THE SLATE LANDSCAPE OF North West Wales, which historians say “roofed the 19th century world” has been shortlisted to become a World Heritage Site.
While Industrial Revolution was powered by coal from the South Wales Valleys, the homes people lived in and the factories where they worked were covered with slate, which was quarried by hard-working and skilled men in the mountains of Northwest Wales.
Shipped from harbours in Gwynedd to ports across the globe, Welsh slate can still be found on the roofs of buildings around the world.
The quarries, which were connected by railways which snaked through the mountains to the sea ports, and the surrounding slate towns show how industry changed an agricultural community to an industrial society.
If successful, the landscape would become the fourth world heritage site in Wales, joining the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape, the Castles and Town Walls of King Edward I in Gwynedd and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal.
In 2016, it was estimated that UNESCO-designated sites in the UK bring more than £100million into the economy each year.
The Minister for International Relations, Eluned Morgan, said, “The Slate Landscape of Northwest Wales is rich in geological, social, economic and cultural heritage, and it’s said that this area of Gwynedd roofed the 19th century world, with huge amounts of slate mined in the area and exported internationally.
“This nomination is a celebration of the work of the generations of men and women who lived, worked and shaped our land, and we are connecting with their legacy through this nomination.
“This is a story that really resonates with local communities and with visitors – thousands come each year to experience these spectacular landscapes; to enjoy our National Slate Museum, ride the Blaenau Ffestiniog and Talyllyn railways and experience our unique culture, all of which boost employment and the local economy”.
“While the final decision lies with UNESCO, in my view the area absolutely merits World Heritage Site status.
While slate had been quarried in North Wales for over 1,800 years and was used to build parts of the Roman fort in Segontium in Caernarfon and Edward I’s castle in Conwy, it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that demand surged as cities across the UK expanded with slate being widely used to roof workers’ homes and factories.
By the 1890s the Welsh slate industry employed approximately 17,000 and produced 485,000 tonnes of slate a year.
The industry had a huge impact on global architecture with Welsh slate used on a number of buildings, terraces and palaces across the globe including Westminster Hall, the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne, Australia and Copenhagen City Hall, Denmark.
Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Lord Elis-Thomas said: We are delighted that the Slate Landscape of Northwest Wales will be put forward as the next UK nomination for inscription as a World Heritage Site. Wales has a unique and varied industrial heritage that is rightly celebrated.
“This nomination provides further recognition of the this outstanding landscape – of something which is rooted in our own geology and culture, but has global significance.”