Pen-yr-orsedd Slate Quarry [pic heavy], Talysarn, North Wales, July 2020

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People's Republic of South Yorkshire.
1. The History
Pen-yr-orsedd Slate Quarry is located near the village of Talysarn in the Nantlle valley in North Wales. It was first developed in 1816 as an open working, and subsequently, under the ownership of the Darbishire family, mills were built on three successive levels. The first mill was built in 1860 and two years later in 1862 the first connection to the 3 ft 6 in Nantlle railway was made which extended to all but the highest levels of the quarry. This allowed the carriage of slate to the quay at Caernarfon. A second integrated mill was added in 1870. In 1882 the number of men employed at the quarry had reached 230 men with an annual output of over 8,000 tons. Output further increased in the 1890s when a larger upper mill was built in 1898 as employment increased to over 600 men.

The quarry consisted of a series of pits and a series of four aerial ropeways known as 'Blondins' and their Bruce Peebles electrical equipment which were installed in 1906. These were able to lift trucks of slate from the pit and bring them to the side of the mills for processing. This film here shows them in action:

By 1937, despite the decline of the Welsh slate industry, there were still 351 workers employed at the site. When the Nantlle railway closed in 1963 road transport took over. It also the last quarry in the vale that commercially produced slate until its closure in 1979. The quarry remained in subsequent use, albeit on as small scale, and a lorry road was built down into one pit, rendering the ‘Blondins’ obsolete. After then until production ceased completely in about 2000 and the site has been abandoned ever since, bar the top-level mill which was used for storage.

2. The Explore
After the awesomeness of Maenofferen, nothing really could top it, perhaps with the exception of Dinorwic. Hence, I wasn’t expecting too much from this place. I’d seen it on Google Maps and then searched out a few reports and it looked alright so thought I’d give it a look. So early one sunny July morning I set off on the half hour drive north to Talysarn, parked up and walked up the approach road. It was about as big a contrast to my visit to Maenofferen as there could be. And worth the effort it was. Despite the top mill being sealed there was loads to see here. The remains of the middle mill were massive and the tiny winding house at the top of the quarry stunning and the intact ‘Blondins’ a bonus. So not as epic as Maenofferen but highly recommended if you are in the area.

3. The Pictures

50191146516_915049e315_b.jpgNantile 01 by HughieDW, on Flickr

One of the first buildings you come to is the bottom winding house:

50190414882_005e668e40_b.jpgimg7291 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50191146266_a0185e4702_b.jpgNantile 02 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50189573233_5fd56fee3f_b.jpgimg7389 by HughieDW, on Flickr

The weighbridge:

50190157466_e0fbdb3036_b.jpgimg7293 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50190157006_498b2642af_b.jpgimg7294 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50190414562_85a7442aaf_b.jpgimg7292 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Behind the weighbridge are the remains of the original mill from 1860. It’s pretty far gone but really photogenic:

50189611193_c183f871eb_b.jpgimg7295 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50190412707_1bfb213b3e_b.jpgimg7297 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50190411597_e27c1046e2_b.jpgimg7299 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50190410917_4085c8a13b_b.jpgimg7300 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50189607888_7b9bb172e1_b.jpgimg7301bw by HughieDW, on Flickr

50189607083_6dfc96e0dc_b.jpgimg7303 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Got a bit carried away here:

50190409112_1f0b9b913b_b.jpgimg7306 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Looking up to the mid-level:

50190376252_2af12ffd22_b.jpgimg7387 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Moving up to the mid-levels:

50190151161_8b890852e9_b.jpgimg7308 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50189605408_c480fb48b5_b.jpgimg7311 by HughieDW, on Flickr

It’s pretty extensive:

50190149681_57a3314a8f_b.jpgimg7313 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50190599813_611374bbf2_b.jpgNantile 06 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50190405432_72ddca3e7b_b.jpgimg7316 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50189604873_c282793e37_b.jpgimg7312 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Mid-level winding house:

50190149136_e69645e7ec_b.jpgimg7314 by HughieDW, on Flickr

The top-level mill hanging above the mid-levels:

