The Last Gold Miners

The mining remains at Dolaucothi date from Roman times through to the 20th century and have many a story to tell. This season, on the 80th anniversary of the Last Gold Miners, we're shining a light on the 1930s gold mining era at Dolaucothi.

Gold mining technology had developed astronomically by the 1930s. Now there was powerful machinary with the capacity to crush tons of quartz a day, pulverising the rock and chemically processing to recover minute particles of gold. Gold and ore could now be extracted faster than ever before and a good wage attracted men from the coal mines and local farms to Dolaucothi.

As part of our quest to discover more about these men we've been digging through the National Trust archives and have come across some amazing pieces of historic information, each giving us a glimps as to what life was like for a Gold Miner in our little Welsh village. Amongst the back and white photographs and hand written day books, we came across selection of cassette tapes.  

Voices of the Last Gold Miners

In the 1980’s the National Trust organisied a series of miners’ reunions and recorded their memories of the time.

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 that they drilled. To the miners, this was an incentive to earn more money, but in the process their health was sacrificed. To speed up the results, they stopped using the water to dampen the dust caused by drilling; this caused many of the workers 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 mounted to £15,877 but the costs were upwards of £48,000. No British treatment works would deal with what was a relatively small tonnage of ore and in 1938, with war looming, a contract with a firm in Hamberg was considered too risky.

The following year, the buildings at Dolaucothi were dismantled, the 500lbs of weeping explosives that were left at the site was blown up and all the machinery was put up for sale. The advert in the Western Mail read: “Mostly new 1937. Worked approximately 12 months”.

After 2,000 years of Gold Mining at the site, from the Roman era, Victorian and Edwardian period and the 1930s, Dolaucothi Gold Mines was abandoned once again.

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If you have a story to share about the Last Gold Miners of Dolaucothi get in touch. dolaucothi@nationaltrust.org.uk