Site of manganese tramroad, Porth Ysgo

Site of manganese tramroad, Porth Ysgo, near Aberdaron

abersoch_porth_ysgo_jettyThe tranquil little valley of Nant y Gadwen was once a bustle of industrial activity, because valuable manganese was mined higher up the slopes. As you follow the Wales Coast Path here, look out for remains of tramroad inclines and winding mechanisms on the far side of the valley.

The mining began c.1827. During the 19th century, the ore was carried by donkeys to Porth Cadlan (to the west) for loading onto the small sailing ships which took it to Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. It was used for production of glass and bleach. Later it became an ingredient in toughened steel, and mining output surged in the late 19th century.

In 1903 the British Manganese Co. and the North Wales Manganese Co. opened adjoining mines on Rhiw Mountain. It was reported in 1904 that a jetty was being built on the beach along with a connecting tramroad. Hundreds of tons of manganese ore were being shipped each week.

abersoch_manganese_tramroad_porth_ysgoTramroad wagons carried the ore to Porth Ysgo jetty down steep tracks (inclines), their descent controlled by cables attached to winding houses. The weight of laden wagons hauled up empty ones on the parallel track. The photos (courtesy of Rhiw.com) show the jetty and the tramroad track at the Nant y Gadwen adit.

The local council complained in 1906 that the tramroad tracks had been laid across roads without an Act of Parliament. The proprietors agreed to place £100 in a fund to cover the council’s costs in the event of an accident caused by the level crossings.

Another jetty was built at Porth Neigwl (to the east), to which the ore was conveyed by aerial ropeway (similar to a ski-lift). In 1904 the Belgian steamer Ganda was halfway through loading manganese there, for transport to Antwerp, when a gale sprang up. The 650-tonne ship needed to move to sheltered waters near Abersoch but lost power as it departed because a rope got tangled up in the propeller. The vessel was blown ashore. The 13-strong crew escaped into the ship’s lifeboat but had to swim ashore after waves capsized the boat. The ship broke up near the jetty.

Porth Ysgo jetty was last used in 1927. Manganese mining in the area ended in 1945. 

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Rhiw website – details of the managese mines, including workers’ reminiscences