50190147331_51320eb85c_b.jpgimg7318 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50190403982_6f54acc485_b.jpgimg7321 by HughieDW, on Flickr

On to the workshops:

50191404587_8418346f81_b.jpgNantile 09 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50190146171_6bd0a46321_b.jpgimg7326 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50190598793_4859a049e9_b.jpgNantile 10 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50190598583_337255880d_b.jpgNantile 11 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50190417712_b75c3a8df3_b.jpgimg7330 by HughieDW, on Flickr

This mini turntable was really cute:
50191404052_73a2d68e8c_b.jpgNantile 12 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Incline up to the top level:

50190141271_68369608fe_b.jpgimg7336 by HughieDW, on Flickr

At the top of the quarry looking over the valley:

50191143311_5df7aa29eb_b.jpgNantile 13 by HughieDW, on Flickr

And the mid-level:

50190142131_9f556a0c93_b.jpgimg7335 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50190140601_27bfa276bf_b.jpgimg7337 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Top level incline winding house:

50191403447_1b089195bd_b.jpgNantile 14 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Sheep exit right:

50189594338_ff8a7f96bf_b.jpgimg7339 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Not too sure what’s going on here at the gable end of the top-level mill:

50191142816_8d859f4b06_b.jpgNantile 15 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Peeking inside the locked up top mill:

50191402977_d0073b23e9_b.jpgNantile 16 by HughieDW, on Flickr

This bit looks like a scene from the Huangshan Mountain in China!

50190388797_a767557007_b.jpgimg7357 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Pylon of one of the remaining “Blondins”:

50189591403_b67dbd2b2c_b.jpgimg7347 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50189590868_1a7eba824f_b.jpgimg7348bw by HughieDW, on Flickr

Ey up, secca have spotted me:

50190135631_5cfc5e4d8d_b.jpgimg7349 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Love this slate hearth dated 1909:

50190135191_e0525e865c_b.jpgimg7352 by HughieDW, on Flickr

A small quarry hut:

50190391672_55377ec366_b.jpgimg7353 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50190391097_b048292562_b.jpgimg7354 by HughieDW, on Flickr

And its heater:

50190596988_b6c58756cc_b.jpgNantile 18 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Looking over into the main quarry pits:

50191141931_7c95553cd2_b.jpgNantile 19 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Some of the quarry pit’s winding gear:

50190596493_44be928283_b.jpgNantile 20 by HughieDW, on Flickr

And on to the best bit of the site - the quarry pit’s winding house:

50191141401_0d3613cf7d_b.jpgNantile 21 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50190595658_b41ede9117_b.jpgNantile 23 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50190595428_43357f5cf6_b.jpgNantile 24 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50191140426_0422ebe14e_b.jpgNantile 25 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50190594953_8c2fb70e57_b.jpgNantile 26 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50190594673_6cc2737466_b.jpgNantile 27 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Got even more carried away here:

50189587873_40d12c1995_b.jpgimg7372 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50190125141_6a470e7a39_b.jpgimg7376 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50190124041_4a8d57bc46_b.jpgimg7378 by HughieDW, on Flickr

On the way back down found this amazing banded block of slate:

50190594383_e256faf1bd_b.jpgNantile 28 by HughieDW, on Flickr

There was also one small building that was secured up to the nines with metal sheeting. There was a whole in the roof so used a pallet as a makeshift ladder to sneak a look inside. What was inside? Absolutely nothing!

50191139426_d102961637_b.jpgNantile 29 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50191139236_27de5c59cc_b.jpgNantile 30 by HughieDW, on Flickr


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Aug 1, 2006
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Nice one mate the place looks mega.

Bit thin on the ground with pictures, got any more.................... ;-)

Cheers Newage


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Dec 2, 2008
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Missed this mate ..... another crackin top notch report and another one of my top ten attractions in North Wales - you did it proud, well done ...


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May 14, 2018
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I have just watched the film - what a record! Reminded me of my early 1960s vsit to Llanberis quarry when it was still working. And the sight of the Blondin support pylon still in place, and the wires taut. What history!

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