History of the Watch House & Porth Amlwch

The history of Porth Amlwch dates back to medieval times but the sleepy fishing port was gradually overwhelmed by the copper trade as Parys Mountain copper mine expanded and the number of ships increased dramatically. Official details are listed by Coflein [wikipedia is remarkably silent on the topic].

"sleepy " harbour now, but was once wall to wall sailing ships loading and unloading cargo
“sleepy ” harbour now, but was once wall to wall sailing ships loading and unloading cargo [J Conway}

By the peak of copper ore production between 1760-1790 over a hundred ships were loading ore in the port from the large copper bins. There was also a considerable import trade of coal, gunpowder, mining machinery and supplies for the rapidly grown town. Limestone was a popular ballast or full cargo as it was needed for lime mortar or for liming fields.

seen from above, lime kiln constructed to receive limestone as ballast from ships arriving from South Wales to collect copper ore. Watch House in distance [J Conway]

An Act of Parliament in 1793 provided for enlargements and modifications to the harbour, the creation of the copper bins and the upper road for filling them. The two stub piers were built, with provision for large baulks of timber to be lowered in times of storm or large swell to protect moored ships.

end of stub wall showing cobbled floor and [infilled] slot of baulks of timber
end of stub wall showing cobbled floor and [infilled] slot of baulks of timber [J Conway}

The Watch House pier was built in 1816 and the lighthouse erected in 1819. In 1853 the Watch House was built to house the ‘hobblers’ while waiting their task of rowing out to meet incoming ships and tow them in, guide to their berths and eventually to tow them out again.

Porth Amlwch hosting a sailing ship [J Conway]

The harbour had an extended lease of life as James Treweek, the Parys Mine Captain, not only developed new ways of winning copper ore but founded a ship building yard on the far side, then another beyond the Watch House pier where there was room for two slipways and a dry dock, the latter can still be seen. the last ship built there was sailing until 1984.

ips
Dry dock, or more correctly ‘graving’ dock for constructing ships and below, still useful! [J Conway]

GeoMon sell a short guide to the history of Porth Amlwch and the Watch House whilst there is a free downloadable walking trail to the port and its geology.

Geopark Centre

GeoMôn acquired the Watch House in 2010 for use as its visitor centre and has maintained and improved it ever since; renovating the lighthouse in 2020 so the “fixed white light” initiated in 1819 now shines again.

lighthouse by night
Lighthouse by night – shining again after a long darkness ! [M Schwaller]

For opening times, facilities and displays please see main page.

For special exhibitions or temporary displays please see displays page

new unesco geomon logo
new unesco geomon logo

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