Historic Landscape Characterisation

Vale of Ffestiniog - Area 13 Blaenau Ffestiniog slate quarries

© Crown copyright. All rights reserved, Gwynedd Archaeological Trust, 100017916, 2005

Historic background

Slate quarries, owned variously by the Oakeley, Newborough and Gelli estates, the first of which was opened at Diffwys c. 1760, but which were only intensively capitalised with the arrival of William Turner at Diffwys in 1800, of Samuel Holland in 1821 and with the re-opening of Chwarel Lord in 1823. The industry continued to expand to the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and has largely contracted ever since. The former Oakeley Quarry, now worked as the Ffestiniog Slate Quarry, remains in active production. Some extraction continues at Llechwedd (Greaves Welsh Slate) and at Graig Ddu. The former underground workings at Llechwedd have been opened as a visitor attraction since 1962.

The slate quarrying landscapes of Blaenau Ffestiniog have been studied in considerable detail by GAT, funded by Cadw, and detailed descriptions of individual quarries (and their history) are to be found in the reports listed in section 10.3 of the bibliography.

Key historic landscape characteristics

19th-century industrial sites

The whole area around the northern edge of Blaenau Ffestiniog is an extensive industrial landscape. The two main quarries, which have seen little active production since the mid-20th century, Diffwys and Votty and Bowydd, survive as relict landscapes in their own rights. They preserve a number of features identified in studies grant-aided by Cadw (see above) and those carried out by Plas Tan y Bwlch. Maenofferen Quarry is an unusual survivor in that it has only recently passed out of use (and may be revived) but has never been modernised, and continued to use its uphaulage incline, railway system and traditional slate mill. It is believed that all the equipment survives, though its condition is likely to have deteriorated. Many of the features on this site have been listed and a number scheduled.

The former Oakeley site, now trading as the Ffestiniog Slate Quarry under the management of Alfred McAlpine Slate Products, preserves many features dating to the 1850s and earlier. These are mostly concentrated on the southern part of the site, away from present workings. Llechwedd Quarry has recently demolished a range of nineteenth century structures, though others have been preserved as part of the Quarry Tours complex.


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