A new world heritage site? Ten pictures from the archaeology and history of Wales's slate industry

By Ben Miller | 23 May 2015

Could Gwynedd join UNESCO? See pictures from Welsh Slate: Archaeology and History of an Industry

A black and white photo of a group of quarrymen sitting in lines
© By permission of Gwynedd Archives Service
Slates from quarries the length and breadth of Gwynedd once roofed large parts of the world, and its global significance has been recognised with the inclusion of the Slate Industry of North Wales on the UK’s tentative list of World Heritage Sites to be submitted to UNESCO. These are the Dorathea quarrymen.

An overhead photo of magnificent countryside
© Crown copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW)
This is an aerial view of the Nantlle landscape, looking west. “The slate industry left its mark on not only the country’s landscape but also had a profound social and cultural impact on the region, on Wales and on the wider world,” says Dr David Gwyn, the author of a new book, Welsh Slate: Archaeology and History of an Industry.

A black and white illustration of men in suits standing around a table
© By permission of Gwynedd Archives Service
In this portrait of the quarrymen’s committee, the union leader, WJ Parry (left), confronts Lord Penrhyn (right).

An overhead photo of mountains and slate populations within green countryside land
© Crown copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW)
This is a view of Ffestiniog. “The Industrial Revolution may have been founded on textiles and powered by steam, but it was roofed with slates skilfully wrenched from the Snowdonia hills,” says Professor R Merfyn Jones, who has written the foreword to the book.

A black and white photo of people working within an ancient mill
© By permission of Gwynedd Archives Service
In 1900, a conflict between Lord Penrhyn and the Bethesda quarrymen led to a bitter three-year strike This is the Floor 5 mill at Llechwedd.

A photo of castle ruins under mountains in the Welsh countryside
© Crown copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW)
This shows Ynys y Pandy slab mill, with Gorsedda quarry in the background.

A black and white photo of a slate-maker at work in a mill
© Crown copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW)
Councillor Mandy Williams-Davies will chair the UNESCO bid’s Steering Group. This picture shows a slate-maker.

A photo showing stone barracks and trees on a path weaving through countryside
© Crown copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW)
“The book will help the people of Gwynedd take pride in yet another part of the county’s rich heritage, ensuring that the industry continues to bring benefits of all kinds to people still living in the slate communities and beyond,” says Councillor Williams-Davies. These are the Anglesey barracks at Dinorwic quarry.

A black and white photo showing castle ruins next to a quay
© Crown copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW)
The book is described as “encyclopaedic” in its range and “immensely detailed” in its research, illustrated by outstanding drawings and photography. This one shows Caernarfon quay.

A black and white photo of people in suits standing around a small train at a quarry
© By permission of Gwynedd Archives Service
In this photo, the “quarryman’s champion”, William John Parry, leads distinguished visitors from the labour movement around the newly-equipped co-operative Pant Dreiniog quarry.


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It is very exciting that another world heritage site could be added to North Wales, such a tiny region even in Europe. But it certainly has what is necessary.
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