Dinorwic Quarry (13) – National Slate Museum, Gilfach Ddu

The quarry hospital, purpose built in 1860 to treat occupational casualties


5 February 2012

Dinorwic Quarry, Llanberis

SH 58782 60224; 53.12042°N, 4.11167°W


Slate was commercially quarried at Dinorwic from 1787 until 1969. When the quarry closed, its workshops at Gilfach Ddu were acquired by the National Museum of Wales and are now home to the National Slate Museum, which first opened to the public in 1972.

The quarry was a hazardous place to work, as evidenced by the 362 fatalities recorded between 1822 and 1969. The hospital, located just above Llyn Padarn, was purpose built in 1860 so that those suffering injuries from accidents in the quarry could be quickly treated. The quarrymen and members of their families who fell ill received free treatment in the hospital. This was funded by the deduction of a shilling from the workers’ pay together with proceeds raised at charitable events.

With a diameter of 15.4 m, Gilfach Ddu’s 140-bucket waterwheel is the largest in mainland Britain (the Laxey Wheel on the Isle of Man has a diameter of 22.1 m). It was built by De Winton of Caernarfon in 1870 and was in service — powering all the workshops via line shafting running throughout the works — until 1925 when it was superseded by a much smaller but more efficient Pelton-wheel turbine. The waterwheel was restored in 2000 with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and is in continuous operation. It is supplied with water via cast-iron pipes from an intake at Ceunant waterfall on the Afon Arddu above Llanberis.

National Slate Museum (LustreBox);
National Slate Museum (GeoTopoi);
National Slate Museum (National Museum Wales);
Dinorwic Quarry;
Other posts in this series

The 15.4 m diameter waterwheel – the largest in mainland Britain

Machine shop rooftops

Steam crane in the yard. This crane used to unload slates at Port Dinorwic.

17 thoughts on “Dinorwic Quarry (13) – National Slate Museum, Gilfach Ddu

  1. I find this post most interesting, partly because I went to high school in Granville, New York, (graduated in ’65) one of the few places in North America boasting its slate quarries feature every known colour possible in slate. Because the town was surrounded by quarries and slag piles and pits, it had attracted many Welsh families to the area. I went to school with Williams’, Jenkins’, Jones’, and not only were all the roofs slate, but so too were our sidewalks and the floors of many kitchens. We used to go swimming in the unused pits. And everyone loved to sing.

    Thank you for posting these very interesting photos, Graham.


    • Glad you found it of interest, Lance. The ubiquity of slate sounds familiar – around here it used to be used as a universal building material: slate blocks for walls; slabs for flooring, hearths and fireplaces and even tomb stones; palings wired together for garden fences; and of course tiles for roofing and sometimes wall cladding; and so on…


  2. Hola Graham!!!!! Qué buena esta historia, y también las fotos. Me gustó mucho, además, los comentarios de la gente, sobre todo del señor que estudió en Nueva York….Las historias de las minas de pizzarra en Gales nos toca muy profundo el corazón…Mil gracias como siempre, Graham!!!!!!


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