Gerlan after Emma

‘International’, at the old Pumping Station, looking towards the Glyderau

Date

2 March 2018

Location

Gerlan, Bethesda
SH 63330 66572; 53.17863°N, 4.04646°W

Information

After the ‘Beast from the East’ and Storm Emma.

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Princess May Water Balance, Penrhyn Quarry

Date

17 September 2017

Location

Penrhyn Quarry, Bethesda
SH 62228 65513; 53.16883°N, 4.06249°W

Information

Princess May is one of the two surviving water balances at Penrhyn Quarry; the other is called Sebastopol and has been restored. Originally there were eight at the quarry… [Read more about the water balance and see more photographs from 2011 here]

Further Reading

Princess May Water Balance, Penrhyn Quarry;
Zip World Adventure Terminal;
Penrhyn Quarry

Zip World Adventure Terminal

Zip World Adventure Terminal

Date

17 September 2017

Location

Penrhyn Quarry, Bethesda
SH 62228 65513; 53.16883°N, 4.06249°W

Information

Construction of Zip World’s new £3.3 million Adventure Terminal started in spring 2016 and it was built by Llanelli-based WRW Construction. The opening of the company’s new headquarters was planned for Easter 2017 but took place in September 2017. In addition to offices and the kitting-up area for the zip-line ‘flyers’, the building features the Blondin restaurant/café bar together with viewing galleries and a function space.

Further Reading

Zip World;
Penrhyn Quarry

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Now and then IV: Tanrhiw Road, Tregarth

Tanrhiw Road, Tregarth

Tanrhiw Road, Tregarth

Date

21 September 2014
Location

Tregarth

SH 60380 68039; 53.19104°N, 4.09121°W

Information

During the Great Strike of 1900-1903 at his slate quarry in Bethesda, the 2nd Baron Penrhyn built a row of houses in the nearby village of Tregarth as accommodation for strike-breaking quarrymen. Locally known as Stryd y Gynffon (Traitors’ Row), Tanrhiw Road was laid out next to the railway station on the Bethesda branch of the London and North Western Railway (LNWR), which had opened in 1884. Passenger traffic on this branch line ceased in 1951 and the track was completely closed in 1963, with the station being demolished in the 1980s. A community centre and recreation ground now occupy the site of the former railway and station.

 

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Now and then I: Penrhyn Quarry

Penrhyn Quarry from Pantdreiniog, Bethesda

Penrhyn Quarry from Pantdreiniog, Bethesda – Now and Then

Date

13 September 2014
Location

Pantdreiniog, Bethesda

SH 62359 66882; 53.18116°N, 4.06111°W

Information

Pantdreiniog slate quarry in Bethesda opened c 1825 with local proprietors. Its ownership subsequently changed a number of times and in the 1890s it was sold to a Cardiff company by Liverpool builder John Williams, who had worked it for close to 40 years. In 1903 it was acquired by a London company created with the purpose of providing work for striking quarrymen from Penrhyn Quarry. Little evidence is visible today of the workings at this quarry, most of the site now being landscaped open ground at the back of the High Street.

 

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Great Strike Memorial, Bethesda

Great Strike Memorial in the garden of the Welsh Presbyterian Jerusalem Chapel, Bethesda

Great Strike Memorial in the garden of the Welsh Presbyterian Jerusalem Chapel, Bethesda

Date

27 September 2014
Location

Bethesda

SH 62443 66693; 53.17948°N, 4.05979°W

Information

This slate slab was placed in the garden of Jerusalem Chapel (Welsh Presbyterian Church) in Bethesda in 2000, the centenary of the start of the Great Strike, which commenced on 22 November 1900 and lasted for three years. The monument was erected by the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU), with which the Quarrymen’s Union had merged in the 1950s, and which, in turn, later became part of the Unite union.

At the end of the 19th century, Penrhyn Quarry, owned by George Sholto Gordon Douglas-Pennant (1836 – 1907), 2nd Baron Penrhyn of Llandygai, was the largest slate quarry in the world and had a workforce of 2,800 men. When George Sholto assumed control of the quarry he set about reforming its management to maximise his profits and started by disbanding the elected quarrymen’s committee that had played a role in the administration of the quarry under his father’s ownership. Conditions at the quarry were dangerous and extremely harsh, and the rewards for the quarrymen meagre. Following a number of disputes, the North Wales Quarrymen’s Union was formed in 1874 and an 11-month strike in 1896 was unsuccessful in securing a minimum wage. In 1900, union activities at the quarry were banned which sparked a series of events that culminated in what was to become the longest industrial dispute in British history. All the workers withdrew their labour and the quarry was closed until June 1901 when only 242 men returned to work, joined by a number of new recruits. Despite the dire hardships, the strikers held out for three years before returning to the quarry after the General Federation of Trade Unions stopped paying strike pay to the men. During this period many had left the area in search of work elsewhere and the divisive effects of the conflict were to be felt by the community for generations to come.

