Welsh Blue

From the 19th to early 20th centuries, the mountains of Snowdonia in North Wales were home to the largest slate quarries in the world. Millions of tons were extracted, mountains were hollowed, and entire settlements lived and died beneath their massive spoil heaps.

In the wake of the industrial revolution, the economic prosperity brought about through mechanisation meant that previously more costly building materials were now well within reach of your average citizen wanting to improve their lot in life. The slate to be found in North Wales - the famous ‘Welsh Blue’ became renowned for its strength and durability as a roofing material and demand both at home and abroad rocketed as huge sums of money were poured into carving up the earth to get at it.

After enjoying many decades of prosperity, the industry slumped as veins were exhausted and alternative, cheaper product could be sourced from abroad. Many of the great operations lay silent by the 1970s, riddling their reliant communities with the unemployment that precipitates depopulation. Though the industry still operates on a microscopic scale relative to its former heights, the vast scars on the land remain as testament to the labour that once wrought the regions fortunes.

This ongoing series looks at what remains from this great endeavour — both above and below ground — with the majority of images presented in faux-cinematic widescreen in an attempt to capture the raw, epic intersection of industry and landscape.

A view of a tiny ruined building with large mountains in the distance and a mountain goat in the foreground
A distant view of slate quarry buildings and workings with mountains looming in the distance
Sidelong view of an incline with quarry cutting in background
View of tiny storehouse framed by large rocks and mountains in the distance
View of a lone, ruined building and bare tree at the foot of a spoil heap, with mist and mountains in the distance
Distant view of a ruined incline with flooded workings in foreground and mountains in the distance
Ruined power house and dressing sheds and ropeway
View of ruined dressing sheds with slate spoil in the foreground
Interior view of ruined dressing shed with light entering from skylights
Interior view of building housing ruined machinery with light entering from gash in the roof
Close-up of wooden board marked with ropeway stop-points
Interior view of building with skeletal roof structure letting sunlight stream in casting shadows
Interior view of ruined quarry building with furnace in the background
Window frame of an abandoned building with small tree growing within it
View of ruined cottages mostly obscured by vegetation growing against them
Ruined quarry buildings in woodland, one illuminated by sunlight
Small, ruined quarry building with blossoming flowers out front
View of an upturned minecart amongst a spoil heap