Old Mona Marble quarry, Pwllpillo, near Rhoscolyn

Old Mona Marble quarry, Pwllpillo, near Rhoscolyn

Mona Marble was once quarried near Pwllpillo Farm, south west of this corner on the Wales Coast Path. Some was used for a table for Napoleon’s home in exile.

Pwllpillo Farm covered 94 acres, “well inclosed with stone walls”, when auctioned in 1808. Later it was renowned for its sheep and horses. In 1878 buyers came from as far away as Limerick (Ireland) for a sale of the farm’s stock of “highly-descended and magnificent” horses, sheep and cows. The stock included hunters, cobs, carriage and cart horses and farm horses.

Mona Marble came from several sites in northern Anglesey, including Pwllpillo. The rock is fairly soft and hence easy to work. It was quarried for ornamental use.

Mona Marble refers to a greenish or reddish serpentinite metamorphic rock, probably of Cambrian age. It mainly comprises hydrated iron and magnesium silicates, and is not to be confused with Penmon marble (often called Anglesey Marble), a Carboniferous limestone still quarried today.

The market for Mona Marble was boosted by the Napoleonic wars, which made marble difficult to obtain from continental Europe. In 1806 sculptor and cabinet maker George Bullock, then based in Liverpool, purchased a quarry at Maes Mawr Farm, Llanfechell, for £1,000.

The wars ended with Napoleon’s defeat in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The French leader was banished to the remote island of St Helena and Bullock was commissioned to make furniture for his new residence there. The furniture included a table inlaid with Mona Marble, said to have come from this area of Holy Island. The table is still in the house today.

About the place-name:
The first element pwll means ‘pool’. The second element is the name Pillo, although nobody knows who that person was. The personal name Pyll occurs in Anglesey records from the 12th century onwards. Pyllo was probably a pet form of that name, c.f. Deio.

With thanks to Dr Jana Horak and Michael Statham of the Welsh Stone Forum. Also to Prof Hywel Wyn Owen of the Welsh Place-Name Society for place-name information

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