During the summer of 1989, a survey was made of the building remains on the area of Copa Hill covered by the Kingside Lode workings of Cwmystwyth Mine (NGR SN805748). Copa Hill lies to the east and above the more familiar 19th century remains of dressing floors which are on the side of the road to the east of the village of Cwmystwyth. The largest stream to the east of the workings is Nant yr Onnen and this passes many important workings, adits and buildings which are mostly well dated to the period of recorded history of the mine (1600 onwards). On the eastward side of the stream, the enormous valleys cut by hushing can be seen descending from the Comet opencast area. To the north of the hushes can be seen the massive tips which form the dressing floors on the Kingside Lode.
The historical evidence for mining at Cwmystwyth begins with the opencast workings at the top of Copper Lode on Copa Hill, to the south of Kingside Lode. This area has provided dates of approximately 1500BC. The modern recorded history begins about 1500AD with the Mines Royal and the Company of Mine Adventurers. Very good early descriptions are provided by William Waller and Sir Humphrey Mackworth, dating from about 1708. At this time, reference is made to the mine being worked a long time ago by the "Old Man" and to the mine being of Roman origin, although this was the blanket dating for any old mine working.
The remains of many buildings exist on the area of Copa Hill, which is occupied by the workings of the Kingside Lode. This is a large lead-zinc lode which was worked throughout the area of the mine. On Copa Hill, the lode outcrops near the summit and it has been extensively worked by adits and opencasts down to where it crosses Nant yr Onnen stream. The buildings consist of dry stone walls constructed of random stones, usually derived from the mine workings. There are a few buildings, however, which are constructed from large flat stones laid horizontally to produce a more robust and stable wall. These flat stones are also obtained in the vicinity. There is no direct evidence on first examination to give a definite date to any of these buildings.
The buildings are mainly associated with adits and probably represent dressing areas. The larger buildings usually have a raised shelf or seat at the closed end, with the other end being open. There is no evidence for roofing on these buildings. The smaller buildings often show only three sides built into the hill and probably represent ore bins. The written history describes shafts in this area but none are evident now that would date from the 17th century.
In this area of the mine, there are large numbers of dressing stones which fall into two types :-
1) small stones about 6Kg in weight, usually with one depression on each side
2) large stones of greater than 50Kg with several depressions on each side. Some of the latter stones have been incorporated into the buildings.
Description of the Buildings
A. Single building constructed of rough undressed stone. Dressing stones incorporated into the structure. Rocks incorporating shotholes associated with the site.
B-C. Double structure constructed of rough undressed stone. Building C is partly limed with flat slabs of stone placed vertically in the walls.
D. 8ft x 15ft building open to the north with shelf at rear 4ft wide. Built of rough undressed stone which appears to have been obtained from the local dumps. There appears to be a path leading up to and north from the area of A-B-C to this area over the dumps.
E. From the mouth of the adit north and up to the rear of a building open to the north. This building is constructed from large rough undressed stone. In the local area is much stone with shotholes present. Above and to the east there is a flat area of grass. A path appears to lead 110o to a depression in the tip, possibly a shaft.
F. 35 yards to the north on a path across the dumps is a 5ft x 5ft stone building constructed of large slabs of stone up to 30" square. Possibly ore bin.
G. 16 yards away is a well constructed building 7ft x 15ft open to the south with a shelf in the northern closed end. The walls are of selected large stone slabs approximately 2ft x 2ft lain horizontally. Just to the north behind the north wall is an adit entrance which enters native rock with no tips above. Water issues from the mouth of the adit which has run in. There is a large flat area to the north (25 yards square). 300o and slightly lower, 30 yards from the last adit there is another adit mouth. There are large dumps above this area and the tip ends 25 yards to the north. North of the well constructed building is the lowest area of opencast workings. To the west is a sampling shaft lined with softwood. Also in this area are signs of other sampling pits.
H. At this point another well constructed building is built of stone slabs. This building is open to the south with a stone shelf in the northern end. The opencast workings bear 65 degrees. At the top of this part of the opencast is a flat area with small tips of small broken stones.
I. In the base of the continuation of the opencast is another building 7ft x 12ft and open to the west. This is built of rough flat stones laid horizontally and lined with vertically placed slabs of stone. There are slight indications of a shelf at the rear. The building is placed into the opencast with room to pass to the rear into the workings or an adit. To the north of this building is open land. At the top of the opencast are grass covered tips of fine broken stone. These tips lead to the open rake or adit working which forms the upper workings on the Kingside Lode. 100 yards to the south of this area is a large opencast or hushing cut overgrown with turf. There is much evidence for hushing in this area and also possible later trials.
