Ruins of the Anglesey Barracks, Dinorwig

Link to Welsh translationRuins of the Anglesey Barracks, Dinorwig

Photo of interior of barracks at Wrysgan slate quarry
Interior photograph of barracks at Wrysgan slate quarry, near Blaenau Ffestiniog
© Gwynedd Archives Service

These cottages were built in the 1870s as housing for quarrymen who lived too far away to return home each night. There are two rows of 11 cottages built using granite blocks. These groups of houses were known as barracks. This one is called Dre Newydd or the Anglesey Barracks, because many Dinorwig quarrymen travelled from Anglesey. However, not all of the men who lived here were from Anglesey.

Men travelled from across North Wales to work at Dinorwig, mostly from Gwynedd and Anglesey. They usually returned home at the weekend. Barracks were built by the quarry owners to house these workers. The small two-room cottages had little protection from the elements, and living conditions were extremely poor.

When the quarrying began in the late 1780s, most quarry workers were local. Many settled on common land north of the quarry. Between 1806 and 1814, the Faenol Estate enclosed common land. This caused great resentment amongst the workers. 

Modern photograph of barracks. Taken in May 2013.
© Crown copyright. RCAHMW

The estate offered to lease plots of enclosed land to workers, and encouraged them to build their own houses. Some workers refused to accept these terms and instead built communities such as Deiniolen and Clwt y Bont on nearby freeholds. Other quarry villages include Cwm y Glo, Llanrug and Bethel.

Quarrymen living in the barracks visited Deiniolen, Dinorwig and Llanberis to attend religious meetings and relax in the village pubs. Deiniolen was known by the Anglesey workers as Llanbabo, after the village of that name on the island.

As the slate industry grew, workers began to travel from further afield. Initially they were housed in small huts spread across the quarry. These were often placed in unwelcoming and difficult-to-reach areas. One such site was the Aberdaron gallery – 600 metres or 2,000ft above sea level!

Dinorwig supervisor Gruffydd Ellis began the process of building new barracks on more suitable sites. The first was Yr Hen Dre, which consisted of seven cottages in a row. It was followed by Dre Newydd, here, in a lower part of the quarry.

You can discover more information about living conditions at the barracks on this web page.

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