WELSH SLATE HELPS CELEBRATE WINNING WORLD HERITAGE STATUS
September 2021

The Slate Landscape of Northwest Wales wins UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

The building materials manufacturer at the heart of The Slate Landscape of Northwest Wales, which has become the UK’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site, has applauded the recognition of the ongoing global impact of its roofing slate.

The landscape has become the UK’s 32nd UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the fourth in Wales, following the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Blaenavon Industrial Landscape, and the Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd.

Led by Gwynedd Council, the listing is the culmination of more than 15 years of hard work to record, safeguard and recognise the living legacy of the slate landscape of Gwynedd, where Welsh Slate, which became the world leader for the production and export of slate in the 1800s, has its main Penrhyn quarry (in Bethesda).

Welsh slate has been used and crafted by many generations of people since early Roman times, with Penrhyn Quarry at the centre as the focal point for UK natural stone and its heritage since the 13th Century. A major operation for more than 400 years, its products are more in demand now than ever, for an increasingly diverse range of new-build and refurbishments projects.

Welsh Slate is the world’s leading supplier of high-quality slate for a range of exterior and interior design applications that has evolved over the years to maximise the use of quarried material. As well as the original roofing slates, these include cladding, flooring, paving, walling, sills and copings, work surfaces, aggregates, landscaping, sawn scants, and fire surrounds and hearths.

Over 500 million years old, the material is widely recognised as the finest natural slate in the world. Its inherent beauty and qualities have resulted in its specification and use by contemporary architects, developers, interior designers and private householders.

Welsh Slate’s general manager Mark Hodgkinson said of the UNESCO listing: “We congratulate the bid team for their enthusiasm and hard work over many years. This not only reflects on the glorious past of the industry but highlights the exciting future of Welsh Slate who continue to produce the finest slate to a global market and will roof the world in the 21st Century through the growth of an innovative and diverse business.”

The new World Heritage Site is a serial property in six parts including spectacular quarry landscapes such as Penrhyn, Dinorwig, the Nantlle Valley and Ffestiniog. It also includes the National Slate Museum in Llanberis, Penrhyn Castle and the famous Ffestiniog and Talyllyn Railways, built to transport the slate from quarry to markets around the world and both later transformed through the dedication of volunteers into heritage railways.

First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford said: “This announcement recognises the significant contribution this part of north Wales has made to the cultural and industrial heritage not only of Wales, but of the wider world. Welsh slate can be found all over the world.

“The quarrying and mining of slate has left a unique legacy in Gwynedd, which the communities are rightly proud of. This worldwide recognition by UNESCO, will help preserve that legacy and history in those communities for generations to come and help them with future regeneration.”

Councillor Dyfrig Siencyn, Leader of Gwynedd Council, said: “The legacy of the quarries remains extremely evident around us from the striking landscape, the industrial buildings and steam railways to our villages and towns.

“Not only is the influence of the quarrying industry visible, but its heritage is still heard strongly in the language, traditions and rich histories of these areas. Our aim is to celebrate this heritage and landscape and recognise their historic and industrial importance to humankind – in order to create opportunities for the future”.

UK Government Heritage Minister Caroline Dinenage said: “UNESCO World Heritage Status is a huge achievement and testament to the importance this region played in the industrial revolution and Wales’ slate mining heritage. I welcome the prospect of increased investment, jobs and a better understanding of this stunning part of the UK.”