400th Anniversary of Sir Hugh Myddelton’s New River

Sir Hugh Myddelton, the New River and his mines in Mid Wales.

Portrait 2Hugh Myddelton was born in the year 1560, at Galch Hill in Denbigh, the sixth son of Sir Richard Myddelton, the Governor of Denbigh Castle. During his early life he was apprenticed as a goldsmith. By 1592 he was a Liveryman of the Goldsmiths Company, in 1597 he became an Alderman and then Recorder for Denbigh. He succeeded his father as the MP for Denbigh Boroughs in 1603; he held the position until 1628. In 1604 he was appointed a Warden of the Goldsmiths Company, he became the Royal Jeweler to King James I in 1605.

A project was launched in 1602, by Edmund Colthurst to bring fresh drinking water to London from springs at Chadwell and Amwell near Ware in Hertfordshire, via a 38 mile newly constructed watercourse to Clerkenwell just outside the City of London, called the New River.  The original project ground to a halt after only the first two miles had been surveyed and dug. In 1609 Hugh Myddelton took on the project, which required a financial input from King James I, the New River was completed and officially opened on 29th September 1613, the day his brother Sir Thomas Myddelton became Lord Mayor of London.

The New River was financed from the profits of his work as a Goldsmith in London and other business interests not from his mining interests in Cardiganshire [as many sources state], which did not begin until 1617, four years after the New River had been completed. This misapprehension was probably derived from Sir John Pettus [Fodinae Regales 1670]. Although Myddelton did not finance the New River from the profits of his Welsh Mines, the income would certainly have offset his losses incurred in building the New River.

In the years following 1617 Myddelton obtained large profits from his Silver/Lead Mines in Wales. This was not his first mining venture in Wales, earlier in his life he unsuccessfully attempted to find coal near his native town of Denbigh.

Hugh Myddelton had involvements at Cwmsymlog, Cwmerfin, Goginan, Bronfloyd, Cwmystwyth, Alltycrib (Talybont), Darren and Bwlch Caninog in north. He leased the Mines Royal for £400 per annum. At Cwmsymlog, the eastern end Bwlch Cwmsymlog yielded 100 ounces of silver per ton of lead ore with a value of £18,000 per annum. Myddelton built a chapel at Cwmsymlog for the miners. Following his death in 1631 his mining leases passed to Lady Myddelton who then sold them to Thomas Bushell in 1636.

In 1620 he joined forces with Sir Bevis Thelwall  in an attempt to reclaim the land between Brading, Isle of Wight and the sea, by constructing an embankment of stones and clay. They effectively drained more than 700 acres of land.

Following the engineering works at Brading he was created Baronet on October 19th 1622, the first engineer to be so honoured, his title was “Sir Hugh Myddelton in the County of Denbigh”. When he was made Baronet, the King waived all claims to royalties from his mines in recognition of his work on the New River and at Brading.

He died 7th December 1631 at his London home in Cheapside


Graham Levins (left) and Mike Kensey (right) at Sir Hugh Myddelton’s statue, Islington Green. (Photo: Mike Kensey)

Graham Levins (left) and Mike Kensey (right) at Sir Hugh Myddelton’s statue, Islington Green. (Photo: Mike Kensey)

400th Anniversary Celebrations, London.

On Sunday 29th September 2013 Graham Levins attended the celebrations on behalf of the Welsh Mines Preservation Trust. The day was spent visiting various celebrations along the New River, in the company of Mike Kensey from the New River Action Group.

The two highlights of the day were laying a bouquet of flowers at Sir Hugh Myddelton’s Statue on Islington Green and attending the re-enactment of the opening ceremony 400 years ago, at New River Head in Clerkenwell.


Cwmsymlog Heritage Weekend

cwmsymlog mine

In May 2013 the Trust held a Heritage Weekend to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Sir Hugh Myddelton’s New River in London, by visiting the mines he was associated with in Mid Wales.

Read more about the weekend’s activities and celebrations here.

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