Today, people climb the 500 feet to the summit of Graig Fawr, known locally as Meliden Mountain, to witness the stunning sights afforded over the surrounding countryside and Irish Sea. It was given to the National Trust by Sir Geoffrey Summers, who owned Shotton Steelworks, whose grave and memorial are at nearby St Bridget’s in Dyserth. The site has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to the presence of rare plants that continue to thrive sue to the lack of agricultural workings on the hill.
Yet, Graig Fawr was once part of a thriving and enormous lead and mineral mining landscape that encompassed much of this area, including Dyserth and Prestatyn. Indeed, it is almost impossible to distinguish individuality to these towns before the 19th century, such is their intertwined mining heritage. However, Graig Fawr’s past goes back much further than its mining past.
There was certainly a considerable amount of Bronze Age activity. Several finds of real interest were discovered, largely through the amount of mining work which took place in the area. Amongst other findings, a rare tanged Bronze Age chisel was discovered in the 19th century, along with a socketed knife, discovered in 1946 after the surface was apparently torn up by tank practice on the hill.
Yet, Graig Fawr looms large in our Roman past. It was during this time that mining became a hugely important industry, attested to by the finds of Roman coins scattered about the site. It was at this time that the exposed veins of lead were exploited. The impact of this Roman mining activity can be seen in the building of forts and road networks throughout North Wales, and of course the bathhouse discovered at Prestatyn. Lead ingots which were mined in the Meliden-Dyserth Area continue to be found throughout Britain.
With the end of the Roman occupation in the 5th century, mining, mineral or otherwise, seems to have faded away. In fact, there are no records or evidence of mining in this area until the 13th century. Edward I of England arrived in North East Wales in a storm of slaughter and massive castle building. Lead in huge quantities was needed, and the mines of Graig Fawr were once again opened. They probably did not close again until the 1850s. We have evidence of four German workers mining in Dissard (Dyserth) in 1303.
The land during this medieval and post medieval age was owned by the Bishops of St Asaph, the Earls of Plymouth and the Mostyns, with perhaps a little common land thrown in. There is a record of a William ap Robert leasing mineral rights on Carreg Faylon (Graig Fawr) to Sir John Conway in the mid-17th century, but there were plenty of later 17th century arguments as to who owned what, disagreements that were not settled until the area was declared the property of a Ralph Hughes in 1660. It was at this time that mining in the area became a huge business, although gradually operations settled at the bottom of the hill, in the Talargoch mines about Meliden and Dyserth.
Graig Fawr is popular with walkers and families, who make the climb to appreciate the wonderful views, many not realising that beneath their feet are the remains of Bronze Age peoples, and deeper still the shafts within which the debris of two thousand years of mining remain.