Site of ‘Snowdrop Marble’ mason’s home, Morfa Bychan

Site of ‘Snowdrop Marble’ mason’s home, Morfa Bychan

Old photo showing cottage at Morfa BychanStonemason Tom Morris lived with his wife Jenny in a thatched cottage near here. Little remains of the building. It’s thought that Tom coined the name ‘Snowdrop Marble’ for the beautiful stone which was quarried north of Marros and at other sites in Carmarthenshire and one in Pembrokeshire.

Tom was born in a local watermill in 1804 and showed his talent for stone engraving when still a boy, working for marble masons in Tenby. He settled in Morfa Bychan, probably in the cottage shown in the old photo. He created many memorials, mantelpieces, tables and other objects in his workshop outside the cottage, using Snowdrop Marble and other stone. Heavy slabs of stone and finished work had to be transported to and from the remote spot!

Portrait of Tom and Jenny Morris of Morfa BychanVisitors often gathered at the cottage on summer evenings to hear him sing ballads while playing the cello. They received a warm welcome from Jenny, who wore Welsh flannel and a tall hat. She kept geese and sheep on her smallholding. The middle photo shows the couple in the 1870s and was taken by Carmarthenshire antiquarian George Gilbert Treherne. Tom died in 1886, and Jenny soon after.

Photo of Gloucester memorial using Snowdrop Marblerble_monument_gloucester_cathedralSnowdrop Marble is a grey/black limestone. White shells contrast with its dark surface when polished. It was used for wall memorials and ledger stones which you can still see in local churches, including St Mary’s Church, Tenby. Many date from the 18th century, before Tom’s time.

Snowdrop Marble was also used for fireplaces and chimneypieces, and for the base of the Prince Consort Memorial in Tenby. The photo shows it in a memorial in Gloucester Cathedral. There are also examples at Tredegar House, Newport.

With thanks to Michael Statham, of the Welsh Stone Forum, and to Jason Lawday