Slates from the Penrhyn quarry were traditionally shipped to Ireland from the Port of Bangor (3km from the quarry), and it was for this reason that the slates became known by the name “Bangor Blue” or “Blue Bangor”. This name prevails to this very day.
And it was not just the home markets of Ireland and Britain which were dominated by Welsh slate. Penrhyn slate was used as ballast on the first settlers’ boats that went out to Australia and, today over 150 years later, these same slates cover many of Australia’s landmark buildings, particularly in the harbour area of Sydney. From Sydney, the use of slate spread into other parts of the Australian continent, and today they form an important part of Australian’s built heritage.
And it was not only Australia where Welsh Slate was popular. Other markets were this slate was considered the ultimate roofing material included Germany, Holland, Belgium and France.
However it was not until the Industrial Revolution in the latter part of the 19th century when the slate industry in North Wales reached its peak. The building boom which accompanied the industrial revolution brought with it an unprecedented demand for slates to roof the houses and factories, and major quarry operations like Penrhyn, Dinworig, the Ffestiniog quarries and the Nantile valley dominated the worlds slate production. During this period, the slate industry in north Wales employed over 10,000 workers.
Sadly, with the emergence of cheaper man-made roofing materials in early 20th century, the slate industry started to decline in size and sadly, over the years, many of these quarries were forced to close. In recent years there has been a renaissance in the North Wales slate industry and today Welsh Slate (a company which was acquired by the Lagan family in 2007) today continues to thrive and operates from 4 slate quarries, employs 200 men and continues to supply the high end slate and heritage markets around the world with quality Welsh natural roofing slates.