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Welcome to Gathering the Jewels.

Here you will find over 20,000 images of objects, books, letters, aerial photographs and other items from museums, libraries and record offices in Wales.

Welsh Slate Museum, Llanberis

A collection of colour images of the Welsh Slate Museum, Llanberis.

Welsh Slate Museum, Llanberis
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The Welsh Slate Museum is situated in the Victorian workshops of the Dinorwig Quarry at Gilfach Ddu, Llanberis. The quarry closed in 1969 and the site was taken over as a museum during the early 1970s. In addition to these colour images of the Museum, the Gathering the Jewels website contains a number of black and white photographs of the site which were taken shortly after the quarry closed. See the theme: 'Photographs of the Dinorwig Quarry workshops, Llanberis, 1969'.

Slate quarrying in Wales began on a small scale in the eighteenth century. It was mainly produced around Blaenau Ffestiniog, Bethesda, Llanberis, Nantlle, Corris and Llangollen/Glyn Ceiriog and was exported widely from small ports such as Caernarfon or purpose-built like Porthmadog, Port Dinorwig or Port Penrhyn. Narrow-gauge railways, such as the Ffestiniog connecting Blaenau Ffestiniog and Porthmadog, were constructed to link the quarries with the ports and with the nearest town or main-line railway. Extracting, splitting and dressing the slate took place at the quarries. Slate was quarried from stepped galleries on the mountainsides, excavated pits or by underground deep-mining techniques. Slate had many uses including roofing, gravestones, steps and hearths. In the 1880s Blaenau Ffestiniog produced 139,000 tons of dressed slate a year and employed more than 4000 workers. Conditions were extremely harsh and accidents frequent. Unguarded machinery, roof falls and lung diseases all took their toll. Mine owners became extremely wealthy. For example, profits from the Penrhyn Quarry at Bethesda were used to build Penrhyn Castle and Port Penrhyn.

Early quarries used water as their primary energy source. A system of dams was sometimes constructed to supply water to the water wheels; this was often transported for long distances in wooden- or slate-lined leats. Steam revolutionised matters, but sometimes water wheels were retained to save the expense of bringing in coal or wood as fuel. Croesor Quarry had its own electricity generator by 1900 and an electrically powered tramway as early as 1905.

By the 1870s slate mining had become one of the most important Welsh industries. Penrhyn quarry was the largest slate quarry in the world. The slate industry peaked in the 1890s when half a million tons were produced and nearly 17,000 men were directly employed. About five million tons of rock required excavating to reach this figure. At the end of the nineteenth century Wales produced over four-fifths of the total UK slate. After the First World War the industry began to decline - funds dried up, imports grew, roofing tiles became cheaper than slate, and the workforce left to find easier ways of making a living. Many remaining quarries continued to use costly, obsolete working methods. Quarries gradually closed, the quarrying districts became rundown and people left. When Dinorwig closed in 1969, only a handful of producers remained. Today only two mines are open, employing a small workforce.