Dinorwig quarry viewpoint

LInk to Welsh translationDinorwig quarry viewpoint

Quarrymen loading slate slabs onto a truck at the rockface.
© Gwynedd Archives Service

Here you can see the awe-inspiring panorama of the slate landscape. It is difficult to picture such a beautiful location as the site of heavy industry. Can you imagine men quarrying slate on the side of the mountain while battling wind, rain, snow and ice?

The slate industry is particularly associated with Wales. Dinorwig is made up of several quarries. Each produced different colours of slate. Lots of the slate quarried here was shipped around the world. Dinorwig slate made up around 5% of world output. Around 90% of the slate quarried ended up as waste and had to be tipped. Evidence of the slate industry can still be seen across the landscape.

Several landmarks can be seen from here, including Llywelyn the Great’s Dolbadarn Castle, Llyn Peris, Llyn Padarn and the village of Llanberis. The short stretch of water between the lakes is crossed by the Bala Bridge. A bala is a channel between lakes.

Two quarrymen pillaring slate blocks.
© Gwynedd Archives Service 

The quarrymen were paid at Glan y Bala, near the Bala Bridge. This was also close to what the men from Llanberis viewed as their entrance to the quarry. This was the administrative centre of Dinorwig. Leaving Dinorwig’s employment was described as ‘cael ei yrru dros Pont Bala’ or ‘to be driven over Bala Bridge’. This was another way of saying someone had been sacked.

The quarry ran on a bargen system. A bargen was a piece of rock six metres square. Bargen teams worked on the galleries and were often made up of men from the same families. The teams worked independently and negotiated prices with the stewards. The quarry stewards offered a sum for what was classed as good rock and less money for rubble. The rock was carefully measured to calculate how many sections of slate could be split from that bargen. The wages of each team depended on this ‘bargening’.

There was a spirit of comradeship amongst the quarry workers and they would help one another. On the galleries and in the mills, quarrymen would help other workers who had not met their targets.

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