A small 20th Century ochre working immediately south of Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire. The site of which is now covered by a new housing estate.
Greenhill Ochre Mine lies approximately one mile south of Haverfordwest at about NGR SM 951141, in an area designated for residential development. The mine was briefly active in the second decade of the 20th century working ochre found in the Carboniferous Limestone which in the area of the mine is overlain by the Millstone Grit.
Ochre is a hydrated oxide of iron and manganese used in paint manufacture and as a filler in various processes including the manufacture of brown paper, and occurs as a replacement deposit in the limestone. Such deposits do not form a regular orebody but are found in pockets of variable size often linked by thin beds of no economic value.
The deposits at Greenhill were discovered during well sinking in 1910. A pocket at least 25 feet thick and considered capable of being worked economically was found 50 feet below surface in an area adjacent to the northwestern corner of field OS 1400, adjoining Haroldston Close. The discovery was made by Mr J G Summons a local mining engineer who subsequently managed the mine for agents Messrs Eaton Evans on behalf of the landowner, a Mrs Bushe.
By February 1911 a number of miners, drawn from the coal workings in the Freystrop area, were engaged in opening up the deposit. A shaft (No. 1) gave access to the ochre deposit; this was linked by a level or drift driven west of south, at 67 feet below surface (at No. 1 Shaft), for approximately 390 feet, to another shaft immediately north of the old Greenhill farmhouse. A headframe was erected at this shaft (No. 2 or Upcast Shaft) to facilitate haulage; with a small steam engine installed in a shed alongside the shaft. The latter having been moved there from No. 1 Shaft where it had probably been used during the initial sinking.
Exploration of the ground west of the original discovery was carried out by sinking a further shaft (No. 3) near the Pembroke Road, but when reported on this shaft had not been sunk deep enough to cut the limestone (2). It is not known if this shaft was ever completed as an effective trial.
Once the initial development work was completed the workforce was reduced to five; two men employed underground and three at surface in 1911-12, with three underground and two at surface in 1913. With the outbreak of the First World War publication of detailed mine by mine statistics were discontinued and never resumed, therefore information for that period is limited. Manpower shortages during the war probably curtailed activity at Greenhill. The mine was idle by 1916 and finally abandoned in 1919.
The amount of ochre mined is impossible to gauge as no detailed production returns were made to the Home Office. However, at least 30 tons were raised in 1911 and despatched for evaluation by processors in the west of England.
Judging by the abandonment plan, ochre extraction was confined to an area immediately north and south of No. 1 Shaft. A level, at 73 feet below surface, was driven north of that shaft for 22 feet with a cross level east, for 18 feet, 14 feet from the shaft. Ochre was removed from that area and from an area up to 33 feet south of the shaft, where the deposit was proved to 18 feet above the main drift.
Production was evidently sufficient to justify the re-roofing of the old farmhouse for use as a drying shed.
The site today has already been developed for residential purposes on three sides and the central area cleared with roads laid out preparatory to development. Work has now (January 1997) commenced on the construction of houses on the site with the provision of construction embargo on a wide strip of land either side of the drift between Nos. 1 and 2 Shafts. Consequently little remains to identify the sites of the three shafts sunk during working of the mine.
No. 1 Shaft is the only one displaying any evidence at surface. That shaft is located in the garden behind No. 35 Haroldston Close, at NGR SM 95111411, where a small shaft mound is visible. This has been used as a dump for garden refuse, thus obscuring the shaft collar; it is apparent that sinkage has taken place but it is not clear whether the shaft was capped or backfilled.
No. 2 Shaft was situated at NGR SM 95101400 immediately north east of the northern end of Venns Close. The site was obliterated in the earlier site clearance work and was not immediately identifiable at surface but, using information supplied by the author, the current developers have excavated an area of overburden around the shaft to locate the collar and are to cap same. The position of the old farmhouse is marked by a stone wall below the northern boundary fence of the northernmost houses in Venns Close and the remains of the outbuildings to the east of the farmhouse are still in evidence in the small triangle of ground to the northeast of those houses.
No. 3 Shaft is no longer in evidence at surface, its site being occupied by Nos. 59 and 61 Pembroke Road at about NGR SM 94911408.
There is apparently little of mining archaeological interest on site beyond the shaft mound at No. 1 shaft. Should the district council decide to clear and / or stabilise that shaft attention should be paid to any features revealed during such works.