Port Heritage Trail
In 2001 Amlwch Industrial Heritage Trust opened a heritage
trail around the features in Amlwch Port.
A leaflet explaining the historical features of the trail around the mountain can be obtained from the sail loft heritage centre in Amlwch port, North Anglesey.
Porth Amlwch- A Brief History
The earliest known document relating to Porth Amlwch is a very crude map dating back to the time of Queen Elizabeth the First, which records that works associated with copper mine at Mynydd Parys has been completed at the Havens of Amlwch and Dulas. At that time, ore was being taken by sea to the Crown smelters at Neath in South Wales for smelting, and the need for two havens can be explained by the fact that the creek at Amlwch was extremely dangerous when subjected to high tides and northerly winds, under which circumstances, the open beach at Dulas would have been perfectly safe.
In 1748, Lewis Morris , on e of the distinguished Morris brothers of Dulas, was commissioned by the Lords of the Admiralty to survey the coast of Wales from Pembroke to Great Ormes head in an effort to identify safe haves for the hundreds of small vessels which plied the dangerous Saint Georges's Channel between Wales and Ireland. his report indicated that he did not think Porth Amlwch to be of sufficient importance to warrant a map as he considered it to be little more than a cove between two steep rock in which a vessels could barely turn.
The great discovery in 1768, of vast amounts of copper ore at nearby Mynydd Parys changed all that, and despite it's limitations, Amlwch became for a while the most important port in Wales. Prodigious quantities of ore were exported to Merseyside and South Wales, whist thousands of tons of scrap iron intended for the precipitation ponds on the mountain, in which copper was recovered from the mineral rich waters pumped up from the mine, were imported.
An ancillary industry which recovered sulphur from copper ore was established. According to a German academic who spent several years studying the various processes, several conical sulphur extracting kilns were established close to the port.
A water driven sawmill belonging to the Paynter brothers was also built at the port's southernmost point, close to the inclined plane , which conveyed coal and refined copper to and from the smelters, which stood on the site of the present housing estate over looking the harbour.
Congestion at the small port became so bad that an act of Parliament was passed in 1793 to allow for it's widening, deepening and regulation. What had once been a steep rock face on the eastern side of the inlet was quarried away to form a wide new quay on which was built several storage bins, some of which where roofed. with the new eastern quay fully operational. less use was made of the western side, and the redundant land given over to ship building. The first shipyards was that founded by Nicholas Treweek, son of James Treweek, a Cornishman brought in by the mine owners to revitalise the mines in the early part of the 19th century. The remains of the yard and it's associated buildings can still be seen.
with the decline in the fortunes of the copper mines, shipbuilding became increasingly important and Treweek went on the establish a new yard outside the harbour entrance which had the space to build iron vessels, but perhaps more importantly had the makings of a dry dock which could be quarried out of the living rock.
This yard, known locally as Iard newydd was brought in 1872 by captain William Thomas, a local man who ran away to sea when he was 12 years of age. there, he and his two sons went on the build no fewer than 41 vessels, which included several superb three masted steel schooners. These have since been described by Basil Greenwood one tine curator of the national maritime Museum in Greenwich as being amongst the finest of their kind ever built.
Description of viewing points on the heritage trail
1) The Dry dock was created by enlarging a natural creek known as "Porth Cwch Y Brenin" (the creek of the King's boat), which suggests that it was once the berth of a revenue cutter which had been stationed locally to combat widespread smuggling. It is thought to be the only one of it's kind in the United Kingdom.
2) The Sail Loft belonging to William Thomas's shipyard now houses the Trust's exhibition. It is most unusual in having a sloping floor, and the window lintels are made from ship's timbers in which the "trunnel" holes can still be seen.
3) The once attractive Harbour Master's Office was vandalised some years ago ,and later demolished. the highly valuable records of ship movements in and out of the port which were housed there, were unfortunately lost in the process.
4) The Watch House with it's small lighthouse was built around 1819 and extended in 1835. the building , used mainly by hobblers who were responsible, amongst other things, for moving vessels in and out of the port, was also a meeting place where captains met socially in the evenings to yarn.
5) The kilns were features of many small ports in the days of sail when limestone was frequently used as ballast when the vessel had no other cargo to carry. As lime was used extensively for agricultural and building purposes at that time, captains arriving with limestone could always be certain of a quick and profitable sale.
6) Porth Amlwch was subject to dangerous "runs" whenever there was a northerly component to the wind. at such times, the Harbour master was empowered to require ship's captains to provide men to haul large baulks of timber across the entrance where they were laid one on top of each other to form a very effective break water. The winces used to pull the baulks across are all that now survive.
7) The Slag bin was used to store copper slag from the smelters. Because of it's density, it was exported to Liverpool and other major ports where it was sold for use as ballast in large ocean going sailing vessels.
8) The roofed bin was used to store copper ore which was tipped directly into it from Upper Quay street above. this method of delivery was intended to ensure that the quayside was kept relatively clear to traffic to allow the vessels to load and unload unhindered.
9) The only remaining chute down which copper ore was tipped from carts bringing it down from mynydd Parys. The Trust hopes to restore this unique feature of the port in due course.
10) The foundations are all that remain of Nicholas Bayly's extensive warehouses, features of which are arched vaults used for storage purposes which extend under the roadway at the back of the building.
11) The steam driven inclined plane was the efficient means by which coal was taken to and fine copper delivered from the highly efficient smelters which were located on the land now occupied by Craig y don housing estate.
12) Paynter's water driven sawmill was built in 1852. It took in water from the Afon Goch which flowed from the heart of Mynydd Parys. Because of it's high copper content the water was first used to pickle timber before it was used to build ships.
13) The Newhaven is known to have been a very early feature of Porth Amlwch. It is believed to have had a variety of uses before it finally became a public house. Steps carved into the rock lead from the harbour floor to the building.
14) This old quay is believed to have been constructed during the reign of Elizabeth the First for the export of copper ore from Mynydd Parys to the Crown owned smelters in south wales. A similar feature was built at Dulas.
15) Nicholas Treweek'a yard is the first recorded shipyard in Amlwch. When he built another, capable of constructing iron vessels on the eastern side of the harbour, the yard was brought by William Cox Paynter who went on to build well known vessels such as the schooners "Jane Grey", "Donald and Doris" and "Cambourne"
16) Two seater toilets perched over the sea were features of both local ship yards. This, the only example remaining was restored by the Island's Council in the 1980s.