Former quarrymen’s cottages, Dinorwig

Link to Welsh translationFormer quarrymen’s cottages, Dinorwig

Workers from Anglesey travelled from the Menai Strait to Dinorwig on this
quarrymen’s train. The steam locomotive in the picture was named Amalthea
© Gwynedd Archives Service

This site is called Dre Newydd or the Anglesey Barracks. These roofless cottages show us what living conditions were like for quarrymen from outside of the local area. They had to stay in barracks during the week.

Each of the small houses had a living room and bedroom. The rent was one shilling a month. Usually, members of the same family lived together and worked on the same bargen team in the quarry.

The houses had few sources of comfort. They were lit by candlelight or paraffin lamp. Although electricity was introduced at the quarry in 1905, it was not fitted in the barracks. The men had an open coal fire for heating and cooking. After paying for the coal at Gilfach Ddu they carried it home up the steep incline. The quarry offices at Gilfach Ddu are now home to the National Slate Museum.

The barracks were particularly cold during the winter months as the gaps between the slates meant the quarrymen had little protection against the elements. The men also had to share their home with pests like fleas and rats.

On Monday mornings, some men returned to barracks with their own blankets. They would air their beds by laying the bedding out with a hot brick placed underneath.

The houses had no plumbing, so water had to be fetched from the nearest stream. In later years, a large tap was installed in a shared area outside to serve all of Dre Newydd’s houses. There were no indoor flushable toilets. The men shared two outdoor toilets known as ‘privies’. They were earth toilets that were emptied regularly.

The men shared household duties, such as keeping the coal supply well stocked, cleaning the grate and fetching water. One person would have been responsible for waking everyone in time for work.

Dre Newydd was lived in until 1937 when the houses were condemned as being unfit for human habitation. For more about the history of these barracks and their occupants, see our page about the ruins.

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