. The area bears the scars of earlier mining, visible as shallow workings, now covered in dense vegetation. The 19th century shafts in the area can be identified as the Cornish Shaft at SJ20205180, immediately alonside a siding on the mineral railway, being fenced off and having caving access, the Busy Bee at SJ26165176, Cabin Shaft at SJ262517 and Grand Turk Shaft at SJ26305170, where a chimney base and stonework remains of the winding engine house are hidden in the undergrowth. Until 1849, when a day-level was driven through from the Minera Mines to the south-east, Boundary and other shafts in its vicinity worked separately. They later became incorporated into the workings of Minera Union (1858-88) and the United Minera Mines (1852-1913). Boundary marked the north-western extremity of the Minera Mines workings on the Main Vein and Red Vein. In 1919, the shaft was re-opened and worked the North Vein until 1933, using a whim for winding. Ladders were used for man access.
The line of the 1850s mineral railway, which served the lead mines remains as a public footpath linking the main shaft areas from Meadowshaft and the Smelt Works at New Brighton to the Limestone quarries. Some of the sleepers still remain in situ. The private railway ran on GWR gauge, ensuring interchanges of engines to facilitate the bringing in of coal, timber etc. Little evidence remains of the tramways that serviced the individual sites. Two reservoirs remain visible at SJ26205150 on the road up to Esclusham Mountain. The channels that carried the water downhill to work the machinery and serve the processing areas are visible along the roadside. The woodland slopes above Boundary Shaft conceal the old limestone quarries that serviced the battery of three kilns, known as the Atcherley Kilns (SJ26005017). They were built by 1840 and evidence remains of the incline that brought the lime to the mineral siding below. The larger battery of Hoffman Kilns are in the quarry to the north-west at SJ25605020.
Source: CPAT; RCAHMW; Wikipedia; Tom Farrell; Ore Mines of North Wales; Clwyd Record Office.