Site of Little Orme quarry

Site of Little Orme quarry

Old photo of Little Orme quarryThis side of the Little Orme headland was reshaped by quarrying from the late 1880s to the 1930s. The Little Orme's Head Limestone Quarry Company sent limestone from its pier below the quarry to Scotland for use in the steel and chemicals industries.

Stone was moved from the rock faces to the pier on narrow-gauge railway wagons, hauled by steam locomotives. Stone from the upper level was lowered using a gravity incline, where loaded wagons hauled up empty ones (connected by a cable) on an adjacent track. The Wales Coast Path now follows the incline route.

In November 1889 one of the men building the stone pier was washed into the sea by a wave. A messenger on horseback galloped to summon the Llandudno lifeboat but William Williams, aged about 21, died before the lifeboat arrived.

Workers and steam locomotive at Little Orme quarryAbout 100 men were employed at the quarry by April 1891, when a grand explosion was set up to dislodge c.100,000 tons of limestone in one blast. A long tunnel had been dug and packed with explosives. Company directors, dignitaries and a crowd gathered to watch. Lord Mostyn and three other guests lit the fuses but the result was just a rumble and a cloud of dust. Very little limestone was dislodged. It was thought that fissures in the rock formation had absorbed the blast.

The quarry was operated by the Ship Canal Portland Cement Company by June 1916, when a rockfall hit employee JW Jones from Bethesda and injured his foot. His thumb (possibly big toe) had to be amputated and he was in Llandudno Cottage Hospital for 18 days. The company claimed he had deliberately injured himself to avoid being conscripted into the armed forces. His doctor refuted that and a judge awarded him compensation.

Photo of Royal Artillery practice camp on Little OrmeIn 1919 quarryman Victor van Oorschot, a Belgian living in Colwyn Bay, claimed compensation for injuries sustained at the quarry. Many Belgians had fled to Britain in 1914 as German forces invaded their homeland.

In March 1942 the Royal Artillery began seaward firing from a practice camp (pictured right) on part of the abandoned quarry, which was a good height above the sea and remote from housing. In total, 77 batteries came from across Britain to practise here, each battery comprising three officers and 95 other ranks. By 1947 the camp was the permanent home of 30 Coast Battery (Roger Company), with firing limited to 15 times a year.

With thanks to Adrian Hughes, of the Home Front Museum, Llandudno, and to John Lawson-Reay for the photos

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