Cors Caron and Industrial Pollution of the river Teifi in 1863

Cors Caron

Cors Caron ― also known as Cors Goch Glanteifi (the red bog on the banks of the Teifi) lies between Tregaron, Ystrad Meurig and Pontrhydfendigaid. It’s a vast area of wet marshy ground covering over 1000 hectare (~2470 acres) through which the river Teifi winds its way to the sea. The origin of the bog goes back around 12,000 years, to the time when this area was in the grip of the last ice age. When the glaciers melted they left behind a large shallow lake, which gradually filled with sediments and vegetation resulting in a waterlogged, acidic marshland, and ideal conditions for the formation of peat. For centuries Cors Caron was the main source of fuel for the local community, while for the Cardiganshire gentry and other moneyed people from further afield,  it was a place for recreation – to engage in the pleasures of shooting and fishing.

Much has been written about the bog, and following web-pages include snippets of history that seem worth compiling.


In the mid 19th century Cors Caron and, in particular the river Teifi, attracted many leisured Victorian gentlemen to the area. The letter opposite by an angler to The Times in 1863  is interesting ; it’s a reminder that tension between industry and environmental considerations is not a new phenomenon. In 1863 the balance may have been very much in favour of industry while to-day the pendulum has swung quite significantly.

Peat digging on the bog is now prohibited and nothing is allowed to mar the ‘actively growing bog’. Access is restricted to officially defined routes. Sadly, however, the river is still not entirely pollution-free. Now, acid rain is the main problem ; in 1863, it was effluent from the local lead mines.

However, it seems that the Times letter did not go un-noticed. Towards the end of that year, local mine owners were becoming more and more perturbed about river pollution. Public concern, and the fact that the government was about to set up a Royal Commission to look into the Prevention of River Pollution, was having an effect. Early in 1864 a Mr C Philp of Pantyfedwen [1] contacted an old, retired Lead Mine Agent living at Pontrhydfendigaid [2] to ascertain his opinion on matters relating to mine pollution. At the time, it appears that they had serious problems at the Florida or Abbey Consols Mine (also known locally as the Bronberllan mine)

An Angler’s Letter  to the TIMES

April 10 1863

Wholesale Destruction of Salmon in South Wales

Sir, For many years past I have been in the habit of spending a few days on the banks of the river Tify, between Tregaron and the source of the noblest of Welsh rivers for the purpose of fishing. Fancy my disgust on arriving at Tregaron the other day to find that some of the newly opened lead mines, either belonging to the Crown, Lord Lisburne, or Colonel Powell, M.P. for the county, have entirely destroyed this once celebrated salmon river!

From Tregaron to Strata Florida was within a short time the regular spawning bed for all the salmon in the river; now they only run up to die from poison, and are picked up by dozens dead. What were the Fishery Commissioners at who were lately sent down from London to visit this locality? Could the hospitalities of the ‘Celtic swells’ of the neighbourhood have caused them to overlook the flagrant state of the river Meurig, which not only poisons the fish, but also the cattle and poultry for miles after its confluence with the Tivy?

I am, Sir yours obediently,


Photo © Matthew Hatton (cc-by-sa/2.0)

For more related views of the Bronberllan mine click image above

Florida or Abbey Consols Lead Mine

Thomas Williams had extensive knowledge of north Cariganshire mines including Cwmystwyth, Lisburne, Llanfair, Frongoch, Brynhope, Bronberllan and Esgair.  He  could recall, he said, the time when the rivers and streams were rich in fish ; that was before the introduction of the ‘stamp‘ [3] which led to the rives and streams becoming heavily polluted. Extracts from Thomas Williams’ letter to Philps  is  give below [4] :

5 February 1864 to C Philp Esq, Bronberllan Mine

The oldest mine in the district is Cwmystwyth . . . and I know very well the river Ystwyth about 30 years ago with plenty of fish in it until they put up stamps there. So Lisburne mine was the same about 20 or 25 years ago. When I was working there in the mine, I killed a lot of fish many a time in the river below the mine until they erected the stamp.  The stamp . . . crushed the lead sulphide producing the slime that poisoned the river and killed the fish.

The old and not so old mines

Thomas Williams was saying that in the old mines there were no facilities for ‘cleaning up’ the slime before disposing of it, while in the not-so-old mines, the slime was allowed to stand in ponds or pools for six hours or more to allow the suspension to separate out. The resulting waste was less toxic and not ‘strong’.  The Brynhope mine for instance [5] was unlikely to  contribute significanty to the Cors Caron pollution.

. . . at the Brynhope mine the water course was on the lower side of the mine and . . . the slime after it goes through the slime pits is not strong enough to kill the fish, ducks or geese.

Large cubic galena crystals from Ystrad Meurig, Ceredigion.

National Museum of Wales Collection (NMW 16.243.GR.5).

Photo D.I. Green, © National Museum of Wales.

The story of mining in Ceredigion in the 18th century and early 19th century is really one of avarice overriding all other things including keeping the rivers free of pollution. However, by the mid 1800s there was mounting concern in the Country  about industry and the effect on public health and the environment. The government passed the first Alkali Act in 1863 and, in the following year, a Royal Commission was set up on the Prevention of River Pollution. The state of the Ceredigion rivers must have contributed, in no small measure, to the setting up of this Royal Commission.  Cardiganshire mine-owners must have been concerned at the time and, it appears that Bronberllan was particularly so. 

Photo © Matthew Hatton (cc-by-sa/2.0) 

Present day traces of Bronberllan’s spoil heaps, dressing floors  and slime ponds

One hundred and fifty years on, some Ceredigion rivers are still affected by past mining activities. They are also facing new threats in the form of acid rain anf climate change ; it appears that the struggle to protect the environment is going to be an on-going one – possibly, for more than another 150 years.


[1]There were no references to Philp of Pantyfedwen in the census returns. A person living at Pantyfedwn in 1864 would, probably, be somebody important. It’s possible that the person involved was C Phelp, not Philp and a relative of the Nanteos family. For further information relating to the Phelp family and Nanteos, see Nanteos: A Welsh House and its Families‘, edited by Gerald Morgan, 2001.
 [2]According to the 1861 census, Thomas Williams was a 70 year old widow and an ex Lead Mine Agent who lived at 17 Bridge  Street (where is No. 17?). He had a 27 year old son (Edward)  who was also a Lead Mine Agent.
[3]]NLW Ms L2623
 [4]‘Y mochyn’ yn Gymraeg
 [5]The Brynhope mine was sited roughly half to three-quarters of a mile on the east side of the Teifi river and about a mile and a half downstream of the Bronberllan workings.

Click button to return to the top of the page and to the main navigation bar