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Historic Landscapes

Historic Landscape Characterisation

Holywell Common and Halkyn Mountain

The following description, taken from the Historic Landscapes Register, identifies the essential historic landscape themes in the historic character area.

Holywell Common

Holywell Common - the northern section of the Historic Landscape
Base map reproduced from the OS map with the permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of The Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office, © Crown Copyright 2002.
All rights reserved. Unauthorised reproduction infringes Crown Copyright and may lead to prosecution or civil proceedings. Licence Number: GD272221

Halkyn Mountain

Halkyn Mountain - the southern section of the Historic Landscape
Base map reproduced from the OS map with the permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of The Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office, © Crown Copyright 2002.
All rights reserved. Unauthorised reproduction infringes Crown Copyright and may lead to prosecution or civil proceedings. Licence Number: GD272221

The conjoining uplands of Halkyn Mountain and Holywell Common form an elongated plateau to the east of the Clwydian Hills, separated from them by the Wheeler valley, and overlooking the north east coastal strip of Flintshire and the estuary of the River Dee beyond. The area is about 250m above OD with small local summits protruding no more than 20m above this. The landscape so defined comprises the most important lead and zinc ore field in Wales, and is geologically part of the Carboniferous Limestone belt which runs south from Prestatyn in the north, to Hope Mountain and the northern side of the Bala fault in the south.

Working is assumed to have started in Roman times because of the discovery of Roman remains associated with the production of lead, outside the area, at Pentre near Flint. Medieval mining is also attested from documentary sources, but 19th century mining has obliterated any traces of earlier workings. The area therefore bears valuable archaeological evidence of one of the oldest industries in Flintshire.

The Quaker Company was instrumental in pioneering lead mining in the county from the late 17th to late 18th centuries, and there is documentary evidence of improvements in technology that allowed deeper shafts to be driven and the location of richer veins. The richest veins were worked intensely throughout the 18th and 19th centuries in the areas now referred to as Halkyn Mountain, Holywell Common and Pen-y-Ball Top, and in 1850, 11,500 tons of lead were produced amounting to about 12% of the British total. However, mining declined at the end of the 19th century in the face of cheaper imported lead, and there was only small-scale, intermittent activity following the First World War until the remaining mines closed in the 1960s.

The ore field landscape is very distinctive, generally devoid of vegetation and now forms common land returned to rough pasture. Although most of the standing structures associated with the mining have now been lost, the landscape itself, comprising an extensive myriad of craters and tips of no great size, remains remarkably intact and is particularly apparent from the air. A recent survey in the area has recorded in excess of 250 mine sites.

In the undeveloped areas, particularly Halkyn Mountain, the historical significance and value of the landscape is, therefore, in the workings themselves. The archaeological evidence consists mainly of shallow workings or deeper stone-lined shafts, although several horse whim circles can also be identified. They bear evidence of the richness of the veins like Pant-y-gof, Pant-y-ffrith, Pant-y-pydew and Union Vein, where activity was centred on winning and removing the ores rather than dressing them on site. Of the larger mines, earthwork evidence remains of leats and reservoirs, some still holding water, which would have served the dressing floor areas. Where they have survived, small terraces of houses and mine offices have been converted to modern dwellings.

Unrelated to the mining remains, but of industrial archaeological interest, Waen Brodlas in the south of Holywell Common is noted for structural remains and documentary evidence of a significant number of 19th century limekilns. Also unrelated to the mining remains, but included in the area, is the Iron Age hillfort of Moel y Gaer, Rhosesmor, sited on the summit of the isolated hill at south end of Halkyn Mountain. Extensive excavations on the site in 1972 - 74 before the construction of the covered reservoir, revealed evidence of the construction of the defences and of a remarkable succession of timber-built dwellings occupying the interior.

Historic landscape themes in the Holywell Common and Halkyn Mountain Historic Landscape

The Natural Landscape

The Administrative Landscape

Settlement Landscapes

Agricultural Landscapes

Transport and Communications

Industrial Landscapes

Defended Landscapes

Funerary, Ecclesiastical and Ornamental Landscapes

Other sources of information

Published and unpublished sources of information

Holywell Common and Halkyn Mountain historic landscape character area (HLCA 1081)

The Holywell Common and Halkyn Mountain historic landscape is above all else a mining landscape of the 18th and 19th centuries, and is considered to form a single character area (1081). The area forms an upland limestone plateau situated between the Clwydian Hills and the Dee estuary in north Flintshire, with extensive and highly distinctive relict 18th and 19th centuries, and possibly earlier, lead mining remains, associated features and settlements, unparalleled elsewhere in Wales.


A complex landscape to the west of Brynford, with abandoned mine shafts, old enclosure on the common land, modern housing and part of Holywell Golf Course. Photo: Crown Copyright, RCAHMW 93-CS-1339 (back to map)


Pwll-clai, viewed from the south, alongside the road between Pentre Halkyn and Brynford, with lines of shafts following running along the rich Pwll-clai and Pant-y-pydew Veins, Holywell Common. A curving leat along the fields to the right served water-powered machinery at the Pwll-clai dressing floors. Photo: Crown Copyright, RCAHMW 93-CS-1341 (back to map)

RCAHMW PHOTO 93-CS-1362 Intensive area of mine shafts south-east of Pentre Halkyn, Halkyn Mountain, to the east of Pant-y-pwll-dwr limestone quarry, just visible at the top right. The lines of shafts, of varying depths, follow rich east-west veins including those known as Billins and Chwarel Las, which were principally worked for lead. The linear workings in the bottom left are probably a north-south cross-cut. Photo: Crown Copyright, RCAHMW 93-CS-1362 (back to map)

RCAHMW PHOTO 93-CS-1366 Lead mining and limestone quarrying to the north of the road between Rhes-y-cae and Halkyn. Many of the shafts in this area have little development waste and were therefore probably either fairly shallow or have been backfilled, some having concrete beehive cappings. The quarries are associated with the pair of limekilns at the centre of the photograph. Photo: Crown Copyright, RCAHMW 93-CS-1366 (back to map)

RCAHMW PHOTO 93-CS-1378 Two well-preserved horse whims belonging to the former New North Halkyn Mine, north of Mount Villas, near the southern edge of Pant Quarry. A winding drum at the top of posts at the centre of each of the whims, turned by one or two horses, would have raised and lowered a cage for extracting the ore supported by A-frames set above each of the shafts to one side of the whims. Photo: Crown Copyright, RCAHMW 93-CS-1378 (back to map)

RCAHMW PHOTO 93-CS-1373 Structures associated with Pant-y-go mine, to the south of Halkyn, including earthwork reservoir, visible to the left with probably the foundations of workers’ barrack housing just below it. Photo: Crown Copyright, RCAHMW 93-CS-1373 (back to map)

For further information please contact the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust at this address, or link to the Countryside Council for Wales' web site at

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