Review: Worn by Tools and Time is a beautifully produced history of metal mining in Wales – by Jon Gower (Nation Cymru – August 22, 2020)

The time frame of the metal-mining endeavours chronicled in this beautifully-produced book reach way, way back into prehistory. Around 2000 BC the copper mine at Ross Island in Ireland ran out of metal which provoked a widespread hunt for new sources.

As a consequence therefore, in the Early Bronze Age, some of the earliest metal mines in Britain opened in Mid Wales, with stone hammers and wedges used to open up the earth.

They found metals other than copper such as tin and by the time the industry was modernised, with the creation of an institution called the Society of Mines Royal in 1568, silver was being successfully sought in a range of places such as Cwmystwyth, Goginan and Cwmerfyn.

Smelteries and mills and mints, such as the very productive silver mint in Aberystwyth were developed in tandem, with an export trade, too to places such as France and Holland.

‘Worn by Tools and Time’ is a tale of discoveries and depletions, hard graft and broken dreams. In some places workers hung on chains with these wrapped around thighs during many hours of boring or drilling.

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