The upper workings on the Kingside Lode present the appearance of being much older than the lower workings. The tips in this area are of small stones about 2"-3" across. The tips are overgrown with turf and there is no apparent rock showing shotholes. Possibly the old men worked the upper area for gossan and high grade ore, the only benification necessary may have been hand breaking and picking. There are again trial pits in this area which may be as late as 1930. There are also "Costeaning Pits" which may be contemporary with Waller's working or even much earlier. Further investigation is needed in this area.
J. Below the largest of the high tips are the totally collapsed remains of a building. A pair of hushes lead down to the next lower area of working which is a complex of buildings. The tips in this area are of very even sized stones 1"-3". An adit runs into the hill bearing 30o. To the south there are 75 yards of tips and then grass and the line of the boundary hush. This is at the same level as the hushing dam for the Comet Lode.
K. Below the big fine tip there is a ruinous building with only two sides remaining, built of rough random stones. 25 yards to the north is the end of the escarpment. In this area there is less evidence of shotholes in the rock. The dumps are of an even fine size of stone about 1"-3". There are small dressing stones of about 10 pounds weight in the area. Just below is a flat area.
L. Another building approximately 6ft x 18ft, open to the west and built of rough random stones. There are several dressing stones in this area, one of which bears three depressions in a line. There is a sampling pit to the west. Down and south to a lower working area. On this floor level there are two depressions in the tips which may represent one or more adits.
M. The first building in this area faces east and is 7ft x 10ft, built of rough random stones. There is a shelf in the closed western end.
N. Another building 6ft x 6ft, which has only two sides remaining, stands in front of M.
O. Round to the front of the tip is another 6ft x 6ft building, again built of rough random stones.
P. To the south, following an obvious pathway, is a building 6ft x 12ft, built of rough random stones with a shelf in the wall at ground level.
R-S. To the south there are two 6ft x 6ft buildings constructed from large thin stone slabs. The southern of this pair of buildings uses large dressing stones of about 2cwt, placed vertically to form the walls. At Bonsall's Adit west of Nant yr Onnen, just below Herbert's Stope, is an area of working associated directly with the early recorded history of the mine. One of Waller's maps and descriptions describe this area as "Cwmystwyth Old Works".
Bonsall's Adit penetrates the hillside in an area associated with hushing. Water still runs from the adit mouth, which is drystone lined with neat large flat stones placed horizontally. The tips in front of the adit mouth which run down to the stream overlay a hush which runs down the southern side of all the tips. On the hillside to the south are possible small trial trenches about 6ft x 2ft, showing as depressions in the grass. The evidence of the tip material would appear to show more than one period of working. There is newer clean material on top of older tips.
T. To the north is a three sided building built of large flat stone blocks which are present locally.
U. The next building is one wall built into the hillside constructed of very large local stones. There is a slight concave curve to the wall and it is sloped back. This could possibly represent an ore-stone bin. Adjacent and to the north is the wall of the building identified as Waller's stamp mill.
V. This building is extremely well constructed from large local flat stones well fitted together in the best type of drystone working. Some of the stones incorporated into this building show shotholes. This building is formed of two 7ft square halves separated by a low dividing wall. There are various holes in the walls of this building which must have held fixing timbers. The building is erected directly onto the bare rock, the lower western part of which appears to have been used as a tailrace for a water powered machine. Built into the rear eastern wall of this building is a large dressing stone. Above and to the north, level with Herbert's Stope, is a drystone wall which may have formed a leat to bring water to building V.
X-W. On the higher floor above Herbert's Stope there are two buildings together. Both are 10ft x 10ft buildings constructed of small flat stones laid horizontally and built into the bedrock. 15 yards to the north is the entry to an adit. In the tip just below these buildings, a large dressing stone was found buried.
extracted from "Dressing Floors on the Kingside Lode, Copa Hill, Cwmystwyth Mine", Colin Armfield, SCMC Journal No.2
The building investigated is in the first set of workings above Herbert's Stope on the Kingside Lode on Copa Hill. Along the southern end of the tips, a hush runs down the hillside. This is in places filled with tip material and it has drystone bridges over it. Running down to the tramways, and further to the road, is a shallow hush which has evidently been used as a track for access to the upper workings. A large tip runs down to, and partly overlays, Bonsall's Adit and the area of Waller's stamp mill. On top of the tip there are three buildings and the southernmost single one is the subject of the main investigation.
The northern pair of buildings are of substantial drystone construction, approximately 6ft x 18ft. These buildings are of three sided construction with the open ends facing north. Both buildings use medium to large sized random shaped stones simply piled to form massive walls. The eastern building is walled inside with large thin stone slabs placed vertically. In the open northern end of this building is a square depression lined on each side with a single stone slab forming a possible open hearth. The western building has a raised stone shelf to the rear, approximately 3ft wide and covering the full width of the floor.
