Rock Cannon, Pont-y-Pair, Betws-y-Coed

Pont-y-Pair Rock Cannon on the banks of the Afon LLugwy

Pont-y-Pair Rock Cannon on the banks of the Afon LLugwy

Date

6 September 2014
Location

Pont-y-Pair, Betws-y-Coed

SH 79122 56748; 53.09419°N, 3.80659°W

Information

The rock cannon in Betws-y-Coed was drilled into the bedrock on the banks of the Afon Llugwy by the side of Pont-y-Pair (Bridge of the Cauldron). The 15th century bridge carries the B5106 Llanwrst road over the river. It was originally built for pack horses and later enlarged. It was also used for a time by coaches on the London to Holyhead route until Telford’s A5 road opened through the town.

Further Reading

Rock Cannon — history and method of operation; Other rock-cannon posts

 

SEE MORE →

Fferm Moelyci Rock Cannon

Fferm Moelyci Rock Cannon

Date

24 March 2012
Location

Fferm Moelyci, Tregarth

SH 59074 67735; 53.18796°N, 4.11061°W

Information

This 12-hole rock cannon near Moelyci Farm is very close to the route of the former Penrhyn Quarry Railway, presumably to salute visiting dignitaries as they passed by on the train.

Rock Cannon — history and method of operation; Other rock-cannon posts

Parc Meurig Rock Cannon

The rock cannon is on the top of this outcrop

Date

11 March 2012
Location

Parc Meurig, Bethesda

SH 62336 66435; 53.17714°N, 4.06126°W

Information

This 100-hole rock cannon tucked away in Parc Meurig is being reclaimed by nature, with its bored holes and carved-out interconnecting grooves almost all covered over by a layer of moss and grass.

Rock Cannon — history and method of operation; Other rock-cannon posts

CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE…

Cwm Eigiau Quarry

Ruined barracks, with Craig yr Ysfa in the background

Date

25 February 2012
Location

Cwm Eigiau, Carneddau

SH 70133 63594; 53.15358°N, 3.94353°W

Information

The tramway linking the nearby Cedryn Quarry to the river Conwy at Dolgarrog was extended to Cwm Eigiau Quarry in about 1863. From 1874 to 1885 the quarry was operated by the Caedryn and Cwm Eigiau Slate Company, which since 1863 had been the Caedryn Slate Quarry Company. The venture was ultimately unsuccessful owing to the poor quality of the slate.

The slate mill was powered by waterwheel and the remains of a wall carrying water to the wheel and of the wheel pit can still be seen.

Some of the quarrymen would have lodged in the barracks at the quarry complex; others would have walked to work from Bethesda – a hike of at least six miles up and over a 900-metre-high col in the Carneddau mountains.

Rock Cannon — history and method of operation; Other rock-cannon posts

CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE…

Bryn Bella Rock Cannon

Bryn Bella Rock Cannon

Date

6 August 2011
Location

Parc Coedwig, Bryn Bella, Bethesda

SH 61288 67748; 53.18866°N, 4.07751°W

Information

120-hole rock cannon on a small hillock hidden in the wooded area at Bryn Bella. There is an inscription carved into the surface of this great slab of rock, which is now overgrown with lichen and moss. The date is, however, still legible: 1838 — the year of Queen Victoria’s coronation.

Reference: Griff R. Jones, The Rock Cannon of Gwynedd, 2002 (ISBN 0953369218)

CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE…

Tan-y-garth Rock Cannon

Edge of the rock cannon boulder, looking towards Gyrn

Date

18 June 2011
Location

Tan-y-garth, Bethesda

SH 63794 66815; 53.18094°N, 4.03963°W

Information

46-hole rock cannon at Tan-y-garth near Bethesda at the foot of the Carneddau mountains. This rock cannon is very close to the arsenic mine that dates back to the late 18th century.

