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The Ancient Goldmines in Roman Britain.

Updated on January 26, 2018

Roman Gold


When the Roman Empire under Julius Augustus Caesar decided on the conquest of the British Isles in 44 BC they did so for a number of reasons. They obviously wanted to expand their empire. After all what is an empire if you don`t want to control everything and everybody within it? They may have also wanted to increase their trading monopoly into north-west Europe. They definitely wanted to defeat the British tribes as they had a fearsome reputation in Europe, and their ancient druidic religion practiced in the British Isles was not in keeping with accepted Roman forms of worship.

The main reason why Britain was a ripe and juicy target for invasion, was the wealth of raw materials that the territory had at its disposal. The British Isles had plenty of good quality farmland, an abundance of trees and stone for construction. But more importantly Britain also had a wealth of useful ore for either the Roman war machine or for the Roman elites, there was precious metals such as silver, tin and gold.



Welsh Gold Bullion Bars
Welsh Gold Bullion Bars

Roman Welsh Gold


The richest place in Great Britain for finding gold deposits has always been within the principality of Wales. Welsh gold is a very pure gold and is highly sort after. All the British Royal Families wedding bands are made from pure Welsh gold and it is a tradition that has survived since the 1500's. In modern times, the gold mines in Wales do not operate on a mass industrialized scale like they do in the rest of the world. And it is this that makes Welsh gold quite rare and of course very desirable. Of course, when something is rare. It always adds to the prestige and actual value of the luxury good.

Today in the British Isles, we have chosen to import gold from far flung countries like Australia, Canada, Ghana, South Africa, the USA and China. This is because we do not have the vast natural reserves of these other countries.

The historic British Empire before the 1700's was reliant on its own gold reserves to supply the Royal Mint to create their own coinage. With the start of colonialism and true world trade. The burden was eased on the United Kingdoms own natural resources.

Most of the Welsh gold mines where set amid ancient wooded hillsides overlooking the Cothi Valley. About 2,000 years ago, the occupying Roman Empire exploited the natural richness of ore in the area and put the remote outpost on the Imperial Roman map. Although it is entirely likely that the indigenous peoples had small scale mining operations stretching far back rich back into the bronze age. The Romans took over the mines and introduced more modern technologies to gain a higher level of output. The Romans drafted in workers from all over the British Isles and other parts of the Roman Empire to service and maintain the mines.

After the Roman occupation had ended, the mines fell into a poor state and suffered sporadic use. As a consequence of this, they left us behind a glimpse of their gold mining techniques. Their extraction methods and the conditions that the workers had to endure had pretty much continued unchanged deep into the Victorian era.


Precious metals in the UK.


You may have noticed there has been a marked increase of Cash for Gold offers spread across all forms of media.This is because the price of gold has increased steadily over the last decade. Due to the continued increase in the price of gold, it had been reported that the United Kingdoms last workable Goldmine In central Scotland may reopen. Exploration work is under way to uncover the true amount of gold available and level of purity. If the yields are good and viable at the Cononish mine, near the village of Tyndrum in central Scotland. It is entirely likely that we may see the ancient gold mine reactivated or at least made a tourist attraction to tempt gold prospectors to chance their luck in a limited gold rush.

Independent analysts are forecasting that there could be an output of over 150,000 ounces of gold left to mine, and this would be over an 8 year period.The same experts predict that 500,000 ounces of silver could still be mined from the same mineral deposits. Permission to commence commercial gold production has yet to be granted by the Crown Estate who owns the rights to most of the gold in the United Kingdom.



Native Welsh Gold in it's unrefined state.
Native Welsh Gold in it's unrefined state. | Source
A modern goldmine which would look very different to those used in Roman Britain.
A modern goldmine which would look very different to those used in Roman Britain.

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Gold in Britain


Other areas which may be the next likely to be surveyed and exploit include parts of Dorset, Devon, and Cornwall. In the days before global trade it is likely these areas added to the precious metals mined from Wales and Scotland. These locations supplied the early royal mint with the gold to produce the coins of the realm. I do wonder how much of the United Kingdom's gold reserves has been mined. It is very hard to find written records of old disused goldmines in Great Britain.

Once a goldmine is thought to be obsolete, it is abandoned and after a while. It is often set-up to extract other precious metals. In my research I searched for place names which may hold a clue to where gold may have been mined within England. I would have expected all surface gold reserves to have been depleted my our ancestors. Still there is a part of me that believes that in some forgotten corner of Britain, there are vast reserves just waiting to be discovered. Britain may have more value than it is given credit for. Gold has held an attraction for us since the days of Ancient Egypt, and it seems forever linked to the wealth and prosperity of nations and individuals.


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    • Asp52 profile imageAUTHOR

      Andrew Stewart 

      7 years ago from England

      Thank you glad it was enjoyed

    • profile image

      Brodie 

      7 years ago

      Awesome article thank you

    • Asp52 profile imageAUTHOR

      Andrew Stewart 

      8 years ago from England

      I agree the rarity does push the price up. I suppose if money was no object we would all want one. I like the idea of the gold been mined by hand from a Welsh mine and then crafted by an expert Goldsmith, just think it would give the ring so much extra, than something mined from overseas and mass produced. I think it would have its own personality. Glad you found my article interesting thank you

    • knell63 profile image

      knell63 

      8 years ago from Umbria, Italy

      Hi Asp, interesting hub, I always like the idea of getting a Clogau gold ring but their rarity makes them so expensive.

    • Asp52 profile imageAUTHOR

      Andrew Stewart 

      8 years ago from England

      I would agree with that, if the price of gold continues to increase I am sure the Celtic nations will exlpoit the rich seam which flows from Cornwall through Wales and Scotland and upto Canada.

    • CMHypno profile image

      CMHypno 

      8 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      Interesting Hub on gold mining in Great Britain. It would be great if some of the old gold mines could be re-opened as they would provide much needed jobs and income.

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