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Slate Industry of North Wales

Date of Submission: 27/01/2012
Criteria: (ii)(v)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
State, Province or Region:
Gwynedd, Wales
Ref.: 5678
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

Ogwen-Cegin valleys Lat/ Long 53.176628 N 4.0737530 W
Welsh Slate Museum, Dinorwic Workings Lat/ Long 53.121043 N 4.1159104 W
Nantlle, Moel Tryfan Lat/ Long 53.077737 N 4.2227757 W
Gorsedda quarry, tramway and worker settlement, the Ynysypandy slate mill Lat/ Long 52.968268 N 4.1620506 W
Ffestiniog slate landscape Lat/ Long 53.002617 N 3.9431892 W
southern Gwynedd quarrying landscapes and transport systems Lat/ Long 52.649729 N 3.8850403 W
Bangor University Lat/ Long 53.228676 N 4.1302052 W

The extensive deposits of high quality slate in north Wales were exploited as far back as the Roman period, but it was in the 18th century that the industry began to grow significantly, expanding rapidly between 1856 and 1900, and remaining technically innovative until 1914. During the 19th century the north Wales quarries were major providers of roofing materials and slate products throughout the world, and the associated technologies of quarrying and transport infrastructure were also exported worldwide.

The proposed nomination for the cultural landscape associated with the industry will incorporate up to seven areas representing different forms and traditions of the slate workings, its transport and infrastructure, and the communities which made up its workforce. These are:

• the slate quarrying landscape of the Ogwen-Cegin valleys comprising the long-lived Penrhyn quarry, its harbour at Port Penrhyn and associated rail system, and Penrhyn Castle, the home of the major quarry-owning family;
• The Dinorwic quarry with associated workings, innovative quarry hospital, worker settlements and transport systems, now part of the Welsh Slate Museum;
• Nantlle/Moel Tryfan slate quarrying landscape with worker settlements and transport systems;
• the Gorsedda quarry, tramway and worker settlement;
• the Ffestiniog slate landscape with early hydro-power station and associated transport systems including the Ffestiniog Railway;
• the southern Gwynedd quarrying landscapes and transport systems; and
• the main university building at Bangor, reflecting the quarrymen's financial contribution to, and zeal for, education.

The industry enabled a traditional culture and minority language to adapt to the modern world by acquiring new skills. The call for craft-skills and the challenges of industrialisation were met by a growing working population in north Wales; quarry communities created their own democratic structures including workers' chapels, and contributed financial support to Bangor University. The business functioned through the medium of the Welsh language, making it unique within major capitalised British industries.

The impact of the industry on the landscape is profound and remains largely intact, creating distinctive quarrying environments and settlements that are recognised as classic examples of 19th century industrial/vernacular towns and villages. There has been little redevelopment or reclamation and in recent decades many key sites have been conserved. The industry remains active on a reduced scale.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Gwynedd slate quarrying industry landscape is exceptional as the leading producer of slate roofing elements world-wide in the classic industrial period of the 19th century, and was acknowledged as such. It is internationally significant not only in terms of the global export of slates from Wales, providing roofing for prestigious buildings and mass industrial housing alike, but also in terms of its impact on other and comparatively smaller slate quarrying industries elsewhere in the world, in particular the export of technology and skilled workers to the growing slate industry of the United States and its technical influence on the long-established slate industry of Loire-et-Maine in France. The north Wales slate industry landscape illustrates the way in which a traditional minority culture adapted to modernity in the classic ‘industrial' period, thereby growing into the confident living culture of today. It did so by evolving technological solutions to geological and processing problems as well as by developing a unique set of craft skills, involving a profound understanding of the nature of the rock to be quarried and processed. Although in some cases these methods drew upon applications applied in other industries, they were mostly original and specific to the slate industry.

The skills developed in north Wales were passed on to other quarrying areas, most notably France and the USA, by exchange of ideas, export of technical expertise and (in the case of the USA) by emigration of skilled workers. Products from the north Wales quarries are to be found all over the world. The distinctive solution evolved by the industry to the problem of transporting the slates from the quarry to navigable water is the locomotive-worked narrow-gauge railway. This was identified by engineers world-wide as a model adaptable to their own countries from 1870 onwards.

The social gulf between patrician proprietors and workers is seen in the Neo-Norman masterpiece Penrhyn Castle, home of the owner of one of the major quarries, in relict/preserved workers' vernacular housing, churches and chapels in quarry landscapes.

Criteria met:
(ii) The north Wales slate industry landscape exhibits an important global interchange of human values in terms of extractive technology, building materials and transport technology and emigration. The influence of its extractive technology is felt in the quarries of the USA and France, and of its transport technology in narrow-gauge rail systems all over the world. The extensive use of the main product is evident world-wide.

