This waterwheel is close to where a similar wheel drove machinery for the nearby Lefel Fawr lead mine.
The Ceredigion uplands have yielded valuable metals for thousands of years. At Cwmystwyth there are remnants of mining from the Bronze Age, although the landscape there today is dominated by the remains of Victorian mining.
Silver from Ceredigion went to London for coin-making. In 1637 Thomas Bushell, who was leasing silver mines in the county, received a royal licence to make coins at Aberystwyth Castle.
The current waterwheel at Pont-rhyd-y-groes was originally at a sawmill in Llanafan. It can be turned using water from the leat which powered an earlier wheel.
The Lefel Fawr mine was on a site where the Romans reputedly mined silver. A later incarnation began c.1700. Some £2,000 was spent on establishing the workings over the first 20 years. In 1785 work began on a new level (the large level after which the mine was named). Eventually it extended for about 2km under the mountains, tapping underground ores as well as draining mines on the surface above.
The Earls of Lisburne were major local landowners in Victorian times. The Lisburne Mines Company developed several local mines, at a cost of £7,500, and over 50 years produced minerals valued at £1.3m (over £130m today). The company was wound up in 1893.
The influx of miners in the 19th century transformed Pont-rhyd-y-groes and other villages. Men, women and children worked in the mines.
The building just along the road north of the waterwheel was a school built for children of mining families. In the 1840s the Lisburne company paid the schoolmaster £15 per year. Next door was the Lisburne Arms pub (pictured). Up the hill from the waterwheel is the former Lefel Fawr yard where lead ore was crushed. On one side was the Count House, where miners collected their pay.
Although the harmful effects of lead on human health weren’t well understood in the 19th century, there were growing concerns over mines polluting Ceredigion rivers. In 1877 the Inspector of Nuisances told the Aberystwyth Rural Sanitary Authority that water polluted from washing ore at Glog-fach mine was channelled northwards to Lefel Fawr to turn a waterwheel, from where it flowed into the river Ystwyth below. At Lefel Fawr, polluted water came from the “dressing floors” (where rock was processed) and “solid matters of every description” found their way into the river.
About the place-name:
Pont-Rhyd-y-groes means ‘bridge at the ford of the cross’, writes Prof Dai Thorne. The ford which crosses afon Ystwyth was replaced by a bridge. The village developed as lead mines opened in the vicinity and later due to large-scale afforestation. The cross probably marked the site of the ford and the route taken by the monks at Strata Florida.
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