The National Slate Museum of Wales - Sarah Woodbury

The National Slate Museum of Wales

The National Slate Museum is located in Llanberis, in the mountains of Snowdonia at the foot of the Dinorwig mine, one of the largest slate mines in Wales. The museum is set up as if the workers walked away yesterday and will be returning tomorrow. I recommend a visit to anyone who spends any time in North Wales.

The slate mines of Snowdonia, including the Dinorwig mine, in 2021 were named a World Heritage Site.

People have been quarrying slate in Wales at least since Roman times. Just in Caernarfon, we know slate was used to build the Roman fort of Segontium and King Edward’s castle a thousand years later. With the industrial revolution and the growth of factories and towns, the demand for slate for roofing material–went through the roof. By 1870 the Dinorwig mine employed 3000 men. The peak of production was in 1889 with 17,000 workers , almost all Welsh-speaking.employed throughout all the Welsh mines Combined, they produced 485,000 tons of slate. Slate drove the economy and culture throughout North Wales for decades–while at the same time enriching the handful of English mine owners who controlled the mines (see a previous video on Penrhyn Castle).

The Slate Museum has extensive exhibits on the workings and processing of slate. Also available to tour are sample row houses belonging to mining families; as well as a hospital, finally established to address the numerous health conditions suffered by the miners because of their work. The mountains around Llanberis are dominated by slag from the mines. You can also walk up and down the former small-gauge tracks to Dinorwig to visit workshops and huts associated with the production of slate on the mountain itself.

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