Old silver-mine pits, St Elvis, Solva

Old silver-mine pits, St Elvis, Solva

Overgrown pits in this area are the remnants of attempts to mine silver. North of the coast path are the remains of prehistoric burial chambers (see below).

Traces of silver had been spotted in the cliffs here in the 16th century. In 1811 historian Richard Fenton noted that “there are several adits and other evidence of works once carried on there in search of silver mines”. He also recorded that in 1623 John Voyle, who owned much of the land in this area, and his son-in-law Sir Thomas Canon had leased any metals they could find here from the Crown (the estate of Queen Elizabeth I). The deal was that the Crown would receive half of any profits.

Richard Fenton also remarked that the landowner in his own lifetime, Thomas Williams, had also tried to find silver in the ground here, but without success.

Beside St Elvis Farm to the north stood a medieval church (now demolished) dedicated to the Irish monk St Elvis (or St Ailfyw), who baptised Dewi Sant (St David), patron saint of Wales. The church’s 12th-century font is now at St Aidan’s Church in Solva. A pillar with carved cross from the 7th or 8th century was moved to St Aidan’s in 1936, after it was discovered at St Elvis Farm – being used as a gatepost!

Photo of prehistoric capstones at St ElvisThe church was on a site of importance to prehistoric people. Cropmarks photographed from the air in dry summer weather indicated long-lost ditches around the site (the plants dry at a different rate there).

Beside the churchyard wall are two capstones – huge slabs which rested on upright stones to form the roofs of burial chambers. They possibly formed part of a single mound. Archaeological evidence was destroyed when the Victorian landowner removed two legs of one of the cromlechs, using explosives to dislodge them! The photo by Philip Lees shows the stones in 2022.

Sources include Dyfed Archaeological Trust and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales

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