Reference: Griff R. Jones, The Rock Cannon of Gwynedd, 2002 (ISBN 0953369218)

CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE…

Moel Faban Rock Cannon

Moel Faban rock cannon, looking towards the Carneddau

Date

22 April 2011
Location

Moel Faban, Bethesda

SH 63146 67698; 53.18870°N, 4.04970°W

Information

A rock cannon was a traditional pyrotechnic device fired to mark special occasions and celebrations. Their use is thought to date back to the mid 18th century and they were popularly employed in festivities in quarrying areas in the 19th century.

A cannon comprised a boulder or rocky outcrop into which a number of holes had been drilled. Each hole was normally around an inch across by five deep, and was linked to a neighbouring one via a shallow channel cut into the surface of the rock.

Preparation for firing was as follows. A black powder-filled goose quill fuse slightly shorter than the depth of the hole was first of all placed in each hole. The holes were then filled with black powder to a third of their depth and packed with crushed rock stemming almost to the top. Once the holes had been charged more black powder was laid over the fuses and along the interconnecting grooves. Finally, these channels were covered with more stemming in order to slow down the burn rate of the fuse train.

The use of channels between the holes was a later innovation. In earlier cannon, goose fat spread on the rock surface and sprinkled with black powder was used to connect the holes. Where available space meant that the distance between the holes was inadequate, curved paths were employed in order to increase the delay between successive detonations.

The orange flashes and resounding thunder of a cannon in operation are said to have been rather marvellous.

Cannonading played a central role in the celebration of special events. Typical 19th century festivities also featured decorations and activities such as floral arches, flying of flags and banners, bands playing, bonfires and fireworks, and special teas and lunches. The type of events celebrated in this fashion ranged from comings of age and marriages amongst the local gentry to saluting visiting dignitaries and marking national occasions such as royal weddings, coronations and jubilees.

For very important celebrations multiple cannon sites in a locality were employed, with volleys from those in one quarry being answered by those in the next, setting up a reverberating thunder amongst the mountains.

Accidents causing serious injury when preparing or firing the cannon were not unknown.

Their use continued on into the early 20th century, marking such national celebrations as the end of the Boer War (1902), the coronations of Edward VII (1902) and George V (1911), and a visit by the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII) to Blaenau Ffestiniog in 1923.

Cannonading also took place in Blaenau Ffestiniog on several occasions in the 1940s and 50s, but with the traditional cannon replaced by a more modern equivalent. On disused quarry waste tips a series of sticks of gelignite were laid on slate slabs with the ends of their fuses lying in the channel of tram-road rails laid end to end. A line of black powder was laid along this channel to connect the fuses together. One particular event marked in this way was a visit in 1949 by Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Griff R Jones (2002) has documented 235 individual rock cannon sites in the slate quarrying areas of Gwynedd. The number of cannon holes ranges from 1 to 195, with the average being 26.

Reference: Griff R Jones, The Rock Cannon of Gwynedd, 2002 (ISBN 0953369218)

CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE…

Rock Cannon, Mynydd Llandegai

Rock cannon, looking east towards Penrhyn Quarry and the Carneddau

Date

12 February 2011
Location

Gefnan, Mynydd Llandegai

SH 61096 65123; 53.16504°N, 4.07924°W

Further Information

A rock cannon was a traditional pyrotechnic device fired to mark special occasions and celebrations.

It comprised a boulder into which a number of holes had been drilled. Each hole was normally around an inch across by five or six deep, and was linked to a neighbouring one via a shallow channel cut into the surface of the rock. Before firing, the holes were filled with black powder and packed with crushed rock. A black powder-filled goose quill served as a fuse and more black powder was laid in the grooves between the holes. The sights and sounds of a cannon in operation are said to have been rather marvellous.

There are over 200 known rock cannon sites in the slate quarrying areas of Gwynedd.

Rock Cannon (Wikipedia); Rock Cannon at Rhiwbach (Iain Robinson / Flickr)

CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE…