Former Vivian slate quarry, Llanberis

Former Vivian slate quarry, Llanberis

The tall gash in the hillside here was the Vivian slate quarry, a self-contained part of the Dinorwig quarry complex. It was named after quarry manager WW Vivian (see below).

Initial quarrying here, in the 1870s, went downwards. The galleries you can see today were formed as slate extraction proceeded upwards. Slate on small railway wagons went from the galleries to the inclines left of the quarry which carried the loaded wagons down. Waste slate was hauled along the hillside to the bridge in front of the quarry hospital, where it passed over the Padarn Railway (now the Llanberis Lake Railway) for dumping at the lake shore.

Quarrying here finished in 1960. The quarry pit became the deep lagoon now used by the Vivian Dive Centre. Divers can see surviving quarry huts and other equipment deep under the surface.

Above the lagoon is an aerial ropeway, with a quarry wagon suspended from a “Blondin” device (after French tightrope walker Charles Blondin). This equipment raised slate from the lower levels.

Portrait of Walter Warwick VivianThe Hon Walter Warwick Vivian (pictured right) was appointed manager of Dinorwig Quarry in 1884, aged 28. His background contrasted with that of the quarrymen. His parents were Sir Charles Crespigny Vivian (2nd baron Vivian) and heiress Mary Elizabeth Panton of Plas Gwyn, Pentraeth, Anglesey. Two of his nieces were maids of honour to Queen Alexandra. 

Walter’s wealth and influence did not give him the experience or skills necessary to manage a slate quarry, and he displayed a haughty arrogance to the workmen. Matters came to a head barely a year after his appointment when, during the Dinorwig lock-out and strike of 1885-1886, he was forcibly turned out of the quarry by a large jeering crowd.

However, Vivian remained manager until his retirement in 1902. The deciding factor in his appointment may have been his family connection to Dinorwig quarry owner George William Duff Assheton-Smith, whose sister was married to Vivian’s half-brother, Hussey Crespigny Vivian.

Walter died on 15 September 1943, aged 87. He left £100,666 (c.£4.5m today), mostly inherited by his niece Violet.

With thanks to Dr Hazel Pierce, of The History House

Postcode: LL55 4TY    View Location Map

Website of Vivian Dive Centre