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Extract from:
A study of limestone quarrying at Llanymynech
Written in 1984 by Harvey Kynaston


Llanymynech Hill forms the southern end of a limestone belt which extends as far as the Great Orme at Llandudno, North Wales. It is situated five miles from Oswestry on the Powys Shropshire border.  In fact the greater part of the hill is in Powys, but following the line of Offa’s Dyke which skirts the hill, it is clear that at one time it lay on the English side of the border. Offa's Dyke follows the precipitous northern and western slopes, in places disappearing altogether where there is obviously no need for a man made defensive structure.

H kiln hearth tree

Quarrying operations began relatively recently, but mining, mainly for copper and lead ores was probably started even before the Romans arrived. Certainly the hill is recognised as being a hill fort during the Iron Age, and there is no reason why the people of that time should not have known about the mineral potential of the hill.  But it is the Romans who have left us the first real evidence of mining operations, principally at the cave system known as the ‘Ogof’. Here, various Roman artefacts have been recovered over the last few centuries, many however have unfortunately been lost.  The most recent find was 35 coins found in 1965 by a group of schoolboys from Oswestry.  The coins are on permanent display at Oswestry library [no longer on display in Oswestry]. It appears that copper was mined at the Ogof, although to the north of the cave is a series of open cast pits from which the Romans probably extracted lead ore. The search for these and other minerals, such as  calamine continued up to the late 19th century. My particular interest in Llanymynech Hill however, lies in the quarrying of limestone which has undoubtedly made the greatest mark upon the landscape - with the possible exception of the golf course!


H canal map


At this point, the Montgomery Canal deserves some consideration.  The branch to Llanymynech from the Llangollen Canal at Welsh Frankton was built specifically to reach the valuable limestone rock at Llanymynech.  Work began in 1793, and by 1797 it had extended beyond Llanymynech to Garthmyl through Welshpool.  By 1821 it reached its final destination of Newtown - a total length of 33 miles.

The arrival of the Montgomery Canal gave a boost to the already thriving limestone industry.  Farmers in neighbouring counties were crying out for lime to spread on their fields, and now it could be delivered much more efficiently.  A horse could now pull a 55 tons load behind it instead of under 1 ton by road. The canal also provided a route to the Black Country where lime was needed as flux for the smelting of iron.  But before joining the canal network at Welsh Frankton, every loaded boat would be charged a toll at the office next to the lock system there.  The amount was decided by an index strip fastened to the side of the boat at water level.  The lower the boat lay in the water the heavier the toll.  In this way the canal company could recover some of the cost of building the Montgomery branch.

Apart from the advantages of transporting lime and stone away from-the quarries at Llanymynech, the canal meant that coal and machinery could be brought into the area.

Coal was probably provided by Owen of Pant who at one time owned a canal boat called ‘The Five-Sisters’, so called because Sam Owen’s wife had five-sisters. The Owens still run a coal business in Pant, and it seems a tradition that the name Samuel be kept in the family, the present generation of sons having retained the name of their father and grandfather.

During the autumn of 1796 the first boats laden with lime made their way towards the Ellesmere Canal system and a new era of prosperity was born. In the next 70 years the population of Llanymynech doubled.

H large map of hill


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