Cwmorthin Quarry, located to the west of Blaenau Ffestiniog, is one of my most visited quarries. When i first walked the site
during the summer of 1982 i had no idea what lay ahead as i walked up the steep rough road from Dolrhedyn. I had been drawn there by the huge waste
tips and, because of heavy rain, the torrent of Afon Cwmorthin as it tumbled over the waterfall. I knew little about the quarry except it was one
of the bigger ones and that it had an old reputation for being a bit of a killer during its working life. Indeed its often qouted as 'The slaughter
House'. Boyd* himself qoutes the tale (refering to the lack of ventilation underground) of "A man, boy and horse were sent to open up workings after a
period of closure and fumes from chambers long closed up overcame them. All died". Read the list of recorded deaths between 1875 & 1892 in Graham
Isherwood's excellent book "Cwmorthin Slate Quarry"** and you get an idea that working in a victorian slate mine was not the safest place to be - plus
this doesn't include the horrific injuries that many of the men working there incurred, or illness from the dreaded silicosis caused by slate dust.
There is, however, a long list of other quarries with very similar (and worse) records - so Cwmorthin is not unique in this regard.
The following photos cover the surface workings (which were quite unique - or at least were up until most of their destruction from the late 1980s)
but the real gems of Cwmorthin lie underground. Thanks to modern digital cameras the maze of caverns, tunnels and even underground inclines can
now be seen at such top sites as; Mine Explorer and Adit Now.
* 'The Ffestiniog Railway: Vol II - Locomotives & Rolling Stock' / J.I.C.Boyd / Oakwood press
** 'Cwmorthin Slate Quarry' / Graham Isherwood / Adit Publications
[Pic 1] Cwmorthin Quarry - Lower Mill channeled river (1982)
Following a night of heavy rain, a swollen Afon Cwmorthin roars through the channeled river course at
the site of Cwmorthins Lower Mill. On top of the slab arched course are the remains of the London Hall section of the Lower mill.
[Pic 2] Cwmorthin Quarry - Stacking yards (1982)
A view from the Stacking yards looking up towards the Lake incline and - beyond, on the hillside -
Cwmorthin Terrace. Note the waters of Afon Cwmorthin tumbling down to the inclines right. Today all this area is barely recogniseable following some
landscaping in the 1990's.