Betws-y-Coed and the Slate Mine

Betws-y-Coed is a gorgeous quaint little town foundered around a monastery in the 6th century. It means ‘Bead house’ or ‘Prayer house in the woods’ and is about half an hour’s drive into the country from the marina. In 1815 the famous Thomas Telford designed the bridge that linked Betws-y-coed and brought trade links to the village.

Philip and James

St Michael’s church was built in the 1300’s which is the origin of the name Betws meaning ‘prayer house’

14th century St Michael’s Church
Church of St Mary

The railway was built in 1868 which increased the population to around 500. Church of St Mary’s was built in 1873. The population has increased by one baby born every 2 years and one adult passing away every 10!

The reason for our visit here was to see the slate quarry. The slate quarry was opened in 1846 by successful quarry owner, John Whitehead Greaves. In 1836 Greaves proposed a railway line should link the quarries to the sea.

When the Ffestiniog Railway was opened in 1836 he traveled on it’s first historic train. In 1843 he became treasurer of the railway then Chairman in 1844. Just two years later he purchased the slate quarry. Smart move! By 1846 his son, now managing the quarry, built an incline for the slate to go directly from the quarry to the railway then has the slate transported to a fleet of sailing vessels waiting at the port for transport to their markets.

Today the slate quarry is a museum. Production had a dramatic decline with cheaper slate, of low quality making it’s way from China which seems to be the story everywhere. Population today 564.

The National Slate Museum
Water Wheel – modern power supply for this entire operation

Philip could explain this perfectly. It’s right up his alley …. but this is how a woman explains it.

Equipment had to be built to build the water wheel. That amazed me to start with. It’s one hundred years since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution so I guess all these machines are now available. The water wheel played a major part in modernising the manufacturing process. With a foundry, machining, timber cutting and blacksmith all under one roof, the slate mine increased it’s production from 7,000 tons to 23,000 tons of slate per year. Everything had to be made under one roof. I could draw similarities to our company AusProof Pty Ltd. All manufactured under one roof. Quality control and repairs being done immediately on site. You can’t just pop down to the local hardware store! It’s 1870 for goodness sake!

Modern European power of the 1800’s

Flowing water turned this massive 15.4 meter wheel. It’s 1.6 meter width turned on a 30cm axle. It’s the size of a five story building! With the speed the wheel was turning, the inside of the outer wheel looks flat but there are actually teeth machined precisely to fit the size of the smaller gear wheel.

One shaft attached to the smaller wheel run below the ceiling through the entire factory giving a turning mechanism for the workings of all machines. Gear wheels and belts drove all the lathes, saws and cutting machines throughout the factory.

Belt driven cutting machine for railway sleepers

This was all made to get the slate out of the mountains. Every building we have seen in Wales has a slate tiled roof. Cutting slate tiles was a 5 year apprenticeship only given to the sons of the aristocrats. In his first year he worked for zero wages and had to supply his own tools. You would want to be sure of your career path, wouldn’t you! A good tradesman should cut between 450 – 500 slate tiles a day.

Modern 1870’s Foundry
Dated on the foundry roof trusses ‘Oct 1890’ and ‘JP 1945’
Foundry molds still similar to today’s foundries
Pattern room
All cast in the foundry
Logs sliced for wooden planks
Steal nails made by the blacksmith
Cutting slate with chisel, hammer and crowbar. No high visual work clothes or steal capped boots provided here.
Hot water for tea in the dining hall
Belt driven saw
Machine oil

Now back to Betws-y-Coed for lunch. Good old British fish and chips with mushy peas! It doesn’t get better than that in the UK.

Panic attack! Went to pay but didn’t have my credit card or iPhone. Used Philip’s ‘Find a Friend’ on his iPhone which pin pointed my phone at the public toilets. Sprinting across the road I found the delightful caretaker who had put it aside. So grateful! Good lesson learnt, do not put your phone on the toilet roll holder!

Main town of Betws-y-Coed
‘The Ugly House’
Obviously, this builder\owner was not a stone mason!
Spar is a South African supermarket chain.
In Afrikaans it means ‘Save’
A drive through the countryside.
Over the millennia, glaciers and ice caused larger rocks to split forming this landscape of smaller rocks
Hiking and abseiling means the sun is shining in England!
It’s as if a plug has been taken off an ant nest. People everywhere!
Can you spot the climbers!
Green countryside. Rock walls fencing off properties… and there are plenty of rocks around.
You can never take the boy out of the man!

4 Replies to “Betws-y-Coed and the Slate Mine”

  1. Hi Wenals,

    That was a great little blog to read, first thing this Tuesday Morning…
    Wow isn’t it amazing how man did things and achieved so much!. The Fish an Chips are starting to looking a lot better (no maggots ha ha ha)

    Very cool facts, thanks for sharing!!

    1. Hi Aston
      Finally got to see you response. Thank you!!! I can’t believe how many people are looking at my blog. How do they find it??? It was never intended to share with the ‘world’ just family or friends I hand the address to. I have had lots of good comments with people liking it with only one person saying my spelling errors are ‘rife’ in previous blogs which is bothersome but they will come back to read my blog!!! WTF!! hahaha!

  2. WIll come back for another look ,very interesting foundry the fish & chips made me hungry& it’s getting late ,after my big email.

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