John Lloyd of Inigo Jones Slate Works tells us about working to secure UNESCO World Heritage Site status for the North Wales slate industry.
People are very aware of the World Heritage Site castles here in North Wales. They’re a big draw for visitors from places like Japan and the USA. From a historical perspective, the slate industry is every bit as significant as those castles because it has had such a huge impact on the area. At its height, 18,000 people worked in the slate industry. Whole towns were essentially built and a huge amount of technology was invented because of it. It shaped this part of the world completely. Having World Heritage Site status for the slate industry would hopefully have a big effect on tourism.
Getting the North Wales slate industry recognised as a World Heritage Site is a long and slow process. We’re part of the Wales Slate Economic Task Force, a group of organisations and individuals led by Gwynedd Council, that are working together on the application. We’re well on our way and will hopefully know in a couple of years’ time if we’ve been successful. You have to make applications to the UNSECO authorities who then come back with requests for further information and they then decide whether they think your application is suitable. It’s a long time to wait, but the positive impact World Heritage Status on our area means that it’s all worth it.
As we wait for the decision, we’re working hard to promote the slate industry to help our application. One of the things we’ve done recently was working with a local school as part of their Festival of Slate. Ysgol Dyffryn Nantlle ran the festival, which was a wide-ranging project covering all aspects of the slate industry.
It was embraced by all departments within the school and included a model of a slate incline showing how it worked at the slate quarries, a band that included a xylophone incorporating slate which had a unique sound and old documents relating to the geology and history of the local slate quarries in the Nantlle Valley. Pupils also made craft items in slate and participated in an excellent short play about the Great Penrhyn strike 1900-1903.
All pupils learnt something about slate and it illustrated how important the slate industry has been to all aspects of life in the slate areas of Gwynedd.
We hope that more events like this will take place in the coming months and years, giving people the opportunity to learn more about what slate means to the region and helping our application for World Heritage Site status.
To learn more about Welsh slate, visit the Inigo Jones website.