There are several dumps of rock in the immediate area which partly overlay these buildings. The dumps consist of large (6"-12") sterile stones. Behind and to the east of these dumps is the entry to an adit. A pair of drystone walls runs under the tips from higher workings. Investigation of this area has failed to find the adit due to the amount of material filling the mouth. There is a softwood lined shaft penetrating into the tip to the south of the single building. This is probably a sampling shaft and may be associated with the sampling work undertaken during the 1920-1940 period. Similar shafts are evident all over the workings.
When examined, the building was in a derelict condition and the floor was covered with a large amount of stones and turf. The first action was to remove these stones which were partially filling the building. Most of these stones appear to have originated from the tip to the east which partly overlays this building. The layer exposed was turf, on top of peat which varied in thickness from 2"-4". The northern closed end had a slightly raised area about 3ft wide and running the full width of the building. This was covered with a layer of peat about 4" thick. This covering was removed to expose a flat area consisting of two large stone slabs resting on a base of other stones.
The main body of the floor was then cleared of turf which revealed in one place a dressing stone resting in the peat layer. Also found under the turf layer, but on top of or in the peat, were a number of stones. One of these stones shows a section through a drilled shothole about 5" deep. Examination of the tips in this area has shown that there is much evidence for blasting of the rock. As the peat layer was removed, some plant material was found. Against the western wall and just in front of the stone slabs there was a small area of compressed and partly preserved turf. Also found were some very small pieces of rotten wood about 3/8" diameter, which could have been either branch or thick root.
The floor of this building is a layer of clay and fine shale packed very hard approximately 2" thick. This layer is placed on top of a levelled area on the dump material and not on bedrock. Upon examination of the larger stone slabs forming the top of the shelf, it was felt that one of the lower stones upon which they rested may be a dressing stone. Upon lifting the top layer, a very large dressing stone was found. Three worked areas are present on the top surface and more were evident on the underside, although the stone was not further disturbed. The estimated weight of this stone is 2cwt and the appearance is of a river stone, with fully rounded corners and sides. The stone was not broken and did not give the appearance of being worn out. In the position in which the stone now lies, it would have been very difficult to use it as a mortar, being only about 1ft off the floor.
This building is erected on top of a tip which consists of rock obtained by blasting. Since the large dressing stone has been used as part of the fabric of the structure, it would seem that at the time of building this type of stone was not in use. The stone shelf is of a comfortable height to use as a seat for hand dressing or other work. The smaller types of dressing stone of approximately 15lbs in weight are much in evidence in the area of these tips. It may have been possible to sit on the shelf with a small stone on the legs for use in dressing ore.
There was no evidence in situ for the walls having been very high. The amount of stone inside the building and around the base of the walls would not have been enough to raise the body of the walls to more than about 3ft from the surface. There is no indication to show that any kind of roof was present on the building.
Some of the buildings have incorporated large dressing stones into their walls. The stones do not seem to be worn out and, as there is much broken stone of similar size on the hillside, it may be a deliberate use when these stones had been superseded by stamp mills. Most of the buildings in this area are constructed from rough undressed stone which is found all over the dumps. The stone is mainly the result of mining waste although there are some areas of natural fracture due to weathering of exposed outcrops. A few buildings are, however, constructed from selected large flat stones laid horizontally. There is no apparent system to the type or location of construction.
Many of the remains of the buildings show signs of association with stone derived by blasting. Some of the buildings are constructed on top of tips which contain rocks with shotholes present. There is very little firm evidence of shotholes in rocks used for construction of the buildings left in situ, although there is much blasted rock near the buildings. Evidence for the use of gunpowder begins in this country with a description by Roger Bacon in 1242AD, although this was written in connection with military usage. Bacon suggests that by 1266 the existence of gunpowder was common knowledge, being used in "divers places". However, it is unlikely that blasting was used for mining this early as the cost would have been prohibitive.
Many of the buildings appear to post date the use of mechanical ore breaking (ie after 1680) and most probably date from the time of the Mine Adventurers or Thomas Bonsall. The latter conducted most of the work in this area of the mine but some of the workings could be very much earlier. The examination of the site and discussion have raised proposals for further research. Much remains to be done at this site to establish a chronology for the workings and the use of dressing stones.
Since we now know that Cwmystwyth was worked at a date of 1500BC, it seems difficult to believe that 3,000 years passed until the Elizabethan miners "discovered" the mine in the 16th century. Where are the Roman remains?
extracted from "Clearance & Examination of Stone Building on Copa Hill", Colin Armfield, SCMC Journal No.2
Last revised: 21 April 1998