(v) The north Wales slate industry landscape is an outstanding example of the adaptation of a traditional human settlement and land-use to modern industry without losing its distinctive character and language. This is representative of a strong minority culture, as well as of human interaction with the environment through quarrying and engineering.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Integrity: The proposed site is complete in that all the physical attributes necessary to express its Outstanding Universal Value are contained within the provisionally identified boundaries. The impressive series of quarry landscapes demonstrate the extractive and processing techniques employed, with examples of early industrial power systems and provision for workers' welfare, such as the Dinorwig hospital. The associated quarrymen's settlements exemplify vernacular industrial housing and cultural attributes such as chapels and educational buildings, the social divide between worker and industrial owner manifest in Penrhyn Castle. Transport systems for export of slate products survive as relict or living features at Port Penrhyn harbour, and the series of narrow-gauge railways.

The anticipated proposed property may comprise up to seven discrete areas chosen as best exemplars of the industry and its infrastructure, though elements survive outside the boundaries, as is inevitable given the scale of the industry in the 19th century. The industry continues today, which gives a sense of continuity to the property, but the reduced scale of operations has enabled preservation of older structures. The scale of the landscapes and friability of some of the structures result in some pressures on conservation, but local planning policies are in place to protect the landscapes and settlements, the status of Dinorwic, Penrhyn Castle and the narrow-gauge railways as publicly accessible sites. The continuation of process at some quarries, rail systems and harbour adds another layer of protection.

Authenticity: The quarry landscapes and associated structures have not altered except for the addition of some modern technology in areas of continuing extraction, and the inevitable decay of some of the older structures. The survival of entire landscapes with settlements and extensive transport systems demonstrates the workings of the complete industry from original extraction to export of product, and from workers' welfare and housing to their cultural, educational and spiritual life.

These extensive landscapes allow understanding and demonstration of the complete industrial processes and associated social and cultural structures. There have been inevitable alterations within some settlements, which continue as present-day communities subject to development or modification, but the materials from which buildings are constructed and the continuity of traditional occupations have resulted in changes being generally minor and harmonious. The continuity of use within some quarries and railways has required modification or replacement of elements, but these have been undertaken sensitively and with respect for tradition.

Comparison with other similar properties

Sites demonstrating extraction of stone by open and underground quarrying are under-represented on the World Heritage List. Sites associated with extraction of metal-ore bearing rocks, coal and salt extraction are better represented. In this context, the Gwynedd slate quarrying industry landscape is exceptional as the leading producer of slate roofing elements world-wide in the classic industrial period of the 19th century, and was acknowledged as such. It is internationally significant not only in terms of the global export of slates from Wales, providing roofing for prestigious buildings and mass industrial housing alike, but also in terms of its impact on other and comparatively smaller slate quarrying industries elsewhere in the world, in particular the export of technology and skilled workers to the growing slate industry of the United States and its technical influence on the long-established slate industry of Loire-et-Maine in France. In addition, the distinctive transport technology evolved by the Welsh slate quarrying industry - the 0.6m steam-hauled narrow-gauge railway - was explicitly adopted on a significant scale throughout the world, but particularly in India, France, Hungary, Pomerania, the Union of South Africa, German South West Africa, Venezuela, New Guinea, the Belgian Congo and Morocco.

Examples for comparison may include:

• Australian Convict Sites (coal mines)
• Hallstatt-Dachstein/Salzkammergut Cultural Landscape (salt-capture and salt-mining)
• Sewell Mining Town (copper-mining)
• Kutná Hora: Historical Town Centre with the Church of St Barbara and the Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec demonstrates the prosperity derived from silver-mining sites
• From the Great Saltworks of Salins-les-Bains to the Royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans, the Production of Open-pan Salt (salt capture)
• Mines of Rammelsberg, Historic Town of Goslar and Upper Harz Water Management System includes mining sites for extracting copper, lead and tin ore for the production of non-ferrous metals
• Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen (coal mining)
• Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and its Cultural Landscape (mining and smelting of silver)
• Wieliczka Salt Mine (salt-capture)
• Historic Town of Banská Štiavnica and the Technical Monuments in its Vicinity (silver-lead mining)
• Blaenavon Industrial Landscape demonstrates coal-mining and some quarrying of limestone for flux
• The buffer zone of the Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes - which includes some of the Angers slate quarries but these do not form part of the property. The description notes ‘The 17th-18th centuries saw the development of a secular commercial economy based on industry, crafts, trade, shipping, the river, and the towns alongside the feudal survival of the Ancien Régime' but does not specifically refer to quarrying.
• Mining Area of the Great Copper Mountain in Falun (copper mining)
• Ironbridge Gorge (coal-mining and clay extraction)
• Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape (tin and copper mining)
• Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal includes wharves where slate and limestone were loaded onto vessels.