What I Saw At Bethesda

The reformist newspaper The Daily News, which had been founded in 1846 by Charles Dickens, sent its Special Correspondent Charles Sheridan Jones (1876 – 1925) to Bethesda in order to cover the story of the strike. His articles for the paper provided first-hand accounts of the plight of the quarrymen and also the effects the dispute was having on the local community. A collection of these articles was published in 1903 in the book What I Saw At Bethesda. Jones also played a part in distributing money from the relief fund organised by the newspaper. To mark the centenary of the end of the strike, the book was republished in 2003 by Gomer Press with an interesting biographical introduction by J Elwyn Hughes. Hughes also illustrated the original text with contemporary images from the local area.

Further Reading

The Great Strike at Penrhyn Quarry, 1900-03 (Unite);
The Penrhyn Quarry Great Strike, 1900-1903 (Snowdonia National Park);
Jones, Charles Sheridan, What I Saw At Bethesda, R Brimley Johnson, London, 1903. (Republished with an introduction by J Elwyn Hughes, Gomer Press, Llandysul, 2003.);
Other posts about Penrhyn Quarry

 

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Zip World

Zip World

Zip World

Date

23 September 2013
Location

Penrhyn Quarry, Bethesda

SH 62228 65513; 53.16883°N, 4.06249°W

Information

Zip World, site of the longest zip line in the northern hemisphere, opened in a disused part of Penrhyn Quarry in March 2013. The adventure attraction was created by ex-Royal Marine skydiver Sean Taylor, who also runs the Tree Top Adventure centre in Betws-y-coed.

The 1600m-long Big Zipper is also claimed to be the world’s fastest, with maximum speeds of over 100 mph. The shorter Little Zipper is 450m long and has a maximum speed of 45 mph.

Zip World Snowdonia;
Mile-long zip wire unveiled in Wales (Telegraph Travel);
Penrhyn Quarry

 

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Felin Fawr Locomotive Shed

Chain hoist suspended from the gantry of the travelling overhead crane

Date

17 March 2012
Location

Coed-y-parc, Bethesda

SH 61552 66344; 53.17612°N, 4.07295°W

Information

The locomotive shed forms part of Penrhyn Quarry’s former Felin Fawr mill and workshop complex and is now the centre of activity in the ongoing efforts to restore the narrow-gauge Penrhyn Quarry Railway.

In 1798, Benjamin Wyatt, Lord Penrhyn’s agent, built a horse tramway to transport flint between Port Penrhyn and a mill at Llandygai. The tramway was extended to Penrhyn Quarry in 1801 so that slate could be more easily transported to the port. The five-mile-long line took a fairly direct route and had inclines at Tanysgafell, Dinas near Tregarth, and Marchogion near Maesgeirchen.

So that locomotives could operate on the line, the quarry railway was re-routed in stages between 1876 and 1879 in order to avoid the abrupt changes in height previously accommodated by the inclines. The railway closed in 1962, being superseded by road haulage by lorry. This was followed in 1965 by the closure of both the quarry’s internal rail system and also the Felin Fawr works. The six miles of track lifted at that time were donated to the Festiniog Railway.

The site is owned by Felin Fawr Cyf, to whom grateful thanks are due for kindly granting access to the loco shed.

Penrhyn Quarry Railway;
Felin Fawr Cyf;
Felin Fawr Slate Works
(Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales)

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Felin Fawr Waterwheel

Hub and spokes of the suspension waterwheel

Date

17 March 2012
Location

Coed-y-parc, Bethesda

SH 61552 66344; 53.17612°N, 4.07295°W

Information

Felin Fawr, the former main mill and workshop complex for Penrhyn Quarry, first opened in 1803 and closed in 1965. The site was powered by two pitchback waterwheels. The first one was constructed by De Winton of Caernarfon in 1846 and is located between the two slab mills. The wheel shown here was a later addition from around 1906 and was still in use to power the foundry blower when the site was closed down.

Both wheels were driven by water from the nearby Afon Galedffrwd and most of their structure lies below ground level. The later wheel has a diameter of 26 ft and is of a suspension type — the wheel is supported by its central shaft but power was taken off from a spur gear at the rim.

