Dolaucothi Gold Mines

Pumsaint, United Kingdom

The Dolaucothi Gold Mines are ancient Roman surface and underground mines located in the valley of the River Cothi, near Pumsaint. The gold mines are located within the Dolaucothi Estate which is now owned by the National Trust.

They are the only mines for Welsh gold outside those of the Dolgellau gold-belt, and are a Scheduled Ancient Monument. They are also the only known Roman gold mines in Britain, although it does not exclude the likelihood that they exploited other known sources in Devon in South West England, north Wales, Scotland and elsewhere. The site is important for showing advanced Roman technology.

The history of gold mining at Dolaucothi dates back over two millennia. In around 74AD, the Roman military advanced on this area, quickly establishing a large fort and a gold mining industry that would continue, at one level or another, for around 200 years. 

They’d create large open-cast workings and dug several tunnels (adits) to exploit the gold veins. Most of this was achieved using nothing more than picks and hammers in what must have been very hard labour. 

They also demonstrated more advanced techniques as they were mining in an area of hard rock, before the age of explosives. 

It’s believed that practices such as ‘fire-setting’ and ‘hushing’ would have been used. ‘Fire-setting’ is a process of setting blazes next to rock faces and dousing them with water to fracture the rock by thermal shock. Then ‘hushing’ involved building aqueducts to carry vast amounts of water to the tops of banks. The power of stored water would be released, stripping the top soil and vegetation exposing the ore within the bedrock. This is the technique that’s had the most significant impact on the landscape at Dolaucothi. 

Despite the intrusive techniques that were in use by the Romans, what’s significant today is that the undulating woodlands, fields and hills seem timeless; the scars from mining, softened by nature, farming and the passage of centuries. 

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Pumsaint, United Kingdom
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Founded: c. 74 AD
Category: Industrial sites in United Kingdom

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