Cwmorthin Terrace ruins, near Tanygrisiau

Link to French translationCwmorthin Terrace ruins, near Tanygrisiau

The picturesque remains of this row of quarry cottages have inspired countless artists and photographers. The last surviving chimney was saved by a community fundraising effort in winter 2013-14.

The terrace was built by the Cwmorthin Quarry company in two stages. The first eight houses were erected in the 1860s using dressed stone. Five more were built of slate blocks in the 1870s. The later houses have survived in better shape than the originals. Also visible are remains of outhouses for toilets and other uses.

Slate quarrymen and their families rented living quarters here. The 1881 census records the names of 72 people who lived in 11 of the cottages. Two cottages were empty on census day. One was later reoccupied but the other, in the centre of the row, seems not to have been used again as a residence. The youngest inhabitant was one month old, the oldest was quarryman Robert Richards, 59. Not all were directly engaged in quarry work, housekeeping or attending school. One lodger was an unemployed bookbinder, another was an engine driver. An 11-year-old girl was classed as a domestic servant.

By the 1911 census, the terrace was also known as Tai’r Llyn (“Houses of the Lake”) and only three of the cottages were in residential use. In 1935 the last inhabitant, Carwena Elias, moved to nearby Dolrhedyn.

The ruins of an Independent chapel, known as Capel Tiberias, can be seen north west of the old cottages. There was a Methodist chapel further up the valley.

In autumn 2013 an urgent appeal was launched after structural engineers advised that the last chimney standing, of the five along the slate-built row, was at risk of imminent collapse. By December more than £3,000 had been donated by local residents and organisations, enabling the chimney to be preserved while other funds were sought for longer-term conservation of the ruins.

With thanks to Mel Thomas

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