|Date||10 March 2012|
|Location||Penrhyn Quarry, Bethesda||SH 62471 65804; 53.17151°N, 4.05898°W|
The working environments in the slate quarries were very hazardous with accidents a frequent occurrence. The first Penrhyn Quarry Hospital opened in 1825 and was located in Mount Street, Bangor — some six miles away from the quarry. Casualties were most likely transported to the hospital in horse-drawn wagons on the quarry tramway. So that injured quarrymen could receive more immediate medical attention, a replacement hospital was built at the quarry itself in 1840. This initially had 20 beds and continued to admit inpatients until 1931. The hospital closed in 1967.
There were three other quarry hospitals in NW Wales: Oakeley Quarries at Blaenau Ffestiniog, opened 1848; Dinorwic, opened 1860; and Llechwedd, opened 1888. The quarry hospitals provided Britain’s first occupational health service and were partly funded by the workers’ monthly subscriptions to their respective quarry benefit clubs.
Hamilton Alder Roberts — one of the nation’s fastest surgeons, able to perform a mid-thigh leg amputation in less than 60 seconds — was the first full-time doctor at Penrhyn Quarry Hospital. In 1846, the use of ether as an anaesthetic was first demonstrated by William Morton, a Boston dentist. The following year Roberts amputated the leg of an injured quarryman anaesthetised with ether — the first successful operation with anaesthesia in NW Wales. With his involvement in several acrimonious disputes, Roberts’ career was marked by some controversy. The quarry benefit club took over the running of the hospital from the quarry managers in 1875 and, even though it contravened the club’s own rules, appointed an unqualified, but nevertheless well regarded, bonesetter as Roberts’ assistant. Incensed, Roberts involved the British Medical Association, which threatened the club with legal action. Later that year, after 35 years in the post, Roberts resigned over the issue.
Edward Davies, The North Wales Quarry Hospitals and the Health and Welfare of the Quarrymen, 2003, Gwynedd Archives Service (ISBN 0901337838)