Introduction

1

According to the 1861 census, Thomas Williams was a 70 year old widow and an ex Lead Mine Agent. He was head of a family which included two unmarried daughters (Mary, 43 and Elizabeth, 38), a son (Edward, 26), a grandson (Thomas Morgans, 14) and a grand-daughter (Elizabeth Williams, 14) - all residents of 17 Bridge St (where is No 17?). The entry for Edward showed him to be following in his father's footsteps - he was also a Lead Mine Agent.

2.

There were no references to Philp of Pantyfedwen in the census returns. A person living at Pantyfedwn in 1864 would, probably, be somebody important. It's possible that the person involved was C Phelp, not Philp and a relative of the Nanteos family. For further information relating to the Phelp family and Nanteos, see 'Nanteos: A Welsh House and its Families', edited by Gerald Morgan, 2001.

3.

NLW Ms L2623

4.

'Y mochyn' yn Gymraeg

Peat digging on Cors Caron is now prohibited and nothing is allowed to mar the ‘actively growing bog’. Access is restricted to officially defined routes, but still the river is not entirely pollution-free. Now, it's acid rain ; in 1863, it was effluent from the local lead mines, as indicated in the following Times' letter :

Industrial Pollution of the Teifi

in

1863

www.hanesybont.co.uk

Bronberllan is a very old mine as old as Esger mine and they both began work about 135 years ago. I am above 70 years of age and (there are?) old barrows of the mine covered with grass at the last end of the mine . . . by that the mine must be an old mine and not a new one. The fishing act cannot do anything concerning the old mines.


What follows is not entirely clear; it is relatively easy to work out the written words, but it's hard to interpret what TW is actually trying to convey or express. On the one hand, he seems to be saying that when his son (also a lead Mine agent) was working at Bronberllan, everything was done according to the book. However, after his son left the mine, the 'captains' became a little careless and discharged waste directly to the river. It's also possible that TW is actually trying to defend his son who may have been implicated, in some way or other, with pollution of the Teifi :

Pontrhydfendigaid

5 February 1864

C Philp Esq

Bronberllan Mine

The oldest mine in the district is Cwmystwyth . . . and I know very well the river Ystwyth about 30 years ago with plenty of fish in it until they put up stamps there. So Lisburne mine was the same about 20 or 25 years ago. When I was working there in the mine, I killed a lot of fish many a time in the river below the mine until they erect the stamp. The stamps . . . crushed the lead sulphide (producing) slime that was poisoning the river and killed the fish.


The stamp [4] was a machine for crushing the lead ore (galena, basically lead sulphide). It produced a lot of waste material (including slime, i.e. finely divided suspension of lead sulphide in water) ; this was discharged directly into rivers and streams killing fish, ducks and geese.


Thomas Williams seems to say that in the old mines there were no facilities for 'cleaning up' the slime before disposing of it. However, in the ‘not-so-old’ mines, the slime was allowed to stand in ponds or pools for six hours or more to allow the suspension to separate out. The resulting waste was less toxic and not 'strong enough' to do any obvious harm :

It's a little difficult to decipher precisely what TW wrote next, but he seems to be forwarding evidence to prove that the Bronberllan mine was an old mine and, therefore, not covered by the 'fishing act'. Clearly, there was concern over Bronbellan's contribution to pollution of the Teifi, and this may, in part, be the result of the letter in the Times :

. . . at Brynhope mine the fish were in the water course lower side of the mine . . . the slime after it goes through the slime pits is not strong enough to kill the fish, ducks or geese.

Cors Caron

Notes

The story of mining in Ceredigion in the 18th century and early 19th century is really one of greed overriding all other things including keeping the rivers 'clean'. However, by the mid 1800s there was mounting concern about industry and the effect on public health and the environment. The government passed the first Alkali Act in 1863 and, in the following year, a Royal Commission was set up on the Prevention of River Pollution. The state of the Ceredigion rivers must have contributed, in no small measure, to the setting up of this Royal Commission.


One hundred and fifty years on, some Ceredigion rivers are still affected by past mining activities. They are also facing new threats from industry in the form of acid rain ; it appears that the struggle to protect the environment is going to be an on-going one - possibly, for another 150 years.

. . . in the time my son Edward was there the slime water was carried down to the middle pool and from there to the river Teivi above the bridge. Through the carelessness of the captains they left the water going down to the river Teivi instead of follow the water course . . . because the water course was made to carry the slime water to mill pon (mill pond).


I remain Sir

Your Obedient Servant

Thomas Williams

C.Philp Esq

Pantyfedwen

It seems that this letter did not go un-noticed. Towards the end of that year, local mine owners were showing signs of being a bit anxious about river pollution. Public concern, and the fact that the government was about to set up a Royal Commission to look into the Prevention of River Pollution, appeared to have had an effect. On the 5th February 1864 a Thomas Williams (TW) from Bont [1] wrote to a C. Philp (CP) Esq of Pantyfedwen [2] relating to pollution from the Bronberllan mine. It seems they were having 'pollution problems' at that mine.


According to the 1861 census, Thomas Williams was an old Lead Mine Agent living at No 17 Bridge Street (?) with his son Edward, also a Lead Mine Agent. He was 70 years of age and had extensive experience and knowledge of the mines of Cwmystwyth, Lisburne, Llanfair, Frongoch, Bryn-hope, Esgair and Bronberllan. There was no reference to CP in the same census. However, the fact that he was living at Pantyfedwen, suggests that he was a man of status. Perhaps, he was a Phelp (not a Philp as in TW's letter) and, if so, may have had close connections with the Nanteos family [2] - owners of the Bronberllan land.


It appears that CP had contacted TW to tap into his knowledge and experience in particular of the Bronbellan Mine. Extracts of TW's letter to CP are given below [3] :

In the mid 19th century, peat diggers were not the only people who spent long hours on Cors Caron ; the bog, and in particular the river Teifi, attracted many leisured Victorian gentlemen. The following letter ─ by an angler to The Times in 1863 ─ is interesting in that it indicates that tension between industry and environmental considerations is not a new phenomenon. While, 150 years ago, the balance may have been in favour of industry, to-day the pendulum has swung quite considerably.

An

ANGLER's

letter to the

'THE TIMES'

April 10 1863

An old man with knowledge of the mines of Cwmystwyth, Lisburne, Llanfair, Frongoch, Brynhope, Bronberllan and Esgair remembers the rivers and streams once rich in fish now (1864) polluted since the introduction of 'the stamp' NLW Ms L3623

Bronberllan is a very old mine as old as Esger mine and they both began work about 135 years ago.

(i.e. 1729)

The government passed the first Alkali Act in 1863 and, in the following year, a Royal Commission was set up on the Prevention of River Pollution.

Wholesale Destruction of Salmon in South Wales

Sir, - For many years past I have been in the habit of spending a few days on the banks of the river Tify, between Tregaron and the source of the noblest of Welsh rivers for the purpose of fishing. Fancy my disgust on arriving at Tregaron the other day to find that some of the newly opened lead mines, either belonging to the Crown, Lord Lisburne, or Colonel Powell, M.P. for the county, have entirely destroyed this once celebrated salmon river!


From Tregaron to Strata Florida was within a short time the regular spawning bed for all the salmon in the river; now they only run up to die from poison, and are picked up by dozens dead. What were the Fishery Commissioners at who were lately sent down from London to visit this locality? Could the hospitalities of the ‘Celtic swells’ of the neighbourhood have caused them to overlook the flagrant state of the river Meurig, which not only poisons the fish, but also the cattle and poultry for miles after its confluence with the Tivy?


I am, Sir yours obediently,

AN ANGLER.