No.28 - p164-165




    The Welsh have many uses for slate. They roof buildings with it, erect buildings of it, use it for tombstones. They even made a bed of slate for Queen Victoria! This was on the occasion of Her Majesty's visit to Penrhyn Castle, but it seems she preferred more orthodox furniture! The carved bed, weighing over a ton is one of the exhibits at the Castle. At Pen-yr-Orsedd Quarry, Nantlle, the memorial to employees killed in the 1914‑18 War is a slab of exquisite carved slate. This memorial tablet of purple slate is set in the western wall of a small square building of green slate situated in the open space between the offices and the head of the inclines down to the Nantlle tramway. The tablet is about 3ft 9in wide by 4ft 4in high. Above it is a cross, and at the corner of the building are columns, all of purple slate.

    The memorial comprises four pictorial panels surrounding a central panel on which are inscribed the names of the fourteen fallen men. The left hand panel which extends upwards from the level of the base on the central panel, depicts a scene in the quarry. Two men watch a truck as it is hoisted out by the ropeway spanning the pit. At the top, half hidden by the supporting tower for the ropeway, a Hunslet 0‑4‑0 saddle tank shunts a string of wagons. The small square panel above the central panel shows the interior of the slate mill. One man, seated, is splitting slates while his mate stands at the trimming machine.

    The tall right hand panel is another mass of detail. At the top are the offices and the slate stock yard. A De Winton vertical boilered locomotive stands to the left of the cable drum house, while to the right two men tip a wagon load of waste slate. A loaded wagon has just begun to descend the incline and an empty one ascends on the other track. Beside the incline is one of the seemingly endless flights of steps which give access to the quarry. By the foot of the incline a man is pushing a loaded wagon which is adorned with the P‑Y‑O monogram (which looks like the present day CND symbol!). The fourth panel stretches right across the bottom of the tablet. It is a complete contrast to the peaceful industrious activity depicted above. On the left is a village and below it seven soldiers with rifles on their shoulders march towards the battlefield. In the centre are two field guns concealed in a wood. Near the guns three soldiers and a machine gun peer out over the top of the trench. A fourth soldier rests in a dugout in the bottom corner, while the view in the top right corner shows a ruined village, devastated by war.

    The whole memorial, a beautiful piece of work executed by craftsmen, is worth a close study. The unfortunate thing is that none of my photographs do justice to the remarkable detail due to the lack of contrast. A successful shot might be obtained at about noon on a sunny day when the sun would shine across the face of the slab and cast shadows in the troughs of the engraving.

    It is to be hoped that, if this quarry should close, this unique memorial will be preserved, either in a local chapel or, perhaps, at Penrhyn Castle.

Two photographs taken at 13.00 on 14th June 1968, when the sun was just about correct, still fail to do justice to the workmanship, due in part to shadows cast by the overhanging roof. In the left-hand view, the highlights of the design have been accentuated with chalk, and in the right-hand view the bulk of this chalk has been removed.           (V.J. Bradley)