Penrhyn Quarry Hospital

Penrhyn Quarry Hospital

Date

10 March 2012
Location

Penrhyn Quarry, Bethesda

SH 62471 65804; 53.17151°N, 4.05898°W

Information

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.

North West Wales History – Quarry Hospitals (BBC)
A village medical mystery (BMJ)

Edward Davies, The North Wales Quarry Hospitals and the Health and Welfare of the Quarrymen, 2003, Gwynedd Archives Service (ISBN 0901337838)

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Brick - Cliff & Sons, Wortley Leeds

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11 thoughts on “Penrhyn Quarry Hospital

  1. It’s difficult to take meaningful shots of a subject like this, yet you’ve managed some super shots here. I like the contrast on the bricks, plus the very fine tonal range you always achieve in your photographs.

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  2. I have nothing but praise for your work in bringing these places to our eyes. And so very appreciated is your thorough summary of the history. I presume the hospital also included staff residence rooms. For all his negative traits, Dr. Roberts nonetheless served in a less-than-exotic setting for a great whack of years. I suppose I’d be a bit that way myself.

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    • Thanks Lance. In 1875 the hospital had 14 rooms, five of which were staff quarters. There is a big house and grounds not far from the hospital which used to be the residence of the hospital surgeon. Apparently when Hamilton Roberts quit his post he refused to vacate the residence and remained living there for a further three years. It is now owned by a surgeon of a different kind – a tree surgeon (http://www.dafydd-cadwaladr.co.uk/)

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  3. Hi Graham,
    I have an entry in my family tree that shows James Bradley Hughes, born 1865 in Liverpool, being moved from a mental institute in Liverpool to The Quarry Hospital. He was shown there as an inmate for the 1911 census. Super Pics by the way.

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  4. The is lots of information on the Penrhyn Quarry Hospital, which I am very interested in, but I’d very much like to contact Dr Edward Davies, the author of the North Wales Quarry Hospitals book. Does anyone have any contact details, please?

    Like

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