Now and Then XIII: Gilfach Ddu, Dinorwic Quarry

Gilfach Ddu - Now and Then

Gilfach Ddu – Now and Then

Date

6 June 2015
Location

Llanberis

SH 58297 60714; 53.12469°N, 4.11913°W

Information

“On the declivity of the mountain, and nearly opposite Dolbadarn castle, on the eastern side of the lake, are extensive slate quarries, the property of Thomas Asheton Smith, Esq. situated high among the rocks ; the mode of conveying the slates down the almost precipitous descent, to the margin of the lake, was formerly singularly awkward, and apparently very dangerous – The carts, each conveying about one ton of slates in winter, and two in summer, were drawn down a serpentine path by one horse in front, and one hooked on behind to counteract the rapidity of motion which other wise would endanger the whole. From the lake the slates were carted in great quantities to the Menai, from whence they were shipped to Ireland, Liverpool, America, &c. To avoid this great labour and danger, about ten years ago, a new railroad was made from the quarries down to the shipping place at Velin Heli on the Menai, a distance of about nine miles. By this road, the slates are conveyed down, at an average, it is said, of about 100 tons daily throughout the year. At this place of activity, generally designated by the name of “Dinorwic Slate Quarry,” above 1000 men are usually employed.”

— Joseph Hemingway, Panorama of the beauties, curiosities, and antiquities of North Wales, exhibited in its Mountains, Vallies, Waterfalls, Lakes, Cities and Towns, Castles and Ruins, etc. Intended as a Pocket Companion to the Tourist and Traveller., 1839

Further Reading

National Slate Museum;
Dinorwic Quarry;
Other posts in the Dinorwic Quarry series

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Neville Foulkes

Neville Foulkes exhibition, National Slate Museum

Neville Foulkes exhibition, National Slate Museum

Date

3 March 2013
Location

National Slate Museum, Llanberis

SH 58555 60290; 53.12095°N, 4.11508°W

Information

Painter and sculptor John Neville Foulkes (1937-1997) was born and lived all his life in Llanberis. On leaving school, he found employment at Dinorwic Quarry, where he worked for many years.

The exhibition at the National Slate Museum, which runs until 30 June 2013, features a small selection of Foulkes’ work, much of which was strongly influenced by his experience of working in the slate quarry.

National Slate Museum

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

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

Date

5 February 2012
Location

Dinorwic Quarry, Llanberis

SH 58782 60224; 53.12042°N, 4.11167°W

Information

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

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