Porthmadog Maritime Museum

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Porthmadog Maritime Museum

This museum occupies the last remaining slate warehouse on the harbour. It displays tools, maps, illustrations, ship models and other exhibits relating to Porthmadog’s rich maritime heritage.

The long, low warehouse was built in the mid 19th century at what was known as Oakeley Wharf, named after one of the biggest slate quarries in Blaenau Ffestiniog. The building was divided into 10 rooms with no external wall on the east side, where there are now wooden walls or windows. Next to the building, at the north end, is the former house and office of the manager in charge of shipping the slate.

The first wharves at Porthmadog were built in 1825, 14 years after William Maddocks built the Cob across the mouth of the Glaslyn estuary. The diverted river quickly scoured out a new natural harbour. The Ffestiniog Railway’s opening in 1836 enabled large volumes of slate to be carried to the wharves from the quarries at Blaenau Ffestiniog. Later narrow-gauge railways connected other quarries to the port.

Almost 300 ships were built at Porthmadog and nearby Borth-y-gest, the last being the ill-fated Y Gestiana of 1913, wrecked on its maiden voyage. The local ships carried slate to numerous countries and returned to Europe laden with various cargoes including phosphates from the West Indies and salt cod from Newfoundland and Labrador.  The First World War halted shipbuilding, and the decline in slate exports accelerated. The last slate cargo was loaded in 1948.

Ships continued to call at the port until the 1980s. SS Florence Cooke, built for the explosives works in nearby Penrhyndeudraeth, called regularly to load explosives and unload general cargoes. Heavy equipment was brought in at Porthmadog for building the nuclear plant at Trawsfynydd and other power stations in the 1960s and 1980s.

Objects from wrecked ships on show include a piece of timber from the Porthmadog schooner Owen Morris, and copper sheathing from the hull of the Borth y Gest-built brig Criccieth Castle, wrecked on the Scilly Isles in 1882.

With thanks to Brian Collins and Richard Cadwalader, of Porthmadog Maritime Museum

Where is this HiPoint?

Postcode: LL49 9LU

Other SHIPWRECK HiPoints in this region:
Owen Morris wreck 1907 – blown onto rocks very near home, after seven months at sea
Spanker wreck 1885 – master hadn’t realised Bardsey now had a flashing light

Museum website – for opening times and other information

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