Whilst visiting the Church of St Eleth’s Church in Amlwch, Anglesey to look at its construction and building materials, my eye was caught by an interesting grave slab in Cambrian slate from the Welsh mainland. It commemorates an early mine ‘geologist’, Jonathan Roose who worked at the copper mines at Parys Mountain nearby.
Jonathan Roose died in the 6thFebruary 1815, aged a venerable 85 years. He was buried in the churchyard of St Eleth’s in Amwch. He is one of the reputed discoverers of the copper ores at Parys Mountain in north Anglesey. These deposits of chalcopyrite-rich ore were huge in the 18thand 19thCenturies where they were exploited and used in the ship-building industry for ‘copper-bottomed boats. According to historical sources, the ore was discovered in 1768 by a Rowland Pugh (who was subsequently awarded a bottle of whisky). The Parys Mine Company was founded in 1774 when Jonathan Roose was employed as the ‘technical consultant’. Almost certainly he was responsible for the discovery or numerous further deposits, as his eulogy suggests. The operation of copper extraction and smelting at Porth Amlwch was huge; 3 million tonnes of ore was converted into 130 thousand tonnes of copper between 1788 and 1805.
From the graves of the Roose family in St Eleth’s churchyard, there was clearly a tradition for poetic eulogies to be inscribed onto gravestones, though Jonathan gets the longest poem. Perhaps a family member fancied themselves as a poet (probably to the horror of the memorial mason’s letter cutter). Do not expect great art here!
Among this throng of congregated dead,
Of kindred men whose spirits hence are fled,
Here lieth one whose mind had long to bear,
A toilsome task of industry and care.
He first yon Mountain’s wondrous riches found,
First drew its minerals blushing from the ground,
He heard the miners’ first exciting shout,
Then toil’d near Fifty Years to guide its treasures out.
The course of time will soon this stone decay,
His name, his memory will pass away,
Yet shall be left some monuments behind,
The mighty products of his master-mind,
Those labour’d levels which he formed to draw,
The teemful waters to the vale below,
And pillar’d caverns whence he drew the ores,
Will long his genius shew – when known his name no more.
Pugh’s and Roose’s discoveries were in fact rediscoveries. Archaeological excavations at Parys Mountain have revealed Bronze Age hammer stones suggesting copper was mined here as early as 2000 BCE, perhaps one of the first copper mines in the British Isles. The Romans also worked copper here, leaving copper cakes with stamped inscriptions. The ore itself is a kuroko-type deposit volcanic massive sulphides.
Barrett, T. J., MacLean, W. H. & Tennant, S. C., 2001, Volcanic Sequence and Alteration at the Parys Mountain Volcanic-Hosted Massive Sulfide Deposit, Wales, United Kingdom: Applications of Immobile Element Lithogeochemistry., Economic Geology, 96, 1279-1305.
Jenkins, D.A. 1995. Mynydd Parys Copper Mines. Archaeology in Wales 35: 35–37.
Timberlake, S. & Marshall, P., 2018, Chapter 29. Copper mining and smelting in the British Bronze Age: new evidence of mine sites including some re-analysis of dates and ore sources., in: Ben-Yosef, E. (Ed)., Mining for Ancient Copper Essays in Memory of Beno Rothenberg., Eisenbrauns: Winona Lake, Indiana and Emery and Claire Yass Publications in Archaeology: Tel Aviv University, 418-431.