Marram grass sculpture, near Newborough

button-theme-womenMarram grass sculpture, near Newborough

The artwork in the centre of Llyn Rhos Ddu car park depicts harvested marram grass, on which local women built a unique cottage industry.

The sculpture represents bundles of grass being dried for weaving. It was created by Caernarfon-based Ann Catrin Evans.

Harvesting marram grass in the area was prohibited for centuries to prevent erosion of sand dunes, as you can read on our page about the dunes. However, from the 18th to the 20th centuries it was used for woven mats, in particular, as well as baskets, ropes, brooms and cushions. The mats were popular with farmers for keeping hay and corn dry.

Each family unofficially had a patch of the dunes where they harvested the marram grass in summer. The grass was usually kept for two years before weaving. The womenfolk, and sometimes men and boys, would do the weaving at their homes, and it was said that nobody elsewhere could match their skills. The work was often scorned by outsiders but it ensured a steady income, whereas labourers in other communities sometimes suffered hardship because of low pay.

They sold the mats to local shopkeepers. In April 1919, Newborough shopkeeper David Williams was fined for breaking wartime food rationing rules (which continued to apply after the war). One of his offences was giving too much butter in exchange for marram mats. The mats were fetching good prices and there was competition for them among local businesses.

The industry appears to have given rise to a Welsh saying. In the American newspaper Y Drych in 1890, a correspondent wrote "Myned a matiau i Niwbwrch" (“Taking mats to Newborough”) to describe a futile act – similar to “Carrying coals to Newcastle”.

Postcode: LL61 6RS    View Location Map

Wales Coastal Path Label Navigation anticlockwise buttonNavigation clockwise button