Parts of the works are now in use as industrial units while other parts, including the Penrhyn Quarry Railway, are in the process of being restored. The site is owned by Felin Fawr Cyf, to whom grateful thanks are due for kindly granting access to the wheel house.

Felin Fawr Cyf;
Felin Fawr Slate Works (Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales)

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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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Fronllwydd Incline, Penrhyn Quarry

Incline cable

Date

4 March 2012
Location

Penrhyn Quarry, Bethesda

SH 62628 65090; 53.16514°N, 4.05633°W

Information

This was one of the gravity-powered inclines — in which the weight of descending wagons laden with slate was used to haul empty ones back up the slope — in the old workings in Penrhyn Quarry.

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Caban, Penrhyn Quarry

Abandoned caban (mess room)

Date

19 February 2012
Location

Penrhyn Quarry, Bethesda

SH 62286 64731; 53.16182°N, 4.06129°W

Information

Penrhyn Quarry was first developed in the 1770s by Richard Pennant, the first Baron Penrhyn, and was at one stage the world’s largest slate quarry. Today it is operated by Welsh//Slate Ltd.

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Dark Places

Caban, Dinorwic Quarry · Fron-boeth Quarry Tunnel, Cwm Croesor · Llanberis Bomb Store · Moel Faban Quarry · Dinas Railway Tunnel, Tregarth · Braich Tunnel, Dinorwic Quarry

‘Dark Places’ on YouTube

Blaen-y-nant Molybdenum Mine
Braichmelyn
Coed y Dinas Copper Mine
Croesor Quarry
Cwm Ceunant Copper Mine
Dinorwic Quarry
Dorothea Quarry
Fron-boeth Quarry
Glyn Rhonwy Isaf Quarry
Caseg Valley
Moel Faban Quarry

Rhosydd Quarry
Tan-y-garth Arsenic Mine
Dinas Tunnel, Tregarth
Dolbadarn Castle
Roughcastle Tunnel, Falkirk
Llanberis Bomb Store
Llanddulas Jetty
Penrhyn Quarry
ROC Llangefni
Coast Artillery School, Great Orme

Penrhyn Quarry Turbine House

Water pipe supplying the Turbine House from the Afon Ogwen

Date

27 November 2011
Location

Ogwen Bank, Bethesda

SH 62484 65553; 53.16925°N, 4.05868°W

Information

Compressed air to power pneumatic tools at Penrhyn Quarry was formerly supplied from the turbine house close to the banks of the Afon Ogwen.

Kendal-based manufacturers Gilbert Gilkes & Gordon have been supplying small hydropower systems since 1856 and have now delivered over 6500 turbines worldwide. The Gilkes turbine installed here is dated 1929 and was fed via a pipeline taking water from further upstream on the Ogwen. Exhaust water leaving the turbine was channelled below what is now Lon Las Ogwen cycle track before being returned to the river.

The turbine powered a 1918 air compressor manufactured by Fullerton Hodgart & Barclay. This firm was established in 1838 and operated from the Vulcan Foundry in Paisley until the company went into liquidation in 1977.

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Felin Fawr works

Felin Fawr slate mill complex - now in use as light industrial units

Date

12 November 2011
Location

Coed-y-parc, Bethesda

SH 61497 66410; 53.17670°N, 4.07379°W

Information

Felin Fawr was originally the main mill and workshop complex for Penrhyn Quarry. The first slab mill was opened in 1803 and extended in 1834. The foundry dates back to 1832 and the later slab mill to 1846. The manager’s house, on the northern edge of the site, is thought to have been constructed in the 1880s.

Power was provided by two pitchback waterwheels, driven by water from the reservoirs on the Afon Galedffrwd, and in use up to around 1930. The later of the two wheels was most likely installed around 1906 when the yard was extended to the east.

The locomotives operating on the Penrhyn Railway, running from the quarry to Port Penrhyn, were housed in the sheds at the southern end of the complex. Penrhyn Railway closed in 1962, followed in 1965 by the closure of both the internal quarry railway and Felin Fawr Works.

The site was purchased by Gwynedd Council in 1990 and parts of the complex were restored and converted for use as light industrial units. Further conversion work is also planned. The site is run by Felin Fawr Cyf.

Penrhyn Railway is also gradually being recreated by a group of preservation volunteers. In the first phase, restoration work has been carried out on the locomotive shed and track has been laid in the yard to link up with the route of the ‘main line’.

Felin fawr Slate Works (Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales); Felin Fawr Cyf; Penrhyn Quarry Railway

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