Saturday, January 13, 2007

Amlwch


Four to five years ago, when we first began considering relocating to Anglesey we looked at various websites for local estate agents. Every time we saw a property located in Amlwch we ignored it because we thought we would not like Amlwch. Today, the story is different. We have discovered the historic side to Amlwch and it is fascinating.


Amlwch began as a small and sleepy village like many others on the island. Then came the extraction and exporting of copper from the two mines on Parys Mountain. Everything changed and Amlwch became a town of 5,000 people with the busiest port in Wales. In the early days of extraction on a large scale the ore was taken from the surface, creating what is known today as the Great Opencast. To view the Opencast as you walk the heritage trail is to see many more colours of rock and spoil than you might imagine. It is rather like the many shades of autumn colours among trees.


Although Amlwch was the port for exporting copper the copper mountain is actually nearer the village of Penysarn where I live. Penysarn was part of the local industry as the place where clogs and clothes for the workers were made. A large figure in the boom of copper was the Cornishman, James Treweek. He it was who arrived as the Marquess of Anglesey's manager of the Mona Mine. Cornwall has a number of derelict copper and tin mines and provided many recruits as Treweek improved the furtunes od the Mona Mine. He recruited whole families where wives and children also worked in a supporting role up on the mountain. It was, of course, the men who undertook the dangerous work, hanging over the side of the Great Opencast on ropes to get at the copper ore. Many people died in industrial accidents and of diseases related to working in the open in all weathers with poor protection in the way of clothing.


The present Amlwch English Methodist Church was built under the direction of James Treweek who was also a keen Methodist local preacher. The house around the chapel in Wesley Street were also built to house the copper miners and their families. Walk down the street and spot which house were for managers! Amlwch Port was a hive of activity and there are many old photographs of sailing ships tied up in the port. Ship building was another trade that went on in Amlwch and the visitor can see, even today, the remains of a dry dock just below the old sail loft.


In order to optimise their earnings the ships' captains made sure they brought profitable cargo to Amlwch for distribution in Wales and the North of England. One cargo was tobacco which became a very important industry in the town. I believe I am correct in saying it was principally snuff and pipe tobacco that Amlwch produced.


The coming of the railways meant that a branch was constructed from Gaerwen to Amlwch for both passengers and goods. It was a single track which was extended by way of sidings down to the port area where eventually a chemical works grew up. The passenger service closed in 1964 but the line remained open for freight traffic until 1993. Unusually, the track for Anglesey Central Railway still exists all the way from Gaerwen to Amlwch. Within the town there are still a number of disused level crossings to be seen. When trains entered the town there was a posse of workers from the chemical works doing level crossing duty. I have seen the later shots of diesel locos being slowly driven from the port to the line itself. These locos dwarfed the surrounding cottages in the main street. There is in existence a group dediicated to re-opening the railway line at some point in the future.


There are a number of significant buildings in Amlwch today. Mona Lodge, the residence of James Treweek, is now split into three houses. The Sail Loft in the Port is the home of the heritage centre where visitors can discover information about the copper mountain. The English Methodist Church is a noticeably Cornish-influenced design. A more modern building is the Roman Catholic church on the road to Bull Bay. I can say that this is a unique design created to resemble an upturned boat - and it does!


1 Comments:

Blogger heavy duty said...

A very nice blog and thanks to the editor for sharing much beauty with the rest of us.

The mention of Rochdale is nostalgic because I attended elementary school in Bolton.

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