Gwynedd Archaeological Trust
Regional Historic Environment Record

Great Orme Copper Mine

Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 1694
Trust : Gwynedd
Site Type : COPPER MINE
Period : Prehistoric
Community : Llandudno
NGR : SH77078308
Legal Protection : Scheduled Ancient Monument

Summary :
The Bronze Age workings at the Great Orme copper mines include both underground galleries and opencast surface workings where the ore was removed from the soft host rock using hammerstones and bone and antler tools. Radiocarbon dates suggest that the surface workings are the oldest with dates around 1600 BC. The mines were also worked in the 19th century and the spoil from these later operations obscured and to some extent protected the prehistoric remains. In fact, miners in the 19th century reported cutting through earlier galleries which were, at that time, assumed to be Roman.

The main activity at the Great Orme mines dates to the middle Bronze Age, a time when the Welsh industry was flourishing. Despite this, to date no evidence of any large scale smelting on the Great Orme has been found. Neither do we know whether the mining was done by people living locally or by itinerant workers as no traces of associated settlement have been found.

Description :
Excavations on the Vivian shaft on the Great Orme uncovered traces of prehistoric (Bronze Age) copper working. The excavation report is in progress. Site directed by L. A. Dutton. <1>

Report on 1990 season <7>
Report on 1991 season <8>
Report on 1989 season <10> <11>

Great Orme, Excavation Management, Llandudno (SH 771 831). Surface excavations continued at the Great Orme Bronze Age copper mines visitor site throughout the spring and summer of 1991 managed by Gwynedd Archaeological Trust. The excavations have provided an important and integral part of the interpretation and attraction of the overall site as a Bronze Age Mining Centre. The surface excavations closed for the season at the end of September and will continue in the spring of 2002.

The site is a logical extension to the area investigated by the trust during 1988/ 89 and has revealed a variety of new aspects relating to the exploitation of copper ores throughout the prehistoric period. Of particular note is the presence of a narrow prehistoric shaft that has provided the most well- preserved, complete and undisturbed evidence of working with bone tools in altered dolomite, and the remains of part of an enigmatic drystone structure associated with the shaft head.
L.Dutton, Gwynedd Archaeological Trust. <9>

Great Orme Bronze Age mine, Llandudno (SH 771 831). During the winter of 1991 the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust maintained a watching brief on the site of the bronze age copper mines on the Great Orme, Llandudno (on behalf of Great Orme Mines Ltd) during the removal and redistribution by machine of surface mining waste in the general vicinity of Vivians Shaft. Archaeological recording during this operation was mainly by way of photograph and annotated sketch plans and sections, orientated and supplemented by tape survey utilising the surviving site grid from the Vivians Shaft excavation of 1989.

Some 60,000 tonnes of waste material was removed over a three month period, revealing the rock surfaces of an extensive open cast working of the prehistoric period. Traces of revetting within areas of spoil were observed. A number of features associated with localised areas of working were revealed and recorded in the sides of the opencast, including undisturbed cashes of bone and stone tools. A report on the findings was submitted to Great Orme Mines Ltd on completion of the work.
L.Dutton, Gwynedd Archaeological Trust. <8>

Scheduled Ancient Monument: Cn 216 <15>

No evidence has been found of Roman mining activity on the Great Orme to date. This is a popular misconception based on spurious evidence. <32>

Sources :
Dutton, L. A. , 1992 , Great Orme Copper Mines Watching Brief, Jan-Mar 1992 ( © GAT)
Whiting, S. , 2013 , Application for Scheduled Monument Consent: Proposed Works at Great Orme Copper Mines
Dutton, L. A. , 1988 , Archaeology in Wales , <1>
Stanley, W. O. , 1850 , Archaeological Journal , <2>
Smith, D. , 1988 , The Great Orme Copper Mine , <3>
James, D. L. , 1988 , Prehistoric Mining on Great Orme's Head, Llandudno, Gwynedd , <4>
Dutton, L. A. , 1991 , Archaeology in Wales , <8>
Davies, O. , 1948 , Archaeologia Cambrensis , <5>
Craddock, P. T. , 1987 , Science and Archaeology , <6>
James, D. L. , 1976 , Archaeology in Wales , <13>
James, D. L. , 1980 , Archaeology in Wales , <14>
Dutton, L. A. , 1991 , Archaeology in Wales , <9>
Lewis, A. , 1989 , Archaeology in Wales , <10>
Lewis, A. , 1990 , Underground Exploration of the Great Orme Copper Mine , <11>
Dutton, L. A. , 1990 , Early Mining in the British Isles , <12>
Lewis, C. A. , 1990 , Archaeology in Wales , <7>
Cadw , 1994 , Schedule of Ancient Monuments , <15>
Gwyn, D. , 1998 , Gwynedd Metal Mines Survey , <16>
David, G. C. , 2001 , Archaeology in Wales , <17>
David, G. C. , 2002 , Archaeology in Wales , <18>
Mason, M. , 2000 , Great Orme Copper Mines , <19>
Bell, L. M. , 2005 , Great Orme Copper Mines , <20>
, 1992 , Hillforts of the Conwy Valley , <28>
Bannerman, N. , 1992 , Journal of the Great Orme Exploration Society , <21>
Neale, G. , PRN 1694 , <22>
, 1990 , PRN 1694 , <23>
Dutton, L. A. , 1994 , Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society , <24>
Dutton, L. A. , PRN 1694 , <25>
Wood, M. , 1992 , Earth Science Conservation , <26>
Darvill, T. , 1987 , Prehistoric Britain , <27>
David, G. C. , 2003 , Archaeology in Wales , <29>
David, G. C. , 2004 , Archaeology in Wales , <30>
David, G. C. , 2005 , Archaeology in Wales , <31>
James, S. , 2012 , PRN 1694 , <32>
Gwyn, D. & Williams, M. , 1996 , A Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of North West Wales , <33>
James, S. E. , 2011 , The Economic, Social and Environmental Implications of Faunal Remains from the Bronze Age Copper Mines at Great Orme, North Wales , <34>

Events :
42124 : Early Copper Mines at Great Orme's Head, Llandudno (year : 1976)
42125 : Great Orme's Head Copper Mines, Llandudno (year : 1979)
42126 : Great Orme Copper Mine, Llandudno (year : 1988)
42127 : Great Orme Copper Mines, Llandudno (year : 1989)
42128 : Great Orme Copper Mines, Llandudno (year : 1990)
42129 : Great Orme Bronze Age Mine, Llandudno (year : 1991)
40413 : Gwynedd Metal Mines Survey (year : 1998)
40079 : Great Orme Copper Mines Watching Brief, Jan-Mar 1992 (year : 1992)

Related PRNs :


The above data are supplied by GAT in partnership with its Local Authorities (Anglesey, Conwy and Gwynedd County Councils, and Snowdonia National Park Authority), © GAT 2014 (and in part © Crown, 2014 - as indicated)
This information is supplied for the purposes of personal interest only and may not be used as part of a commercial project.

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