Snowdonia’s natural resources began to be exploited during prehistory; however, this did not occur on an industrial scale until developments in the eighteenth century. Industrialisation of the region did not occur overnight and it is likely to have been the result of a convergence of different factors. During the late eighteenth century Parliament set up Turnpike Trusts to manage the roads; this signalled a change in the region towards one that was more accessible and connected to the outside world. Post-chaise routes were developed, and later the Telford roads and bridges were built along with the railway network. At the same time, a new harbour was constructed at Porthmadog and this provided the backdrop for the development of the Ffestiniog quarries.
Cefn Coch, Llanelltyd (© SNPA)
Cwm Prysor (© SNPA)
Of all the industries, slate quarrying has by far been the most significant to have developed in the region. It began to grow in the eighteenth century and expanded rapidly during the mid-nineteenth century. For more than a century, the industry provided a significant source of work and employed around 12,000 men at its peak. In addition to the quarries themselves, dams, water-courses, transport systems, port facilities and a range of inter-dependent industries and services developed. During Snowdonia’s designation as a National Park in 1949, many of the quarrying areas were still active. As a result, these were excluded from designation. Since then, several quarry sites have been scheduled, which signifies their importance to industrial archaeology. More recently, a bid led by Gwynedd Council is underway to get some of these quarrying and associated sites designated as a recognised World Heritage Site.
Pont Scethin (© SNPA)
Rhiwbach Quarry (© SNPA)
In addition to slate, stone quarrying also appears to have been an important industry. During its height, the stone quarries of Graiglwyd and Penmaenmawr employed around 1,000 men. The Snowdonia region also contains a range of minerals, including copper, iron and gold. Most exploitation of these took place during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and remnants of mines, mills and associated buildings can be seen doted across the landscape. Many of these proved unsuccessful as the effort to extract far outweighed the return. Nonetheless, they are valuable examples of industrial archaeology. The fact that some are located in remote areas or are hidden in forest plantations means their degree of preservation is excellent.
Rhosydd Quarry (© SNPA)
Ynys y Pandy (© SNPA)