Report - - Maenofferen slate mine, Blaenau FFestiniog, North Wales, July 2020 | Mines and Quarries | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Maenofferen slate mine, Blaenau FFestiniog, North Wales, July 2020


28DL Regular User
Regular User
1. The History
Maenofferen slate quarry is situated near the North Wales town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, between the Manod and Moelwyn Mountains. Situated at 400m, it was first worked by men from the nearby Diphwys mine circa 1800 and by 1848 slate was being transported via the Ffestiniog Railway. This ceased in 1857 but traffic resumed shortly after as a steady flow of slate was dispatched via the railway. The quarry was initially named "David Jones" mine until it was renamed in 1861 when the Maenofferen Slate Quarry Co. Ltd. was incorporated. That year it produced around 400 tons of slate and the next year the leasing of a wharf at Porthmadog for onward distribution.

During the nineteenth century the quarry flourished and expanded, extending its workings underground and further downhill towards the nearby Blaenau Ffestiniog. By 1897 it employed over 400 people with nearly half of the men working underground. The Ffestiniog Railway continued to be the quarry's major transport outlet. However, given there was no direct connection to Ffestiniog's terminus at Duffws, slate was sent via the Rhiwbach Tramway which ran through the quarry. This put the quarry at a slight disadvantage to its rivals as it incurred extra shipping costs. In 1882, it produced 8,600 tons making it the fifth largest producer in the Ffestiniog area

It began large-scale use of locomotive power on its internal tramways from around 1900 and in 1908 the company leased wharf space at Minffordd, installing turntables and sidings, allowing finished slates to be shipped to the standard gauge railway there. Following the First World War, Maenofferen had moved up to the third largest slate producer in the Ffestiniog region and in 1918 it introduced hydro-electric power. Two years later in 1920 the company solved its high shipping costs by building a new incline connecting its mill to the Votty & Bowydd quarry. This allowed it to ship its products via that company's incline which was in turn connected to the Ffestiniog Railway at Duffws. In 1928 Maenofferen purchased the Rhiwbach quarry, continuing to work it and use its associated Tramway until 1953.

After the Second World War, fortunes declined and then in 1946, the Ffestiniog Railway ceased operation. In response, Maenofferen leased a short length of the railway's tracks between Duffws station and the interchange with the LMS railway, west of Blaenau Ffestiniog. Slate trains continued to run over this section until 1962. Maenofferen became the last slate quarry to use any part of the Ffestiniog Railway's route. From 1962 slate was shipped from the quarry by road, although the internal quarry tramways, including stretches of the Rhiwbach tramway, continued in use until at least into the 1980s.

By 1972 the mine was only employing 60 men and had an annual output of 1,200 tons. The quarry was purchased by the nearby Llechwedd quarry in 1975 and underground production at Maenofferen continued until November 1999. Production briefly recommenced via the "untopping" of underground workings to recover slate from the supporting pillars of the chambers along with the recovery of slate from the quarry tips, for crushing and subsequent use.

Now owned by J. W. Greaves and Sons Ltd, Blaenau Ffestiniog, it continues to produce crushed slate on a limited scale under the ownership of the nearby Llechwedd quarry, employing just 6 men.

Finally, here’s link to a really interesting video animation (with sub-titles) reconstructing the history and work of Maenofferen slate quarry as commissioned by Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales here: Maenofferen Slate Quarry, Blaenau Ffestiniog, North Wales - Royal Commission Animation

2. The Explore
It’s the first morning of my hols in North Wales and outside, true to form, it’s absolutely pissing down. So where do I decide to go? Half-way up a mountain to the legendary Maenofferen slate mine! After a 40-or-so-minute drive from our holiday cottage I’ve parked up and am ready to head into the rain. I must have looked a right sight in my green wellies and floral umbrella. Needs must though. The rain was relentless and the visibility poor, but after a hike up the mountain, just as I was beginning to give up all hope, like a ghost of the Welsh’s slate mining industry, the outline of the massive dressing sheds rose up at me, out of the rain. I very quickly took shelter in the small part of the building that still has ts roof intact and, with only the company of the odd sheep that was passed through, began taking pictures.

The dressing sheds were amazing, and, in some ways, the appalling weather added to the atmosphere. The wet and poor light didn’t help the photography side of things though.

Then it was out into the mine itself. Given I was solo, didn’t have the proper gear and hadn’t (foolishly, on reflection) told anyone where I was going, I decided not to venture too far into the mine. It was tempting though and was actually drier in there than outside. For a great report that covers the mine itself see the report by @EOA from November 2017 HERE

After taking the second short tunnel and seeing the Winding house was completely sealed, I popped back out to check out the trio of smaller building; the stores, the workshops, and the electricity substation.

Then it was the long trek back down in the now intensified rain. I stopped briefly to speak to Stefan, a local lad who was driving a tractor and is one of six self-employed workers here at the live Llechwedd quarry, at the base of the road up to Maenofferen.

Then it was back off to the warmth of my holiday cottage to dry off.

3. The Pictures

The long climb begins:

Sadly, didn’t take any pictures of the ascent due to the weather until the long Dressing Mills came into view:

Relative dryness at last:

Sheep passing through!

The waste slate conveyor belt, mill 3:

Electrics in mill 3:

A dressing machines in mill 3:

Wheel pit between Mills 1 and 2:

Planer in Mill 1:

Compressor, and compressed air cylinder, Mill 2:

On to the mine itself:

Rusting former gate to the mine:

Follow the tracks, Jack:

Left, or right?

Right first…

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28DL Regular User
Regular User

The proverbial rusty hook!

Back out and down the short left and tunnel:

Unhookers office at top of incline/end of the left hand tunnel. In this picture you can get an inkling of just how bad the weather was!

Back out on to the cluster of 3 smaller buildings. Firstly, the stores:

Then on to the electricity sub-station:

And finally, on to the engineering workshop, now completely missing its roof but with lots of interesting things still left inside:

Anyone lost a steel-capped boot?

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Under a mountain
28DL Full Member
Who are these people who loose just 1 boot? Did they have another pair there? Did they walk out barefoot? Theres 1 boot in the middle of Rhosydd just left there.

Calamity Jane

i see beauty in the unloved, places & things
Regular User
Cracking report. Considering those conditions you got fab shots. Dont blame you for not going deeper in the mine, I wouldnt either if I hadnt told anyone where I was going. The rain has really made the colours pop. I like that alot. You covered a lot there. Great stuff. I fancy doing here, but that walk is a killer by all accounts, so big kudos doing it in that kind of weather. :thumb


28DL Regular User
Regular User
Cracking report. Considering those conditions you got fab shots. Dont blame you for not going deeper in the mine, I wouldnt either if I hadnt told anyone where I was going. The rain has really made the colours pop. I like that alot. You covered a lot there. Great stuff. I fancy doing here, but that walk is a killer by all accounts, so big kudos doing it in that kind of weather. :thumb
Cheers @Calamity Jane yup, some walk but bet it's easier on a nice day. Actually, you are right about the colours. Sometimes when there's too bright a light, some areas come out too dark and others burnt out. At least with flat light the exposure is more even, even if the colours aren't so vivid.

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