World heritage bid for Gwynedd slate communities makes progress

December 2019

Gwynedd Council’s cabinet has backed the submission of a formal application for the county’s historic slate communities to be given UNESCO world heritage status.

The report, presented to members on Tuesday, follows a public consultation which saw widespread backing of the plans which are hoped will bring a tourism and economic boost to the area.

The process, the cabinet was told, follows ten years of preparatory work and aims to highlight Gwynedd’s status as the world’s largest slate exporter during the mid-19th century.

Such status, which would see the towns and villages that “roofed the 19th century world” receive the same designation as the Grand Canyon and Great Barrier Reef, is a move Gwynedd Council hopes will result in regeneration and new jobs being created.

The industry, which employed 17,000 men during its heyday at the turn of the 20th century, fell into decline following bitter industrial disputes and the advent of war, but its legacy lives on in the landscape.

The bid in question includes six specific areas, namely:

  • Penrhyn Quarry and Bethesda, and the Ogwen Valley to Port Penrhyn.
  • Dinorwig Slate Quarry Mountain Landscape.
  • Nantlle Valley Slate Quarry Landscape.
  • Gorseddau and Prince of Wales Slate Quarries, the railways and the mill.
  • Ffestiniog, its slate mines and quarries, ‘city of slates’ and railway to Porthmadog.
  • Bryneglwys Slate Quarry, Abergynolwyn Village and the Talyllyn Railway.

If successful, these slate mining areas would become the fourth in Wales to receive the status after the Blaenavon industrial landscape, the castles and town walls of Edward I castles at Caernarfon , Harlech, Beaumaris and Conwy , and the Pontcysyllte aqueduct spanning the River Dee in the Vale of Llangollen.

Council leader, Dyfrig Siencyn, told the cabinet meeting that these communities were a “hotbed” of Welsh culture, and it was vital that this history was relayed to visitors.

Cllr Cemlyn Williams added,”We should remember that the heritage of our slate industry is as much engrained in the culture as it is on the landscape.

“As the son of a quarryman, I welcome this application and hope that it will be successful.”

The full application will be submitted to both UNESCO and the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in January.

But with site visits not expected to take place until October, a final decision will not be made until the summer of 2021.

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