Amlwch Port

Amlwch Port

The discovery of Copper on the mountain required a means of exporting the copper. It also required the import of raw materials all of which took place via Amlwch port. Over the years the small creek at Amlwch was developed both to assist the copper works but later in its own right as a centre for ship building.

In 1748 Lewis Morris a custom officer produced a map of the North Wales coast for the Admiralty. He described the haven at Amlwch :-
is no more than a cove between two steep rocks where a vessel hath not room to wind, even at high water.”

The rediscovery of Copper at Mynydd Parys in 1762 resulted in the need to develop the port to export goods and import raw materials. In 1770 Nicholas Bayly paid £13/19/7 to a workman for the making or modification of copper receiving bins and a storehouse at Amlwch port.
However only two small ships each carrying 16 tons of ore left for the smelters at Flint but timber and bricks and old iron was imported for use at the mines.

In the late 1780s the mine owners had made a small investment in 36 vessels for the copper trade and were doing their best to encourage masters to bring their ships to Amlwch for the copper trade.

In 1786 the Amlwch Shipping Company was formed. Its Managers were John Price the Mona Mine agent and Stephen Roose of the Parys Mine. These vessels were purpose built for the copper trade in the previous 2 years and where larger than those used in the trade before.

It has been estimated that 70 vessels were involved in the copper trade between Amlwch and Swansea in the three years following the formation of the Amlwch Shipping Company.

The port records for 1792 show that “Beaumaris & Amlwch” received 327 ships with a gross tonnage of 13287 tons. This compares with say Swansea which received 96 ships and 5521-ton gross in the same year.

With the rapid increase in trade it was inevitable that the Harbour at Amlwch would have to be improved. In 1793 an Act of Parliament was passed to “Enlarge, deepen, cleanse, improve and regulate the Harbour of Amlwch” .

They set about improving the eastern side of the harbour. It has been estimated that 20,000 tons of rock was blasted away to produce a level floor some 400 feet long and 60 feet wide. The stone removed was used to build a small pier, face the harbour walls and produce ore kilns and storage buildings for the copper ore.

The original rock surface level, 35 feet above the new quay was retained as a road to the top of the storage bins. The Mona Mine company spent £100,000 on the project. Some of these features are still visible today.

Ore from the mine was brought to the port by horse and cart. the carts would be lined up on Upper Quay street and the ore emptied via large shuts down into the “Copper Bins” below. It would take many journeys from the mountain to build up sufficient ore for a ship to carry which was usually between 20 and 70 tons of ore.

The 1843 Admiralty sailing directions for the coast of north Wales has the following information:-

” A small white light-house, was built on the pier head in 1817,it exhibits a fixed bright light, but it is not shown when the baulks are down and by day a ball is hoisted on a staff on the pier head…The mariner should be aware that with the southerly winds this light is sometimes obscured till very near land, by the smoke from the smelting works rushing down the valley, indeed even Lynus Light is frequently indistinct to vessels from the westward from the same cause, beside which they sometimes mistake the fire from the furnaces for the light… with a northerly wind such a heavy rolling sea sets in, that it has been found expedient to block up the entrance with 13 balks of timber, which are let down in place of gates and fixed in grooves on either side”

The balks of timber protected those ships already in the harbour. However, to ensure that ships did not try to come into harbour while the balks were down a “Ball mast” was erected at Llamcarw. When the balks were down a tub or cask would be hauled to the top of the mast indicating that vessels were not allowed to attempt to enter the harbour.

To assist ships into harbour a number of unlicensed pilots or “Hobblers” worked from Amlwch. These men used small rowing or sailing boats to steer and pull vessels into the narrow entrance. Some Hobblers had been known to sail out 20 miles to Holyhead to pick up a boat destined for Amlwch.

The addition of a 150-foot pier with a small light house, which was completed in 1816 also meant that vessels could use the harbour for refuge in case of storm.
The original watch house was replaced with another larger structure in 1853. Which is still there.

The need to insure ships resulted in the formation of the Amlwch Mutual Marine Insurance company, who held regular business meetings in the Adelphi Vaults public house at the end of the harbour.

The cruel sea around the Anglesey coast resulted in many ships being damaged and brought to Amlwch for repair. The ship repair business soon became a lucrative trade in it’s own right.

Nicholas Treweek felt that his yard on the western side was restricted in scope. He was planning a larger yard with a dry dock for repairs on the eastern side of the harbour. A great amount of rock again needed to be blasted away to create a ship yard and slipway. A dry dock was also created which is still in existence.

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