Dolaucothi - The Last Goldminers
The mining remains at Dolaucothi date from Roman times through to the 20th century and have many a story to tell. Here, we take a look at the last phase of gold mining, from 1932 to 1938.
Gold mining technology had developed astronomically by the 1930s. Now there was powerful machinery with the capacity to crush tons of quartz a day, pulverising the rock and chemically processing it to recover minute particles of gold. Gold and ore could now be extracted faster than ever before and a good wage attracted men to Dolaucothi from coal mines throughout the UK as well as from local farms and villages.
As part of our quest to discover more about these men we've been digging through the National Trust archives. Amongst the black and white photographs and hand written day books, we came across selection of cassette tapes. These tapes were made in the 1980’s when NT organised a series of miners’ reunions and recorded their memories of the time.
Voices of the Last Gold Miners
The tapes represent a fascinating oral history as the miners described, in later life, what mining at Dolaucothi had been like some 50 years before. Most of those interviewed recalled the camaraderie they experienced and were clearly passionate about the mining industry and techniques.
Gwylim Price, who worked the mining machinery, waxed lyrical about using the original steam controls:
“Nothing like steam, oh steam is so beautiful…it’s got a kind of personality”.
- Gwylim Price
He also spoke about the bonus scheme which paid the miners on the footage they drilled in a day. To achieve maximum footage, the men refused to use the water attachments on the drills, because the water turned the rock dust to paste, and slowed the drills down. Sadly, this meant their health was sacrificed and many of the workers went on to suffer with Silicosis.
You can listen to a selection of the interviews during a visit to Dolaucothi Gold Mines.
The end of an era
Sales of gold and ore in the last two years of work amounted to £15,877 but the costs were upwards of £48,000. This financial shortfall meant that on 17 November 1938 Dolaucothi would close for the very last time as a working gold mine.
With barely any notice at all, the work of the men would cease. There would be no more drilling or tramming, blasting, crushing or processing. Deep underground, the hard-won shafts, tunnels, faces and stopes would flood and eventually fall in.
If you have a story to share about the last of our miners, please do get in touch. firstname.lastname@example.org
" “Nothing like steam, oh steam is so beautiful…it’s got a kind of personality”. "